A Disturbance in the Force

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force ... "
~ Obi-Wan

It has been an extraordinary week in the gifted community … a national convention in the U.S., a new major book on giftedness released and a major name-change for a national organization in the U.K. Where to begin?

If you live in the U.S. and are involved in the gifted community, you are well aware that the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) met in Denver, Colorado for its 59th Annual Convention, ‘Reaching Beyond the Summit’.

In the most recent edition of Compass Points (the NAGC’s weekly electronic newsletter), Executive Director, Nancy Green, commented that their “total registration is higher than we've seen in six years” for the convention. It is interesting to note that this year it was billed as a Joint Annual Professional Conference in conjunction with the National Consortium of Specialized Secondary Schools in Math, Science and Technology. (NCSSSMST – aka, the record holder for the longest name of an organization … ever!) There was also a Parent Conference held concurrently for one day.

In contrast to what this blog was told after last year’s conference by a source within the NAGC (“I assure you that NAGC is not suddenly changing course or taking off in another direction.”), it appears that the transition to ‘talent development’ is now the de facto position of this organization.

For the past year, I have watched this transformation as Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and others proselytized their new way forward by appearing at gifted conferences worldwide and in print. Before the ‘sure to follow’ comments are made, I am not taking a position; but merely making an observation. I have included links at the end of this post to back up my statement.*

On the other side of the aisle – the imminent (not to be confused with eminent) publication of a new book ~ Off the Charts ~ was also announced this week (a brief selection may be found here). Edited by Christine S. Neville, Michael M. Piechowski and Stephanie Tolan, the book has an amazing line-up of contributing authors including the late Annemarie Roeper (who sadly passed away this year), Linda Kreger Silverman, Patricia Gatto-Walden and Ellen Fiedler (a full list can be found here).

According to Stephanie Tolan on her blog, The Deep End,

Last year at the national conference of the National Association for Gifted
Children (just a few months more than 20 years after that first Columbus Group
meeting) the suggestion was made in the presidential address that the field of
gifted education should unify its disparate viewpoints by adopting Talent
Development, with its clear attention to the issue of extraordinary achievement,
as the single driver of both this field’s educational programming and its research.  

So it was that members of the Columbus Group, that has continued to meet 
throughout these two decades, decided it was an important time to put out a
book to remind the field of the critical “other side” (the inside) of giftedness,
which is part of the gifted individual’s experience whether in or out of school,
whether achieving in the eyes of the world at any given moment or not!”

It will be interesting to watch as this scenario is played out. Will the field of gifted education finally become unified or has a schism grown so wide that both sides will decide to part ways? Perhaps someone should ask the kids what they think. How presumptuous of us as adults to define this population at all.

In the U.K., yet another announcement was made by a major gifted education group this week; the NAGC-Britain.

"Welcome to Potential Plus UK. Welcome to the website of the National
Association for Gifted Children. We are an independent charity which works
with the whole family to support the child who is gifted and talented. We
hope this website helps you with the support you need.

At our AGM on 27th October 2012, members unanimously voted to change
our name to Potential Plus UK. Over the next two months, you will see our
website starting to change in time for our relaunch on 4th Feb 2013."

The author of this comment seemed to be intimating that the term ‘gifted’ had caused the group to lose support in recent years. The term ‘potential’ was more culturally palatable.

And there you have it; an extraordinary week ~ may the Force be with you!

*Aforementioned references:

Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, speaker at 17th AnnualNational Curriculum Network Conference, William & Mary College, March 2012. 

Edited by Rena F. Subotnik, Ann Robinson, Carolyn M. Callahan, and E. Jean Gubbins. April 2012 

 Response to Borland: In Defense of Eminence as An Outcome of Gifted Education, The Creativity Post, 7/4/2012. 

Rena Subotnik, speaker at the 13th Biennial ECHA Conference, September 2012

Where Are the Gifted Minorities? (This blog was adapted from the Psychological Science and the Public Interest article “Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education”), Guest blog by Frank C. Worrell, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and Rena F. Subotnik, Scientific American, 11/2/2012. 

“Talent Development: A Framework for Our Work With Gifted Children”, The Signature Series, 59th Annual NAGC Convention, November 15 – 18, 2012. Moderator: Paula Olszewski-Kubilius.


  1. Thank you for this post! It was nice to get a big picture rather than all the little pieces I've seen posted on facebook. You made me think more about how this new focus will impact my children in the public school system...and perhaps not for the better.


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