Sunday, May 22, 2011

Michael Jackson as a lesson about gifted children

by Heather Siladi
as posted at Examiner website on June 28th, 2009 
Of all the mystery surrounding Michael Jackson, his genius has been unquestionable since the onset of his professional career at the age of five.
It also seems clear that most of the adults entrusted with the care of this rare child exploited him for their own fame and fortune. All the love and adoration showered upon Michael Jackson from every corner of the earth thoughout his entire life never seemed to fill those unfathomed voids carved out during his unique childhood.
I remember watching the Bashir Living with Michael Jackson "documentary" several years ago and wondering why, with all the armchair psychologist opinions about Michael Jackson's childhood, no one seemed to be evaluating his childhood experiences as those of a profoundly gifted child.
During the interview, Jackson spoke about his father's reluctance to listen to him sing, insisting that Jermaine was the lead singer of the group, and that he only entertained young Michael at the insistence of his wife. Once he saw his son's talent, Michael was the lead singer. It would certainly be nearly impossible for his older brothers, only children themselves, to feel no envy for their phenomenal little brother taking center stage as they rocketed to superstardom. In the interview, Jackson also spoke about his cousins, and even his father making fun of him during his teenage years, pointing out his greasy face and his large nose. Perhaps his father was trying to keep his young ego in check, never imagining that the ego of someone so brilliant and talented could be so desperately fragile.
Although Michael's giftedness was more profound than most, his story is an excellent example of the hardships all of these children face. First and foremost is the fact that these children are indeed fragile. 

They contemplate everything on a deeper level than their peers, often more deeply than can express in words. An image of a starving child on the other side of the world may haunt the dreams of a gifted seven-year-old for weeks. Gifted children tend to be hypersensitive, both physically and emotionally. 

They hear more, smell more, taste more and feel more. These heightened senses can be overwhelming and filtering out the physical and emotional noise can be exhausting. Michael spoke of fainting when his father entered the room. When Mozart was very young, loud sounds would cause him to vomit. 

Another thing Michael mentioned in the interview was that someone had referred to him as a "forty-two-year-old midget" when he was little. This is another prominent issue with gifted children; their development is asynchronous. They may seem many years older or younger than their chronological age depending on the situation they are in at any given moment.
Most importantly, gifted children are often ostracized by their peers and even the adults around them. They are made to feel weird or odd. Often the people around them feel jealous of their talents, or simply can't understand why a gifted child acts the way she does, whatever her peculiarities may be. If their giftedness has escaped the notice of their parents and teachers, they may even be labeled slow.
The Gifted And Talented Education program at the San Diego Unified School District was founded with the intention of addressing the unique difficulties that gifted children present. 

Still, many of the GATE certified teachers in the district fail to recognize that gifted children aren't just smart, but challenged in many ways. Michael Jackson is an extreme example of extreme giftedness, but every adult who is parenting or teaching a gifted child can heed the lesson of how important it is to recognize a gifted child's failings as well as his talents.

article source:

Note: The Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program supports unique opportunities for high-achieving and underachieving pupils who are identified as gifted and talented. By state definition, gifted students are pupils who possess a capacity for excellence far beyond that of their chronological peers.
For more information on the GATE program, please visit

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