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Helping Gifted Teens Cope with Anti-Intellectualism

gtchat 03142017 AntiIntellectual


The teen years are hard … for everyone. It’s difficult to be a teen, but it’s also hard to parent and teach teens. When we consider bright, articulate, smart teens who have a passion for learning, we up the ante significantly. Having to deal with the effects of anti-intellectualism in of all places -school – can be devastating for many. It begins with name-calling and exclusion from social groups, but can escalate to more troubling actions.

What exactly is anti-intellectualism? Simply put, anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. (Wikipedia) It is the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art and science as impractical and contemptible.

Teens are particularly susceptible to the effects of anti-intellectualism. Peer groups are extremely important during these years and teens don’t want to be seen as geeks and nerds. Gifted teens don’t want to be stereotyped as intellectual and feel they’ll be unpopular and bullied. Many of them see athletes, artists, musicians favored by society and want to ‘fit in’.

gtchat 03142017 Tocqueville

Image courtesy of Ashwani Garg, MD via Twitter

 Anti-intellectualism can manifest in schools in many different ways such as placing sports above academics. It can lead to ridicule and bullying of gifted students and especially twice exceptional kids. The rise of high school dropout rates is one indicator of the increase in anti-intellectualism.

There are some coping strategies which gifted teens can use to combat anti-intellectualism. Gifted teens need to develop self-awareness about the nature of their own intellect; choose a personal path forward. Confronting anti-intellectualism can only succeed when done in a positive manner. At some point, teens need to understand the roots of anti-intellectualism; why others feel this way.

How can parents and teachers help gifted teens deal with anti-intellectualism? They need to mentor GT teens by providing them information on the causes of anti-intellectualism. Also, they can serve as role-models for gifted teens; responding to anti-intellectualism appropriately as well as inform GT students about ways to self-advocate in the face of anti-intellectualism.

The consequences of anti-intellectualism for the future of our society may be severe. Anti-intellectualism at its very root rejects critical thinking and is against anything considered elite. The very ideas that move a society forward are now suspect; we come to hate the things that could save us. Anti-intellectualism brings with it higher crime rates and incarcerations; lower literacy rates; less social mobility.

It’s important not to trivialize the signs of anti-intellectualism if we are to continue moving forward as a civilization. As parents and teachers, we must understand the effects it has on our brightest students and work to support them in their endeavors. The transcript of this chat may be found at our Storify page.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at 13.00 NZST/11.00 AEST/Midnight UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:



Making It Safe to Be Smart

Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966) (Amazon)

The Age of American Unreason (Amazon)

Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

The Cult of Ignorance in the US: Anti-Intellectualism & the Dumbing Down of America 

American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique (Amazon)

Why Do US High Schools Typically have an Anti-Intellectual Atmosphere?

Education’s Anti-Intellectual Problem (pdf)

Anti-intellectualism in Schooling

Review of: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds (Amazon)

Is the US Education Bar Set Too Low For All Kids?

Lisa (Simpson) and American Anti-intellectualism (pdf)

Christchurch has Ingrained Anti-Intellectualism & Fear of Innovation & the Unknown

Discrimination against Excellence

Anti-Intellectualism in Education (1955 Preview Only)

Sprite’s Site: Dystopia

Photo courtesy of Pixabay  CC0 Public Domain

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.



Best Ways to Support the Gifted Teen

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“OK . . . let’s be honest: you cannot force a reluctant teenager to do anything, at least not for long. Whether it’s to do more homework (or to not obsess about its completion); to begin to become more social (or to cut back on the dating circuit); or to start planning for one’s college future (or to forget thinking of Harvard in 8th grade), teens have their own personal agendas, many of which tie into their newly found senses of power and independence.” ~ Dr. James Delisle


The teen years can be some of the most daunting years for gifted children as well as their parents and teachers. Gifted, profoundly gifted (PG) and twice-exceptional (2E) teens face many challenges not experienced by their age-peers. They often face unreasonable expectations and mixed messages about their abilities from adults. Gifted teens can have a different view of life and the world than do their classmates. They may prefer to be with intellectual peers rather than age-peers.

There was no shortage of acknowledging challenges for gifted kids:

  • There is nothing without challenge. Except learning, but he will never learn the way they want him to anyway. ~ Mona Chicks
  • For us, I think the social and emotional issues are the biggest hurdles. ~Celi Trépanier
  • My daughter is GT and basketball player. Was told she can’t be smart and a jock.Cliques can cause issues. She changed minds. ~Jodi Foreman
  • Where to start? All of them. Peers, asynchrony, divergent interests, feeling more, BEING more. ~ Jen Merrill

We next turned our attention to asynchronous development as it had been mentioned several times at this point. Asynchronous development – many ages at once – can have a profound impact on their social lives. Jonathan Bolding, middle school teacher of gifted and talented students in Nashville, told us that an “inability to connect with same-age peers may lead to social isolation.” Although intellectually ready to handle more challenging academics, they may not be able to navigate the social scene as easily.

Our third question considered sleep deprivation … how do you get a gifted teen to turn off the lights? For the homeschoolers present, this did not seem as much of a problem as it did for those with kids in public schools where early starts to the day proved difficult for most teens. It was an issue that followed many teens into adulthood. Many suggestions were offered on ways to get a teen to sleep. According to Dr. Jim Delisle, “A gifted teen’s greatest enemy is lack of sleep. Sleep is often not considered a priority for gifted adolescents. Resultant crankiness, listlessness, general “unattractiveness” are a direct result of this lack of sleep. The teen mind is often in overdrive – try to find methods of relaxation.”

How best can adults support sensible risk-taking regarding education? Risk-taking is a huge component in creativity! Teens should not shy away from actions for fear of appearing ‘different’.  They need to understand that being less than perfect is okay and not everyone is successful on the first attempt. (S. White) Learning to deal with failure and overcoming it are skills that can be learned during the teen years. Parents and teachers should both model how to cope with failure; be honest with their kids/students.

Many good strategies were discussed for developing self-advocacy in teens. Self-advocacy can be nurtured by allowing teens to experience natural consequences for their actions early on. Parents need to be less involved in ‘rescuing’ teens from academic issues and lend support to their teen. Jen Merrill suggested, “Start small. Encourage them to do things for themselves in public. Gradually work up to educational advocacy.”

The teen years can be a balancing act between ‘fitting in’ and intellectual authenticity with age-peers. It’s natural for teens to want to fit in with peer groups. Adults need to be understanding and give them some space to find their own way. Jeremy Bond, a parent, expressed it this way, “As with all teens, they should know you’ll always be there for support, but not to navigate things for them.” A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.

This week, our sponsor gave away a scholarship for a 3-month subscription to their K-7 Math and Language Arts Combination Course. The winner was Virginia  Pratt, a teacher of gifted and talented students in South Carolina. was born out of Stanford’s EPGY. EPGY was led by Professor Patrick Suppes and they are honored to continue his legacy.  Virginia was able to answer the question – “During Patrick Suppes’ 64 years at Stanford, how many books did he publish?” (Answer: 34) Congratulations, Virginia and many thanks to!



Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented and sponsored by is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our new Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media    Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Tips for Parents: The Real World of Gifted Teens

Tips for Parents: Gifted . . . and Teenagers, too

10 Ways to Help Your Gifted Teen Get the Best Out of Secondary School

Parenting Gifted Teens

Parenting Gifted Children in Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom (pdf)

Deep Thinkers & Perfectionists: Getting to Know Your Gifted Teen

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense & Creative Adolescents Paperback (Amazon)

Parents of Gifted 3: Promote Sensible Risk-taking

Life Balance & Gifted Teens – an Oxymoron?

Sleep Deprivation and Teens

Exploring the Duality of the Gifted Teen

The Gifted Teen Survival Guide: Smart, Sharp & Ready for (Almost) Anything (Amazon)

Cybraryman’s Asynchronous Development Page


Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Homework or Play?

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For years teachers and parents have believed that homework was a good way to reinforce lessons learned in class, but there is mounting evidence that this simply is not true; particularly at the elementary level in it’s present form. During the early years, children learn valuable skills through play that serve them throughout their lives.

Shanna Weber, a gifted and talented teacher in New Jersey, pointed out, “Teachers confuse “rigor” with more and harder, and parents apply pressure to stay informed.” Angie French, a gifted resource teacher in Texas, added, “I think it’s associated with teachers being accountable for covering so much to met state expectations.” However, Gina Boyd, a 4th/5th grade teacher of gifted students in Indiana, reminded us that simply not doing homework does not guaranteed quality play time for all children.

Some of the negative effects of homework at the elementary level discussed included that no studies link homework to current or future academic success. Children can develop a very negative attitude toward school and learning at a young age. Jeff Shoemaker, 7/8th grade teacher of gifted students in Ohio, told us that “homework for little ones makes stress for the family and that a lot of it is useless repetition.”

The benefits that come from reducing or eliminating homework for elementary students were many. Lisa Lauffer of Creative Miracles said, “[It gives children] time to pursue what interests them. [The resulting] reduction of stress reduces anxiety and depression.” Carol Bainbridge, expert on gifted kids at, added, “Kids are free to explore topics of interest in depth.” Also, The benefits of ‘down’ time cannot be overlooked. Sometimes gifted kids just need to ‘chill’!

Check out the full transcript at Storify to see some of the alternatives to homework that were proposed. How do you feel about homework? Leave us a comment below!

gtchat thumbnail logoGlobal #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered byTAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:



Elementary School Dumps Homework and Tells Kids to Play Instead 

No-Homework Policy Improves Home Life for Younger Students at One Chicago Public School 

When the Playful Disappoints. Notes on Primary Socialization of the Young Gifted Child

The End of Homework? Why Some Schools are Banning Homework

What Happens When an Elementary School Abolishes Homework

Why More and More Parents Are Opting Their Kids Out of Homework

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? Surprising Findings from New Research

When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating Association Between Homework & Achievement in HS Science & Math (Abstract)

Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003 (pdf)

The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers & Parents (Amazon)

Abusing Research: The Study of Homework & Other Examples

The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Amazon)

My 5 Year Old Grandson Hates Homework & I Don’t Blame Him

Playtime Isn’t Just for Preschoolers—Teenagers Need It, Too

When Schools Cannot Meet gifted Children’s Needs

Homework Guidelines Victoria (AUS) Department of Education and Training

Cybraryman’s Homework Debate Page

Play and Children’s Learning

Heavier Homework Load Linked to Lower Math, Science Performance, Study Says 

This Is Me : Article 31 and a Child’s Right to Play (YouTube)

TED Talk: Play is More Than Just Fun (video)

TED Talk: The Child-Driven Education (video)


Flickr: Photo Credit   CC 2.0 (homework)

Pixabay: Photo Credit  CC0 Public Domain (play)

The Middle School Years ~ Tweens to Teens

In this chat, we discussed both school and home strategies for dealing with gifted middle school kids. We learned that Ireland and Australia utilize a primary/secondary model and the U.S. uses both a Jr. High model and Middle School model. The Middle School model was originally intended to address the social-emotional needs of early adolescents through heterogeneous groups. It was noted that this does not aid gifted students in middle school. Homeschoolers present at that chat cited this as a major reason for homeschooling.

The moderator noted that middle schools need to understand the limitations inherent in cooperative learning for gifted students. School districts need to support teachers by providing them professional development in differentiation and individual strategies. They need to be open to flexible grouping based on ability. Enriching all students in a regular classroom is not equal to providing gifted students with an appropriate education.

Turning to what parents can do in the home, it was suggested that parents need to recognize peer influence and provide opportunities for gifted kids to get together outside of school. Middle school is often a time for making new friends and testing boundaries. Firm, but flexible is a good strategy. We need to understand that gifted tweens are under more stress to achieve and to compete during the middle school years.


Meeting the Needs of High Ability Learners in the Middle Grades

Academic Diversity in the Middle School (1995)

Educating Gifted Students in Middle School (2005)  (Amazon)

Inspiring Middle School Minds (2009) (Amazon)

Young, Gifted and Neglected

Gifted Learners and the Middle School: Problem or Promise?

Responding to the Needs of Middle Level Gifted Learners (pdf)

“Gifted Students Are Seldom Given What They Need” from Dr. Deborah Ruf.

Embracing Introversion: Ways to Stimulate Reserved Students in the Classroom

Cluster Grouping

Living the Life Fantastic (Blog)

Differentiated Instruction (from Cybraryman)


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