Monday, August 27, 2012

A Song for the Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child,
Sing it softly for the song is wild
Sing it softly as ever you can
lest the song get out of hand
Nobody loves a genius child........

This first stanza of an insightful, yet painful poem written by one if our nation's most prolific writers, the great Langston Hughes, tells the day-to-day experience of millions of gifted children and youth sitting in classrooms everyday unloved, unnoticed, and misunderstood. These young scholars, inventors, creators, and artists attend schools with the expectation that they will be stimulated, challenged, and valued for their ideas, motivation, courage, and creativity.

For far too many, they meet adults who turn a deaf ear, leaving them to feel unloved and under appreciated, and worse who misinterpret their strengths for weaknesses, or deficits. For many gifted learners, being true to themselves leaves them open to criticism, taunting, bullying, disrespect, not only from their age peers, but also from adults : teachers, community members, others who should feel an obligation to help and to nurture their strengths.  

When they express their giftedness they are called crazy, too talkative, too busy, too smart, quirky.  If their intense behavior is manifested in quiet, more subtle behaviors and they crave more isolation, they are criticized for not speaking up, being too sad, being anti-social, or too sensitive. Some have even reported teachers and other adults being threatened by the intelligence and wisdom of the gifted, and responding as though the child or teen was a 'danger' to others in the academic environment.

Research about the characteristics of gifted learners in particular, the intensities and 'overexcitabilities' of gifted people and first hand accounts of what it means to be gifted, has provided more than sufficient evidence of the great needs that gifted or genius children have for support and understanding.

Hughes' poem uses the metaphor of the eagle to express the ability of these young people to 'soar' when given the support and understanding they need. Without this support, understanding and love, the very spirit, the core of what makes them who they are will be destroyed.  

So, for those of you who committed to nurturing the 'genius child'
  • I encourage you during this school year, to do your part to show all children, including ALL gifted children in your environment that you appreciate them, value their strengths, and are available to do what you can to help them 'soar',

  • I encourage you to look among ALL populations to seek out giftedness, appreciate them, and ensure that they have every opportunity to reach their highest potential, and

  • I encourage you to actively show your children and your students through your attention to their intellectual and affective needs that you love the 'genius child' within. Anything less would be a travesty.

..can you love an eagle, tame or wild?
Wild or tame, can you love a monster of frightening name?
Nobody loves a genius child,
Kill him and let his soul run wild.
 -Langston Hughes, 1947

For more information:

Piechowski, M. (2006) Mellow out-they say, If I only could: Intensities and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison,WI:Yunasa books


  1. From Dr. Donna Y. Ford, Vanderbilt University:

    Powerful! Hughes' poem is right on point (and this young man's story says it all)*. His journey really resonates with me as I am from Cleveland and East Cleveland!!!

    *See also a story published in Ebony magazine this month (Sept 2012): 'Homeless to Harvard:A Cleveland Honors student trades a spot on a park bench to a place in the Ivy League'

    Dr. Ford

  2. From Rev Terri Silas, Arizona

    Beautiful, Joy.  It occurs to me, that there are adults today, who were gifted children, and endured the exact same things Langston Hughes spoke about as children, and still yet struggle with them in their adulthood. 


  3. From Theresa Newsom , Colorado

    Powerful! Thanks, Joy,  for all you do to empower each of us in our learning of gifted education and its importance for our children.


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