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How Should Arts Education Talk about Talent? Or Should It?

Joan Weber Director, Education Division, Creativity & Associates

On June 3, the #artsed chat on Twitter discussed how and if we should use the word "talent" in discussing arts education. We were fairly well divided between those who believed that everyone had talent and those that believed that children were talented or not. Others felt very strongly that the word was so loaded that we shouldn't use it at all. We all agreed that talent had to be worked to be successful. Talent is no free ride; it will atrophy without exercise.

One hour was far from enough time for such a discussion so I thought we should continue it here, on Edutopia. We can bring in folks that don't use Twitter and allow Twitter users more than 140 characters!

I believe in the dictionary definition of talent: a natural aptitude or skill. Therefore, I believe that every child is born with several talents. However, I don't think our educational system is designed to find them ...and, in my case, that talent can be a pain to them. I was the insufferable smartypants. My sister was the class clown.

When I come across students like me or my sister, I believe it is my responsibility to give them an outlet for their talents. I would give the one like me opportunities to teach. And I would encourage my sister to create skits as a performance assessment. Each year, she pulled our whole family together into a talent show of her writing. Instead, teachers disliked me and sent my sister to the office.

How do we handle talent, whether we define it as aptitude or as accomplishment? Neither artistic aptitude nor artistic accomplishment are handled well now so let's keep both on the table.Or, perhaps there's a better set of words to discuss the concept.

The transcript for the #artsed Chat can be found here: http://www.creativityandassociates.net/artsed-chat-archive/

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