In the Summer of 1979, teenagers on a ‘Mentally Gifted Programme’ in California wrote to the youth magazine of the National Association for Gifted Children in Britain. They criticised the label ‘gifted’ and its burdens, writing: ‘Think of the position I have been put in since first grade, just because I passed a silly test of describing pictures’.
This paper explores the characterisation of ‘giftedness’ by psychologists in Britain and America; a co-constructed notion which came to denote a small percentage of people, 0.5-2% on various measures, with extreme, unusual, and powerful intellect. The paper explores how this label was applied to children in practice – by national and local IQ testing, for example, and in daily life as parents used magazine tests and brought new recipes and products on this basis. Children, meanwhile, used new voluntary groups to critique this.