Saturday, July 25, 2020

Giftedness and the Stoic Concept of Justice-Universalizing Justice

I read this thought provoking article today on Philosophy and Theory in the Study of Gifted Children as it pertains to the concept of justice development in gifted children. First, its an interesting read because these kids gain knowledge of the difference between right and wrong at a very young age. That knowledge seems to be defined throughout their lifetimes leading to philosophers, scientists and deep thinkers. 

For some reason these children can think about values and principles as being more universal while the rest of the population thinks more along the lines of the technicalities of the law and what their friends, parties, or clubs think. Such values are also likely why its called the "tragic gift" high potential and lack of validation in the environment.

There is sort of a theory of development by Psychologist Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg that discusses the reason why gifted children develop a better sense of Justice at a higher level than others. You can read more about Piaget HERE. 

There are three layers of development of the concept of justice offered. 

1. Morality of authority is the morality of helplessness and following the rules for fear of punishment. 

2. Morality of association occurs when people develop their sense of morality through shared beliefs and associations.

3. Morality of principles occurs when people begin to see morality as principles that should be followed. 

How does that work in real life?

Let's go back to the example based in my experience. A group of people engaged in coordinated harassment based on a number of things such as hiding past wrongs, embarrassment, a history of similar behavior, a level of bigotry, and a very narrow understanding of the beauty and value of life. 

I wrote a little about how adults involved and shared false and misleading information to not only my child but also their own children. It was racially/religious motivated information designed to do damage. Yes providing false and misleading information to underage kids is not only manipulative but also a form of bullying; especially if the child is not reacting well to that information. So this behavior moves beyond just anger and inappropriate behavior into something more dysfunctional.  

 It seems that the group has issues as it relates to people who are not the same as them and who have different values, backgrounds, ethnicity and creeds. There is a general disregard for anyone that isn't in the "in crowd" and they generally believe in the superiority of the "in crowd" when they say things like, "everyone wants to be like us". Most people would pause for a moment and take exception to those comments but for some reason there is a proper feedback mechanism.

Lets give another example of how people who are different are treated poorly and "less than". I had an Arab friend of mine visit and the group acted in that awkward polite in a way that that is half friendly and half rude. As a teacher and a stand up respectable person with a Masters degree, two children, and well traveled she didn't need to be treated that way. She felt awkward enough that she half joking told one of the ladies to please not come near her. In hindsight it seems as though the group was trying to make her feel uncomfortable. 

 It should also be noted that this is the same place their law enforcement guest walked up to me in an abrupt manner and asked if I had a gun. 

In this instance I can say it seems like the group is into the second stage of value systems. Certainly they would be afraid of punishment but they are much more afraid of not looking good to other group members. There is constant comparisons of themselves and others, putting down of other people, and general trying to "mingle" with what they deem as the "right" crowd of people. No one in the group is particularly wealthy or accomplished but the social status seems to take a theme in their conversations. 

At the association level, people look to their friends as an example of how to act.Their values are socially constructed based on cues and conversations within their friends (group norms).When one causes a problem the others jump in despite having no reason to do so.  If you asked them what that person did to them they might not be able to pin it down into a formal statement. group members reinforce each others values without checking them against the outside world. You can call this "cultic" or "clannish" in nature. 

Gifted children gravitate past the cooperation stage and into the very principles by which justice is created. They are open to different values, different people, and believe more in a universal justice system that applies to all races and religions equally. One doesn't get excused for bad behavior because of the "right" background and the other doesn't get unfairly punished because of theirs. 

This is a blog post (with all of the misspelling and poor grammar) but the discussion is an imortant one for society. Its not an academic article so I'm not going to move through all of the fine details. I think that is the crisis we are facing between minorities and law enforcement. I advocate for peaceful protests and the need to focus on the bigger picture of how we can improve society and not on being destructive. At the same time, I'm a big support of police as well as a supporter of improving policing for the benefit of everyone. There are some poor officers in the system and we need to do better on creating feedback, checks and balances and ultimately removing bad actors.

We know that society needs police because people do criminal things that are harmful to others and every society should have some type of enforcement mechanism that keeps low developed individuals honest. We also need judges to make wise decisions that are fair and make sense. At the same time "bad apples" in law enforcement that circumvent the law and use their badges for personal gain or to intimidate others should be removed to maintain trust in the whole system. 

Thus, justice is an interesting concept that will continue to be debated in society for some time. I do believe we are beginning to develop as a society and start universalize the system in a way that different people of different backgrounds are given equal weight and consideration under the law. When this occurs people will have more trust and in turn it will help law enforcement through better leads, diversity in recruitment, and less societal distress. That will in turn reduce crime and increase economic activity.

Gifted kids learn these lessons fairly early in their life and develop beyond fear of punishment and strict compliance with group values. That is why intimidation isn't a strong tactic with this population; nor is the fear of social rejection. What does work is honesty and honest conversations about how to ensure that such behavior doesn't happen again and how to help those "influencers" in the group that may be acting from a trauma based past. Its not about punishment...its about accountability and justice; even if that means getting people the help they need.

Today I was at the beach and I saw a young white girl and a young girl that looks mixed race playing in the sand without a care in the world. Giggling,laughing with buckets picking up and quickly dumping sand into large dome towers. They were oblivious to their superficial differences and had no idea that there are others who not only frown on these friendships. Even works that one of the girls is likely going to be treated a touch more harshly when she gets older. They are under the age of associated morals. I wonder at what age it becomes acceptable to discount the value of life...and I think back to my own children.  

If we don't draw a line somewhere and start thinking beyond our values based in fear of punishment or the values of our friends and associates then I wonder where our society will be in 10 or 20 years. 

White, D. (2003)Philosophy and Theory in the Study of Gifted Children. Roeper Review, 26 (1).

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