We must recognize that we are dealing with a problem that is at once both complex and unstable. Complex in the sense that we must be careful not to oversimplify; unstable due to the ongoing advances in neuroscience that may cause us to revise certain à prioris. It will be for our "Science and Ethics Committee" to validate and enrich the information presented in the Foundation website, as it is for them to institute and (co)finance scientific studies that appear necessary to better our understanding of these high potential children and adults.
We have characterized with the prefix "hyper" those of unusual potential presenting characterisitcs equal to their potential; we are not here speaking of their characterisics but their hyper-developed capacities. However, these high-potential children are also highly vulnerable, which is not the least of the inherent paradoxes.
THE "HYPER" CHILDREN
If, as Victor Hugo wrote, "form is the substance that rises to the surface", the difficulty we encounter in France and elsewhere to find a name for these unusual, unique, original or atypical people, both children and adults, is not surprising. Some find it better not to name them at all.
Why have we not then taken directly the qualifier "high" to associate with "potential" in naming the Foundation? Simply to signify that the challenge to transform these potentials into talents affects everyone, regardless of one's initial level of potential.
We note that the term "high potential" could be replaced by "original potential", which refers to the idea of source, origin, the innate ... while still indicating the singularities of the individual, and bearing in mind that:
"Nature creates the differences from which society then creates inequality." Tahar Ben Jelloun
Once we iterate the idea of the wide variety of profiles of "high potential", once we iterate the idea of the variety of forms of intelligence (see Gardner) which can not be reduced solely to a question of IQ, and once we state that we are not talking about "geniuses" or "prodigies"...
... we can begin to look for what actually allows us to define someone as "high potential".
INNATE AND ACQUIRED (ENVIRONMENT)
Whatever information may come to light from the sciences (neuroscience in particular and cognitive science in general) concerning the proportion of innate to acquired potential, the central issue remains that of giving everyone the opportunity to benefit from a favorable environment for the development of his or her talents.
THE SEAHORSE EMBLEM
Harmony is nourished by differences.
As our emblem, the hippocampus is not intended to directly symbolize gifted individuals, but more the concepts evoked by such a symbol: In addition to being a key part of the brain that produces new neurons throughout life, the hippocampus is also an animal that inspires curiosity due to its originality and elegance, while at the same time invoking a sense of rarity or fragility, an atypicality well summarized by it's common appelation, "sea horse."
ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY
Extracts from a philosophical editorial by Eric Solot:
Contrary to what one might think, we do not seek efficiency, productivity or the best possible yields by converting potential into effective and competitive talent, nor do we seek the exceptionalism of placing some above the others (hierarchical elitism). We want to encourage, support and provide opportunity for everyone, not to free an individual's capacities in service of some conceptual optimal utility, but almost conversely, to allow the individual optimal confidence and responsibility.
Why give extra special care to these children and adolescents? Because they are, by reason of their potential, more fragile than others, more vulnerable, sensitive, and their own potential must not beocme a handicap, as is too often the case in the current system that offers normative or standardized education.
The critical challenge is to help them adjust to their potential, to enable them to exist as talented individuals, to fully adapt to themselves; to help them "appropriate" their singular potential, teach them to learn, to know how to be high potential individuals, that is to say, what they are, and to be able to respond as they should.
The development of potential talent arrives through putting talent to work, where it can be appropriated as a potential finally realised. Without work, the potential escapes. It is, so to speak, to acquire what is innate through working to appropriate it. The talent is obtained by working to gain the level of potential. In this we hear the famous injunction of Pindar: "Become what you are." Become the human you have to be.
Commentary: In a utilitarian conception, the understanding of oneself transforms one's potential into reality (as one would liberate energy); In a conception centered on harmonious self-development, the potential must be allowed to become, to be. Appropriating one's potential is to adapt to one's being (and not to master one's being); to liberate oneself, to open oneself up to one's own being, to deploy one's capacities as capacites and not to "use" them, as if one were to put oneself at the service of these capacities.
"Gifted children are not quite like other children, but like the others, they are children." Dr. O. Revol
AN APPEAL TO YOUR GENEROSITY
Paradoxically, being "different" often causes high potential children to suffer, and sometimes they, and their families, suffer greatly. And all too often, they experience academic failure, especially when they come from socio-economically disadvantaged environments.
2 out of 3 high potential children meet with academic difficulties
1 in 3 must repeat a grade (Infirmière magazine, June 2006)
1 in 5 do not graduate from high school and only 40% make it through their second year of university (Quotidien du Médecin, February 1999).
And worse, 8-10% of these children have considered or have attempted suicide (Journal de la pédiatrie et de puériculture No. 17, 2204).
This is a collective failure on the national scale that concerns all of us.
WHERE DO YOUR DONATIONS GO?
Thanks to your donations, our foundation will be able to:
fund scholarships benefiting children in need, to enable them to access education adapted to their characteristics;
promote the opening of dedicated classes or primary schools (focusing on well-adapted primary education as preventive medicine) as well as any programme that puts the development of the child in priority;
finance measures to accompany the return of children to the standard educational system in order to facilitate their integration;
disseminate national and international best teaching practices through the work of the Observatoire des hauts potentiels.
Furthermore, we wil be empowered to help give these children back thier smiles, combat scholastic failure, put an end to the suffering of these "ugly ducklings" that are as much the object of jealousy as they are of being ignored, and work for the compassionate acceptance of differences and the promotion of equal opportunities.
EQUALITY OF CONSIDERATION / EQUALITY OF CHANCES
Should not the logic of balance or reciprocity between equality of rights and equality of duties associate a logic of equality of consideration between people as well?
Equal rights: civil equality before the law, that is to say equal rights as distinct from social equality and the pursuit of equal social rights, which is also a matter of social justice
equality of duties: merit, individual efforts...
equal consideration: The sense of individual difference that is a source of dignity for all, consideration for individuality (as a being among others) without falling into individualism (thinking only of oneself)
How are we to promote equal opportunity for children possesing a "superior" or "unusual" potential? Who says "children" says both parents and teachers, that is to say, those adults likely to play the role of mentor, guiding the child on the path of development and fulfillment. However, it must be recognized that the adoption of adapted educational comportment in respect to these particular children is by no means a given. While not calling into question anyone's best efforts, we feel it is nevertheless important to underline the need a change in posture in regard to these children, a change in posture which will be equally beneficial for both adults (whether parents or teachers) and children (as individuals and in a global sense).
In celebrating our differences and thereby inviting everyone to reflect and overcome the propensity toward a certain amount of suspicion (at best) or jealousy (at worst), we aim to confront the root causes leading to a collective societal failure to welcome these unusual children; children who can often be percieved as bothersome, owing to their insatiable curiosity and pointed questions as they search for meaning and their existential truths.
How can we best prove wrong Jean Cocteau's observation that "the French have always believed that equality consists of cutting off anything that surpasses", without returning to our national motto, thereby trying to once again give meaning to "freedom, equality and fraternity"? The motto of the European Union could also serve as a source of inspiration: "In varietate concordia", "United in diversity".
Rather than continue on the road of "egalitarianism", we advocate the principle of equality of opportunities for success, and of creating an environment that maximises the possibility for each to transform his or her potentiels into talents.
"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." Seneca
But how can we contribute to the awakening of talents? How can we help "give wings" to these fledgling talents? The answer is in "auto motion". As William Butler Yeats said, when paraphrasing Michel de Montaigne, "to educate is not to fill a vase, but to light a fire", so that the future adult is moved by his or her own motor, responsible, autonomous and not infantilized.
MAPPING THE COMMUNITY OF THOSE INVOLVED
Our definition of "community" is broad. It includes, in addition to high potential children/adolescents/adults, their parents (the family circle) and their representatives (associations), their school environment (teachers in classic scholastic environments and other such institutions) and after school (in the case of learning disabilities). To this we may add researchers (in education, neuroscience...), caregivers (psychologists, pediatricians...), politicians (parliamentary figures...) and international organizations (both within and outside of Europe).
Before we can contribute to uniting our energies for the growth and sustainable development of those with high potential, from childhood to adulthood, and before we can provide support to our projects, we need to understand the fundementals of the views expressed by the "actors" involved.
Through questionnaires and meetings, we will contact each of these "actors" and propose that they share with us their values and beliefs in order to put their past actions and projects in perspective.
Thereafter, we will provide an overview of perspectives, identifying points of consenus as well as the reasons for differences. Putting such differences into perspective, along with integrating recent findings from the scientific community, will aid us in identifying opportinuities for cooperation and/or open up avenues for further research.
A cartography of these points of view should then emerge, typologies should appear and a dynamic of convergence should therefore also emerge (for those who wish to act in a more concerted fashion).
"Jigsaw" template by Bird.
THE MISSION OF THE FOUNDATION
The question of high potential leads to two paradoxes:
the one visible, in that many high potential students will fail academically,
another less visible in the form of a silent resistance to the very existence of high potential individuals.
And not to mention the suffering of children and of their relatives confronted by this taboo, one example being the high rate of adolescent suicide.
On the other hand, we can eaisly observe that high potential athletes are often identified at an early age in order to take advantage of appropriate training programs.
"No problem can be solved without changing the level of consciousness that created it." Albert Einstein
The question of the transformation potential to talent is at the intersection of the areas of morality and ethics, understood as a concept of "equal treatment" (egalitarianism) and the concept of equal opportunity, understood as allowing "positive discrimination" to adapt the law (often general) to the singular circumstances of situations and people.
Our mission: To work for the full and sustainable development of high potential individuals.
High potential is still misunderstood and associated with false beliefs. Potential often remains "dormant" and a great number of people are suffering, both children and adults. We wish to help change the perception of high potential as well as deepen the current level of research, which will lead to a more objective debate.
Brigitte de Compreignac, President, Fondation Potentiels & Talents
In addition, the Foundation, in compliance with statutes and rules applicable to the Fondation pour l'ecole, may exercise any activity directly related to it's social objective, and in particular:
finance a social solidarity fund for the education of children with high potential whose parents do not have the resources;
promote cooperation between groups and concerned individuals in France (associations, researchers, teachers both public and private...) through measures that bring them together;
undertake advocacy and communication with relevant professionals and the general public (cause nationale, high potential day...);
develop and disseminate different forms of informational materials concerning high potential children;
design and undertake all kinds of training activities (teachers...) useful to disseminate better understanding of high-potential children (special educational needs...);
develop partnerships in France and abroad through an Observatory of High Potentials, responsible for refining the objective criteria for identification of high intellectual or creative potential at any age (lifelong), to identify and share best practices for teaching in private and in public schools, to encourage scholastic and extra-curricular experiments and to cooperatively distibute a "best practices kit".