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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education: Part 1 – Invasion of the "Gifted" Snatchers
Every one of us in the pre-retirement set remembers what it was like in school. It was a small microcosm of fragmented social groups. Some factions were popular while others united to rebel against the popular mob. Even within these groups, further stratification was based on who was interested in school work and who was not. Academic achievement is not important in the group, yet you were accepted as a member and felt you were worthy. As we graduated, we moved from high school cliques to college or social cliques and tried to hold on to our status as long as we could. Generally, most of us succeed in one way or the other in life and we give birth to the next generation that will run the gauntlet until it is established again.
Every generation that has lived through public education has allowed the cream to rise to the top and rightfully take its place as the leader who upholds American social and political ideals. Gifted students were given unique and additional resources to allow them to develop their talents so that they could pursue a high school education and rank among their peers at the college honor table. This table of Phi Beta Capans and Research Assistantships assumes that gifted students will maintain the grades and quality of work necessary to move them to graduate school where they will receive their academic credentials. This will lead them to elite classes like medicine, law, politics, science etc. These are our leaders! He achieved his goal through the blood, sweat and tears of his high school teachers.
Let’s fast forward to the 21st century where the number of gifted students has increased to the number on academic steroids. Today’s gifted students are no different from those of the 20th century. However, their numbers and membership have been invaded by one of the greatest diseases to emerge in the early 21st century: equality with a side dose of fairness! If you walk into my employer’s high school as it opens after Labor Day, you will see a sea of students with labels attached. Some of those labels will say “504”, others will say “SPED” and some will say “Gifted”. Many of these gifted children will have the gifted label affixed to them from the early days and have been with them ever since. However, once you start working with these guys, the “g” and “I” begin to loosen from the gifted tag. They whine, cry and complain about how hard your class is and start opening their iPods while you try to teach them. Wait a minute! Are these the same kids who have been gifted the whole time? What happened to their ability to get ahead of themselves and do those extra assignments and research work to build their future? You start to wonder if they actually earned those grades or if they were given to you by previous teachers to get them out of their hair.
Yes, in the name of equality and fairness, the intelligent class of students has been invaded by formerly middle-class students who were once content to sit in regular classrooms flirting and discussing a series of plays from Friday night football games. As I sit and work with the gifted classes these days, I see the cream of the crop (they’re always there) working towards their future goals. But, now they have to sit in the same class whose parents insisted that they be labeled gifted and take higher level classes. Rather than the gifted teacher devoting quality time to achieving those wonderful goals, the gifted teacher should now be spending those resources on students who don’t need to be in the gifted classroom. Equality suggests that there should not be a class with more students than another. Fairness dictates that it is not fair to punish those poor average students for nailing them in class. They should be given the right to receive gifts.
Coming up in Part 2: Why all schools need to have separate “gift” programs.
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