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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education: Part 1 – Invasion of the "Gifted" Snatchers
Each of us in the pre-retirement collection remembers what it was like in school. It was a small microcosm of scattered social groups. Some groups were popular, while others banded together to rebel against the mob. Even within these groups, there was further stratification by who was interested in school work and who was not. Not that academic success mattered within the group, you were still accepted as a member and earned the status you thought you deserved. When we graduated, we went from high school cliques to college or social cliques, trying to maintain our status as much as possible. Generally, most of us have been successful in life in one way or another, and we have given birth to the next generation, which will go through oblivion until it is recharged.
Every generation that has lived through public education has seen fit to let the cream rise to the top and take their place as the eternal leaders of the American social and political ideal. Gifted students have been given unique and redundant resources to enable them to develop their talents so that they can graduate from high school and earn a place among their peers at the college honors table. From this chart, Phi Beta Kappans and research assistants assumed that a gifted student would maintain the grades and quality of work necessary to transfer them to graduate school, where they would earn academic credit. This brings them into the elite of medicine, law, politics, science, etc. Here are our leaders! They reached their goal with the blood, sweat and tears of high school teachers.
Fast forward to the 21st century, where the number of gifted students has grown like academic steroids. Today’s gifted student is no different than they were in the 20th century. However, their numbers and membership have been overtaken by the greatest disease of the early 21st century: Equality with a side dose of justice! If you walk into my employer’s high school when it starts just after Labor Day, you’ll see a sea of students wearing labels. Some of those labels will say “504”, others will say “SPEED” and very few will say “Talent”. Many of these gifted children had the gifted label attached to them from their early days and have carried it with them ever since. However, once you start working with these kids, the “g” and “I” begin to break free from the gifted tag. They whine and whine and complain about how hard your class is and turn on their Ipods while you try to teach them. Wait a minute! Are these the same kids who were gifted all along? What happened to their ability to go ahead on their own and do these extra assignments and research work to build their future? You wonder if they actually got those grades or if they were just given to you by a previous teacher to get out of your hair.
Yes, in the name of equality and fairness, the student body has been invaded by former mediocre students who were once content to sit in regular classes, file their nails, and debate Friday Night Football game shows. When I sit down and work with the gifted class these days, I see the cream of the crop (They’re always there) working to achieve their future goals. However, now they have to sit in the same classes as the mainstream, their parents insisted they label them as gifted and take higher level classes. Instead of the gifted teacher spending quality time teaching them to achieve these admirable goals, the gifted teacher must now spend that resource on those students who should not be in the gifted class. Equality proposed that no class of students should be superior to another. Fairness shows that it is not right to punish those mediocre students for their nails in class. It is necessary to give them the right to give gifts.
Suggestion in Part 2: Why there should be a separate Gifted program in all schools.
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