Monday, December 24, 2007

Gifted drop dead

It is shameful that educationists care so little for the needs of gifted students. The egalitarian dogma and the quest for mediocrity are more important than the well-being and the development of the potential of those unfortunate enough to have been born with above-average abilities:

In many Delaware districts, the gifted are left behind
State offers no funding to teach brightest students

They are bored -- so much so that they may not pay attention in class or will act out in frustration.

Some make poor grades, either because they no longer care or because they have spent so many of their younger years unchallenged that when they suddenly face a rigorous course in middle or high school, they don't know how to study.

They are the nation's gifted children, those with abilities beyond other children their age. Too many of their abilities, advocates argue, remain untapped by U.S. schools that don't serve them as they focus instead on lifting low-achieving students to meet the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Statistically, 20 percent of U.S. school dropouts test in the gifted range, said Jill Adrian, director of family services at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit founded by philanthropists Bob and Jan Davidson out of a concern that the nation's most gifted and talented children largely are neglected and underserved.

Then there is the loss to the nation from wasted talent.


nbosch said...

I've taught gifted kids for 25 years in a state mandated special ed program. Elementary school is grim for many gifted kids, middle school is a waste of time. By the time they get to high school and appropriate classes are available to them they are snoozing.

Anonymous said...

I have never voted republican. I am a liberal in many ways, yet I am a traditionalist when it comes to education. Jeanne Chall, James Traub, ED Hirsch, Stosky, the Instructivist and many other bloggers provide the validation and comradery for me to go on. Project Follow Through is all the research that we need. This issue with the gifted is just another manifestation of the liberal mindset. Are we not all winners? All kids are brilliant, you just need to find their learning style and differentiate your instruction. I see at the high school level the problem with heterogeneous grouping and gifted kids every year as they come up from the middle school - unchallenged kids languishing in school. Can we not start a movement? Can we not have a symposoium, a conference and come-up with some way to combat this leviathan of progressive education thta is insidiouly ruining America?

Instructivist said...


Thanks for the kind words. You are putting me in truly distinguished company. Unfortunately, wholly undeserved. I also have a very high regard for Jeanne Chall, James Traub, ED Hirsch, Stosky...

The denial of giftedness or the claim that everybody is gifted is just another manifestation of the destructive egalitarian urge. Here is a corrective to this delusion in a review by Timothy D. Lundeen of a book on sexual differences:

Second, Sax echoes the educationist's mantra that "Almost every child is a gifted child." This seems ludicrous to me. The definition of gifted is top 3-5% on some dimension of human ability. There just aren't enough independent dimensions here for almost everyone to be gifted in some way. I would argue that the main three dimensions are athleticism, cognition, and empathy. Most other dimensions have a fair amount of correlation with one or more of these, with musically gifted people typically also cognitively gifted, etc. You might come up with a few more (memory ability doesn't seem to be correlated with cognitive ability, for example), but "almost everyone"? I wouldn't think that more that 20-25% of the population would be gifted regardless of the number of dimensions you chose to measure, and that most of these "gifts" would not be related to academic ability in any way.

The harm from this belief that "all children are gifted" comes when you then say that because everyone is gifted, everyone can be treated the same way. To his credit, Sax doesn't draw this conclusion, but is all too common -- my son went to Stuart Hall, one of the schools used by Sax as an example of best-practices teaching for boys, and I heard both of these statements from them (e.g. "everyone is gifted" and "we have the same program for everyone" and "even though your son has an IQ in the top 1% that doesn't mean he is more gifted intellectually than anyone else or could use any special help academically"). Particularly for children who are cognitively gifted, not having an appreciation for their learning differences in a classroom setting can often have long-term detrimental effects. (I see cognitively gifted children in a typical classroom as an unfortunate minority. They are not getting what they need to thrive.)