Respect is one of those words that can signify something very good or whose lack of can be used as a tool to inhibit the growth of intellectual curiosity. In part one of this post I discussed the need for respect of teachers. Good teachers deserve our respect and poor ones need our support to become better teachers.
This brings me to the topic of this post … respect for the academically gifted and for the need to provide appropriate education based upon that respect. Having researched approaches to gifted education around the world over the past 9 months, I have noted that in countries that score high on international assessments … there is a respect for gifted learners. No surprise there.
Even while schools in the U.S. and many other industrialized nations are slashing funding for gifted programs FIRST, other countries are recognizing the need for greater investment in the development of their gifted students. In a word, they have begun to RESPECT these students and their potential to improve society. Countries as diverse as Hungary, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Denmark, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are investing in gifted education.
The new Hungarian Presidency of the EU got the ball rolling in Europe even before taking office by announcing early on that talent development would be a priority during this administration. This culminated with the First Talent Day in Europe in April, 2011. Many member countries of the EU are following suit with talent days of their own.
After many months of work by advocacy groups in the U.S., several forward thinking politicians in the Senate introduced a bi-partisan bill in Congress designated as The Talent Act. It remains to be seen if hard-line, anti-education congressmen will join in supporting this important piece of legislation.
It is interesting to note that when countries become mired in economic strife … they suddenly realize that they need smart people to help them out of their troubles. The very same people they ridiculed as nerds, derided as elitists, cut funding for in their own short-sightedness and bullied on the playground become the ones who they turn to for solutions to their problems.
Recognition of talent and academic potential is the final step in truly respecting these brilliant young minds. Gifted students work hard everyday to earn this respect through achievement in classrooms, research projects, academic competitions, and community service among other endeavors. Countries which grant this respect will see it returned in ways that will benefit all of their society.