Friday, July 8, 2011

Some Things Never Change … But They Need To!

Take a look at some of these newspaper headlines … “Experts Pity Gifted Child”, “Gifted Children Are a Problem”, “Nation is Asked to Provide for Gifted Children”, “Educators Taking New Look at Nation’s Gifted Children”, “Mere Skipping No Answer to Gifted Child”, “Gifted Children Need Attention”, “Gifted Children Face Problems”. Would you like to venture a guess when these articles were written? I’ll give you a clue – they are all over 45 years old! In this order: 1935, 1940, 1950, 1958, 1959, 1964, 1965.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Decades of research, advocacy, and bookshelves full of titles on gifted education … to what end? Here we are, one decade into the 21st century, and we are still having to dispel the myths that surround gifted children and how to educate them!

What needs to change? How do we shake things up? Who is going to make a difference in this seemingly unending debate? It is apparent that something or someone needs to make a radical change here. A new strategy needs to be implemented … ‘cause folks … not only are battles being lost, but the frontline is moving backwards. Budget cuts to gifted education are at the top of the list for most cash-strapped schools. The general public is suspect of funding programs for which they don’t believe will benefit them personally.

Some of the answers lie within the articles I mentioned at the beginning of this post. From the Toledo Blade dated November 5, 1993: “Many of America’s brightest youngsters are bored and unchallenged in school, the Education Department said yesterday. ‘The United States is squandering one of its most precious resources – the gifts, talents, and high interests of many of its students,” the report said. … Most classroom teachers make few provisions for these children. … Talented poor and minority students suffer the most.” Sound familiar? It went on to “urge teachers to use new criteria for deciding who is gifted, rather than relying just on test scores, and recommended that they develop new schools to teach high-level curricula”.

In an article dated June 5, 1950 from the Youngstown Vindicator (provided by the New York Herald Tribune News Services), the president of Harvard University, Sr. James B. Conant, warned that “United States leadership in a free world is threatened unless a much greater percentage of the nation’s gifted youth is induced to seek fuller educational advantages”. I’d say that’s about right.

But it isn’t just about the United States or other industrialized countries. It is about all gifted children. They all need the support of their respective teachers, schools, and governments. But who will make the difference? Who needs to have a greater voice in the discussion? There is one group that I never saw quoted in any of these articles. Parents.

Oh, wait! I was wrong. Mothers are mentioned in the 1935 report from the Toledo News-Bee (United Press) … the experts pity the gifted child because they are spoiled by their mothers and are thus handicapped by them. Okay, so they apparently had a lot to learn in 1935.

My point is that not only do parents of gifted children need to be more actively engaged in advocacy, but those players who are already at the table need to listen to them. Many major groups in the U.S. are heading in this direction … and it’s a good direction. I applaud their efforts. Hopefully, their counterparts in other countries will give equal weight to what parents have to say. Too many cultural barriers exist, but with the support of parent advocates actively engaging through social media platforms; change we can believe in will occur!

1 comment:

  1. Gifted children have gotten the shaft from the public schools for the past century (probably less so before then, as the one-room schoolhouse model made it MUCH easier to let the gifted kids work to ability). Until the public schools truly adapt to the technological educational revolution that is beginning (and that I expect them to be the LAST to fully embrace, as doing so will cost union jobs), gifted kids are going to continue to be the group least well-served by gov't schools. I WAS a gifted kid in the public schools, as was my husband. Our own kids are young yet, but are showing definite signs of being gifted, as well. We are homeschooling, as neither of us is willing to subject our children to that when we have a choice. Our parents didn't really have a choice (both of us grew up in rural areas, with no private gifted schools, and no one knew about homeschooling back then). But we do.