1. Enrollment in Relation to Age and Grade

Two of the very easiest facts to observe and record about the pupils in any school are age and grade. If they are recorded as in Table 1 on the following page, even these simple items tell much about the working of the school in question. Thus, looking at each vertical column, one sees at once the enormous variability in age of those who reach the same grade or educational standard. In the third grade in Connecticut in 1903, children were reported as young as four years old and as old as seventeen. To include nine tenths of the children in this grade, a range of five years is required. Over three years are required to include even three fourths of them. In the fourth grade, only a quarter of the children are of the so-called "normal" age of ten; a fifth of them are twelve or over; in a class of forty there will usually be one child fourteen or more years old and four children eight or less. In the elementary school, even in the lower grades, there are many adolescents, beginning to be moved by the instincts of adult life. In the high school are many boys and girls under fifteen who, though intellectually gifted, are physically, emotionally, and in social instincts little children.

(from page 3, with emphasis and link added)
Educational Administration: Quantitative Studies (1913) By George Drayton Strayer, Edward Lee Thorndike

As I noted elsewhere (I think), "With all of its defects the country school of a quarter century ago was strongest in caring for the unusually gifted children. These were given great freedom in thought, in rate of accomplishment, and in the materials assigned. The graded system with all of its improvement has decidedly narrowed the range of opportunity of the gifted child."

Thorndike's work, both then and later, provides a lens through which one can examine educational practice today, not only of the gifted, and see some of the places in which we fall terribly terribly short.

(originally posted Feb. 24th, 2007)
The literature on giftedness, what it is, how to raise and/or teach and/or counsel these children, is fairly extensive. It goes back more than 100 years ago, and about 90 years ago, they had a pretty good idea of what worked and what didn't.

Doesn't mean that they did it at any point in the intervening years or that there are many places doing it now. Merely that the failure to do it well is from a failure to do one of a few things: 1) Research; 2) Believe what you read; 3) Learn from your mistakes.

This is the generous view of it...

On the fictional side of things, there are only so many plots that are out there.

The first breakout is that you have one gifted kid or you have a bunch of them. The Odd Johns of the world - both IRL and fiction - are plentiful. The groups are less common, excepting only the super hero genre of comic books and novelizations.

Wilmar Shiras wrote about Children of the Atom years before the X-Men (or the Tomorrow People) came into being. A brilliant boy doesn't quite fit in without calling attention to himself and gets found out by a psychologist. Together, they seek out more like him, find them, and pull them together, only to discover that society is not ready for these kids to be working together. But, they are good kids, and want to make the world a better place.

Stephanie Tolan's Welcome to the Ark tells a similar tale, though there is more to these children than just intelligence.

The X-Men are mutants and, originally, gifted youngsters who need to learn to use their powers. The bigotry against them, as mutants, is usually blind and without regard to circumstance. It doesn't help that not all mutants are altruistic. Some are 'merely' self-serving and/or opportunists. Some have the urge to dominate and control others. Some just want to tear things down.

This, then is the crux of the issue: How do we know that if we have kids with these powers, that they will use them for the good of humanity, or at least our nation?

John Brunner's Children of the Thunder asks that question and suggests that not only do we not know it, but that if there are some of these kids with noble objectives and others with more self-centered goals, that all other things being equal, the negative approach will win out.

There is another wringer to be tossed in here - perhaps the most common type of tale that explores this stuff even slightly seriously. What if the institution that is training the children is corrupt, regardless of the original plan? John Brunner addressed this before he looked at the other - an individual gifted person, escaped from his school where he felt he was mistreated. Much of the novel is spend following our protagonist as he eludes capture in a world made up of plug in employees. (Shockwave Rider - Editor)

Jarod, in The Pretender, a TC series, has a remarkably similar path - escaping from The Center and adopting a variety of guises and careers to find out about his background while being a do-gooder everywhere he goes.

James Patterson's Maximum Ride series takes the perfidy of mad scientists and the evil institution and combines them with kids who are not merely gifted in their thinking. They have wings - and they have escaped from The School, whose owners and directors do NOT have the kids' best interests at heart.

But in many ways, the questions asked, the puzzles shown, are consistent from book to book and show to show. How alone am I? How do I connect with others? If I run, where will I run too? What happens when my friends discover just how weird I really am?

Why am I so alone? And often, What is wrong with me?

(originally written Jan. 12th, 2008)

Postscript: This whole topic deserves a longer look. In addition to the titles/topics above, there is the counterpart to Xavier's School for Gifted Children, called Massachusetts Academy, where the Hellfire Club trained its future members (or cannon fodder). An interesting counter to the X-Men version of things is Aaron Williams' PS238, the School for Metaprodigy Children and its internal counter, Praetorian Academy. Also worth a look, at least briefly, is the movie Sky High.
One of the questions that arises along the way is "Are gifted children at risk?" Inevitably, the question brings the reply "At risk of what?"

Dropping out, depression, drugs, delinquency, and death (self-inflicted) are the answers. 4 of these five are pretty commonly discussed within the gifted lit - and often researchers seek to support or refute them. There are lots of stories and fewer statistics - and what stats there are may be misquoted, misremembered, or misremembered.

For the moment, I am going to focus on delinquency. I've been reading one of the studies that set out to disprove the notion that violent adolescents are any likelier to be gifted than the general population: High intelligence and severe delinquency: Evidence disputing the connection, by Dewey G. Cornell, in Roeper Review, May 92, Vol. 14, Issue 4.

Dr. Cornell had 157 violent offenders to examine and he did a pretty thorough job of illustrating his general point. Of the 157, "only 2 subjects obtaining scores greater than 130, and 2 more scoring greater than 120" on their full scale IQs (WISC-R or WAIS-R). He took it further, correctly observing that prison populations are known for higher performance scores than verbal.

"There were 13 subjects with Performance IQ's of at least 120. This included two subjects with IQ's greater than 140 and two more with IQ's greater than 130. In contrast, there were only 3 subjects with Verbal IQ's of 120 or higher, and all 3 had equivalent or higher Performance IQ's."

13 out of 157 is not overrepresented for 120+ (9% is the expected percentage.)

He talked a bit about race, and looks at the fact that the 'minority' members of the 13 above 120 performance IQ group were only 31% (4 of 13) vs. being 75% of the below 110 population. From there, he continued to explore his 2nd question, "Do highly intelligent delinquents differ from other delinquents in their social background and prior adjustment?"

And that is where I think Dr. Cornell made his mistake.

The white population of the total 157 group was 44, or 28% of the whole. The number of whites who scored 120 and above on the Performance Scale was 9, or more than 20% of the white population, when 9% would have been expected.

Cornell wrote, in conclusion: "The results of this study provide evidence that high intelligence is not associated with severe delinquency. In fact, the majority of delinquents are of below average intelligence, and only a few delinquents obtained scores above the high average range. While it is possible to identify delinquents with high intelligence, it is not reasonable to infer a connection between delinquency and high intelligence."

I think he missed a vital segment of his population.

This is hardly conclusive to prove risk, let alone to be as definitive in the opposite direction from Cornell. But it does at least raise an unanswered question: Might there be a greater risk for gifted (high performance scale) white adolescents to become seriously delinquent than for the norm?

(originally written Aug. 27th, 2010)

Postscript: In addition, there are factors to be considered, including size and location of population. There are also language issues deeply embedded in the prison population, perhaps tied to the number of dyslexics (or, as Ken Seeley would note, visual-spatial individuals).
tl; dr: It could have been written today.

The consensus of evidence, biological, psychological, and statistical, indicates that mental ability, like all other biological traits, is distributed in the form of the so-called curve of probability. If this be granted, it follows (1) that mediocrity is the commonest condition, (2) that instances of ability superior to and inferior to mediocrity are of practically equal frequency and degree, and (3) that the more an ability deviates from mediocrity, in either direction, the less frequent is its occurrence. The idiot is rarer than the moron, the genius than the man of talent. The root of this distribution undoubtedly lies in heredity, in native endowment. Education cannot create ability; it can only develop the latent possibilities given by heredity. Educational agencies, however, cannot lose sight of individual differences; educational training cannot be conducted as if all pupils were alike in native endowment. This truth has been clearly recognized in so far as it applies to the lower end of the curve of distribution; we have to-day, in consequence, a flourishing pedagogy of the subnormal. But we are only beginning to realize the necessity of special adjustments of our educational agencies to meet the needs of the upper end of the curve, to develop a pedagogy of the supernormal. And here it may be noted that by supernormal we imply not something abnormal, or beyond the limits of the healthy and the wholesome, but a mental endowment superior to the average, a condition that corresponds on the plus side of mediocrity to subnormal on the minus side. The supernormal child is the gifted child, the talented child, the child of superior ability.

Quantitatively, superior ability may evidently vary all the way from ability just noticeably above the average up to the most extraordinary manifestations of genius. With real genius, the kind of ability that appears in, let us say, one man in a million, the school has perhaps no special concern, chiefly because the appearance of such ability is so rare that administrators cannot be expected to provide special devices for its training — if, indeed, it be amenable to prearranged educational forms. The real problem of the school concerns the children who rank as the best two or three or the best half dozen in every hundred, for these are numerous enough to warrant special educational treatment.

Qualitatively, it is feasible to distinguish between general, or all-round, superiority and specific superiority. The problem of the school treatment of children of the latter type, of children who possess special talent in a restricted field, must doubtless await solution until we have met the larger problem of dealing with the former type. At present we know almost nothing in a scientific way about the genesis, distribution, and training of special talents. Psychologists, however, agree that children may be born with a constitutional tendency favoring superior achievement in music, in mathematics, in various phases of artistic creation, and probably also in linguistic and technical activities. The enlightening experiment of Dr. Kerschensteiner, at Munich, who by a simple test of drawing discovered a number of cases of exceptional ability in this field (ability that had in several instances been unsuspected by parents or teachers), and who was able to direct these children into appropriate careers, may serve as a pattern for similar "censuses" of special talent, which might be undertaken with profit in any large school system. We may hope that in time special "talent classes" may be organized to supply at public expense the training appropriate to children who bid fair to distinguish themselves in music, drawing, painting, dramatics, invention, and other special lines. Meanwhile, it is to be desired that psychologists should make extended analyses of individual children who display exceptional gifts in particular directions.

With regard to the education of gifted children of all-round or general ability, the thesis may be laid down that the needs of society demand special training for such children in the public schools and that this special training must be conducted in special classes, segregated from the regular school grades. To this thesis the following objections are sometimes raised. (1) It is occasionally asserted that there are no supernormal children — an assertion that disregards the cumulative evidence of biological and psychological investigation, as well as the evidence of common sense. (2) More often it is argued that supernormal children exist, but they will take care of themselves. Galton, to be sure, has sought to show that real genius "will out," but this is certainly not true of the lesser grades of superiority with which the school has to deal. We do not believe that a favorable environment can create ability, but we know that an unfavorable environment may hinder its fruition. Experience shows that poverty, ill health, poor teaching, and lack of encouragement may stifle native ability of a high order. We know only those talents that have succeeded. As Lester Ward has pointed out, "Great men have been produced by the co-operation of two causes, genius [innate ability] and opportunity; neither alone can accomplish it." (3) There is a popular notion that the precocious child should be held back, that an early manifestation of ability is an unfavorable sign. It is true that precocity does not guarantee superiority at maturity, but it is equally true that it frequently does precede it. We admit that it is better for a dull child to take a slower pace: why should a bright child, given a healthy body, be compelled to follow the pace of the mediocre child? To hold back a gifted child is to exert a baneful influence upon his development, and not merely mentally, in that he assimilates less information than he might, but more particularly morally, in that he forms pernicious habits of idleness, fails to feel the spur of competition, and fails to develop the higher ethical qualities that the school should bring into play. (4) It is argued by some that the special training of gifted children is not the business of the public school, but of the home. Yet the state has already recognized its responsibility to provide for the instruction of the intellectually fit by its system of state universities, with their research and graduate departments. Again, any argument that defends special provision for the subnormal for the sake of their better training would defend special provision for the supernormal for the sake of their better training. "Any exceptional talent, potential genius, or superior intelligence that remains undeveloped is a loss, not merely for the individuals themselves, but also for the progress of the nation and humanity" (Stern). The state, then, has reason to devote special attention to supernormal children. (5) It is argued by others that though desirable enough, special training for the gifted is too expensive or too difficult of administration. As a matter of fact, however, the additional expense is not great and is more than justified by the return upon the investment, while the administrative difficulties are being successfully met in several cities, as will be shown in a moment. (6) It is sometimes argued that to place the gifted child in special classes handicaps the pupils and the teacher of the regular class by removing the brighter and more capable members. But surely it is, as Kendall has said, "a travesty on the rights of bright children to keep them in classes below their ability for the purpose of helping on and stimulating pupils of less ability." The rights of the individual pupil are more sacred than the desires of the teacher or the classificatory boundaries of the graded system. (7) Finally, it has been objected that to segregate bright pupils would make them priggish, would develop a species of intellectual arrogance. This possibility may be avoided readily enough by due care in administration. Admission to special classes must be looked upon merely as a kind of specialization, as indeed it is, and continuance in them must be conditioned by persistent faithful effort, as well as by intellectual brilliancy.

There are, then, no valid objections to the thesis that supernormal children should be given special treatment in the public schools. It remains to be seen what has been, or might be, the nature of this special treatment. The disadvantages of the standard ironclad grade system are everywhere acknowledged. Various plans are in operation to secure greater flexibility. Do these plans .serve the needs of bright children? Without going into the details of various systems of promotion (see Grading and Promotion), we may distinguish three main types of modification of the standard system. (1) Certain plans aim to keep the class together in promotion. Thus, the so-called "Batavia system" keeps the class together by expending extra effort upon the laggards. Here, it is evident, no attention is paid to the peculiar needs of gifted children. The "North Denver plan" reverses the emphasis and keeps the class together by giving more intensive, more extensive, and more independent work to the brighter pupils. They are, however, kept at the regular pace in their progress through the school system. (2) Certain plans aim to secure a different rate of progress for children of different abilities. Typical are the systems prevailing in Cambridge, Mass., in Chicago, and in Pueblo, Col. In the "Cambridge plan" pupils are classified according to their ability and go forward at three different rates, — slow, regular, and fast, — while at various points transfers may be made from one " track " to another. Bright pupils may accomplish the work of the first six years in four years, and it is worthy of note that these "fast" pupils do first-class work later in the high school. The chief objection to this system seems to lie in the expense. In the "Chicago plan," or "large-school plan," three or more sections are organized in each grade on the basis of ability.

Each section goes forward at its own pace and is promoted as soon as it is ready for the work of the grade above. The bright section may gain one or two months over the slowest section in each half year of work. The plan permits close grading, but is feasible only in large schools. In the "Pueblo plan" each pupil sets his own pace. Extreme individualism prevails. Its promoter, Preston Search, was led to its adoption because he was convinced that " the bright, capable pupil has been retarded in his progress, has spent time in lifeless reviews and valueless repetitions of lessons, and has had his ambition stunted." The plan suffers somewhat from the lack of class competition, and it requires teachers of unusual ability. (3) The "segregation plan," illustrated in Worcester, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Harrisburg, Lincoln, Neb., and perhaps elsewhere, by its system of "preparatory centers," more nearly meets the theoretical requirements of gifted children. Pupils who have done strong work up to a certain grade, usually the sixth, are transferred to a special room, where they complete their preparation for the high school under selected teachers. The work is arranged on the departmental plan and includes, as a rule, the Latin, German, advanced English, and sometimes the mathematics of the first year in the high school. Pupils from these preparatory centers enter the high school with sufficient advanced credit to save one year in their subsequent course. Statistics show, moreover, that their work in the high school is commonly not only successful, but of conspicuous merit. In one Baltimore center, selected pupils have been retained for a third year and are then easily able to finish the high school in two years. In Cincinnati, in 1910, an experiment was instituted in the segregation of bright pupils from the third, fourth, and fifth grades. The results were decidedly favorable; two years' work was accomplished in one year, while the atmosphere of the class was that of joyful industry and orderly intelligent work."

We are evidently only at the beginning of special education for supernormal children. The segregation centers have developed only in the last decade or so. Many problems remain to be solved. When, for instance, should segregation begin? The Cincinnati experiment suggests that it may profitably begin much earlier than the sixth grade. Again, what should be the standard of selection? Thus far, the standard has been relatively low. At Baltimore, for example, the centers contain pupils whose rank is anywhere in the upper 25 per cent of the regular classes. But Goddard's application of the Binet tests to 2000 public school children at Vineland, N.J., indicates that only about 4 per cent are mentally advanced two years or more above their chronological age. Again, Petzoldt, in Germany, has proposed the establishment in Berlin of "elite classes" on such a basis as to select the best child in each 1500 to 2000 pupils. It would be highly instructive to have this experiment tried out. For ordinary purposes, however, classes with a selection of 4 to 5 per cent and with a total enrollment of 20 to 25 would seemingly be most desirable.

Other problems that press for solution are these: what is the relative part played by heredity on the one hand and environment on the other hand in the production of individuals of superior achievement? Is it true that the world is full of children of marked native ability who need only the opportunity to achieve their promise, or must we proceed, according to the tenets of the new science (or religion) of eugenics, systematically to breed human ability? How early in a child's life may exceptional ability be safely diagnosed? What physical, mental, or moral traits afford reliable criteria of superior ability, and how may these be detected or measured scientifically? How can we discover and foster special ability in musical, artistic, literary, mechanical, mathematical, scientific, and other lines? Can we surely distinguish, and by what methods, between mere precocity that does not culminate in final superiority, and real ability, early displayed, that fulfills its promise? Is it in any way possible adequately to meet the demands of the education of gifted children without segregation into special classes? Ought classes for supernormal children to pursue the regular curriculum at a faster pace, or ought they to provide a more intensive and more extensive training by different methods? Ought gifted children to begin formal school work at an early age, or ought they, on the contrary, to be held back from formal training till their eighth year or later? Is it desirable and feasible to subsidize the careers of gifted children?

These and many other scientifically and practically important special problems which the general problem of the supernormal child sets for solution make it evident that an extensive investigation of the whole field by a corps of educational and psychological experts is imperatively demanded. Such an investigation would repay many fold the time and labor expended.
~G. M. W.

Great Britain. — In Great Britain the question of the supernormal child does not assume so much importance as in America and Germany. In fact, it may almost be said that conditions are reversed and more attention is paid to the bright than to the average or poor pupils. In the elementary schools, where each principal is to all intents and purposes autonomous, a system of flexible grading and promotion provides for the rapid progress of the able pupil through the elementary schools, so that in the seventh or highest standard the ages of pupils may sometimes vary from ten and one half years to fourteen or over. The bright pupil has always been provided for by scholarships to the secondary or grammar schools obtained in open competition. A large number of these are frequently gained by poor but able boys from elementary schools at the age of eleven or twelve. As a rule they carry only free tuition; sometimes additional maintenance grants are given. A scholarship is valid for three years and is usually renewable according to grade of work done. More recently, since the central authority in England began to interest itself immediately in secondary education, schools and school authorities have been compelled as a condition of securing government grants to provide free places to pupils between the ages of ten and thirteen coming from elementary schools. The number of free places to be offered is ordinarily 25 per cent of the total number of pupils admitted in the previous year. The percentage may, however, be varied with the consent of the Board of Education. By the aid of scholarships, provided by special endowments or local authorities, and free tuition, pupils can win their way through to the universities. At the same time, the system always makes some demand on the means of the parents, and in some cases school authorities offer maintenance grants as well as remission of fees. For an account of the system of recruiting candidates for the elementary teaching profession, see Teachers, Training op. In Scotland the system of district bursaries provides for the promotion of pupils from elementary to secondary schools.

copied from Monroe's Cyclopedia of Education (1917)
Entry on Supernormal Children written by Guy Montrose Whipple
Thing 1:

Early in their opinion piece, the authors have a footnote with regard to the linking of giftedness and eminence:

Linking giftedness with eminence by no means implies that
eminence must or should be the ultimate educational goal for
each gifted person. However, it is—by definition of the very
term of giftedness—always an option, and society should provide
for the proper support, that a gifted person is able—provided
she or he so wishes—to attain this goal.

In Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education, Subotnik, et al, state rather bluntly:
outstanding achievement or eminence ought to be the chief goal of gifted education.

If the chief goal of the program is eminence and the students fail to achieve eminence, then the students have failed and so has the program.

In fact, is that not one of the complaints concerning the current programs? They FAILED to predictably produce eminence when that was not even their primary goal!

And it turns out that eminence is not enough... Subotnik's team wants every student to aspire to "fulfill one’s talents and abilities in the form of transcendent creative contributions."

If these are not values shared by Dr. Ziegler and co., should they not have addressed that?

Thing 2:

Dr. Ziegler has been working in this field for more than 15 years.

Given his critique of research on the gifted as relying on "major variables or concepts" that are more than 30 years old, should he not have done something about it?
The following comments concern the special issue (October,2012) of Gifted Child Quarterly, which contains a set of responses to an article, Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science, by Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius & Worrell (Psychological Science in the Public Interest January 2011 vol. 12 no. 1 3-54). The full paper can be found at the following link, but a shortened (14 page) version is included in the Special Issue.


This entry is in response to the first article in the October GCQ issue.

This commentary addresses Subotnik et al.’s target article from the perspective of researchers active in the field of giftedness. First, we self-critically examine the current standing of giftedness research within the scientific community. Second, the authors’ critique of gifted education is sharpened in three respects: (a) gifted identification, (b) effectiveness of gifted education, and (c) credentials of gifted education. Finally, four necessary and productive lines for future research are proposed.

The authors make their opinion of the paper clear in the very first paragraph of their paper, in comparing the work with an early 20th century mathematician who laid out the work ahead for future endeavors in his field. They believe Subotnik, et al, have performed an incredible service that will make it possible for the field of gifted education to finally move forward. A bit later, they compare Subotnik's work to drosophila, suggesting that it can be at the core of future research.

I find this comparison to be more than a little over-the-top, but there are several underlying factors that I think contribute to this exaggerated view. A few of the comments that I believe contribute to this:

1) "Over the course of the past decade or so, there have been growing signs that gifted education and giftedness research has entered a phase of crisis."

2) "the major variables or concepts under investigation have usually been published more than 30 years ago, indicating a long process until the concepts of general education and psychology trickle down into giftedness research."

3) "for a long time, research papers on giftedness have not made it into the top mainstream educational and psychological journals with high impact factors."

4) "our neighboring scientific disciplines do not seem to value the results of giftedness research."

These fall under the category of "self-critically examin(ing) the current standing of giftedness research within the scientific community" It is an odd hodge-podge of over-statements and under-statements. Let's look at them one at a time:

1) The crisis... This statement comes out of nowhere and has no support provided for it. No signs are given or ways to know that it is a decade, a year, or a century. Nor do the next three points provide such signs.

2) "More than 30 years ago..." Try 90 years ago! Yes, I think that part of the tale is true. But... "until concepts of general education... trickle down into giftedness research" is false in a twisted way. The concepts of gifted education are slowly trickling down into general education research! This has been a hot topic for years and underlies much of what is talked about in Borland's paper advocating the elimination of gifted programs (http://www.creativitypost.com/education/problematizing_gifted_education_part_i_why_problematize and parts 2-5 as well). There is even something to it, though less than meets Borland's eye.

My best comment on this conflict is this: "There are certain ones of these recommendations that apply to any schoolroom but that, nevertheless, take on, in our opinion, an added significance when the room is devoted to the instruction of gifted children." (Guy Montrose Whipple, 1919)

There is a half-truth to the idea that it takes a long time for "concepts of... psychology trickle down into giftedness research." Unfortunately, this is true of education as a whole, not just gifted education - much of what we learn about the brain and the body do not make it into research about classroom practice. OTOH, there is giftedness research that reflects advances in neuropsychology, and that is wonderful, if ignored in this paper.

3) The absence of "research papers on giftedness" in "top mainstream educational and psychological journals with high impact factors" for a long time... This is just patently false, even without bothering with a definition of "long time."

I read this one and was a tad surprised, as I have written a couple papers and cited articles from those journals. Looking at the JCR list of Top 50 Psychology Journals, I know of articles within that last decade in at least 16 of them. While I don't know of a similar list in Education, I can say that many of the most cited journals over the last decade have had research on giftedness in them. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Learning and Instruction, and the Economics of Education Review are among the most cited Education Journals that include research about the gifted.

Yes, there are plenty of journals that don't, but I am not sure why the gerontology and schizophrenia journals would be expected to!

4) Neighboring fields don't value gifted research... The two neighboring fields to which they refer are expertise and innovation. Creativity is not, apparently, one of our neighboring fields. And, as mentioned elsewhere, brain science does not seem to be ignoring gifted research - it seems to be adding to it.

With the paper's next section, we get to the crux of the matter:
"Despite more than 100 years of research, we are still far away from being able to reliably identify later eminent individuals."

The authors then go on to argue that "to prove the credentials of gifted education and giftedness research to society, we must also be able to answer questions such as:
• Is it more likely that someone who enrolls in a bachelor’s program at an Ivy-league university or someone who enrolls in a state university of good reputation will attain eminence (e.g., is awarded a Noble Prize)?

• What is the probability that the next winner of a gold medal at the Academic Math Olympics will come from China?

• What is the probability that the 2025 world champion in chess will come from an Arabian country?"

I reject that as a goal for gifted education, let alone a required proof!

I do not perceive the authors as having "self-critically" examined anything, let alone in the scientific community - they looked at a small corner of that community, a corner with which they were already familiar, and saw what they knew they would see.

I concede the points on identification and effectiveness, given that what the authors are seeking has nothing to do with the goals of the overwhelming majority of identification processes nor the goals of the gifted programs.

If you are not seeking potential eminence, and you are not seeking to develop your students into eminent adults, then you are unlikely to satisfy these authors.
Amidst the (interminable) discussion about the word "gifted" and whether it should be retired in favor of some other word or phrase, there has been a reemergence of a different phrase: giftedness is a social construct. This has various assumptions embedded in it or conclusions derived from it:

a) "the idea of giftedness changes over time and across cultures" (Australia Gifted Ed Module), and ""what one culture values as intelligence of giftedness may not be valued in another culture," (Borland)
b) children selected for studies of giftedness are those who are demonstrating socially accepted forms of giftedness (Freeman),
c) the advancement of the idea of gifted children "reflects specific forces that served sociopolitical interests" (Borland),
d) "subjectivity guides definitions, assessments, and perceptions of giftedness" (Pfeiffer), which leads to discrimination (Sapon-Shevon),
e) the social construct is "resulting from social expectations and individual abilities" (Csikszentmihalyi and Robinson),

We also have observations suggesting that not all of giftedness is wrapped up in social construct: "certain forms of giftedness appear to be universal while others depend on the nature of culture" (Stone), and "There are some youngsters who are born with the capability to learn faster than others those ideas or concepts that modern societies value in children and adults." (Gallagher)

So long as we look at who is seen as gifted, at which talents are valued, we will be led to think of giftedness as a social construct.

But what that approach fails to see is that in those cultures in which X talent is valued, but Y talent is not, that both X and Y talents exist! That an ability is unappreciated does not mean the ability was not present.

Note the second clause in the Csikszentmihalyi and Robinson phrase: individual abilities. The abilities exist independent of the social expectations. The caveman's strength may have been more valued then than now, but the strength exists separately from culture's appreciation of it.
Not "a," "an," or "the." Not even "el" or "de."

Articles as in journal or blog format.

What makes something a good article to you? Do you have standards you apply either consciously or, now that you are thinking of it, automatically?

Is there a consistent balance between statistics and discussion? Do you prefer opinion pieces? How much evidence needs to be present to support the author's conclusions before they become your conclusions, as well?

Do you find, as one person put it, that the sheer volume of references in a piece makes the author(s) better writers?

Please do share your thoughts. (and if you want to amplify the question, I would not mind that at all!)

There are lots of ways for potential height to not be achieved, accepting the premise of "hard-wired for height." Malnutrition, illness, and drugs (such as nicotine) can all limit one's growth. (There is also the possibility that you got a different gene distribution and were not, in fact, hard-wired for height.)

So, too, one's intellectual, emotional, sensual, imaginational, or psychomotor potential. Drugs can do it as can illness. Lack of stimulation will impact some of those. Mistreatment in a host of ways can reduce a child's access to the potential.

But all things being equal, we have good reason to expect a person to gain close to their likely genetic height. This is far less certain for a gifted kid. Their "nutrition" is far less easily sussed, it seems.

The notion that giftedness is culturally defined is one I find increasingly less viable. As we look at the brain science, nascent field though it is, we see clear distinctions in how different kinds of brains work - how they use glucose, how bilateralism manifests, and other areas. However, despite the addition of new definitions of giftedness, the overwhelming majority of the time, the kids we are talking about as gifted would have been the kids Whipple was talking about when the term shifted to Gifted from Supernormal.

I am not worried about "high achievers." The common chart that shows "bright vs. gifted" is less than useless from my perspective --> it is actively misleading, too often. What I am worried about in the talent development argument is an incessant beat about EMINENCE as an appropriate primary goal for our children.

You talk about making the cut one year and not the next and, while I grant that is a not uncommon happenstance, it is one of the backward items of the failed gifted programs of which Dr. Borland wrote. Children should not "fail to make the cut" in a program that is actually serving gifted kids.

Ideally, I am not actually in favor of a term. I am in favor of fully individualized education - a personally tailored instructional system. Unfortunately, while I love science fiction and fantasy, that is not the world I actually live in, so we are not going to see that degree of tailoring in my lifetime or even that of my titular grandchildren.

Differentiation is observed more in the breach than practice. And the best practices for gifted children include many practices that do not work for other children, contrary to much of what I read (and for all that I might wish it were otherwise).

Inclusion is a lovely notion, but it has proven repeatedly to serve as a retardant for some. I don't believe IQ testing should be the only mechanism for access. Nor do I believe parent nomination should be enough for entrance, though it ought to be enough to force a reexamination. "Preponderance of evidence" tends to be where I am left.

That and a gifted program that is designed for the kind of gifted kids one has set out to identify!
I was chatting not long ago about the early days of active consideration that one could both be gifted and have a disability - before the term 2e came into being. It was prompted by my having discovered the Australian book from last year, Dual Exceptionality.

In the conversation, I was reminded of books on the topic: Intellectual Giftedness in Disabled Persons (IGDP), by Joanne Rand Whitmore and C. June Maker. As some of you know, they are, separately, authors of two of my other favorite books - Whitmore on underachievement and Maker on curriculum modification.

IGDP was published in 1985, and it starts with a bit of self-awareness. The first chapter is entitled The Emerging Field: Education of Gifted Handicapped Students. Other chapter titles are also informative:

2) Hearing-Impaired Gifted Persons
3) Gifted Persons with Visual Impairment
4) Gifted Persons with Severe Physical Impairment
5) Gifted Adults Incurring Severe Disabilities
6) Intellectually Gifted Persons with Specific Learning Disabilities
7) The Affective Needs of Intellectually Gifted Persons with Disabilities
8) The Intellectual Needs of Gifted Persons with Disabilities

Unfortunately, as a work, IGDP is basically alone. While the field of 2e has paraded along, looking at the confluence of learning disabilities and giftedness where they live together in children (and, to a limited extent, adults), the attention paid to physical forms of exceptionality is comparatively rare. And, as has been noted elsewhere, there is scarce enough attention to the population of gifted adults, let alone to gifted disabled adults! (The exception to this seems to be the ADHD adult.)

Yes, the specific terminology may be dated. The content and concepts are not.

Whitmore & Maker created an amazing book.

Unfortunately, it is perhaps even more amazing today than it was when it came out.
Some links: The new entry - "Problematizing Gifted Education, Part II: Why Do We Exist as a Field?"; Dr. Borland's book on Rethinking Gifted Education, from 9 years ago; The prior entry; and my response to that prior entry

One of my first comments upon reading the first installment of this was that these are not new thoughts - not new to him, let alone new to the field. This 2nd installment underscores that, as Dr. Borland himself notes.

There are a few very key pieces in here I wish to touch on in response to what he has written:
1) "However, if we broaden our mission to advocating for appropriate and effective education for able students, we can consider means to this end other than gifted programs."

In the first post, Dr. Borland suggested that few would disagree that a main purpose of gifted education was the perpetuation of gifted programs. I disagreed with that statement. I disagreed that that is a primary purpose of gifted ed and disagreed with his assessment of those in gifted ed. In this post, he comments that ". I suspect that many, if not most, people working in the field would agree that ('to create and maintain gifted programs') is, indeed, our raison d’être."

I think perhaps some would. It's not "most" of us. Many? Is many 40%? 30%? I don't know. I am sure that at least 10% would, but doubt it is higher than 25%. Another group might argue that they wish to create effective education for gifted children and that programs have shown the most success IN RESEARCH, and therefore programs should be a focus of gifted education.

BUT... I disagree with the formulation of his broadened mission - as an educator of the gifted, my primary mission is not ADVOCACY, but education. Yes, I advocate, too, but whether through direct instruction, staff development, or support of classroom teachers, my job is to make sure that the gifted children are getting that effective education.

FURTHER, "able students" are not the same as "gifted students," in two ways. The first is the oft-presented comparison between students who do well (but are not gifted) vs. gifted. But the second is at least as essential to *this* educator of gifted students.

A significant percentage of gifted students are NOT "able students" by any sense of the word, regardless of their brightness.

2) "I think we have to do this because I am not convinced that gifted programs, in their most typical manifestation, have been shown to be effective."

This was another of my objections: He is walking into the "problemitizing" having concluded his answer before he starts. It inhibits his own exploration.

Understand, I do not disagree with his conclusion. I suspect we will disagree on what the most typical manifestation is. I suspect we will disagree on why they are not effective or even what effective should mean in this context.

And, based on the next quote, we totally disagree on why they are ineffective, even as we seem to agree on the cause:

3) "what I almost invariably learn is that the reason the district has a gifted program is in order to have a gifted program." and "far too many educators cling dogmatically to the idea that a gifted program is its own reason for being."

YES. I totally agree with everything he has said here.

It is also why & how he misses the point.

It is not the gifted educators who think these things. Very few of the gifted educators I know think the Band-Aids(tm) that pass for gifted programming are doing a tenth of what they should be for our kids - but it is all that they are being allowed to do!

In Dr. Borland's first piece, he complained about the need for Gifted Education to reconsider its roots - but here he has summed up the problem - and it is not the gifted educator's conception of things that is at issue.

"What is the least we can do that will shut up those pushy parents and/or satisfy the state mandate (where they have one)?"

4) "Too many educators tend to view (gifted) programs as (honors), whereas I think of them as (special education). Gifted programs do not, or should not, exist simply to honor or reward students for exemplary school work. Rather, they should exist to meet the educational needs of students, needs that are engendered by high ability or potential and are not met by the regular curriculum."

No argument with these two points. Just none.

The bottom line, though, is that gifted educators are not the right target for this.
Dr. Borland has returned to the battles of taking gifted children and programs away, in the name of "reforming" gifted education. Here is the first of his blogs on the topic:

This is his book on the same theme from 9 years ago:

This was my response to the blog entry:

With all do respect, Dr. Borland -

I start from a different set of premises than yours. The field of gifted education has, at its core, the goal of ensuring that gifted children receive an appropriate education.

The *methods* of how we go about doing so are highly contests. In fact, for all that you talk about going to the roots to have "gifted education without gifted students" as a novel approach to be adopted, it is neither novel nor radical (in the sense of diverging from roots). Gifted education grew out of just such an environment and there plenty of places which have neither gifted programs nor gifted students so far as the schools are concerned.

"Differentiated curriculum" is a lovely notion with its own roots going back to a period before the field of gifted education came into being. Currently, it presents the notion of trying to reach each student (not each gifted student) in the ways that are most effective. However, as research has shown us repeatedly over the last few decades, differentiation happens far more in school literature and even law than it does in the bulk of our classrooms.

Nor has our practice reached a "dead end." It has certainly encountered any number of obstacles, but there is a substantial difference between those and a place in which there is no progress nor from which there can be progress.

There have been successful programs and unsuccessful programs for as long as there has been gifted education. Schools such as the North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics work. To suggest that such institutions are in any way at a dead end seems to me absurd. Conversely, the bandage programs designed to make G/T parents quiet while not providing substantial programming are, as you suggest, at a dead end - but they have been since their creation, because they are not gifted programs!

None of the proposals I have read that follow the notion you have advocated for several years now address the single greatest need of gifted students --> other gifted students. Nor do they address the second greatest need of gifted students in schools --> teachers who understand their needs. Without those two factors addressed, while your new-fangled programs may not seem to be at a dead end, the gifted students may well be.

For 80 years, one drum beat has echoed through the national reports: "that all teachers [should] be given instruction in regard to what they can do for the gifted child."

It is not that our gifted programs have reached a dead end, Dr. Borland.

They have never been given a chance to start.
There is something wry indeed in writing about Namibia's Gifted Education Awareness Week while living in a place so deeply in denial of the needs of its own gifted.

A number of years ago, my state finally passed a law that would give our teachers a chance to gain an endorsement indicating they had acquired the requisite skill and knowledge to teach gifted students. Mind you, using the word "gifted" was apparently too controversial, so the credential is for teaching "Academically Advanced" students.

About a decade later, the number of colleges and universities that have approved programs for that endorsement stands at zero. None. Nada. Zilch. Goose eggs.

The state has a person whose job includes gifted education. That represents less than 1/20th of her time. If she spends more than 2 hours per week on gifted, she has overstepped the limits of her position.

So, Namibia, I applaud your Gifted Education Awareness Week! I celebrate the fact that your gifted students and the teachers thereof are receiving acknowledgement by your government at all. I urge you to both appreciate this moment and to embrace it.

Know that the support of your government, no matter how meager, is a precious thing. It can provide the pathway for your gifted children to lead fuller, happier lives. It can ease the way for their pursuit of both academic and emotional fulfillment. It can help to stave off all educators' - all humanity's - great enemy, despair.

The ideal behind gifted education is that every human being deserves an appropriate education to that individual's abilities and needs.

May my state and my country live up to the standard that Namibia is setting. And may we all then rise past it!

With thanks and appreciation to Roya Klingner of The Global Center for Gifted and Talented Children.
"The fewer American (born) grandparents a pupil has, the higher his achievement ratio is likely to be."

The time was 1940. The study was of 297 students across 4 (white) Baltimore high schools, each of whom had scored over 120 IQ on an Otis-Lennon (or other) IQ test. Of the 297 students, 125 had 4 American-born grandparents. 91 had none. 24 did not know where all of their grandparents had been born.

A similar split was seen in pupils whose dominant language at home was not English, though that was a bit more skewed by gender than the grandparent question was (with boys being higher than the girls among those with non-English speaking homes).

Achievement Ratio was a comparison between the IQ score and a performance measure.

"...the pupils who were deprived of privileges by their parents as a method of punishment had a lower mean achievement ratio than the pupils who were lectured or punished in any other way. Those pupils who received no punishment at all were ranked next in mean achievement ratio. Apparently, low achievement ratio is associated with being deprived of privileges, and high achievement ratio is associated with whipping and lecturing by parents."

Factors Associated with the Achievement of High School Pupils of Superior Intelligence(pp. 53-68) ~John W. Musselman, The Journal of Experimental Education (Vol. 11, No. 1, Sep., 1942).
A lot has been written, and more is sure to be put forth, about the balance of nature and nurture in intelligence and 'raising' IQs. This includes articles about the variability of IQ through the teen years (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2011/WTVM053199.htm) and observations such as:
"It's analogous to fitness.A teenager who is athletically fit at 14 could be less fit at 18 if they stopped exercising. Conversely, an unfit teenager can become much fitter with exercise."

A fair amount of fuss has been made of this information, prompting stories such as USA Today's http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/mentalhealth/story/2011-12-27/IQ-isnt-fixed-at-birth-and-can-increase-with-education/52237552/1 - IQ Isn't Fixed at Birth.

But when was the last time we thought IQ was fixed at birth?
"The predominant view is that the genetic factors place an absolute ceiling on an individual's intelligence potential, and he may or may not reach this potential, depending on how enriched or deprived his environment is.
"There are many instances in which a young child's IQ increases with an improvement in environment. Skeels (1966) conducted a study in which he took very young girls (under 19.3 months) from an orphanage in which the environment was seriously depressed and placed them in an institution for the mentally retarded. Their IQ's improved from a mean of 65 for the group to a mean of 91.8 during an 18 month period. ... Another group of 12 little girls stayed in the orphanage;their mean IQ dropped from 86.7 to 60.5 in two years."
~Max Vogel (1980), The Psychology Problem Solver: A Complete Solution Guide to Any Textbook

Of course, there are those who would be skeptical of whether the change would last. But what Vogel's quote neglects to mention is that it wasn't Skeels doing this in 1966 - it was Skeels & Dye, in 1939 (A study of the effects of differential stimulation on mentally retarded children - findable in The Best of AAMR - Families and Mental Retardation, p. 19-33).
Twenty-five years later, Skeels (1966) located all of the subjects in the original study. What he discovered was even more impressive than the IQ gains originally reported. Of the 13 children in the experimental group, 11 had married; the marriages had produced nine children, all of normal intelligence. The experimental group’s median level of education was the 12th grade, and four had attended college. All were either homemakers or employed outside the home, in jobs ranging from professional and business work to domestic service (for the two who had not been adopted). The story of the 12 children who had remained in the orphanage was less positive. Four were still institutionalized in 1965, and all but one of the noninstitutionalized subjects who were employed worked as unskilled laborers. The median level of education for the contrast group was the third grade.
~"William L. Heward (2000), Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education (6th ed.), p. 159

While this is among the oldest of these looks, the chain of evidence is long and ongoing. We know well that we can depress intelligence and that we can stimulate intelligence. We know that performance on IQ tests is not fixed at birth, even without little subtleties like mood, relationship with tester, color of skin, etc.

But here we are, 70 years later, being astounded that "IQ is not fixed at birth."

What Skeels and Dye learned in 1939 was important. Rosemary Salz (Effects of Part-Time "Mothering" on IQ and SQ of Young Institutionalized Children, 1973) took it further - showing that even in an institutional setting with a decent educational program, active nurturing had an impact on children's IQs. One place implemented a foster-grandmother program, hiring impoverished elder women to come in and give one-to-one attention. The other didn't. You know which group showed growth in their IQs.

Education matters. Emotions matter. Physical health matters. Safety matters.

The absence of these matters.

Anti-nurturance matters.

In Nature vs. Anti-Nurture, Anti-Nurture wins far more often than not.

It may be up to Skeels (1966) to close this for us again:
"It seems obvious that under present-day conditions there are still countless infants with sound biological constitutions and potentialities for development well within the normal range who will become retarded and noncontributing members of society unless appropriate intervention occurs. It is suggested by the findings of this study and others published in the past 20 years that sufficient knowledge is available to design programs of intervention to counteract the devastating effects of poverty, sociocultural, and maternal deprivation.... The unanswered questions of this study could form the basis for many lifelong research projects. If the tragic fate of the twelve contrast group children provokes even a single crucial study that will help prevent such a fate for others, their lives will not have been in vain."
We worry much, these days, about our youngsters — possibly over-much. Often they seem to live in a world of their own, far more distant from ours than a difference in decades would justify. They hear talk of peace and they know of three - now four - wars within a span of a half century, the bomb hangs over their heads and the earth shifts before their eyes. They are exhorted to work and yet they see an existence on the dole presented not only a possibility, but as a respectable way of life. They have seen legal group protests get confused with illegal destructive riots; they read about depressions of the past and economic collapse in the future; they have grown so sophisticated that they are embarrassed by their parents' ignorance about the birds and the bees; they tend to welcome change whether it means progress or retrogression in education, industry, morale, clothes, or the dance. Of course, they live apart from us. At least, praise be to the Lord, they have not wholly lost their sense of humor.

A boy came home from school one evening recently, I'm told and handed to his father this printed notice devised by one of his fellow students:

In the event of atomic attack, the law prohibiting prayer in school will be temporarily suspended.

My confidence in young people has been justified many times in war and peace. That does not mean that it can forget about the unfortunate circumstances in which many young people still grow up, trusting that good will flowers out of evil. Such a course would be cruelly irresponsible.

~Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1967

Note: In the 5th sentence, I inserted the phase "economic collapse" in place of "runaway inflation." There are no other changes.
A lot of focus for children is how to make them smarter or more capable in schools. Products abound that promise to enhance their intelligence or broaden their skills. At the same time, there are push-backs against programs for gifted students in our schools and the never-ending debate over the age at which a child “should” enter school – should one ‘red-shirt’ a child to gain the advantage in school that extra maturity might bring?

The Washington Post, Time Magazine, and television news magazine after game show are all caught up in this frenzy. They explore pushy parents and discriminatory programs, and if you are smarter than a 5th grader. Yet, when all is said and done, often the beleaguered mom and dad have no more idea about what to do than they did before reading or listening.

One of the most commonly mentioned drawbacks concerns what would happen if your child is labeled gifted by the school. Depending on the speaker at the time, you may end up with a conceited and unpleasant child, one who thinks that s/he is better than the others in class, a child who gets picked on and bullied for the label, or even a child who is doomed to failure due to the excessive pressure placed on the child’s shoulders.

I have to admit, your child may be conceited. Your child may think s/he is better than the others in class. Your child may get picked on or be bullied. And your child may suffer from the feeling of excessive pressure on his or her shoulders.

None of this is particularly connected to the use of the term gifted by the schools.

Conceit: If you consistently know more than others around you, can answer questions they cannot, read books that they find too difficult, or use words that they do not understand, then there is a distinct chance that you may become conceited.

Better: When the teacher shows your work off, telling everybody to follow your example, when you are chosen for competitions, when you are the only student designated to tutor others during class, then you may well find yourself believing that you are the best student in the class.

Bullied: Should other kids notice that you talk funny, dress funny, act funny, look funny, or anything else different from them, then there is a clear possibility that you will be bullied. If you are used by other kids’ parents as an example, they may well resent you and bullying may follow.

Pressured: How you see the world and its troubles, and what you perceive as a response to those problems can cause some pressure. The belief that you need to do something about it will put pressure on your shoulders every time.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the gifted label causes none of that. Children have been conceited since before the word gifted came into the language. Similarly, they have been singled out for their accomplishments when compared to classmates, been bullied for being different, and have felt huge pressure to change the world – all without ever being called gifted by the schools, their parents, or anybody else.

Labels are a way of knowing what you are getting. You would not like shopping in a store that didn’t tell you which clothes were which size and required you to try them all on. Nor would you care for a grocery store in which all the canned food labels were removed. If we provided no labels for books or movies or music, selection would be a much more painstaking process.

The clothing metaphor is, perhaps, the best ‘fit’ for this analogy. When all clothing is created from scratch or even tailored, there is no need for size labels. Similarly, when all children are taught on an individual basis, there is no need for labels based on ability or how they learn.

We do not have such a world. Children are taught en masse. They are taught in large groups with little active differentiation based on content to be learned, let alone pacing or thinking styles! Education is overwhelmingly ‘off the rack.’

(originally written 8/28/2007)
This is one of a series of pieces from the past that capture the state of the present all too well.

by Milton Kornrich, in Underachievement, which he edited in 1965.

One might suppose that a definition of academic underachievement is a simple matter. After all, intuitively, does not the term directly suggest that a student is functioning less well than he or she could? But what is the meaning of "less well" and "could?" Is it less well in terms of a standard established by the student ("I think I could do better"); by the student's parents ("We know he could do better"); by the student's teacher ("He has more ability than he shows"); or by an objective intelligence or aptitude test which predicts a certain level of performance? Some focus on the imperfectness of this prediction: "Underachievement and overachievement are concepts which demonstrate the inability to predict performance accurately due to the influence of factors other than general ability or past record." (Carlson and Fullmer, 1959) Finally, if the researcher decides how "less well" is to be determined, what techniques will be used to measure it?

There are numerous related problems that only a more ambitious paper (i.e. Davis, 1959; Farquhar) would review. The purpose of this brief communication is to stimulate the reader to consider and evaluate a sample of definitions, and to emphasize, perhaps unnecessarily, that the multitudinous definitions reflect our insufficient comprehension of a most significant and obviously highly overdetermined phenomenon.

various definitions )

A definition that is rather broad and lacking in precision but which more than compensates for it in humor is offered by Russell: "In a very general sense, the 'underachiever' is the person who performs markedly below his capacities to learn, to make applications of learning, and to complete tasks. Speaking figuratively, he is the person who sits on his potential, resisting various motivational procedures to get him off his potential, and possibly needing an adroitly directed kick in that same potential." (Russell, 1958). The humor in Russell's definition appears to be the only indirect reference to the impatience and anger that the underachiever can arouse in us. Often, the underachiever's passive way of coping with hostility is stressed. If underachievement is a highly active* maneuver that indeed achieves something, and I believe it surely does, it would be fruitful for some investigator to describe the underachiever's impact on peers, parents, and teachers.

Newman's definition is thoughtful and novel: "It is our conclusion that a student's own sense of underachievement and voluntary participation in a project such as ours are the essential criteria for the identification and selection of underachievers. We would estimate that 25 per cent of Hofstra (University) students would meet such criteria. (Newman, undated).

Only recently have some investigators (e.g. Davis, 1959; Farquhar; Raph and Tannenbaum, 1961; Thordike, 1963) critically examined the voluminous underachievement literature to account for inconsistent findings, to suggest more sophisticated methodology, or even to challenge the concept of underachievement (Kowitz, 1965; Schwitzgebel, 1965). Perhaps, in Professor Thorndike's words, this effort "Will lead to fewer and better publications in the future." (Thorndike, 1963). It may eventually lead to fewer, less arbitrary definitions of underachievement.

(references to specifics available, but the fingers got tired)
"The need for special education of gifted children is indicated by the large percentage of failures in our colleges and universities due, not to lack of capacity, but to bad habits and undesirable attitudes; by the many graduates of higher institutions of learning who do not feel under the slightest obligation to society which made possible their higher education; and by those gifted children who leave school because of dissatisfaction with traditional education.

"A gifted child is one with exceptionally good intelligence who deviates from the average to such an extent that he requires special education to make the most of his possibilities. The problem is to determine the nature and extent of the special education required to enable him to attain his maximum development."

Sub-committee on Gifted
Committee on Special Classes
White House Conference on Child Health and Protection
As with many other aspects of education, the approach to gifted children goes through cycles. There is a push, currently, toward seeing giftedness only in the product of ones labors rather than in the individual that is reminiscent of the early days of Joseph Renzulli's Three Ring Conception of Giftedness, which posited the three components of gifted behavior to be "above average ability, above average creativity, and above average task commitment."

In "Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science," Rena Subotnik and her co-authors have proposed a definition of giftedness that remarkably has absolutely nothing to do with a person:

Giftedness is the manifestation of performance that is clearly at the upper end of the distribution in a talent domain even relative to other high-functioning individuals in that domain.

No longer are we, the educators, seeking to nurture individuals. We are purely and simply seeking to turn out displays and products, albeit of the highest quality.

Let me set aside the broader issue of whether we wish to return our view of education to the factory model, and the pure linguistic issue of defining a person's attributes in terms of external valuation of their production.

Instead, I would like to focus on the implications for late bloomers and underachievers.

In a view that focuses on the child and the child's potential, there is purpose in looking at what blocks it, at what prevents that child from fulfillment. The child who is stuck is as worth our effort as the child who achieves. Giftedness is the high potential.

In a view that focuses on the fruits of a child's labors, there is no purpose in looking beyond whether the child produces or not. The child's fulfillment has no relevance to schooling or, dare I say it, upbringing. Giftedness is, somehow, in the product and not the child.

I do not come at this from a detached point of view. My perspective is that of a classic underachiever whose parents, teachers, and counselors were quite frustrated; that of an adult who works with others who have been so labeled.

I have reason to believe that my efforts have made a difference in the lives of dozens of other underachievers, helping them to find their feet. Pardon me if I cannot see how declaring these children a waste of time and effort would make this a better world.



February 2017



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