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.



February 2017



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