"Vast sums are yearly squandered to no purpose. If the books selected consist of extracts and compilations, wholly unsuited to the capacity of children - if the house is cold or crowded, inconvenient and uncomfortable - and especially if given over to the management of an incompetent teacher, the school becomes a scene of anarchy and confusion, and all is waste-the young mind becomes disgusted with books and schools and teachers, and hates learning forever after.


"The entire premises... should be an enchanting spot, sheltered alike from the cold blasts of winder, and the summer's scorching sun; a place of love, of kindness and good will; and not a place of whips, consternation, despotism and terror."

J. D. Pierce, Sup't of Schools, Michigan, December, 1836 (Senate Document 7)
Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan, January, 1837.

(also from System of Public Instruction and Primary School Law of Michigan (Document No. 6)
Prepared by Francis W. Sherman, Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1852)
The full title is The High School Failures: A Study of the School Records of Pupils Failing in Academic or Commercial High School Subjects.

“The recognition of individual differences urged in section 1 necessitates a differentiation and a flexibility of the high school curriculum that is limited only by the social and individual needs to be served, the size of the school, and the availability of means. The rigid inflexibility of the inherited course of study has contributed perhaps more than its full share to the waste product of the educational machinery. … ‘Specialization of instruction for different pupils within one class is needed as well as specialization of the curriculum for different classes.’ There must be less of the assumption that the pupils are made for the schools, whose regime they must fit or else fail repeatedly where they do not fit.”


From the dissertation of Francis P. O'Brien

The subquote is from Edward L. Thorndike, from his book Individuality (1911). The next line of that quote is "Since human nature does not all into sharply defined groups, we can generally never be sure of having a dozen pupols who need to be treated exactly alike."
More from the 1968 report to President Johnson on "Gifted Persons."

"These twin requirements of increasing instructional speed and quantity without decreasing quality have generated new administrative arrangements and stimulated an educational technology that can aid the development of programs for gifted students. The newer administrative arrangements -- better methods for apportioning students, teachers, and the talents of both -- include:

1. Nongraded classes: This term does not imply that students receive no grades for performance. Rather, it recognizes that a student might be capable of performing at the sixth grade level in mathematics and science, at the fifth-grade level in social sciences, and at the eighth-grade in English. Nongraded classes permit students to move among the grade levels for each area of study, rather than taking all classes at one level. Some schools -- those in the Pittsburgh area, for example -- have experimented with cooperative arrangements involving schools at different levels (for example, junior and senior high schools), and a number of colleges permit outstanding high school students to enroll in college courses while completing high school requirements.*

2. Team teaching: ... Team teaching, in short, enables each teacher to do what he or she is best at, and gives all students the best instruction that the staff can provide in each subject.

3. Individually prescribed instruction: ... IPI, in essence, allows students to choose their own assignments each day in consultation with the teachers, permits each to work alone on that assignment, and then checks the student's performance to diagnose any learning problems he may have and gauge his readiness to undertake more difficult work. Each student moves at his own pace in each subject, working as fast as he can, as far as he can. Carefully planned curricular materials, including film-slides and recordings as well as printed matter, perform much of the routine instructional work, freeing teachers to provide help to those students who need it, and freeing students from the necessity of listening to group lectures they do not need.

4. Flexible scheduling: There is no intrinsic reason why each class period should last 50 minutes, but -- with the exception of occasional two-hour laboratory periods -- most classes do, whether in English or algebra or playing the oboe. By recognizing that some units of learning can profitably be taught in less time than others, and by structuring the class day in varying multiples of 20 minutes, say, flexible scheduling permits the student to spend more or less time on each subject as appropriate.

5. Self-directed learning or independent study: Long used by good teachers as a means of relieving exceptional students from unnecessary repetition, this approach is particularly appropriate in small schools where special programs for the talented are not feasible. It can also be used in larger schools where a relatively few students have such unusual abilities or talents that they do not fit anywhere in the regular or special programs. Some of the more innovative schools -- Nova High School in Fort Lauderdale, for example -- have built their whole program around some combination of independent study and nongradedness.

6. Resource centers: These provide facilities and equipment for enabling gifted students, individually or in groups, to carry on activities appropriate for their talent development. Such a center may serve students from a single school or from a whole group of schools.

Each of these methods recognizes that (1) students differ in their rates of learning, even though they may be the same age and share the same classroom; (2) a uniform rate of class progression based on the learning ability of the majority can bore fast learners and frustrate slow learners; and (3) children -- even young ones -- have a genuine appetite for learning which can be stimulated by offering each the precise kind and amount of knowledge he is ready to consume. Continuing this chef's analogy,we might say that administrative arrangements such as those outlined above permit a school to offer a daily smorgasbord of learning in place of the same menu for everybody.

*Meeting the Needs of the Able Student Through Provisions for Flexible Progressions, C.M. Lindvall with the collaboration of J. Steele Gow,Jr., and Francis J. Rifugiato. A report of the Regional Commission on Educational Coordination and the Coordinated Education Center. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1962.
"...developing special opportunities for the gifted does not require large sums of money or a great enrollment. It does require both political support and educational leadership. The first makes educational change possible; the second gives it form and direction. Of the two, leadership from professionals in the school system seems the more important component, since by calling attention to the need for a differentiated curriculum the educator can begin rousing community support and focus that support by offering special program suggestions.


"For the purposes to which this report addresses itself, educational leadership comprises two components: First, recognition that compulsory adherence to standard curriculum can actually damage the exceptionally talented youngster,and a determination to build into the school as much administrative flexibility as possible; and second, ingenuity in working with such students and their teachers to fashion a pedagogically sound substitute for the standard program.

Administrative Flexibility

"Both the expansion of knowledge and the proliferation of professional specialization have forced the schools to convey more information and to convey it more efficiently. Schools have more to teach; they must do it faster, and hence better. They have been forced to investigate ways of enabling students to learn on their own, rather than requiring them to sit in classrooms for fixed periods of time while the teacher dispenses knowledge. Furthermore, knowledge is increasing at such a rate that teachers cannot be retrained fast enough to keep up with the old method of "teaching by telling." Hence they have to concentrate on helping the children develop the skills they will need to keep renewing their learning in the years ahead."

The year was 1968.

The quote is from a report to President Johnson on "Gifted Persons," probably the least cited of this field's national reports! Roughly 16 appearances in a casual Google search, mostly providing one sentence from the report (and mostly the same sentence). It shows up in zero libraries in WorldCat.

Four years later, under Nixon, the Marland Report was produced. It's available free online, and sits in more than 400 libraries.

The Marland Report's definition of gifted had a huge impact - and still retains some impact. The Task Force's report mostly has faded into obscurity, if it was ever out of obscurity. The next entry picks up the Report where this one left off.

White House Task Force on the Education of Gifted Persons (1968). Talent development: An investment in the nation's future. (A report to the President). Available through the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.
"No greater foe to the genuine equality of opportunity which our educational, as our political system, implies, can be found than the belief that equality can be attained by ignoring or denying diversity of gifts or by submerging all elevations in the vast ocean of the commonplace.
"The supreme test of a teacher's efficiency is nothow wellhe has awaened sluggish minds, orhow far he has ledthe capable, or what excellencieshe has discovered, but how few he has "failed." Reward for, or even recognition of, high achievement inanyline save athletics is singularly lacking.
"Soon we shall hear that college itself has been appropriated by the aspiring crowd and the inspiring dictum shall go forth that human society owes every child a college education.
"It is undoubtedly true, as we are continually being reminded, that the public schools as they stand, do not produce the citizenship needed for the work ahead of the country.' But in all fairness, how can they be expected to when the whole tendency of teaching and of administration is toward the minimizing of distinctions by virtue of which alone special efficiency of anysort is possible?"

~ Frank P. Whitney,
Equality and the Schools in Education, Vol. 33, No. 2 (October, 1912)
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.
"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



February 2017



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