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)
From Raymond Harris' American Education: Facts, Fancies, and Folklore (1961)

Before you read this, it might be useful to know that Raymond Harris also disputed the notion of anti-intellectualism.

"Ability merely gives a child the potential for serious achievement. To realize the potential, ability must be combined with sufficient industry to complete difficult and extended learning tasks. Brightness alone, though noticed in the classroom, has little value unless it is accompanied by seriousness of purpose. The child with the high IQ, who will not work, is known to every teacher. Probably the number, if not the ability, of such children is somewhat exaggerated because they are mentioned so frequently, but they are present in every school. Industrious, but less bright, children, are also identified. They are welcomed in every classroom, because teachers admire their diligent attitudes, but they seldom become the top-ranking students. They perform reasonably well on most assignments, but only dimly glimpse the more abstract points of the subject materials. Ability and industriousness occur in every conceivable combination, and so contribute to the great range of achievement among individual children. No one can remain near the top of the range unless he possesses a high degree of both. It is quite probable, moreover, that ability unaccompanied by industry eventually deteriorates into mediocrity.

Many educators have learned to avoid the use of the word "gifted" when referring to the specially talented children. For one thing, it is an emotional term making objectivity difficult. Individuals have many different kinds of gifts, some of which have no relation to school work, though they may be of great value to the person and to his society. Hence the tendency to avoid the term and use more descriptive phrases such as "students with ability and industry." A number of such phrases are in use among educators, all of them improvements upon the single word "gifted."
From A Plea for the Queen's English: Stray Notes on Speaking and Spelling By Henry Alford

140. We seem rather unfortunate in our designations for our men of ability. For another term by which we describe them, "talented," is about as bad as possible. What is it? It looks like a participle. From what verb? Fancy such a verb as "to talent!" Coleridge somewhere cries out against this newspaper word, and says, Imagine other participles formed by this analogy, and men being said to be pennied, shillinged, or pounded. He perhaps forgot that, by an equal abuse, men are said to be "moneyed men, or as we sometimes see it spelt (as if the word itself were not bad enough without making it worse by false orthography), "monied."

141. Another formation of this kind, "gifted," is at present very much in vogue. Every man whose parts are to be praised is a gifted author, or speaker, or preacher. Nay, sometimes a very odd transfer is made, and the pen with which the author writes is said to be "gifted," instead of himself.

1866

He wasn't all that pleased with "superior" or "inferior" as in, "He is a clearly inferior man," either.

(Originally posted Feb. 24th, 2007)
Optional Work. - A wide variation in the abilities and attainments of children makes optional work an essential factor of effective teaching. Since all pupils cannot go the same pace, it is important that some special provision be made which will insure a maximum accomplishment for each. In well-regulated schools this condition is provided for by adjusting the assignment to the average ability of the class and then providing special aid for the weakest of the group, and optional work of a supplemental character for the unusually gifted children.

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. Supplemental provisions, such as optional work, must be introduced to restore these opportunities for maximum development.

To be effective, optional work should not be merely incidental or 'busy work.' It must be an organic part of the school program. It should feature in both the assignment and the recitation with as much prominence as does the regular work of the class.

(Leaving the discussion of gifted)

Constant acceptance of the utterances of textbook writers and teachers, by pupils, slowly but surely develops a servile dependence which negatives the underlying factors in responsibility.


Unfortunately the school has fostered an enormous amount of docility.

The Essentials of Good Teaching By Edwin Arthur Turner, Lotus Delta Coffman
1920

(Originally posted Feb. 24th, 2007. Original title: 87 years later)
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.

http://psi.sagepub.com/content/12/1/3.full?ijkey=/bwNip9GMWEg2&keytype=ref&siteid=sppsi

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


Abstract
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!)
http://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/hard-wired-for-height/

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:
http://www.creativitypost.com/education/problematizing_gifted_education_part_i_why_problematize

This is his book on the same theme from 9 years ago:
http://books.google.com/books/about/Rethinking_gifted_education.html?id=ZIZJiXMUYS0C

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 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 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)

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