Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why GIFTED Students STILL need GIFTED Education!!

by Joy Lawson Davis

(with Donna Y. Ford & Josh Shaine)

Yesterday I read with dismay and irritation a commentary published in the Washington Post entitled: ‘Why Geniuses Don’t Need Gifted Education’.  After reading I immediately thought of all the gifted children in schools and communities across the nation who may be placed at an even greater disadvantage simply because of the publication of that brief and poorly justified commentary. I also thought of the thousands of times I have in my thirty year career heard a parent, school administrator or teacher say that gifted services were in jeopardy of being dismantled, cut from the budget or reduced to almost nothing all because new leadership were of the mindset that is perpetrated by articles like the one in the Post – that gifted students or ‘geniuses’ as Mathews specified would make it anyway without specially funded, specially designed, specially set-aside services just for them!

My head was spinning after I read the article and I shared feed back with two colleagues (Donna Y. Ford and Josh Shaine) whom I greatly respect and the three of us decided that together we would share our ‘retort’ to the Post article here on this blog hoping that a wide audience would read and respond sharing their feedback as we will do here. We were especially concerned that this article which was written to speak specifically to one type of genius or gifted child- the one who is born in circumstances where it may be likely that parents or school resources (without special services) would be sufficient to nurture and help them develop their high intellectual capacity. The article made absolutely NO MENTION of the genius child who through no fault of his or her own would be born in a household where parents are working day to day to make ends meet, where resources are limited, where the nearest university campus is an hour away, where they may sit in classrooms idling away their genius because ill-trained teachers don’t recognize or respect the gifts they have. Worse, there are some children & youth in communities whose teachers don’t believe that they can even BE GIFTED or PERFORM AT A GENIUS LEVEL.

What about gifted services for those types of geniuses? Those children still need and will probably always NEED GIFTED SERVICES. I will take my position even further to suggest that ALL GIFTED CHILDREN WILL ALWAYS NEED GIFTED SERVICES. Why?

The gifted education classroom for many will be the first and only place that they actually find a set of peers who think like they do, enjoy and have passions like theirs, where they can find a friend and in doing so – find themselves.

And what about Black geniuses? It was obvious that Post article was not making reference to those students. Black geniuses are being discovered and increasingly spoken about. It was Dr. Martin D. Jenkins in the early 20th century who noted that Black gifted students would continuously have difficulties accessing services that are more freely provided their White peers. In his early work, Jenkins and his mentor, Paul Witty studied a black female genius with an IQ of 200. When Mathews mentioned the Termites studied by Lewis Terman in his article, he was certainly not speaking of Black geniuses or even females for that matter!! It is well known that Terman’s study group were white , middle - upper income males (Davis, 2013).

In my work with Black gifted students over the past three decades, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told personally by someone that the gifted program ‘saved me’ or from a parent – the gifted program or the summer enrichment program ‘saved my child’ turned his/her life around…

The gifted education program, well designed and well implemented is the only place a bright, creative student with high energy, and a voracious mind can have opportunities to experiment with ideas, be challenged to think beyond the norm and  be challenged to create new knowledge.

The gifted program, well implemented and accessible to all geniuses, regardless of their ethnicity, can provide a global think tank for gifted children from other cultures, other neighborhoods, and provide opportunities for them to be compete at a level that cannot be provided for in the regular school environment.

I believe there are thousands of genius children and youth who are Black, Brown, some poor, some rural, urban, who are craving Gifted education programming. These young people need more advocates, more attention, more programming- not LESS. As we compete globally and recognize that our students in the U.S. are not performing to up to par with their foreign neighbors, this is hardly the time to say: GENIUSES DON’T NEED GIFTED EDUCATION!

Josh Shaine provides key pluses and minuses in the Mathews commentary here: https://www.facebook.com/joshshaine/posts/10100181937811968?notif_t=like

While there may be some geniuses who may fare well independently, we believe that for most - special programs in public schools, support programming funded by private entities like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Oliver Scholars Programs, SEED program, University programming (summer, after school, early college, etc), State and regional Governor’s schools (like those in VA and NC) are GREATLY NEEDED.

From where we sit, gifted children need more!! We are under-serving students of color, poor students, rural students, urban students at astronomical rates (Ford, 2013). We MUST DO BETTER! WE MUST SERVE THESE CHILDREN AND MEET THEIR NEEDS FOR INTELLECTUAL, ACADEMIC, AND CREATIVE CHALLENGE. Less programming, less attention to the geniuses in America’s communities is definitely NOT the answer!!

For more reading:

Davis, J.L. (2013). Martin D. Jenkins: A Voice to be Heard. In A. Robinson & J. Jolly (Eds), Illuminating Lives: A century of contributions to gifted education. New York: Routledge Press.

Ford, D.Y. (2013). Recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education. Waco: Prufrock Press. 

  

17 comments:

  1. Excellent, excellent response to that Washington Post commentary! I've read much feedback about that Post article, and the most common comment is, "he just doesn't get it!" How do we help those outside of or not familiar with the gifted community to understand that gifted children are not all that smart, independent, high-achieveing stereotypical student? Thank you for your response that hit the nail on the head!

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  2. Thank you, Celi for the feedback!! If enough of us who do understand band together nationwide- we can do so much more for gifted students!!

    my best,
    Joy

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  3. I agree! If only school systems would be able to serve all gifted students and be adequately funded.

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    1. Sheryl, You are so right!! That's the reason for writing this post as well. Gifted students cannot afford to have anyone suggesting that these services are no longer needed. thanks for sharing~
      Joy

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  4. For the last 11 years of my 18 years in the classroom, I was privileged to teach at an alternative campus for behaviorally challenged students in the mornings and in our county juvenile facility in the afternoon. While some of these students were gifted, most struggled and were academically in the lower ranks among their peers. I believe I have a gift of caring for those who are often the most difficult to care about. Many colleagues over the years questioned how I could work with such kids. I also have many friends who teach G&T. I suspect that I would not be a good fit among the gifted kids, and quite likely they would not have been successful or enjoyed the environment where I worked. That makes neither of us better or worse than one another; it simply makes us different. And just as teachers have different skill sets and callings, so do those we work with. We should always strive to provide the very best possible environment and opportunity to each and every child. They all deserve the best we have to offer, nothing less.

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    1. Hi Chuck, I agree wholeheartedly!! All children deserve the best we can give them, nothing less at any time!!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story~
      Joy

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    2. I think, Chuck, you would be surprised both at how well you might have fit and how many gifted kids would thrive under your teaching.

      Other than that, though, I agree with Joy's comments and your conclusions. It is not about better or worse, 'just' about meeting the needs of the kids.

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    3. @ Joshwriting thanks so much your feedback!! Yes, it IS about meeting the needs of the kids!! Your support is much appreciated~

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  5. A full time gifted program saved me over 50 years ago - and I am middle class, white, and female. I had parents who supported me and gave me resources, but that doesn't make up for the lack of support in schools.

    It is my opinion that the gifted community's emphasis on differentiation has not benefited the average gifted student - it has just given administrators an excuse to cut gifted programming, since "all their teachers differentiate". Note: they still have ELL, ESL, LD, BD, and all sorts of other abbreviated teacher positions.

    More here: http://llwcontemplations.blogspot.com/2013/12/interview-question-i-wont-ever-ask.html

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    1. Specialized services for gifted students are no less appropriate than for other students with other identifiable special needs! Thank you for your feedback, Laura~

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  6. Reading this from Norway, I got completely sidetracked by "where the nearest university campus is an hour away". My closest HIGH SCHOOL was a bit more than an hour away, and there were only four universities in the entire country back in my days (now they call all colleges unis).

    Otherwise, you are spot on! In America, and in the rest of the world, growing up with more than average cognitive ability and maintaining enough of it to become a genius at some point requires support. It does not matter if your IQ is the highest ever if you spend your entire childhood minding children so that your parents can work, or if your school never gives you an opportunity to work on something above the level of your age-peers (and even punishes you for attempts to do so on your own).

    Nobody becomes a success in any field without support!

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    1. Intellectfan...thank you so much for the feedback!! Support is absolutely needed for these children & youth!!

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  7. Hello. I myself am a gifted kid born and living outside of the US. (Unsurprisingly I know English)

    I must agree with your position. Leaving aside the fact that your unprofessional writing may attract less than this guy from the Washington Post, this is more on the correct side. See, while it is true that a gifted individual may charm or fight through an establishment that does not officially recognize him and gaining skills for posterior adult life (such as is my case), it would have been so much easier and less depressing to have special mentors or classes unlike the slow-paced ones I am attending at the moment. Without any doubt, before the genius finds an output for his gift, much time is wasted, and it could be saved by first providing this particular education you speak of.

    Very well done. Thank you.

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  8. I completely agree with your response to the Washington Post article. One has to wonder how it even got published, other than the fact that it appeals to the perception that gifted children don't deserve to be educated unless they can achieve success, and that the truly gifted can somehow educate themselves. It also assumes that parents are somehow readily available to provide educational services, whether it is homeschooling, extracurricular activities, or even advocacy, and clearly overlooks the needs of underserved populations. Thanks for your ideas.

    Gail Post/ www.giftedchallenges.com

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  9. It seems that the Washington Post Article reinforces the negative stereotype of giftedness. But, anyone who works in the field of gifted education realizes that these students with IQ scores way above the standard deviation, require special strategies, programs, and considerations in their instruction to effectively accommodate their learning needs. These special students have special needs in their growth and development. I'm honestly surprised that more gifted students don't have 504's or IEP's?

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  10. I too was so irritated by this column that I wrote a blog post on it as well: http://thepsychologicalhook.com/gifted-education/. I cannot tell you how tired I am of people who don't know what they're talking about getting all the publicity and, even worse, making policy.

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  11. Thank you so much for your passionate response. I will read your blog and circulate as well!! Let's fight this fight until the children win!!!

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