Furthest Right

Egalitarian education slights gifted students

Gifted students — they’re our best hope for the future, the inventors and leaders and artists — how does education treat them?

Though not often recognized as “special needs” students, gifted children require just as much attention and educational resources to thrive in school as do other students whose physical, behavioral, emotional or learning needs require special accommodations. So says a Florida State University professor who has studied gifted students for years.

“There is a view occasionally expressed by those outside of the gifted field that we don’t need programs devoted specifically to gifted students,” Pfeiffer said. “‘Oh, they’re smart, they’ll do fine on their own’ is what we often hear. And because of this anti-elitist attitude, it’s often difficult to get funding for programs and services that help us to develop some of our brightest, most advanced kids — America’s most valuable resource.

“However, as a generally agreed-upon definition, gifted children are those who are in the upper 3 percent to 5 percent compared to their peers in one or more of the following domains: general intellectual ability, specific academic competence, the visual or performing arts, leadership and creativity.”

In a race for “one size fits all” education, we end up norming to the bottom and to the slowest students. We then cut funding for gifted student programs, figuring that if they’re so wealthy in brains, well, screw them — they’ll have to make do. The consequence is that their parents yank them out of public education so it can continue circling the drain.

As a general rule, our society is so obsessed with the negative that it focuses on those who have lost out or are failing and ignores its best hopes, which guarantees it a path to failure. An alternate view is that we can shift those for whom education is not an option into vocational training, sparing them four to eight years of wasted time, and upgrade our education so a high school and/or college degree means actual accomplishment.

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