Tuesday, December 16, 2008

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Academically Gifted

What's wrong with being academically gifted?

School officials in Montgomery County have announced they plan to drop the label "gifted" for high achieving school students.

"Officials say the approach slights the rest of the students who are not so labeled" and notes that white and Asian American students are more likely to be identified as gifted than blacks and Hispanics.

As a progressive liberal, we think it's time to get over this nonsense. When it comes to athletics, schools are able to achieve pure meritocracy based on athletic performance. Kids try out. The best kids make the team, the rest fail. They move on. Most accept it--they realize the kids who made it are just better at whatever sport (or theater play, singing group, band, etc.) than they are.

To be sure, the basketball teams in Montgomery County high schools tilt decidedly toward African-American players, and most sports teams, chorale groups, art classes, thespian clubs and band organizations have a makeup that doesn't exactly reflect that of the school or the district. You don't hear anyone saying that slights the white boys who didn't make the teams.

Yet, for some reason, liberals have this thing about academics, that somehow everyone should be equal and that but for some unfair factor of income, parental education, etc., they would be.

That's baloney. Some students, like some athletes, are simply more academically gifted than others. Just like a talented athlete, artist, singer or auto mechanic they SHOULD be singled out for special training and treatment.


Anonymous said...

I think your comparisson is off. I was tagged as gifted. It was a tag only. But I still had to take AP courses and do well to get a high class rank. Maybe the ungifted students felt poorly, but who knows.

By contrast, there is no label for "athletic" or "musically talented". You make the team based on your skill, not because of a label. Ditto grades.

charvakan said...

I don't think the academic "gifted" label is equivalent to the same athletic tag. For one thing, family life and culture play a much bigger role. It's not as though all the "gifted" students are going to be able to do things none of the others can. A coach can figure out on the first day who's got the speed to make his team.

Another problem is school politics. I've not been that involved, but even I've seen parents who got onto the PTA with the express purpose of pushing their own kids' interests, including having them labeled "gifted".

And finally, the tag seems ridiculously overused. It's just a way of rationing educational resources. This liberal does not see why such resources are better spent on the kids at the top of the achievement/intelligence scale than it is on the kids in the middle or bottom (not that the "gifted" kids are all really near the top anyway).

Teach 'em all and avoid labels, I say.

Anonymous said...

The real issue isn't the label (although I have no problem with "gifted).

The real issue is making sure students are taught and challenged according to their abilities. Those who can handle greater challenges and more advanced work should get it, from teachers who are adept at delivering to the higher achievers.

Ditto those in the middle.

And ditto those students who absorb slower, take longer, or aren't ready for the same level of challenge as their higher achieving peers.

We have to ration educational resources, ideally in a way that provides skilled teaching and challenging concepts at all achievement levels (regardless of any labels that might be assigned).

Anonymous said...

In the state of Kansas in order to be labeled "gifted" your IQ must be as far away from the norm as it would have to be in order to be labeled MR (mentally retarded). Being gifted isn't just about being able to absorb knowledge more easily, there are a lot of problems that go along with being that far away from "normal." IF our society truly valued individuality, and IF we met all children where they are in schooling and addressed their needs, there would be no reason to have a gifted program. But we don't do either of those things, and research shows that up to 25% of the students who drop out of school are unidentified gifted students. Sure there are the students whom you assume got in somehow because of politics, but if we can keep some of the truly gifted on the right track instead of turning off to school and society, I think it is worth it.