OK. So, everybody wants to talk about gifted education. I hinted at the topic last week and already there were some excellent comments. I’ll get the ball moving. Then you all can go at it.
First of all, let’s all show our cards. Judging from all the statistics that I’ve read about blog readers and bloggers, we’re a pretty well educated bunch. Probably all have fairly high IQs and, either because of good genes or environment, our kids aren’t dummies either. They probably score as low gifted or within spitting distance of it. (Low gifted is just the new fangled way of saying smart.) When they offer a gifted program at my kid’s school, I will be the first on line to make sure that he gets in.
Theoretically, I have no problem with the idea of gifted education. Some kids can pick up some information very quickly and can benefit from an accelerated program of education. I was completely spaced out in school, until I was put in the honors classes in high school. Being bored sucks.
The problem with gifted education is who benefits from these programs and how they drain resources from others. I got a first hand look at this when I lived in Manhattan. My oldest son’s preschool was geared at middle class, educated families who lived in a small enclave within a larger Dominican neighborhood. At the beginning of their second year, we went to a presentation where they taught us how to navigate the public school system in NYC. For most, city schools are the pits. But if you know how fill out the correct paperwork and tutor your kid for the IQ test, you can get them into a gifted program. These gifted program in the city have the best teachers, the best resources, and low class size. The kids learn to play chess and fence and take amazing field trips. You can get a suburban school experience in a city school, if your kid can qualify.
After the presentation, we all raced out and had our kids tested. Everyone qualified as gifted or close enough to try again next year. A few were off the charts, but mostly the kids all clustered at the low gifted end of the scale. If everybody is special, then nobody is special.
The gifted program in a Manhattan is just a scam to keep middle class parents in the city.
On a wider scale, it is unfair that one group of kids gets preferential treatment. Smart kids should be given more challenging work. But they shouldn’t be given the best teachers, the most interesting assignments, and the most resources. These programs shouldn’t drain resources away from everyone else.
It is also unfair that these programs benefit elites. It is no accident that the main proponents of gifted and talented education have been Republicans.