The only reason we need gifted education progams is because of poor pedagogy and misguided objectives in mainstream education. If we Flipped Bloom's, there would be no need for gifted pullouts.
A lot of you aren't going to like what I say so let me begin by saying I am gifted.
A famous blogger likes to remind readers that she was valedictorian of her high school, because there are too few opportunities in real life to get mileage out of the H-E-double-hockey-sticks she put herself teenage self through to earn that distinction.
Twenty five years out, I still get mileage out of my ivy league degree because it's shorthand- it lets people know I am a smart person. Smart Person capital S capital P. I have been told my whole life that I was winning at school. Why? Because I can read well and quickly, because I can tear through a standardized test like nobody's business, because I can think of plenty of uses for a paper clip...
That is all great. I appreciate that about myself, even if a fair portion of my gifts probably grew as a direct result of my being seen as gifted by others. I also have all the "quirks" that gifted kids supposedly have. And I'm ok with that, too. I've grown into my style and that is why adulthood is so great for us nerds.
However, what really grates me about the fact that we, the education world, label gifted children is that in doing so we are effectively deciding that their type of smart (our type of smart) is better and more valued than other types. The thing is though, that it is not.
Don't even tell me that the gifted label takes a broad range of gifts into account because it does not.
What's more, the children who, at the tender age of 8 are told "You are not a winner in this contest of school", what are we doing to them? What is it like for them to spend 13 years in a system that says to them daily "You are not winning, you are average, you bottom half", or worse. This is not what education should be doing. We are shutting kids down.
What we should be in the business of doing is nurturing the giftedness of all of our learners, not just the quick readers, clever thinkers, math whizzes. Because all children deserve to be winning.
Before you say that I am one of those "everybody gets a trophy" people, please consider that I am not saying build up children by lying to them, I am saying we educators need to remove our blinders so we can recognize and nurture the gifts that are truly there in each child.
Those blinders will never come off as long as we keep saying "These kids with the asterisks next to their names, these are the ones who need a challenge, who can accomplish more than you can imagine."
Quick-thinking kids are not the ONLY talented ones. They are not the only ones deserving of a break, deserving of the understanding that their considerable talents also come with considerable weaknesses (labelled "quirks" instead of "faults" or "problems" as they are for other students) Gifted kids are merely talented in what our business happens to be, but our business - the business of academics - has changed rapidly in this era of the information revolution.
Being a quick digester of the written word or mathematical equation has NEVER been the only way to success, the only safeguard against being scammed, the only outlet to a satisfying and meaninful life; it is even less so now. So why are we still labeling such a narrow kind of smart? It is one reason that 7,000 brilliant children dropping out of our high school's every day, every single one of them gifted!
Our blinders are still on. You have to believe me. Why? Because I am gifted, so I must be right!
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Lisa Gurthie is the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary holistic education, and unschooling school to reconnect academia to real life. One day she will modernize her "about" page. She curates this blog for the professional development convenience of the teachers at Piedmont, but the editorial comments are her own.