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Gifted Education

Two weeks until press deadlines are finally behind me (for a while). I’m also working off-blog on the chronology of the ancient world, partly in preparation for a series of lessons I’ll be teaching at my church this summer, and partly because that’s just the sort of thing that captures my interest. Oh, and I get to administer a final exam tomorrow (and then grade them all, darn it!).

In the meantime, let me say a big “Amen” to Rod Dreher’s passionate defense of gifted education:

It’s distressing to me how gifted education is typically seen in this country. We tend to spare no expense to provide for the needs of students who are handicapped or challenged in particular ways by the normal classroom experience. But we don’t spend nearly the energy or the money on gifted education — this, even though many gifted kids face their own set of challenges that cannot be easily overcome in a standard classroom. When I was in college at LSU, I remember getting into an argument with a friend over this; he believed that gifted kids had natural advantages by virtue of their cognitive skills, and didn’t need or deserve any special consideration.

I don’t believe that’s true at all. Of course nobody feels sorry for gifted kids, and nobody’s asking them to. The point is that to the extent that it’s feasible, all kids should be in an educational environment in which they can flourish to the extent of their own talents. If a kid cannot do as well as he otherwise could because of a particular learning disability, then insofar as it is possible to accomodate that child’s needs, we should seek to do so. Similarly, though, there are reasons why many gifted kids struggle in standard classrooms, and their needs should not be dismissed simply because of their intelligence. In my case, my grades were good in my old public school, but I struggled with depression because I was such an outsider, and was constantly picked on by the in crowd. The great thing about LSMSA — and I think lots of kids from small-town schools like mine felt this way — was not so much the superlative academics as the great blessing of not having to bear the emotional burden of being bullied and socially marginalized because you got good grades and liked books.

Fortunately, my gifted child s way too sociable to be easily marginalized (alas, her dad was a classic nerd in practically every way), but that doesn’t mean all her academic needs can be met in a standard classroom.

Last year first grade was simply boring for Rebecca. The only day she came home enthusiastic about what she had learned at school was the one day a week she went to REACH, the gifted class. The other days, the most exciting thing that happened at school was eating lunch or something equally mundane. Connie and I became evening and weekend “home-schoolers,” feeding her geography, Latin lessons, or whatever we could think of to keep her intellectually engaged.

Now she’s in a magnet school and actually has things to tell us about what she is learning every day. Although it is not a “school for the gifted” like Rod describes, it does keep her attention, and for that we are thankful.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Darrell,

    I guess gifted kids fun in the blogosphere. Where I live they test for giftedness in grade 4, and then have special classes for grades 5 through 8. I guess these are the most difficult years for gifted kids. My oldest, who is now in grade nine, benefited most by being motivated by peers to put some effort into his work. This has certainly carried him over into high school. My middle daughter missed being classified by 1 percentile and I am not sure that she would have been a good fit in the gifted class anyway. My youngest is also very bright, she will be tested next year and I will be surprised if she does not end up in the gifted class as well.

    Our experience here has been that as parents you really have to be advocates for your children so that they get what they need.

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  2. Sorry, by fun I meant run.

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  3. We know all about having to be advocates for our children, Michael! That seems to be a consistent theme among the parents of gifted children that are in our circle of friends.

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  4. SingingOwl says:

    I know I will sound like every proud grandmother in the world–heh heh–but I really do think that Trinity is somewhat amazing, and while this is a good thing, I am already pondering the possible issues. A close relative of Ken’s was brilliant and a failure in school, and later in life, and while I can’t blame that on school, I’ve always wondered what might have happened with some intervention. My own two kids, espcially Josh, were so underchalloenged as to be distressing, except Josh has some mild learning disabilities and the focus was on that (misplaced, IMO). Now I watch Trinity, who is two, and astounds me with her ability to conceptualize, reason, remember, and draw conclusionsr. I sometimes must remind myself that she is only two. She often speaks in 9 or 10 word sentences. Kris wants to homeschool her when the time comes, but who knows what life will bring…meanwhile there are very limited opportunities in this area.

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  5. SingingOwl says:

    PS I rejoice that Rebecca is doing well. We all knew she was likely to be a brilliant kiddo! 🙂

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  6. SingingOwl says:

    And maybe I should return to a class on proper grammar. LOL!

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