Thursday, January 16, 2014

America Hates its Gifted Kids?

America hates its gifted kids..what? The term gifted children was first used in 1869 by Francis Galton. He referred to adults who demonstrated exceptional talent in some area as gifted, for example, a gifted chemist. Children could inherit the potential to become a gifted adult, and Galton referred to these children as gifted children. Lewis Terman expanded Galton's view of gifted children to include high IQ. In the early 1900s, he began his a long-term study of gifted children, whom he defined as children with IQs of 140 or more. His study found that IQ alone could not predict success in adulthood. Leta Hollingworth, too, believed that the potential to be gifted was inherited. However, she felt that providing a nurturing home and school environment were also important in the development of that potential. In 1926, she published her book, Gifted Children, Their Nature and Nurture, and the term gifted has been used ever since to refer to children of high potential.

In a recent NEWSWEEK article titled 'America Hates its Gifted Kids' the author explains that America's best pupils are being cheated because of a growing school of thought that the U.S. education system has had a laudable quest to make sure the worst students reach minimal standards.

"It still happens today. A 2008 report found that the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 indeed helped low-achieving students rise to meet a more rigorous course load, but shifted teachers’ sights away from the gifted kids, who seemed capable of helping themselves stay on track."

There are Different Definitions of Gifted and you can read online about what that means in todays current terminology.  The early uses of the term gifted have led to different uses of the word and different ways of defining giftedness. Galton’s view left us with the idea that a gifted person is one with a gift, a special talent demonstrated in adulthood. People today may use gifted child the way Galton used the term gifted adult. In other words, to be a gifted child is to demonstrate an exceptional talent in a particular area. Terman’s view led to definitions of gifted, which not only included high IQ, but also the notion that giftedness should be a predictor of adult achievement. Hollingworth’s view, however, led to definitions of gifted as childhood potential that must be nurtured in order for it to be developed in adulthood.

A modern day growing group is the Giftedness as Asynchronous Development. Linda Silverman added a new dimension to definitions of gifted when she included the uneven development of gifted children, which she called asynchronous development. Definitions of gifted that include asynchronous development consider not only IQ and talent, but also emotional traits of gifted children, such as heightened sensitivity. The definition developed by the Columbus Group is an example of this type of definition. "Giftedness is 'asynchronous development' in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."

The author of the article in NEWSWEEK points out the following;

“Gifted children are a precious human-capital resource,” said David Lubinski, a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, in a recent news release. They are the “future creators of modern culture and leaders in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].”

We can look at the results of the education system and see that in America the results our children are getting are not just affecting 'gifted' children, they are affecting all children.  There is not a parent out there that would say that their child that is not defined as gifted is 'less of a precious human-capital resource'.  If we start to label and define and base our continual education system on the separtism of children based on tests and IQ's how we will ever as a nation succeed and provide a world where the future is filled with creators of modern culture, leaders in all areas of science, technology and stewards of this earth to create a better world for all.  Until we can look as parents at ourselves and see that if a system that is allowing the time to be spent on those that are not in the high IQ, or gifted, or talented then there is a problem as a whole for the whole.  This suggests that not only the 'gifted kids' have been failed by the system its even the kids who are struggling to keep up to standards.  The problem is not that America Hates Gifted Kids, the problem is lack of practical solutions that can work with all children based on that all children are precious human's and are the future. 

"Tomlinson’s frustrations, much like those experienced by many of the nation’s public school teachers, are compounded by the larger forces acting on the environment in which she works. Figures released early last year showed 80 percent of entrants into City University of New York schools needed remediation in reading, writing and math in order to enroll"

When America has to remediate 80% of entrants into any University in reading, writing and math in order to enroll then it would be safe to say we have a huge problem that needs to start from the bottom up and not just from the top.  The mindset that the world is one big arena where the winner takes all, leaves a lot of losers at a time where we as a nation can no longer afford to lose.

"For the U.S. to reach the upper echelons of educational attainment in an increasingly competitive global environment, it probably needs change that comes from both the bottom, through teachers like Tomlinson, and the top, from serious education reform focused on cultivating intellectual achievement. Before innovative ideas like Lubinski’s can take hold, there needs to be a consensus among all the stakeholders that winning is important, and it isn’t enough to simply enter the race."

Who are the stakeholders then?  Wouldn't parents be the biggest stakeholders? After all they have the most 'precious human-capital resource' on planet earth.  As parents we can start to look at what we want individually for our children and by seeing their true potential as a parent can, then provide the best environment for that child and not allow random events, law and policy makers, education reform and waiting to be that child's foundation.  We can structure foundations to ensure functional excellence in order for our children to be successful and master any environment before they leave the home and go out into the world to create, innovate and change the world.


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