Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gifted programs and obedient kids

In a recent blog I discussed ways in which gifted programs end up gating off some of the most gifted left-brainers, whose asynchronous development and social immaturity may clash with the "whole child" readiness that many of today's gifted programs insist on.

1crosbycat then commented with a telling anecdote:
A mother of twin high school seniors told me earlier this year about how both boys were tested for the gifted (GATE) program in elementary school. Only one boy was accepted and out of curiosity, she asked to see the other's test scores. She and the Guidance Counselor were surprised to find that the one declined had higher scores, but he was more socially shy and awkward.
Some of the other responses I received suggest something equally sinister: are some schools basing their admissions decisions on some sort of self-serving agenda?  For example, the cultivation of passive, obedient students?  As one mom writes of her school:
Good behavior was "rewarded" by being  admitted into gifted classes. When I subbed in emotional support and autistic support classes, I would see lowered expectations and some very brilliant insights. When I taught in gifted classes, I would see well-behaved kids who were great at regurgitating concrete facts
As LexAequitas puts it:
Just as teachers seem to have a different idea of what "gifted" means, I think they have a similar idea about the word "maturity".

Somehow, both of them seem to boil down to brain power that's average or a bit above combined with obedience.
Part of the problem may lie in who is currently charged with teaching gifted children. Back when I was in school there were a handful for highly quirky, intelligent teachers who seemed to have chosen their professions, in part, out of a desire to work with highly quirky, intelligent students.  They were actively recruited by a principal who held a PhD in something other than "educational leadership."  And they were not the sort of people who would make it through today's dissent-crushing education schools, much less avoid getting fired for insubordination by today's line-toeing "educational leaders."


Anonymous said...

Our district runs a self-contained program for gifted students at two of the comprehensive middle schools. If your child scores 99 percent on the Naglieri test, the state reading and math tests, or the ITBS, then he or she is admitted to the self-contained program.

Many, many, many parents want to have this "gated" community of obedient gifted children in middle school. They want their gifted child completely removed from the social storms of a regular middle school classroom.

These parents do not support a middle school model of subject-specific advancement made available to all children. These parents are heavily invested in the status quo.

I don't get mad at the school district for buying them off in this way. They have been willingly bought.

Mike said...

I recently wrote a paper on gifted and talented education for a teacher ed. class I'm taking to get certified as a high school math teacher in Hawaii. While writing I came across a lot of recommendations for grade skipping from the researchers, and the statistic that more than 60% of teachers opposed skipping. It appears to be cheap and effective - though enrichment of any kind is better than detracked, heterogenous classrooms.

As part of the research I did not come across anything about what's being described here, as far as obedient kids being preferred. I don't say that to dispute it as a fact, only that it doesn't seem to be getting much in the way of attention from academic researchers. Perhaps it's too recent a phenomenon?

I will receive exactly 0 hours of training for G/T students, compared to a full 3 credit class on SPED. Yet, per fed. statistics there are 3 million G/T kids in the US compared to the 6 million needing SPED.

Malign neglect before, goody-goody snottiness now for G/Ts? If interested, my paper is on my blog here:

Mike said...

Your comment about quirky teachers put me in mind of this John Stuart Mill quote, “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained. [T]hat so few people now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time”

lgm said...

Schools are at a loss on teaching enough content to engage an average student in a full inclusion class. Grades here for m.s.and h.s.are based on behavior. 1/3 is homework, 1/3 is class participation, 1/3 is tests/quizzes/projects. The reward for behaving and complying is honors. The penalty for misbehaving is basic (double period math and english) or alternative school or homebound.

No gifted program - that's considered elitist. In the h.s. though, they'll let a child have credit for distance learning, up to the state's limit of 6.5 credits.

1crosbycat said...

I had read our district's gifted policy and I am not sure exactly what my ideal description of an effective gifted program would be, but this isn't it. Here is a sample from our website:

"The main goal of the senior high gifted program is to encourage the gifted students to challenge themselves and become self-motivated learners. It is also our desire that gifted students become producers of information and performers of artistic feats and services to society.

The curricular framework for meeting the wide range of gifted needs and abilities include these essentials:

Affective skills
Leadership skills
Communication skills
Creative thinking skills
Decision making skills
Critical thinking skills
Logical thinking skills
Organization and management skills
Research and independent study skills
Specific content and career exploration"

I wonder why a public school should be interested in my kid's "affective skills" and what are they anyway? It seems to be from "Bloom's Taxonomy" which seems to be another educational atrocity from the limited research I have done:

"Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (Attitude)". Includes "valuing" and "internalizing values or characterization" which seem to be the parent's domain, not the school's - but it supports our suspicion that certain kids with certain values are being excluded from opportunities, and that intelligence and academic ability are no longer the focal point of the gifted program.