Education of Gifted


Education of Gifted Students
A Civil Rights Issue?
Article Critique
Education of Gifted Students
A Civil Rights Issue?
This paper seeks to answer the question: "Is the differential representation of the sexes and of racial and ethnic groups in educational programs for gifted students a civil rights problem?" The author does a more than adequate job of presenting the arguments on both sides of the issue and drawing logical inferences. The article seeks to identify the actual dilemma and proposes possible approaches for resolution.
Much of the school system today has been shaped by the civil rights laws of the past. The writer notes that the link these rights have to education is the pledge of an equal opportunity for all children to learn and be educated in this country. Schools must accomplish this without regard to race, creed or gender. The author notes that there have been references to the gifted programs being just another subtle form of segregation by the white upper-middle-class. These concerns arise from the fact that the representation of the sexes and of ethnic groups within the gifted classes reflects just such a phenomenon.
The unjustified beliefs of genetic inferiority of some races have long since been denounced. These unfounded beliefs have been replaced by research which indicates that the genetic component of intelligence is augmented by the nurturing environment (or lack thereof) of a child. The paper sites twin studies, which give creedence to the genetic component of intelligence, and notes these differences apply within the different ethnic and racial groups.
The author attributes an almost equal role to the environment of the child referring to nurturing as the "crystallization of native abilities." Noting the differences between the sexes in math and verbal skills, the author seeks to validate this conception. The author sees the cultural values of society as an unavoidable encroachment upon the genders resulting in these differences. I beg to differ, as molecular and developmental studies have shown that there are structural and biological differences in the brains of males and females (Zhang, 1995; Palego, 2000). As a molecular biologist I would be more inclined to attribute differences to the biochemical aspects of development.
The writer next addresses the inequities of intelligence tests and accurately identifies them as mere predictors of future academic performance. We are unable to measure native ability with these instruments but these devices do allow for a comparison of the developmental level of a child in the areas of core knowledge, reasoning and conceptual association. It is through these measures that predictions of future performance are made.
The author now brings Gardner\'s theory of multiple intelligences into the debate. He uses the theory to propose expanding the definition of giftedness. Although I do agree in principle with Gardner\'s theory, the already limited resources in gifted education would be taxed to the brink if we were to include the majority of children, as strict use of Gardner\'s theory would necessitate.
The final points in the paper relate to what the author calls "tall poppies". This is the approach of Chinese Communism according to the author. The principle is that the poppies growing too rapidly should be hewn down so as not to out grow the rest in the field. At this point there are offerings in the paper concerning the achievement of Asian students in American schools. The writer relates these to the home environment, emphasis on education and tenacity of the Chinese-American students.
I believe that this, in essence, is what we have done in education today, we\'ve cut-down our gifted students in an effort to avoid the criticism of elitism. The brightest and the best are denied their potential because it is falsely believed that they can pick it up on their own. I believe that most of the curriculum offered in mainstream education has been so watered down that children are not challenged and are not taught to think in our schools today Ė all in an effort to be "fair" to everyone. How is this fair to the gifted child?
The author concludes by placing the accountability for educating our gifted children on families, schools, and society. He urges full development of all children with outstanding talents through the creation of "early and continuing enrichment programs". Through