Have you ever heard the argument that parents of gifted children should send their kids to public schools for the benefit of the schools and society? A variety of reasons are used to support the argument, but few, if any, of them include what is best for the gifted children. Of course, for those making the argument, it doesn’t really matter that the gifted children may not be getting their needs met. Some people go so far as to claim that parents of gifted children are obligated to send their child to public schools since it’s for “the greater good.” I disagree. Our children are not sacrifical lambs.

Many societies in the past engaged in human sacrifice and the sacrifices were essentially done for the good of society. Gods had to be appeased or the sun might not rise in the morning, crops might not survive, winds might not blow, and as a result, the society might cease to exist. People today are appalled and horrified by what they consider the ignorance of people in those early societies. We know better today. We know that the sun will appear in the morning regardless of what we do and that the weather is pretty much beyond our control. But many people still believe that sacrifice in the name of the greater good is an acceptable practice.

These people would not, of course, advocate for the physical sacrifical death of a human being, and even earlier societies began to substitute an animal like a lanb for a human in their ritual sacrifices. But modern people are still apparently okay with sacrificial offerings. They may not support the physical death of a human being or even of an animal, but they seem to be okay with the sacrificial death of a gifted child’s spirit. That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but consider what can happen to a gifted child in a school that is not equipped and sometimes not even willing to meet the needs of gifted children. Many of these children who were once eager to learn and full of life slowly begin to lose that interest. We watch the sparkle of life in their eyes diminish and extinguish. For the parent of a gifted child, that is a painful experience. In what way is that acceptable?

Here are some of the reasons people use to support their claim that gifted children need to be kept in public schools.

Reason 1: Parents of Gifted Children Have an Obligation to All Children

Why do parents of gifted children have more of an obligation to all children than other parents have? Why don’t other parents have an obligation to gifted children? Other parents, including those of special needs kid, are apparently free to be concerned primarily with the needs of their own children. Parents of special needs kids, when they fight to get their child’s needs met are not told that they have an obligation to all children. Most people would be righly outraged at such a suggestion. Parents of other kids are free to consider the needs of their children and fight to get those needs met. Why then is it okay to tell parents of gifted children that they have an obligation to all children? This is simply asking parents of gifted children to sacrifice their kids for “the greater good.”

Reason 2: Parents of Gifted Children Should Work to Improve Their Public School System

This reason is related to reason 1. It’s what parents of gifted children can do to fulfill their obligation to all children — but it’s under the guise of improving education for their gifted child. The idea behind reason 2 is that parents of gifted children should work to improve the school system so that their child gets an appropriate education there. There would then be no need to send their gifted kid to a public school. The problem here, as any parent of a gifted child can tell you, is that it takes years to get anything accomplished in the schools. By the time anything is improved, your child has moved on. So yes, the hard work of these parents can potentially improve the lot of all children in the school, and even many of the gifted kids there, but it means the parents must be willing to sacrifice their own child.

I also wonder where parents of gifted kids will get all that extra time and energy. Many, if not most, parents of gifted kids have their hands full keeping up with their kids. Asynchronous development, among other factors, can make parenting a gifted child emotionally and physically draining. But let’s say these parents have ample energy and an excess of free time. What would stop them from working on behalf of all gifted children to improve the public schools – while also sending their child to a private school? Nothing. But then we wouldn’t have the sacrfice required for “the greater good.”

Reason 3: Sending Gifted Children to Private Schools Drains Resources

This argument suggests that public schools have fewer resources when gifted children are removed from the school. In what way, though, are these resources diminished? Gifted children don’t take any resources with them when their parents send them to a private school. In fact, parents who send their kids to private school are paying for more than just the private schooling for their child: they still pay taxes that go to the public school system. When gifted children leave the public school, they don’t take teachers with them. They don’t take any school personnel with them. And they don’t take any supplies with them. It is highly unlikely that any one school would have so many gifted children switch to private schools that the school would be forced to layoff a teacher. It’s actually highly unlikely that any one school would have that many gifted children in any one grade level. One could actually argue that without gifted children in the school, teachers would be better able to focus on the needs of the rest of the students. But no, we need an excuse for the problems in so many schools. And who better to blame than the parents of gifted kids, who selfishly refuse to sacrifice their children for “the greater good.”

Reason 4: Sending Gifted Children to Private Schools is Elistist

This reason is based on the idea that leeping gifted children in the public schools ensures that everyone is equal. The major flaw with this reasoning is that children are not equal. Some have abilities that others don’t have. When those abilities are athletic, few people take note. In fact, they accept it. But when the abilities are intellectual, it is not acceptable. It is elitist. Add the fact that it is only the wealthy families who can afford to send their children to private schools and you provide more “proof” that sending gifted kids to private schools is elitist.

The way I see it, this attitude is more of a condemnation of public schools than of parents who send their kids to private schools. The main reason parents of gifted kids send their kids to private schools is that the public schools can’t – or won’t – address the needs of their gifted children. If the public schools provided appropriate instruction for all gifted children, their parents wouldn’t feel the need to send them to a private school. This attitude is most harmful to children from poor families who can’t afford to send their children to private schools. They are stuck with the public school. Instead of focusing on the parents who are fortunate enough to be able to afford to send their kids to a private school, why don’t people focus on the failings of the public schools? Because we need a sacrifice for “the greater good.”

Time to End the Sacrifice

Those who were sacrificed in pre-modern societies were often those who were seen as having less value than others in the society. So the less affluent and less powerful people were among those who were sacrificed. That seems to fit the attitude toward gifted kids, particularly the gifted kids from poor families. Some may argue that wealthy parents are free to send their children to public schools, so they aren’t required to sacrifice their kids. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t being told they *should* sacrifice their kids. Like the wealthy in pre-modern societies, they can escape the sacrifice requirement. Those who can’t afford private school must sacrifice their children. That is wrong.

So, no, parents of gifted children are not obligated to send their children to public schools for the benefit of society as a whole. Parents are obligated to provide for their children. If that means they must pull their children out of the public school system, then so be it. It’s time for the public school system to adapt to the needs of all children, including gifted children. I for one am done with sacrificing our gifted children to “the greater good.” How about you?

Carol BainbridgeEducationRants and ResponsesEducation Options,Public Education
Have you ever heard the argument that parents of gifted children should send their kids to public schools for the benefit of the schools and society? A variety of reasons are used to support the argument, but few, if any, of them include what is best for the gifted...