An article by Douglas W. Green asks, “Shouldn’t All Students Be Able to Participate in Gifted Programs?” My answer? An emphatic NO!  If all students participate in a gifted program, it would no longer be a program for gifted kids. But then, Green doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of gifted kids, a rather disturbing fact considering he held positions as director of instruction and elementary school principal. He is wrong in just about everything he says about gifted kids and the programs that are supposed to be designed for them.

Green tips his hand in his very first sentence: “Programs for so-called gifted students exist in most school districts in the United States today, and they vary widely in size and scope.”  “So-called”?  What Green is telling us with his use of that term is that there really isn’t any such thing as a gifted student. But then he isn’t exactly trying to hide his opinion of gifted children.

Throughout the article, Green’s comments reveal his negative attitudes, attitudes that say more about him than they do about gifted kids.  In the first place, he can barely bring himself to refer to gifted kids as “gifted.”  As he says, “I hesitate to use the term gifted as it implies an artificial dichotomy. ” No,  Dr. Green, it doesn’t. Only those who are clueless about giftedness believe it is an artificial dichotomy.

Even more revealing is this comment about dividing kids into “piles” of gifted and non-gifted: “This only serves to anoint some as gifted and others as second rate.”  Is that how you see it, Dr. Green? I certainly don’t see it that way and I don’t imagine other advocates for gifted kids see it that way either. I would never think that children who are not put in the gifted “pile” are in any way second rate. I see the two “piles” of children as two groups of children, each with different social, emotional, and academic needs.

Dr. Green, however, has no interest in seeing that the needs of gifted children are being met. No, his focus is on the other children, those he seems to think must “second rate” if other kids are labeled as gifted.

Here’s Green’s real complaint:

“If you keep skimming kids off the top of the distribution for special lessons, you almost doom the rest of the students to fewer opportunities to get excited about school and learning.”

That is a truly disturbing comment coming from a former director of instruction and elementary school principal. What does it say about the programming for the other kids? Why on Earth would you need gifted kids in a classroom to make it possible for the other students to get excited about school and learning? How about if you provide those opportunities for all students?

But to Dr. Green, the issue seems to be, not one of providing learning opportunities to all students, but of making sure all students can call themselves gifted. As he says if all kids can participate in a gifted program, then “Every student could tell their parents about how they are in the gifted program.” What he fails to understand is that if every child is in the gifted program, there actually isn’t any gifted program. It’s as if Dr. Green lives in Lake Woebegone, where all the kids are above average. Newsflash, Dr. Green – they aren’t.

Dr. Green acknowledges that “A great way to turn kids off to school is to avoid doing anything new so this process can harm the motivation of non gifted students and their non gifted classroom teacher.” Yes, that’s true. So why is it okay to turn gifted kids off to school and harm THEIR motivation by depriving them of the kind of programming that THEY need?

Part of Dr. Green’s complaint is that in many cases students are selected for gifted programs based on who their parents are and who their parents know. He asks, “What chance does a principal have when a parent with a friend on the Board of Education wants their kid in the program when they didn’t make the cut?” I don’t know, Dr. Green. You were a prinicpal. What did YOU do?

I do agree, however, that is wrong to admit kids into a program when they aren’t qualified to be in it, no matter what the program. It’s not acceptable for a less qualified students to get on the football team because his parents have connections either.

But that really isn’t Dr. Green’s problem with gifted programs, so the selection process for him is really a side issue, a moot point. His problem is clearly with dividing students into groups of gifted and non-gifted students. He has made that abundantly clear.  After all, don’t forget that he said that providing special lessons for kids who are “skimed off the top of the distribution” essentially dooms other students to dull lessons unlikely to motivate them to learn. Dividing students that way is to Dr. Green “unethical and wrong. Thanks to many gifted programs the rich get richer. That’s not what schools should be doing by design.”

What’s unethical, Dr. Green, is that you are so willing to sacrifice gifted kids for the sake of the other kids.  You are simply choosing which group of students you think should have their needs met when ALL children’s needs should and can be met.  You ask your readers if their school has a gifted and talented program and if so who gets in and how doesn’t. Then you ask, “What can be done to level the playing field?”

Level the playing field? That doesn’t even make sense.  Placing students who are not gifted into the same classes with gifted students is not going to make those kids gifted. Intelligence can’t be redistributed.

Carol BainbridgeEducationRants and ResponsesGifted Programs,IQ and Intelligence
An article by Douglas W. Green asks, 'Shouldn't All Students Be Able to Participate in Gifted Programs?' My answer? An emphatic NO!  If all students participate in a gifted program, it would no longer be a program for gifted kids. But then, Green doesn't seem to have a good understanding...