…in the ordinary elementary school situation, children of 140 IQ waste half their time. Those of 170 IQ waste practically all their time.
— gifted education pioneer Leta Hollingworth, found in Genius Denied, by Jan and Bob Davidson
A recent report implied that with the right kind of environment and “deep learning” everyone can be gifted. The belief is that students have these capabilities just waiting to be actualized with the right curriculum. The idea is that if the right projects and innovations are used, all students will be enlighten and giftedness will, I guess, cease to be. I mean, if everyone is gifted, no one is gifted. This kind of thinking causes harm to both the gifted population and those who are not gifted.
Deep learning appears to be a spinoff of Common Core State Standards indicating that students can finally be provided deeper thinking about what matters because…well, after all, how many first graders have you known who understood Mesopotamia?
This train of thought jumped out at me recently in a description of one of the High Tech High (HTH) schools in California. I have written about High Tech High before (Bill Gates loves them) and I am not sure what they are doing with Common Core. They appear to push for curriculum unlike the current one-size-fits-all being foisted on traditional public schools.
But they criticize gifted education by describing some of the worst practices that have been used by public schools to address the needs of gifted students. Let’s face it, few public schools have ever done gifted education right.
Many elementary schools have once-a-week pull-out programs where gifted children do activities all students would love—a fact that HTH likes to highlight. Of course, this evokes envy by other children, and many teachers resent the disruption.
In high school, most gifted students are relegated to advanced placement classes (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB), never designed for gifted students in mind. Both AP and IB are better than nothing but not good enough. While HTH may do their classes differently than AP or IB they sound somewhat similar in that there isn’t any designation of who qualifies as gifted.
The fact is HTH teachers, probably trained at HTH, yes they train their own, don’t think gifted students need anything different.
But they’re wrong and it’s the easy way out.
First, in response to the HTH criticism, just because most public schools never put the necessary resources and attention into this special group, does not mean that gifted children are not real—that they don’t deserve gifted programming uniquely matched to their intellectual and creative needs.
Certainly, all students deserve schools and classes that are stimulating and which address their cognitive and creative abilities as well. It is important to determine the strengths found in each child. Children don’t need to be gifted to achieve greatness. Every child has gifts and talents.
But not every child is gifted.
The myth that all students are gifted is wrong, and the idea that all children can blend together with just the right dose of deep learning will destroy any hope for special programming for gifted students in the future.
To blend students together implying that everyone can be gifted with deep learning is both naive and dangerous. It is not unheard of that students who are gifted, without identification, drop out of school and never have their qualities recognized.
Many gifted children currently languish in classrooms. They complete tasks that do nothing to help them achieve all they are capable of doing. Students who come from poverty are especially at risk, because their parents might not have the means or the insight to get their child tested. Gifted children might act out and appear to be anything but gifted!
A real gifted education involves much more consideration of the unique qualities and difficulties facing gifted students. For starters, here are 9 challenging issues they face from Family Education, and you can go to the link to read more about each one.
5. Unrealistic Expectations
8. Attention and Organization
So to imply that deep learning is all that gifted students need, and that all students with deep learning will become gifted is a falsehood.