Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Is Giftedness Pathological?

I've noticed a trend that disturbs me. There seems to be a tendency to lump gifted children in with disabled children in terms of school treatment. In fact in Florida, they are all served by the Exceptional Education department. Many teachers and parents are discussing gifted education in terms of pull-outs, special tutoring, IEPs (Individualized Education Plans)--are my kids being mainstreamed without my realizing it?

I mentioned yesterday that #1 son attended a magnet school for gifted students when he was in first grade. It was a terrific experience for him. Personally, as a former gifted student, teacher and current parent of gifted students, I think the teaching methods that work best for gifted children--working at their own pace, using outside-of-school resources, indulging their curiousity and creativity--are the best ways to teach all children, no matter how they've been labeled. I understand the difficulty of having a class of 30 all working on different levels, but if a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse could do it, I don't know why a present-day classroom teacher with more life experience and more education than most of those old schoolmarms couldn't pull it off.

After three years at middle school, #1 son is finally getting a good number of services from the GT department, including advancement into a more appropriate math class and a writing mentorship. He's also being forced to attend what are essentially group therapy sessions with other GT eighth graders to discuss how difficult it is to be gifted. Mind you, he's not been showing any more signs of stress lately. The program is just assuming that all GT kids are bullied and picked on and ostracized, and therefore must have low self-esteem. I remember similar attempts at intervention when I was in school based on absolutely nothing but my IQ score. A waste of programming time and money, imho.

Writer Stephanie Tolan suggests that education specialists are so used to looking for pathology that anything that deviates from the norm is considered pathological (see second half of the interview). She was discussing the link between giftedness and ADD, which I will take up at a later date, but I have to agree that the way the schools are treating gifted children--they're certainly "not normal"--is causing more of a problem than it helps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Schools are not normal, IMO. To expect active, curious youngsters to sit quietly at a desk for a good portion of the day while a teacher blathers on about something they may or may not be interested in is just nuts.

Add in a highly intelligent, curious child, and who wouldn't be bored silly and squirmy? No wonder lots of these kids get labeled.

Kids, all kids, not just gifted kids, should be allowed to pursue their passions at their own pace, using parents, teachers, and the whole community as their resources.

Face it, school is boring, even for the not gifted. Life is exciting. Which would you choose?