Redefining Gifted And Talented

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The debate over Gifted and Talented (GT) education has gone on for years. From the outside of the community, it is often expressed with questions like, “What’s the gift?”, “What’s the talent?” And even, “What makes your kid so much more special than mine?” Sometimes the complaints came from principals and teachers who wanted to simply teach the same thing to everyone at the same level. GT parents were perceived simply as selfish and “troublemakers” in not just accepting what was offered at the school.

Without an official international definition of Gifted & Talented, the interesting tug of words happened inside the GT community as well. Some highlighted the emotional highs and lows leading to suicide and depression to those experiencing extreme ADHD. These groups would alienate the parents that simply had happy children that just couldn’t read enough books, learn enough about their favorite subjects, those that loved math years beyond their age, wrote high-level poetry and even painted adult-level pieces. You also had groups that attached the “twice exceptional” label to anything related to GT.

Like I said, no official definition.

I will say that balanced environments could always be found in places like Creighton’s Purple team (GT department) and Wheat Ridge High School’s very own Room 13. Places where students simply learned without labels. In recent years the GT debate was taken by some school boards to create a more level playing field. New York City is one example of having recently eliminated the GT program altogether so as to not have one group of learners be perceived at a higher level than others in the same school.

Another debate has shown up in recent news. Cities across the U.S. and Canada are removing the words “gifted” and “talented” as well as “honors” from other enriched programs, teaching to the lowest common denominator instead of providing studied and proven paths to each type of learner.

It’s no wonder that enrollment in small local learning institutions like Vector Academy, Alpine and Montessori keep growing while the traditional neighborhood schools keep shrinking. It’s all good to want equal opportunities for all students and give them all a ribbon on the sports field. But when it comes to selecting a school for their kids, parents will always choose an environment where their children will thrive.

It’s important to note that the small academies aren’t free. This ultimately will promote an even bigger divide between those that can afford tailored education for their kids and those that have to enroll in assembly-line type of education. Gifted and talented is not about smarter or brighter. It’s not about better or more polite or even better grades. In fact, in many instances it’s the opposite. Gifted and talented is about different.

Guy Nahmiach is immediate past President of Jefferson County Association of Gifted Children.

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