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'gifted' children an American trend?

post #1 of 204
Thread Starter 
This is coming on the back of the 'first child exceptional' poll and also noticing there is a forum for parents of 'gifted' children. I am not American and don't live in America now but I spent Grade 4 in New Orleans and remember being confused by the 'Gifted and Talented' class at school. It wasn't what I was used to. I also remember children telling me they were 'gifted' and it is the only time in my life I ever had an IQ test. I've lived in other parts of the world and taught school in 2 countries but I haven't come across this phenomena anywhere else. Granted, I attended and taught Waldorf schools which don't do streaming, so maybe that's where the difference lies. I'm surprised to see it mentioned so much here though.

My question is, do you think this is a uniquely American obsession and do you think it is helpful to label a child as 'gifted'?
post #2 of 204
I'm not American either, I'd assumed it was a new label that they'd come up with for specialised education in the last decade or so, but apparently not. I'd never heard of it outside of message boards.
post #3 of 204
That's a good question. My thought is that it arose as a way of dealing with different levels and abilities of students within the very homogenous curricula of the public school, and that schools in other countries probably had their own ways of dealing with these issues. I don't know how long the term gifted has been around, but it seemed at one point there was much more of a division in society as to who would get what education. Then when our goal was to, ostensibly if not actually, offer the same opportunities to every one, it made more sense to identify children as exceptional, or at risk or whatever, and direct things that way from the common base.

My experience with the gifted and talented program at school is that the kids who got better grades were in it, but they didn't seem necessarily unusual. They got similar grades and SATs to mine, we went to the same university. I understand there are truly exceptional children out there who are beyond what we see on a daily basis, but there were none like that at my school. Maybe it was a classification that a lot of parents were invested in, however. The whole intelligence thing as a moral issue, and prizing of a high IQ is absolutely unquestioned here, from what I can see.
post #4 of 204
yes. i think this is a uniquely american obsession.
post #5 of 204
The label is not new by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps it is more needed in the US due to the ideas on education here.

It is a very needed label for dealing with regular schools (if appropriate, of course).

-Angela
post #6 of 204
I am not American so I cannot speak for Americans but the book Hothouse Kids delves into this (American obsession with giftedness).
I am Filipino and I can definitely say that Filipinos definitely have this obsession so no, I don't think it is uniquely American.
I don't have a problem with labelling a child as being gifted only IF he/she truly is. I feel that both child and parent will benefit from an understanding of the giftedness.
However, I feel that because of this obsession, some are quick to label a child as gifted even if they are not. I think that this leads to unrealistic expectations and a lot of disappointment.
post #7 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by alegna View Post
The label is not new by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps it is more needed in the US due to the ideas on education here.

It is a very needed label for dealing with regular schools (if appropriate, of course).

-Angela
Agreed.

The term was around when I was a kid, for sure. In fact, I was tested in kindergarten and put in the program.

I think Angela hit the nail on the head when she speculated why it's more common here. I think the differences between the US educational system and those of other countries could be a big factor in requiring a separate gifted label.
post #8 of 204
I have to agree with Angela.

I suspect the surge in children identified as gifted is related to the current state of American public education.
post #9 of 204
Thread Starter 
Sorry to sound ignorant but what is the current state of American public education?
post #10 of 204
we have a very similar focus on 'giftedness' in canada ime. i think the whole thing is worthy of hearty critique personally, but it's not an american and not canadian thing imo.
post #11 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boot View Post
Sorry to sound ignorant but what is the current state of American public education?
Focus on standardized tests. Teach to the test. Nothing that's not on the test. No attention to the kids who can already pass the test. etc.

-Angela
post #12 of 204
yeah but that sucks for everyone. how is it good to take an elite portion of students and remove them from that? i can see how it's good for those students, but not for anyone else.
post #13 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by thismama View Post
yeah but that sucks for everyone. how is it good to take an elite portion of students and remove them from that? i can see how it's good for those students, but not for anyone else.
It's not an "elite" group a students. It's a group of students with different learning needs. Just like kids with other special needs- learning disabilities etc.

And what is best for each child is what should be done for that child. Why should their educations be sacrificed for the good of someone else?

-Angela
post #14 of 204
Well but standardized tests and the like are not what is best for anyone IMO. The gifted kids get to escape it into a world of more creative, self directed learning. which is great for them, but IMO it would be great for everyone. And truth is kids who test 'gifted' tend to come from more privileged families, so they are 'elite' in terms of being identified as being 'smarter' and many have class privilege as well.

I think the whole thing could use a re-analysis, is all. I mean, if my kid tests gifted I will be thrilled that she has access to superior programs. But i think all the kids should have access to decent education.
post #15 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Viola View Post
The whole intelligence thing as a moral issue, and prizing of a high IQ is absolutely unquestioned here, from what I can see.
i am puzzled by that aspect, too.
post #16 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by alegna View Post
It's not an "elite" group a students. It's a group of students with different learning needs. Just like kids with other special needs- learning disabilities etc.

And what is best for each child is what should be done for that child. Why should their educations be sacrificed for the good of someone else?

-Angela
Good point. I was in the TAG program in elementary school; I didn't get good grades, but apparently I scored high-range on the IQ that was mandatory to take.

The difference between my parents' reaction to this and others: My parents didn't tell me I was smarter or better than the other kids, or make me feel like I was in any way more special. They simply explained that it was a class for kids who thought and processed things differently than usual (which was totally me.. I'm an abstract thinker).

I really appreciated those classes, because it was the first time in school I felt "normal" as far as my thoughts and ideas, values and morals, creativity, etc... my talents and skills were completely UNappreciated in the regular classroom setting. Trust me, I cherished that hour every 3 days that I could be myself in and not be chastised for thinking "outside the box".

Do I think there is much-too-much emphasis on giftedness, and the major PUSH I notice every to "make" gifted kids in our country? Absolutely. My daughter (going on 4) has peers who are taking French, ballet, classical instrument lessons, in math tutoring, etc. These kids are 3 and 4 years old. All because their parents want to ensure their kids grow up to be 'gifted'. When really, most of the 'gifted' kids (and their ideas/thought process) aren't all that appreciated in a regular setting.
post #17 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by thismama View Post
Well but standardized tests and the like are not what is best for anyone IMO. The gifted kids get to escape it into a world of more creative, self directed learning. which is great for them, but IMO it would be great for everyone. And truth is kids who test 'gifted' tend to come from more privileged families, so they are 'elite' in terms of being identified as being 'smarter' and many have class privilege as well.

I think the whole thing could use a re-analysis, is all. I mean, if my kid tests gifted I will be thrilled that she has access to superior programs. But i think all the kids should have access to decent education.
Gifted programs are not really "superior" to regular class room education as simply different, and more intense. Also, in most places it isn't replacing the regular classroom, but instead is an additional work load on top of the classroom. Gifted students often choose to give up free time during recess, after school, or on weekends to participate in gifted programs. Though sometimes they are fun and exporitory, more often they are just another classroom experience with longer bigger harder text books.

As far as superior and inferior educations are concerned I think what district one lives in has more to do with the quality of ones education than whether one is IDed as gifted or not. A good school system will do well for all the students in it mainsteam, gifted and special needs; a bad school system will fail to let any students live up to there potentials.

There are exceptions like in NYC they have some great gifted and special ed programs, but on a whole do poorly for most of the students. However, in NYC luck has pleanty to do with it too. There are great magnet schools that are open to student of any abilty level where the placements are given out through a lottery. I think b/c these exceptions get so much attention there is a perception that this is the way it is for most gifted students.

Finally I suspect the perception that gifted students come from priviledged families has a lot to do with privledged families having more access to testing, both b/c if they want to they can pay for it privately, but largely b/c they can afford to live in areas with superior school systems that administer the testing much more consistantly. So the real problem isn't that privledged families push there children into gifted programs; The real problem is that poor/under privilaged families are denied access to the gifted programs that their children could qualify for. This also happens with special needs testing and programs.
post #18 of 204
Hmm very interesting. I've never even heard of a class for the gifted or talented kids in any of my schools here in BC. There are programs for those kids, they're called Honors Programs, the International Baccalaureate Program, but never a class they'd attend within their regular schedule.

There were classes for kids with behavioural problems, social problems.. etc..
and there were classes for ESL.
post #19 of 204
We had gifted class when I was growing up (I'm in Toronto Canada and going on 30). The teacher determined who was gifted and my teacher told me that I couldn't go into gifted class, because while I was bright enough, I didn't finish enough of my assignments. The gifted classes weren't really challenging to the students who went, it was basically a few extra activities, but nothing earth shattering and most students wanted to drop it after the novelty wore off.

I was chatting with a teacher one time about gifted children and I can't remember word for word what she said, but she was really for destreaming and that while many children are bright, only a few are gifted. Gifted ones being those who are doing work several levels above where they should be, not one or two. It seems to be a bit of an obsession. I know people who are labelling their 6 month olds gifted. I think it's important to keep children positively engaged in their learning and development, but in the end, most of it seems to come out in the wash.
post #20 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joyster View Post
but she was really for destreaming and that while many children are bright, only a few are gifted. Gifted ones being those who are doing work several levels above where they should be, not one or two.
In our area, the gifted program includes such a broad range of children, way below the IQ parameters for clinically gifted. So it's essentially a program for high-achieving children (most are privileged), most of whom are not clinically gifted. I had a relative in one of these programs and she was so incredibly miserable there because she was operating many grade levels above and her needs were not being met in the gifted program. When her parents spoke with the gifted coordinator about it, the coordinator said that she was aware the child was very bored there but that she had so many children in the GATE program who couldn't operate on that level that she simply could not meet the child's needs. In that case, what is the point of the GATE program? Rather than providing an essential program for the few who think very differently and who *need* something different, it becomes a status symbol and reward for the parents of high-achieving, normal children. I am against this sort of program but I am in favor of true differentiated education for clinically gifted children.
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