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i’ve got your gifted right here

by marjorieingall on August 2, 2010

Ezra at Camp Simcha Special

Coincidentally, my Tablet magazine piece this week, about Jewish camps for special-needs kids, ran the same day as this NYT piece about Madison, WI’s fab inclusion efforts in public schools. The story by Michael Winerip warmed the cockles of my icy little heart, until it got to the quote from the parent of the “gifted” child who said, “I am not convinced that even the most masterful teacher — and we have many of them here in Madison — can teach effectively to the full range of ability and need we currently have in our public schools. Not at the same time in the same classroom.” And just like that, my buzz was killed.

My Tablet piece mentioned the research on how inclusion classes can be terrific for “normal” kids. They learn tolerance for difference; the special-needs kids learn social skills and gain a sense of belonging. Winerip did a great job showing how the presence of Garner Moss, a kid with autism, helped his classmates and teammates step up and be menschy.

I realize that I’m blessed to have kids in a progressive, truly diverse, mixed-age public school in Manhattan’s East Village, where the teachers are supported in teaching to kids with different ages and different levels of accomplishment. It’s crystal clear to me that this set-up has been a blessing for my driven, perfectionistic, hyper-competitive high-achiever. (As I’ve written a gazillion times, she got into a gifted program and I opted to send her to this school instead, and I haven’t regretted it for a nanosecond.)

People who squawk endlessly about their kids being gifted…guess what? You’re middle class or upper-middle-class, and mazel tov to you. You read to your kid when he or she was little and talked to them a lot.  I’d wager that very few “gifted” kids are actually, y’know, GIFTED. They’re ADVANTAGED. I don’t deny that there are genuinely gifted kids out there, but sorry…I’ll wager that YOURS ISN’T. And as a society we would do a lot better trying to raise kids who aren’t entitled little weenies whose parents defenestrate life’s challenges for them than to insist that our kids are SPEEESHAL. Make schools better for ALL kids; create a community that doesn’t tolerate bullying and doesn’t make being #1 only about test scores. Give teachers the skills and tools to engage kids at many different intellectual and emotional levels. I wish the NYC Department of Education would take a lesson from my kids’ school, which genuinely celebrates difference  and encourages citizenship…and in the process, all the kids discover that they can be great learners AND teachers. (The joy of mixed-age classrooms is that the older and/or more accomplished kids can teach the younger ones, which research shows can help solidify their own learning of concepts.) I have one kid who rocks out on all measures of achievement and one who has challenges (but who I still think is VICKIT SMAHT, as we said in RI) and I see how this mode of pedagogy does right by both of ’em.

Anyway, I wish the MY KID IS GIIIIIIIIIIIFTED people would recognize the very real gifts their kids could receive from kids who are not like their GIIIIIIIFTED little blossom.

Now go donate some money to Chai Lifeline. Theenks.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Aronson August 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm

YEEEEEESSSSSS! I was going to write a lot more but it’d be redundant.

Lexie August 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I am appalled by these comments. Gifted children are at real risk of underachievement, depression, dropping out of school, and having other at risk behaviors. You seem to not understand the population at all. The gifted brain actually looks different on a CT scan than other brains and these children have legitimate special needs. Please become more informed.

Christine August 19, 2010 at 5:17 am

Mazel tov to you too. Sounds like you found the perfect school for your kid. Why are you so angry at everyone else?

Cheryl August 19, 2010 at 5:35 am

Is part of “genuinely celebrates difference” denying that a difference exists? Sure, there are kids labeled “gifted” for whom an advantaged background made the difference vs. those just below any arbitrary cutoff. But there also are some “gifted” kids who have very clear learning differences, and without a learning environment that addresses those differences they face real challenges.

I’ve read to lots of of young kids. Some squirm and leave after 5 minutes. Some like to be read to all the time. And a few memorize the words, decode the sounds letters must make, and can pick up chapter books they’ve never seen before and read them to you – at age 2. No phonics, no nothing, just figuring it out for themselves just by being read to. Think that kid is just “advantaged” or perhaps wired a bit differently?

Joyful August 19, 2010 at 5:49 am

Well, I’m speechless.
Who do you think is going to solve the world’s problems while you are enjoying that all can live together in harmony? That’s when you will wish that you EDUCATED my child and didn’t just tell him or me to sit down and shut up.

Alli August 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

Let me get this straight. Your plan for dealing with parents of gifted children is to : A. Cut the parents down to size and inform them about how gifted their child isn’t, and B. Direct everyone to create for themselves, or find , a privileged public school classrom like the one your own “driven, perfectionistic, hyper-competitive high-achiever” attends?
Do overzealous parents exist who push their kids into a gifted program? Sure, and they make a very bad name for those who do have true issuse with their gifted childen in teh classroom. Do parents exist who have their child labeled as “LD” in order to get the services to make it easier for thier child? Absolutely. Does this mean that neither gifted nor LD children exist? No, it does not.It means that teh system is broken. I know you were encouraged by the apparent success in Madison, but understand that it still may not be a good fit for everyone. No program is. You yourself chose not to put your own child into the gifted program, but rather to go with another kind of program that seems to be working.
I encourage you to do some research. (Please start with this site: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org . It is the single best aggregate source on all things gifted. Also, you may want to visit the SENG website at http://www.sengifted.org/index_orig.shtml, which deals with very real emotional issues of being gifted.)
That being said, Just because you have come to the conclusion that your child does wonderfully in his or her current environment does not mean the rest of the population does not exist or will fare as well. I do applaud you for finding a school that works with and for your child, but you are also extremely privileged to be in the middle of the affluent NYC, Jewish ( Admittedly a self-selecting population for giving a sh** about education in general! ) and a successful writer.
It’s ironic that you rail against gifted kids’ parents while supporting an article about an inclusive classroom. You are upset that the parent of the “gifted” child did not get all warm and fuzzy over the inclusion classroom in Madison. Did you ever stop and think this type of classroom has been hell for this person’s child? Imagine being in a Fourth Grade classroom, able to read, comprehend and adore Shakespeare, and made to read “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, a book that you read and loved at FOUR. It’s a great book, there’s no doubt, but to slow it down and take weeks to complete that book in class is likely to be absolute torture. That isn’t an upper-middle-class-style brag, it’s a very real scenario. After being forced, year after year, to go through this kind of scenario, how well do you think this child will feel about being “tolerant”? These children do exist. YES, they may have a problem relating to the kids in the class, every bit as much as a child who is chronologically 9y/o and intellectually 2 y/o. I think the point here is that an “inclusion” class should strive to take into account EVERYONE’S strengths, not strive to create a mythical statistical average by including one kid with an IQ of 160 and one child with severe MR. The current plan does not even logically follow, as children are so much more than numbers and quizzes, yet these are the measures by which these decisions are being made.
Should we all have the exact same job? Are you wonderful at writing? Absolutely! Is someone else wonderful at Physics? Absolutely! Should we “include” you in applied physics portion of the Space Shuttle program at NASA, for instance? Does that make a whole lot of sense ? Of course not. Why should children’s classes work any differenty? Teaching tolerance is more than simply including intellectual levels within a classroom. I applaud that your child has a multi-age class. Let’s make that just one of the criteria for an inclusion class. I reject the notion that standards of education must be relaxed in order to teach inclusion and tolorance. Specials classes such as art, gym, music and theater are also perfect breeding grounds for the kind of group work and team-building that kids need in order to formulate thier own inclusive society later in life. Perhaps thiers will surpass our own, something we could all use.
I propose that we actually work together on this to create what’s best for everyone, very real “gifted” children included . Slinging mud on a blog is not likely to help us achieve that end, nor is it likely to help any child find a classroom as great as what you apparently have the good fortune to be able to find for your own child.

Rachel August 19, 2010 at 6:37 am

I taught in NYC’s public schools for over ten years. Special needs kids get support outside the classroom from an array of therapists and many have an aide sitting next to them throughout the school day. And so they should. If gifted kids were offered this kind of differentiation, maybe it would make sense for them to stay in mainstream classes. What they get is a few massively oversubscribed programs located in upper middle class neighborhoods. Most working class gifted children are left high and dry. I worked with many of them – one of my 9th graders had memorized the entire script of Romeo and Juliet. She’d also lost both parents to AIDS and was growing up in a violent project. I offered to help her apply to the High School for Music and Art but, ironically, she was afraid to leave her neighborhood.

The parents of middle and upper class gifted kids may well be annoying. Please don’t take your anger at them out on a population of very under-served children. Gifted programs need to be expanded, not dismissed as elitist.

Jane August 19, 2010 at 7:07 am

It’s really a shame when otherwise intelligent writers miss the mark like this. I think this particular article is both precious and irresponsible. I agree with everything Lexie said, and would add the following:

The “gifted” spectrum is as broad as the “special needs” spectrum. Just as there are “special needs” kids at the middle and upper end of the spectrum who can benefit from mainstreaming, so there are “gifted” kids at the lower and middle end of the spectrum who can benefit from mainstreaming. But profoundly “different” children in either cohort do not necessarily benefit from mainstreaming, nor is it in their best interests to become social-experiment “pets” for their classmates, menschy or otherwise.

If you’ve never experienced the highly asynchronous development that comes with profound giftedness, I can understand your personal bias. But just as with “special needs” kids, there’s a clinical difference between “bright and motivated” and “gifted.” FWIW public magnet schools that serve the gifted also have seats to fill, and a social/political agenda of inclusiveness that does *not* best serve the profoundly gifted. Whether your own “high-achieving” child is bright and motivated or somewhere else along the gifted spectrum, who knows. But don’t conflate your personal choices, rants against whiny entitled parents, and the very real needs of gifted children in the classroom and out.

Jamie August 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

It’s views like this that I run into everyday that have kept my son in a grade where instead of blossoming he’s slowly wilting. Gifted kids need special instruction just as kids at the other end of the intelligence range do. I would never, ever tell a parent of a kid that needed extra help with learning that they needed to just suck it up and put their kid in a “normal” classroom and deal with it. Why is it acceptable for people to say that about gifted children then?

I did read to my child a lot as a young kid and still do but that didn’t make him gifted. Sure, it’s possible that he read earlier than most kids his age but that in itself doesn’t make a child gifted. If a parent doesn’t read to their child and the child has a learning disability would you assume it’s because the child wasn’t read to? I doubt that anybody would say that. It would be because that’s how the child was born and it’s the same for gifted kids.

Jenn August 19, 2010 at 7:54 am

I’m so sick and tired of having to kowtow, apologize, be calm and reasonable to you self-righteous, whiny witches who think every mother of a gifted child is some kind of overzealous stage mom. I hope some mother of a GIIIIIFTED child smacks you upside the head!

Grinity August 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

“I’m blessed to have kids in a progressive, truly diverse, mixed-age public school in Manhattan’s East Village, where the teachers are supported in teaching to kids with different ages and different levels of accomplishment.”

You have no idea how blessed you are. I think your energy would be better spent talking about the benefits of multiage, multi level classes than knocking parents who say their kids are gifted.

Since there is no accepted definition of giftedness in children, then it’s silly to blame parents for using the word. It’s nice that you acknowledge that there are kids with special educational needs that are unlikely to be met in single age, single level of accomplishment classes that make up the vast majority of our public schools – but when you lay blanket criticism on parents you drown out the good of that acknowledgement with nasty attack.

I’m glad that you have a school that works for your children. Stop bragging about how you turned down the Gifted Program that your children were offered. Parents of who are raising gifted kids with special educational needs recognize that a multiage, multi-achievement level classroom is a much better fit for more highly gifted kids that a program that meets an hour or two a week and aims at the ‘average’ gifted kid. In fact, each gifted child has unique needs, and there need to be lots of alternatives – as you know, yourself, from raising a twice exceptional kid.

So enjoy your glass house, and find a better use for your stones than busting parents who think that their kids are gifted. Just because you are more intelligent than the parents of kids who are in the top 5% doesn’t give you the right to harshly criticize parents of kids in the top 5%. Just because your kids’ educational needs might be even greater than the average needs of a kid in a ‘top 5%’ gifted program doesn’t make those other kids not gifted, nor does it make the programs unuseful to those average gifted kids.

If you are interested in learning more about giftedness in general, and how the levels of giftedness affect one’s experience of gifteness, I recommend:

Five Levels of Gifted
School Issues and Educational Options (368 pages.)
by Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D.

Formerly titled Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind, this award-winning book describes differences within the gifted population. http://www.giftedbooks.com/productdetails.asp?id=136

Peace,
Grinity

John White August 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

I agree there are a lot of advantaged kids out there, but there is also a great population of truly gifted children who are not being served. Having them teach the slower children does not reinforce their learning. They got it the first time. Please read “Genius Denied” by Jan and Bob Davidson (Simon and Schuster) for another perspective.

Janet Hoo August 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

I think this article brings up some interesting points. If you look at a child with a development delay, 87% will have an IQ in the 60-70 point range. That is a 30-40 point difference between that child an an average child. Does that mean they cannot learn? Of course not. Does that mean they should not be in a typical school or a typical class? No, it means they require adaptations to help them meet their full potential. That might be in the form of an aide, extra time on a test, tutoring, etc. If you then take a child who is superior they will have an IQ over 12o and a highly gifted child will have an IQ over 140. Is it not reasonable to say that if a child has a 30 point difference on one side, than a child who has a 30 point difference in the other direction will require support as well? Having a truly gifted child with an IQ over 140 requires the same support and intervention as a developmentally delayed child. People don’t tend to realize anytime you get over 25-30 IQ points outside the norm you are dealing with a special or unique situation that requires care, compassion and learning from everyone who touches that child’s life.

Alice Brown August 19, 2010 at 10:05 am

I have been around exactly the type of parent you are describing with such hostility, and they irritate me, too. In my case, it is because my daughter is profoundly gifted, meaning that she is very different from the general population, and parents expressing class anxiety and manipulating class advantages by pressuring their kids and then claiming they are gifted make it even more difficult for parents like me to help children like mine. It’s also true that the United States is fundamentally an anti-intellectual culture. It would be better if ambitious parents could just say, I’m going to make sure my child is going to work twice as hard as everybody else’s, so place them accordingly. Many gifted classes function exactly that way. They don’t reflect the different needs of those whose brain function is actually significantly faster and more robust; they just give a ton of homework. Those classes work for hard-working, bright children, but sometimes make things worse for extremely intelligent kids, for whom the pacing is too slow and the content too low-level — but now they have no free time to feed their brains outside of school. As with college degrees, many people seek the label, because it opens doors, rather than desiring the process.

There is a wide range of intelligence in the human population. It simply isn’t true that everybody is born with exactly the same IQ, and only those with the resources and advantages to pour into their children end up with children functioning intellectually beyond the norm. Yes, I read to my daughter when she was little. But most two year olds don’t crave the books she did, don’t ask the questions she did, and don’t read 700 page novels on their own in preschool. (Believe me, we checked, she understood what she was reading.) Children like my daughter are unusual. But don’t they, also, deserve an education, to be embraced, to be accepted? She pretended not to know how to read when she got to preschool and realized that none of the other kids could do it. It started her down a long road of hiding, and feeling very bad about herself, with teacher after teacher making it very clear to her that if she revealed herself and her capabilities in class, they would punish her. Is that a desirable outcome to you?

Yes, lots of parents claim that their child is gifted when they are merely bright and advantaged. But there are also exceptionally intelligent children who are in some cases psychologically destroyed by the school system, and our culture’s unwillingness to accept them. Is there room in your buzz for them?

Plenty of my daughter’s friends have learning disabilities or other exceptionalities, including autism. Some of them are also exceptionally intelligent. She embraces the totality of them as people. Would you, as well, or only the parts that make you feel better about yourself?

Jill August 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

Marjorie,
I usually love your insightful, funny articles. Glad your daughter has the best of both worlds – the social diversity, opportunity to appreciate differences, and the challenge she needs at her school. Not sure you realize how rare this is, with public school teachers pressured to “teach to the test” and also not having the intellectual freedom to veer away from standard grade-level curriculum in math and language arts for the bulk of the day. I’ve seen my “gifted” (I prefer the term, “learns without needing half of the mind-numbing repetition that he is forced to sit through”) child go from a kid excited about learning to one who sees school as pointless except for recess, lunch, and specials. Not sure you realize how common it is for the kids who learn to suck-up the drudgery and not complain to then be chastized for things like reading a book hidden in the desk during lessons where they already know the material. I saw this several times with different teachers as a classroom volunteer for math. Luckily, I’ve made peace with being labelled as “one of those parents” as soon as I advocate for my “giiiiifted” (but not always blossomy) child.

Parents, trust your instincts and ignore condescending insinuations that complaints about your academically gifted child not learning in the classroom implies that you don’t want them to socialize with anyone as brilliant as him/her. Or that you don’t appreciate the gifts, academic and otherwise, that every child has to offer. Here’s a good article:

http://www.terra.es/personal/asstib/articulos/padres/padres5.htm

Rondii Lynberg August 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

“very few “gifted” kids are actually, y’know, GIFTED. They’re ADVANTAGED. I don’t deny that there are genuinely gifted kids out there, but sorry…I’ll wager that YOURS ISN’T”

I’d like some clarity about where you believe “gifted” starts and “advantaged” ends. I believe that my profoundly “gifted” child is as learning dis-abled by a typical school as those of a “special needs” child. The “special needs” child gets additional funding and support to optimize their learning. They have professional, legal, and parental advocates working for them. They are truly met where they are, and their growth is encouraged both from an educational and a social point of view. My “gifted” kid gets diddly from the public schools in terms of additioal funding (it all got stripped in the recent rash of budget cuts.) She’s put on display for what she knows; a miniature trivial pursuit or spelling bee quiz by both age “peers” and adults. She’s ridiculed for what she doesn’t know by parents trying to make themselves feel better about their own children’s accomplishments. The odds of coming across a kid like my daughter are 1 in 250,000, while the odds of coming across a “special needs” kis is on average about 1 in 500.

A little more than lip-service to the ideas of your kids’ school might be in order.

Linda August 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

While I’m sure that the parents you describe exist, showing only one side of the issue in such an extreme and derisive way hurts those children who truly are gifted and are not getting their needs met by our public school system. It also seems that you haven’t actually met any of these children, because if you had you would be more informed about the impossibility of achieving such truly high giftedness through mere advantage, as you put it. Certainly, there are gifted kids who have more opportunities to have their needs met because their parents can afford private programs, etc., and that leaves behind some very talented children who will have no chance to develop their gifts. Articles like yours hurt our efforts to educate our educators about meeting the needs of all gifted kids in our public schools, therefore hurting those gifted kids who are least advantaged.

Mommydoc August 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

I think that there are alot of annoying people who are looking for us to “ooh and aah” about their kids. I used to lump those parents right in with the parents of gifted kids because…well, I had not been in their shoes. But I now realize that the parents of gifted kids are just like all other parents. They are just looking for an appropriate education for their kids and for other people to accept the kids as they are. There are annoying people among them but there are humble people, quiet people, and truly helpful and compassionate people among them.

As a pediatrician I have worked extensively with families dealing with medical illnesses, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. These families are struggling and need our understanding and help. Well, there are gifted kids who are cognitively living in a world drastically outside the norm with IQs more different from the average IQ than any other included LD kid within the classroom. I work to advocate for accomodations for a child with an IQ of 75 and now I understand that the child who is 50-70 points on the other side of “normal IQ” needs accomodations too.

It is fairness and compassion that we need. We need to work together. The same curriculum will not do for all kids and we need to embrace the individual needs and contributions of kids of all learning types.

Thanks for starting this discussion but keep it going!

MM August 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

It’s a cheap shot, and unworthy, to compare accelerated learners with children who are special needs in their development. ALL children deserve our love and attention and the proper education, and there should be no comparisons made between types of learners. This is a very mean-hearted essay that attempts to sway people’s minds by showing a large photo of a special needs child to make a point about… what, exactly? That special needs kids are better than gifted learners? Isn’t that just as bad to say that? This is not an either/or case. NO child is more special than another. They all have particular needs that should not be ignored whether they are accelerated learners or not. Please don’t put them against each other so heartlessly.

Michael D. August 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

You know, I agree that there are some parents who “squawk endlessly about their kids being gifted” whose kids may or may not be gifted. Or “gifted.” Or GIFTED… or even GIIIIIIFTED. (Color me crazy, but am I correct in thinking that you dislike the term?) And without question, these squawkers make life difficult for non-squawkers (like me) who are just working to provide a meaningful and appropriate education for our own children within a system that largely — if not completely — ignores the special needs of children with advanced intellectual development.

I’m not sure why you chose to drag economic situations into your argument, but in the real world of the gifted/”gifted”/GIFTED/GIIIIIFTED child, financial status doesn’t really matter a whole hill of beans — especially not within the middle- & upper-middle-classes you specifically mentioned. I’ve met parents from a variety of income levels (some even driving those horrific SUVs or worse) and the challenges we face are strikingly similar. Money helps in some cases, but not all. Oddly, some of the most ignorant educators reside within schools where, frankly, the vast majority of us non-squawkers couldn’t even contemplate enrolling our child.

I have cousins, nieces and nephews who are part of the special needs community and I’ve seen first-hand the trials they face in obtaining an appropriate education. At the same time, however, I’ve encountered just as many “squawkers” within that group, whose kids aren’t what the parents claim, and these noisy posers cause just as much difficulty for the non-squawkers in their particular subset of the educational community.

In the end, the difficulties encountered by parents of children at either extreme of the bell curve aren’t really at odds with each other. The desire for appropriate classroom experiences with meaningful challenges is no different. Yet spending double the amount to mainstream an autistic child is rarely (if ever) publicly questioned, while asking for low- or zero-cost accommodations such as subject acceleration, grade-skipping — or — *gasp* (the most-hated and eeeevil) ability-grouping for the gifted/”gifted”/GIFTED/GIIIIIFTED child is considered an affront to all of humanity. Sorry, but that’s a load of bupkes if you ask me.

Kim B. August 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Congratulations on having a pleasantly gifted, easily accommodated child. Not all kids *are* GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFTED, sure, but not all gifted kids would benefit from your classroom utopia either. Some kids are 5, 6 or 7 years accelerated from their same-aged classmates…maybe more! Are you saying it’s fair for my kid to sit in a classroom and not learn a single new thing all year, every year, so that another kid can benefit from his instruction? I believe that’s called an unpaid teacher’s assistant. Your knowledge of gifted may squeak you by at home, but you don’t speak for the entire community.

Helen R August 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

As the parent of 3 gifted children, one of whom is also special needs, I am saddened by your post. I dread the question “where do your kids go to school”, because we have to incur tuition costs at a special school for gifted children. My kids travel an hour round trip because they encountered hostility like yours from some teachers.
I hope you never have to experience what I did so my kids could come home smiling after school.

Christine Dokko August 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm

This post has been circulating among the supporters of the “SPEEESHAL” population, and Snarly hon, you’re not making any friends there. Not all of us are lucky enough/can afford to live in places where we have access to schools like your kids go to, where it sounds like parents can kick back and relax. More to the point, in most states, teachers aren’t required to have any gifted training and even with the best intentions may have no idea what to do with a student who learns in one iteration what it takes most others six iterations to learn. (That’s not a random number – it’s supported by research. And giftedness is not the same as doing well on tests and has nothing to do with getting a head start from being read to -it’s wiring.) Even if teachers have a clue, are they supported by administration? are they compensated in any way for the extra time and work they have to put in? We’ve made a policy decision in this country to put our dollars into weak learners instead of strong learners, so it falls to parents to pick up the slack. It would be great to improve schools for all kids, but parents need to speak up for their own. Why are you blaming us for that? I would have thought a parent would have more sympathy, though I’d settle for respect.

Stacy Wright August 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm

“I don’t deny that there are genuinely gifted kids out there, but sorry…I’ll wager that YOURS ISN’T.”
Ok, so you’re making that wager… What about when you’re wrong? What about the kids who are as far off the chart in the gifted direction as the kids in the special needs direction? Why is a child with a far below-average IQ labeled as having “special needs” while a child with a far above-average IQ not given the same special treatment?
I’m don’t want to personalize, but you said your daughter qualified for a gifted program that you chose not to have her attend. That’s certainly your right, but I’d wager that your child was in the 120-130 range, which is what qualifies for “gifted” in most public schools. What about the child with the 160 IQ? That child is as far from your daughter as she is from “average.”
I agree that there are way too many people who think their kids are “gifted.” But you are being very dismissive of what is a real need – and a tragedy. We should be nourishing our brightest kids – they’re not any better than anyone else, but they could be the leaders of our nation – the people who cure cancer – we have no idea what we’re stifling when we make school oppressive and boring and redundant and tortuous and no fun and a place where you never learn and… am I boring you? Did you get the point the first time I said it? Maybe you have some idea of what school is like for some kids.
Be a mensch. Care about all of the yeladim. Shalom.

shaun August 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm

This makes me so sad.

There are so many facts to share about giftedness, so many bad words to use.

For us, the whole point of gifted education is to give our “precious little weenies” a challenge rather than letting them float through school with no effort. The contradictory belief you present in this blog post always puzzles me: So parents of gifted kids want harder and faster programs for their kids because they want everything to be easy for their kids?

And the basis for your diatribe against gifted education is what? That in your neighborhood you found a school that’s good for your smart kids? That even if there are genuinely gifted kids, you’ve met some annoying parents over the years? That you have some gut feeling that you know more about other people’s kids than they do? I’m pretty sure that tip number one in the progressive parenting handbook isn’t “Whatever is true for you and your family is true for everyone else, and those who disagree deserve your derision.”

Granted, I have no idea what East Village parents are like, as there no chance in hell our family could ever have the money to live in Manhattan. If you want to play the “gifted means elitist and overprivileged” card, maybe next time don’t lead with your fabulous progressive school in a super-expensive city many people can’t afford to visit. Just a suggestion.

Tski August 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It is evident by your writing that you do not have an understanding at all of what it means to be a gifted person. Yes, some gifted kids do come from middle-class families but gifted kids are in every socioeconomic level and every ethnicity. Gifted kids have REAL social, emotional and intellectual NEEDS that are as different from average kids as the special needs kids at the other side of the bell curve. Parents of gifted kids have learned that unless they are pushy and advocate for their kids, the kids and their needs will be ignored. Would you tell the parent of a special needs kid to “shut up”? Of course not, because it feels good to help someone that has an obvious disability but to help someone who may indeed be stronger intellectually than you is intimidating. It is obvious that you feel threatened by gifted children and their families probablly because your child isn’t truly gifted but was identified by some arbitrary measure set up by the school.

sorry August 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I agree with Lexie, I’m afraid to say. I have a kid that is “really” gifted. If we need a more politically correct term we could say cognitively hyper-active. Not fond of the term gifted myself. Being gifted is a mixed bag. My son was depressed and physically ill in a regular classroom. I was clinically depressed my entire elementary school career. We feel like outcasts in a sea of our own peers. I love diversity. My kids live in an urban area and they live it and breathe it every day. BUT that doesn’t mean they should sit in a classroom and learn nothing and feel like some sort of freak day after day after day. And that is literally what happened to my son all through kindergarten and first grade. We eventually made the difficult decision to homeschool.

Yes, I did read to my kids and play with them. But no more than any other parent, and in many cases much, much less. My kindergartener still reached 5th to 6th grade reading level without being taught. He still understood conceptual fraction operations and algebra. He still wanted to talk about death and politics and global warming and wars. He would find patterns in the trees as he walked down the street. He hit the ceiling of the IQ screener at school, and was placed with other high achieving kids working generally at grade level for maybe 30 minutes a day. I wish I could drop him off every day at a public school where he could mix with kids of all types and have his academic and emotional needs met. I’m afraid I have yet to find that public school. For now, it’s homeschool for us. There are kids out there who do need something different. Glad you found a fit for your children. But I wouldn’t pigeon hole every parent who calls their child gifted as a hot housing stage parent.

Elisabeth August 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm

This is so discouraging. Why are you mocking kids who deal with different educational issues. Great, your gifted child did great in a normal school. Hooray. What about those of us with children who didn’t? We aren’t whiners or “advantaged” (oh, that I was seriously “advantaged…) but dealing with real learning differences. Your callus attitude and assumption of snobbery in gifted parents is flat disheartening for those of us who’ve watched our children come home sad every day due to being held in classes that were way behind them. It’s cruel. Please be compassionate.

Elisabeth August 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm

and just so you know and consider it- it’s really not fun to “get” to be the unfortunate kid who’s ahead and “teaching” the other children endlessly instead of getting more real learning time. Worse, teachers like to insist on a positive attitude while the child is forced to teach slower classmates instead of moving forward and getting finished or learning the things that interest them. It’s not right when it happens day in and day out for years. And it does!

Princess Mom August 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I think you’ve missed the point. The parent was referring to a single teacher’s ability to teach twelve grade levels of English/math/social studies in a single classroom. Why twelve grade levels? That’s the spread of achievement you will likely have in a classroom which combines children with IQs ranging from two standard deviations below average to two standard deviations above. (And those two standard deviations don’t even account for the 1 in 10,000 child with an IQ above 145, who might be sitting in that same classroom.)

My children all benefitted emotionally and socially from attending the inclusion school in our district. But they did not benefit *academically.* And don’t we send them to school for the academics?

Suki Wessling August 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I’m sorry your interaction with parents of “gifted” kids has made you bitter, but perhaps you need to retool your point of view by doing a little reading. I highly recommend http://sengifted.org. This is where I ended up when my bright little girl couldn’t seem to function in a classroom. I educated myself because I had to. Yes, there are those icky parents who have really annoyed you, but you and I know that they should just be ignored, right? Look instead at kids whose neuro-atypical development makes them “special needs” in a different part of the spectrum. I believe a brilliant teacher can teach a multi-level class, but kids like these have special needs that most teachers have no background in. Most of us with special needs kids in this part of the spectrum just encounter ugly, nasty opinions like yours instead of understanding and compassion. If your daughter is doing fine in a multi-age classroom with a teacher who has no training in gifted psychology, then that’s great. But that doesn’t mean that my daughter would be thriving, or any of the other kids I read about every day. Yes, “advantage” can do a lot, but it doesn’t create a brain so atypical that the child’s learning is off the curve entirely — in both directions. Kids with special needs deserve understanding. Parents of those kids are already living a difficult enough life — you don’t need to feel the responsibility to push that knife in any further.

Alice August 20, 2010 at 2:39 am

While I agree that the term “gifted” can be mis-applied to kids that, as you state, really are not, your ignorance of the truly gifted community is very disappointing. And your insults to this community are intolerable. I cannot imagine you saying comparable things about, say, blind children or kids with autism. The fact is – gifted kids are just as real as those children. And should be treated with the same respect and concern for an appropriate education. Please inform yourself.

PG August 20, 2010 at 4:19 am

Wow! By admitting that ” As I’ve written a gazillion times, she got into a gifted program…….” – you are BRAGGING (or bragged a gazillion times by your OWN admission) about your kid being GIFTED – a premise you wish to deunk. You need to get your logic checked. I am sure yours is one of those ‘gifted’ kids that are just SPEEESHAL to their parents. There are seriously gifted kids out there, but you need to be one to know one.

theresa jones August 20, 2010 at 5:20 am

Why are you not posting the well documented, well written responses? Please re-think your stance. It’s OK to be wrong, and better to have an open mind.

Chris August 20, 2010 at 10:10 am

Some of my biggest regrets as a parent are my memories of rash, harsh judgments I passed on other parents.

For example, I used to think that the people with screaming children in stores were rude and/or abusive parents. HA! I learned pretty quickly that when a 2-4 yo wants to throw a fit in a public place there’s really not much you can do about it but drag them out quickly (and that it wasn’t a reflection upon my BAD parenting… it was just normal life with a toddler!)

Similarly, I thought parents of “gifted” kids were just bragging and wanted special NOTICE paid to their kids. Truth is…some are! But, I’m betting 95% of those parents with kids rating on the 130+ IQ range just want to get by and keep their kids from dropping out (mentally if not physically) from school. Just like any other parent they want their kids to be happy and successful in life. They don’t want to take away from the experience of other kids in the class with different needs and in fact most of these parents of gifted kids want the best for all and have kids with multiple needs (learning difficulties and gifted.)

I don’t know what classroom works best for your kids, or disabled kids, gifted kids or average kids. I just know that passing judgment and making really negative statements about how other folks are trying to help their children will benefit no one in the long run. Constructive criticism is always a good thing, but name calling and judging are some of the first lessons I taught my kid to avoid!

Andrea August 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

There are several comments that have been submitted by friends of mine with which I quite strongly agree. Unfortunately, they disagree with the author on most, if not all, points. So they are “awaiting moderation” despite the fact that no profanity or otherwise inappropriate language was used. Does Ms. Ingall fear criticism? Please post all points of view where appropriate language is used. Thank you.

Julie August 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

You have so much emotion behind your article. I’m curious what negative experiences you’ve had with the whole GT world.

I, for one, will tell you, I did not create giftedness in my children. They taught themselves to read at age 3 and 4. I had never introduced anything but counting, and my daughter figured out division with remainders when she was 4. What do you do with that???????????????????

Why in the world, would you not want the optimal education possible for such potential future leaders!!!! Is the idea to keep everyone at an average level of education so that we never have educated leaders. Good grief, that’s just foolish. Each and every child should have a right to develop to their full potential!

Our local district does almost nothing for science and social studies. So, I have opted to teach my kids about social injustice and how to contribute to making our world a more just place. Such educational values need to passed on to these future leaders!

Most GT kids, if unchallenged will not learn the study skills they need to succeed (most of life is about hard work, not just about catching on quickly). They need to learn to use their gifts to better the world they live in.

If left unchallenged, most GT kids become depressed and anxious.

It makes absolutely no sense to deprive them of opportunities for learning that they are crying out for! I couldn’t satiate my kids if I tried. I DON’T push them; they push me constantly for more learning.

We are not talking about kids with 120 IQ’s who are hard working. God bless them, they will do just as well in life, but it is not hard to meet their needs in a traditional classroom. I am talking about kids with 140+ IQ’s. You have no idea what that requires as a parent, as a society. We have just as much responsibility to these kids in our society as we do to special needs kids!

Are GT kids more valuable than non GT, my word no, but they should have the same opportunity to be challenged at their level as does the rest of the world!

True statistical research studies show your inflammatory opinions to be highly uneducated about the needs of GT kids!

Julie August 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm

P.S. I am sick and tired of being expected to apologize for my kids being smart. I won’t do it anymore. If you have a prejudice against gifted kids, that is your problem. I am so sick and tired of being attacked with snotty comments like, “we don’t push our kids”, implying my kids do well because we push them. I have never pushed my kids. Again, they push me for more and more and more academic satiation, and they are never satiated. I am sick and tired of the negative prejudice! I have never looked down my nose or judged others’ parenting for having kids that are not gifted!

NVizeon August 20, 2010 at 7:24 pm

You wrote this:

“I don’t deny that there are genuinely gifted kids out there”

At least you have one thing correct!

Lisa August 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm

wow… you are very mis-informed (as well as uniformed) about gifted kids and their needs… and that’s very sad. It’s very sad (and a bit firghtening) when educators in this country do not understand giftedness… do your homework on the subject, please, before spouting off…

K.Johnson August 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm

How wonderful for your child and for you that there is a school which works well for your family. Now, try to imagine working in a situation where you are told hourly, if not more often, to sit down and shut up whenever you ask a complicated question, or engage in conversation that doesn’t fit into the program for the day because you have 35 colleagues who might have questions, too. Or, maybe imagine finding that the only person in the room who understands your jokes is your supervisor (teacher). Maybe you get 10 minutes of instruction on a job you are assigned, and then sent to a noisy corner to work individually (with your other 35 colleagues) for another 10 minutes before the next job is sent your way. How about having a teacher who says, “Having your child in class is just like having another adult in the room!” at age 8.

The reality of public schools is that there are too many children jammed into too-small rooms with too few staff and too many curriculum requirements. Private schools have leeway to pick and choose the demographic they wish – usually just a tad above the middle. The mother who spoke of her concern for the children in the wide range of abilities was not putting down the “special-ed” kids, nor elevating the gifted kids. The teachers must teach to the largest group in the class, and this is just about the middle. By law, they are required to make special arrangements for the students at the lowest achievement levels, but seldom is anything done for the kids with the highest potential. There simply is not enough time, nor enough staff.

Diversity programs seem to be all about appearance but not of substance, and diversity of MIND is simply not accepted. NOBODY asks to be “gifted,” and far too many children and adults drink themselves to average-ness to avoid the bullying and disparaging attitudes you present. Lastly, if your child is perfectionistic, there are a number of good books to help your family recover from this debilitating arrangement, and some well-trained therapists to help you in your recovery.

Mary August 21, 2010 at 12:45 am

Please do additional research including consulting http://www.sengifted.org/index_orig.shtml regarding the emotional NEEDS (not wants or desires) of gifted children before publishing any additional articles on this subject. I truly hope that you didn’t realize how damaging and hurtful this is.
You are indeed blessed that “this set-up has been a blessing for my driven, perfectionistic, hyper-competitive high-achiever.” A child of her temperment (whether he or she is gifted or not) is likely to flourish in most envirionments. However, this is most certainly not the case for all or even most gifted children.
People need to understand that all children have a right to learn how to learn. The theory that the “more accomplished kids can teach the younger ones, which research shows can help solidify their own learning of concepts.” That may work well for typical learners, but what are the benefits to the child who has mastered the concepts years ago? It might be fun for a short while, but they have such thirst for knowledge and new concepts that they often will wither without new exposure. Why is taboo to suggest that we try to meet even some of the needs of a sensitive and eager group?
Again, please do more research.

Linda August 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

I second your opinions about diverse schools and have been an advocate for our International Baccalaurate elementary schools (which teach the tolerance and interdependence you speak of while engaging kids in proven learning). We chose to live in our district which is very diverse and has excellent schools. Our teachers have been truly awesome. I’ve volunteered in classrooms, was a substitute para-educator, served on the strategic plan team and more. As a Social Worker, I’ve worked with adults and kids in shelters, homes and agencies with a variety of troubles including mental illness, chemical dependency and rotten ‘luck’. As a mom, I started a Moms club chapter when my boys were little, taught at church and helped with Cub Scouts.
When my boys started having problems, despite their advantages and my involvement as an active stay-at-home parent, I sought out information and experts to pin down what was going on. I didn’t assume that I knew the answers, knew the causes or could prescribe the solution.
Thank heavens there are a lot of knowledgeable, informed people out there. Sadly, you are not one of them. I question what you base your very assertively stated, confident statements on. How big is your sample? Do you try to figure out why some people don’t agree and what to make of the discrepancies in your views? It is irresponsible and harmful to cut off inquiry and analysis (IB schools encourage these skills).
My boys are gifted, or ‘high-potential’, if you prefer. I am now going out of district to get a better fit for them. They are bored. Middle-school highly intelligent kids often underachieve in the wrong environment. They get depressed (think about spending your days in an unstimulating, repetitive environment). I love our cities schools and teachers. It is still not enough, even with some GT pull-out stuff. Nearby districts have been expanding their high-potential offerings and people are driving their kids to those schools if the fit is better. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have excellent schools.
You have ‘either/or’ thinking. You speak as though identifying people as ‘high-potential’ is a mutually exclusive set-up for everyone else. It can be a ‘both/and’ situation. People don’t question the vast range of physical, musical and artistic abilities for instance. You are stuck on the semantics of the term ‘gifted’. Please find a way to further this important discussion thoroughly instead of going off on a simplistic tangent.

JB August 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I was going to write a long rebuttal to the vitriolic drivel that resonated throughout this post, but on the way down to the comment box, read so many positive, enlightened, and reasoned comments about the need for gifted services that my visit to this URL has magically become a pleasant experience overall. Thank you to all those who understand what giftedness is and what it means, and do not seek to cut down either the treasure that is a gifted child or the parents who struggle to help that child grow in a hostile environment.

Joey September 1, 2010 at 7:27 am

The advantage you refer to that these “GIIIIIIIFTED” children have is one that every parent may give their child, including you. Even a poor family has the right to go in to a public library and borrow books for free, and I hope every family will take advantage of THAT!
It is shown that children who are read to more often develope reading and language skills faster and better than their counter parts simply because their exposure level is higher.
Don’t poo poo on parents who take an active interest in their childrens education from an early age, applaud them, more parents should be doing this! Stop relying so heavily on the teachers to mold them, be interested in your childs development and strive to encourage and facilitate their learning in any way you can.

marjorieingall September 1, 2010 at 9:51 am

If any of the GIIIIFTED moms are still reading, you might be interested (and presumably infuriated, though perhaps not, what do I know) in this week’s Tablet magazine column on inclusion: http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/43788/in-with-the-in-crowd/

Me September 26, 2010 at 5:53 am

If you don’t want to know my child’s status in school, if it makes you angry knowing my very different child consistently scores higher than yours, if you turn purple just hearing the word “gifted,” don’t want to hear that my child was accepted into the magnet or college of choice, that or that he/he scored an 800 on the SAT as a freshman in high school, then for heaven’s sake, stop asking. When you do, you force me to choose between a lie and the truth. I’ve considered lying, to protect you from the anguish, but it just isn’t in me to deceive. So I dance around and avoid using terms that incite and inflame. Ultimately, it is you who summons them forth, these distasteful words, you who utter them, demanding my confession, then later labeling me the braggart.

My kid’s not better than yours BTW, just different. Maybe someday you’ll accept that.

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