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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Gifted Children Left Behind-Lost National Treasures For Societal Development

A new study indicates that 3.6 million students in the U.S. should be labeled gifted but are not and that is leaving the country's future intellectual and artistic capital untapped. A study by Purdue indicates that many gifted students are not receiving the services they need to excel (Gray, et.al. 2019). Better programs and research might help identify beyond the smart to the truly gifted that are capable of excelling to advanced levels. One must wonder what waste in exceptional human capital we are throwing into the piles of unfulfilled contributions to our national development?

The concept of giftedness is masked in mystery for the average person and often associated with madness, eccentric, and super intelligent. The U.S. does not do well in protecting this exceptional population but has become increasingly concerned that we are losing out on high talent for global competitiveness. We ignore their needs at our own peril.

Lets first discuss two definitions of giftedness taken from the study...

The U.S. Dept. of Education's definition....

Children and youth with outstanding talent perform or show the potential forperforming at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared withothers of their age, experience, or environment. These children and youth exhibithigh performance capability in intellectual, creative, and/or artistic areas, posean unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. They requireservices or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools.Outstanding talentsare present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economicstrata, and in all areas of human endeavor[emphasis added]. (U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], 19, p. 11).

Let's get rid of the concept of child and youth. While that applies to school definitions it doesn't apply to the entire life cycle. Certainly one can be gifted and 90, probably with mountains of insight and knowledge, but they would still be gifted despite not ever having formal education. Yet, finding them in youth allows for the best capitalization for long-term contribution to society. Since most of our kids go to school that is likely the best place to find them (i.e. the Internet might be another).

Next let us look at the National Association for Gifted Children's definition.....

Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude(defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documentedperformance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains.Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g.,mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting,dance, sports). (National Association for Gifted Children, 2000para. 5

It appears that there may be two major problems with the selection of giftedness as it relates to improper referrals and lack of culturally neutral biological markers. Thus, policy makers may be unsure of what it means to be gifted and the biological and psychological indicators that separated the gifted from the non-gifted but smart. Wrong referrals of wealthy schools and privileged backgrounds may be sucking the resources needed for gifted students.

Gifted people often process information differently which doesn't always translate into high grades. For example, straight A student may not be any more gifted than a C student. Straight A students give the answers they have learned from their books and teachers. The do really really well at memorizing and using information that has already been presented. A C student may be more gifted if he/she constructs new information that moves beyond the knowledge presented in the course but consistently under-performs. They may also be drawing information from multiple sources in life and reconstructing new understanding of basic class concepts.

So there are intelligence and performance variables that may not be in alignment. Typically gifted may or may not outperform others but carry with them the potential regardless of actual performance. When groomed they can outperform just about anything you have seen before and may be able to construct new knowledge beyond what science (or their class) has offered. That is one reason Einstein was a gifted genius...he sucked at school but excelled at new associations (The same can be said for Newton, Socrates, Leonardo, and others.)

So many teachers are giving wealthy students with nagging parents referrals to gifted programs because all of the family examples, tutors, happy shinny faces, hours spent studying, and encouragement leads to an A. While the rich may also have gifted children the poor gifted student sometimes comes from the hell of poverty, abuse, lack of role models, little quiet studying time and still performs at an exceptional level when the environment is right.

Giftedness is also a quantitative and qualitative difference in existence that themes throughout a persons life-cycle because of innate biological differences. They feel, think, perceive, understand and work in ways that others don't. They feel pain when people do bad things, and they see colors in ways that others may not see them. Senses can be higher and they may delve into the deep moral questions of life. Some can paint, some do music, and some solve math problems while others maybe able to pull data from their environment and build constantly updating models. Their biological development creates sensory depth that processes information it in different ways that leads to intuitive insight.

As a nation we should have a better understanding what giftedness is and what it isn't so as to develop to its full potential. Let's not confuse enrichment of the smart and the enrichment of the gifted as the same thing. Each species has a percentage of highly tuned offspring as a natural result of adaptation to their environment. They are like the small percentage of birds that can see an approaching fox way before the other birds or the chimpanzee that learns a new tool in a new way without an example. So we cannot develop gifted programs from intelligence tests and academic learning alone. There are other markers that should be considered so as to ensure that certain races and backgrounds are not excluded by ethnocentric sociocultural demographic blindness. We need better studies and more accurate measurements to develop our national treasures in science, art, music and technology. Genius and the tragic gift are most likely to be developed when the right environment is created.

I'm not delving into the ethical and moral implications of leaving the gifted to the wolves of conformity and self-seeking caretakers. I'm talking about finding our gifted, albeit a much smaller number than the "smart", and developing them in a way that leads to their personal self-fulfillment and national growth. As a nation, we are now competing with a world where information, data, and performance will be significant influences of national growth. Without selecting those with the best potential to master that environment and advance our society, capitalism and philosophies of freedom we will be limiting not only their potential but also the potential of the nation. We need their skills and abilities to invent, think and create in ways that advance our society to new heights.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. -Ernst. F. Schumacher

Gray, et. al. (2019) Gifted Education in the United States:Laws, Access, Equity, and Missingness Across the Countryby Locale, Title I School Status, and Race. Purdue University. https://www.dropbox.com/s/0lxzznnyh5u0jj1/Access%20Denied.pdf?_ga=2.150928054.1010582410.1595379513-1542347822.1595379513

It should be noted that Escanaba Polo Mallet Company is a good works company that supports orphans, horses in need and child enrichment programs. We are a small start-up with lofty goals. Please visit us and share at https://www.escanabapolomallet.com/

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