Gifted and Talented

The school district in my town runs a prorgam called G&T for  elementary school students. Every year, a handful of kids get selected using some secret assessment criteria, with very limited parent insight.

For starters, G&T stands for Gifted and Talented program. I believe it does more harm than good for students and hence should be redesigned.

  1. Not so obvious, but the Gifted and Talented program is not very enriching for the children who get selected. Attaching a “Gifted” label is giving a false feedback to the children, who are attending those programs. When you start attaching labels such as innate (genetic) giftedness, kids could possibly grow a blind eye towards the importance of hard work. Studies after studies have found that educators and parents should be promoting hard work (“Well done Meena, you must have worked hard on that!”) instead of innate giftedness (“Wow! you did this! You are really smart, Johny!”). For example, Dweck and Mueller’s study found out that praising for hardwork encouraged fifth graders to persist longer and achieve better test results than the kids, who were praised for innate qualities such as smartness. (Those who are interested, here is an article for you – The Trouble with Bright Kids.)
  2. Obviously, G&T program is not so helpful for the students, who are not admitted to the program. At best, Gifted and Talented is a misnomer with some destructive qualities. Antonym for Gifted and Talented is Ungifted and Untalented, to figure which out, kids don’t have to be truly Gifted and Talented. For potentially benefiting a handful of children, we are jeopardizing the self esteem of the vast majority of others. The easiest but significant change the schools can make is to rename this program something else along the lines of, “Competitive Education Program”. But not Gifted and Talented – please.
  3. Moreover, Gifted and Talented is a statistically inaccurate description. In any given society, the number of “gifted” individuals is far and few. In a normally distributed dataset, you can’t expect to have 10-15% of the population displaying true giftedness. (What is true giftedness, anyway.)

Schools, teachers and educators should not be in the business of labeling and classifying their students. Instead, they should get busy building passion and perseverance in students right from their early stages of development.

It is October and the weather turns colder. It is also the time of the year, we have school board elections. This is something that the new board can consider changing as a first step.

Elementary School America is in a competition frenzy. Unfortunately for now, in a wrong headed fashion.