Gifted kids too often punished with mediocrity, advocate says
By Leah L. Culler
Gifted education is essential because developmentally advanced children are at risk in a society that prizes sameness, according to a licensed psychologist and advocate for gifted education.
Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman delivered a keynote address entitled "Why Do We Need Gifted Education?" to teachers at Edith Bowen Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. Silverman has been in the field for 40 years and said she has been fighting some of the same battles for the entire time.
"We need as much attention and concern (for gifted education) as we give any other special education group," she said.
Silverman said there are many parallels between giftedness and retardation. "They are opposite ends of the same coin," she said.
With both groups, Silverman said, the curriculum requires modification. Each standard deviation of intelligence is a totally different group and determines the programs needed for that particular group.
As with mental retardation, giftedness is not just a scholastic situation, she said.
"It affects all of life's experiences," Silverman said. "Giftedness is not a school-based phenomenon."
Gifted children experience differences in rates of development, she said. The physical, intellectual, emotional, social and skills aspects do not grow at the same rate.
"There is tremendous compassion and public sympathy for an individual with a 17-year- old body and a 9-year-old mind," she said. "But for the opposite, a 9-year-old body with a 17-year-old mind, (society is) not providing parents with anywhere near the support."
According to Silverman, opponents of gifted education argue that gifted children are economically advantaged. Silverman said this is not a function of economic advantage. Low socioeconomic and culturally diverse groups would suffer the most with the elimination of gifted programs, she said. These groups are totally dependent on public school systems while the economically advantaged have other alternatives.
Yet, Silverman said schools are not prepared to let children progress at their own rate.
"We're giving up excellence in the name of equity," she said. "Gifted children are discriminated against and punished for being guilty. School is essentially an unsafe place for gifted children to be."
In this new millennium, Silverman said society must realize that gifted students are needed.
"There is protection against racism," she said. "But not against thwarting intellectual growth."