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The Tantrum: Is Gifted & Talented Evil & Shameful?

October 21st, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized


Before I delve too deeply into this topic, I’d like to take issue with the coverage Nathan’s post yesterday received on the New York Times’s City Room blog. Hardly fair to call it a “rant,” I think. Screed, yes. Potentially libelous of our city’s educators, possibly. Unhinged? You be the judge. But rant, I think not.

I don’t know that G&T programs are evil in and of themselves. I think the points Nathan made relate mostly to the inefficiencies of the the New York City educational system: it’s inefficient across the board, and frustrating, too, and there’s no reason to think G&T education would be an exception. These open meetings are impossible—filled with contradictory and, all too often, flat-out incorrect information.

But I also have concerns about the substance of these programs, largely with the testing age. It seems a rather accepted fact, or at least one I see anecdotally, that girls tend to develop at a younger age than boys. By testing at 4 years old, then, aren’t we providing a greater advantage to girls? I don’t have hard numbers on this (the DadWagon intern is taking the week off), but I would be surprised if there weren’t more girls than boys in NYC’s G&T program—and conversely more boys in special education.

Does this suggest that girls are more academically astute? I don’t know. You’d have to ask Hanna Rosin to get an answer to a question that absurd. But, and this is where I probably disagree with Nathan, I think there is an advantage to being in a G&T class in terms of resources and attention, even if it’s subtle (Nathan’s point being that there really isn’t any difference in terms of curriculum and class size). These are the children who are marked, from an early age, as the most deserving. Does that mean that entering G&T at age 4 is the ticket to Harvard? No. But it does mean that access to the program should be equitable (and not by gender—what about race and economic factors?).

Bottom line, my greatest unease with the testing is that it feels like yet another way in which the parents, even more than the kids, are being educated in the ways in which resources are scarce and have to be fought for. We know that the G&T program isn’t spectacular; we know that entering it signifies very little about the intellectual potential of our children; we know that the testing is inaccurate, that holding children to standards at such an early age is unfair, that supporting local schools provides the greatest good for the greatest number of children—and yet we still sign up for the testing.

Thus ends the lesson.

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