Public Perceptions of Gifted Children
Opinions on education are as numerous as the people being asked and can evoke some of the strongest emotions and reaction in any topic of public debate.
There tends to be extremely varied opinions pertaining to education for the gifted, not only in groups outside of the education system, but also within the education system. In fact, this can occur within the gifted education community!
Opinions may include:
- gifted students will succeed on their own
- gifted students should be part of the mainstream
- gifted programs are elitist
- gifted students enjoy being examples to/or teaching other students
These common misconceptions relate directly to the lack of knowledge about the characteristics and educational needs of the gifted learner. Public sympathy would be unanimous if a disabled child or perhaps a non-English speaking child was denied the proper educational foundation, but program enrichment and acceleration necessary for the gifted is often considered superfluous. “Why give gifts to the gifted?”
Providing appropriate programs for the gifted should not be perceived as elitism, but as necessity.
To create an elitist attitude, consider the outcome if a student was placed in a program they found unchallenging and found themselves to be the smartest in the class for twelve years. Never doing homework and yet acing exams without studying can inflate one’s sense of importance. However, when children of like ability are grouped together, they are regularly humbled by their peers, since no one individual student is the best in everything. All children, regardless of ability, should experience such competition and be challenged.
Parents of children who are gifted must be ever vigilant at advocating for their children and help discourage public myths, and misconceptions.
Problems may arise within the non-differentiated classroom because of the strengths of the gifted child
- Acquiring and retaining information quickly may result in impatience with the slowness of others.
- Critical-thinking abilities may lead to critical or intolerant views of others.
- Love of truth, equity and fair play may result in difficulty in being practical and cause worry about humanitarian concerns.
- Combinations of characteristics may lead to difficulties with peer relationships, perfectionism, avoidance of risk-taking and excessive self-criticism.
- Intense focus on areas of interest may lead to difficulty in moving on to new projects and activities.
Did you know?
In Alberta, a Registered Psychologist must assess and identify children with 'Special Needs', and this includes students who are gifted.
When a special need is identified, an educational 'code' is applied--Code 80 refers to Gifted and Talented. The GATE Program is 'Special Needs' education--it is not an 'alternative' program of choice, but often a necessity for these children to be successful.
School Boards must provide additional funding (above the base rate for typical students) to schools to address the needs of children coded as “80” (gifted). Schools must use this additional funding to supply special resources or accommodations to support the gifted learner.