Dumbing Down America the War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds is the newest book from Dr. James R. Delisle. Dr. Delisle, thank you for agreeing to our interview. We at Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented are looking forward to reading your book.
Moderator: For our readers who are not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about your background in gifted education?
Dr. Delisle: I began my career in New Hampshire, as a teacher of children with intellectual and emotional disabilities way back in 1975. Special Ed. was just emerging as the force that it is today, so it was exciting to be in on what was then a new trend in education. My introduction to gifted children came in the form of one of my 5th graders who had been identified as “emotionally disturbed.” Try as I might to get Matt interested in schoolwork, nothing much seemed to work. He was a bright kid–he could read, write, do math, etc.–but I was focused so much on his misbehaviors and apparent lack of interest that I never considered using his talents as a way to reach his mind and heart. Finally, in total desperation and with my bag of educational tricks empty, I decided to stop fighting Matt and to toss the instructional ball into his court. This kid loved the outdoors and was interested in maple sugar farming–a project that involved much of his free time outside of school–so that became the vehicle I used to reach this unreachable kid.
Within days of aligning Matt’s out-of-school interests with my goals as his teacher, he began to progress, perform and take pride in his work. After two years of teaching Matt, and seeing his success when schoolwork aligned with his interests and intellect, I decided I needed to know more about teaching kids like him. So, I began a Ph.D. program in gifted child education, focusing on kids like Matt–gifted boys and girls who didn’t do well in school because school didn’t do well by them. I’ve been in this field of study ever since, as a teacher, professor, counselor, author and dad.
Moderator: The use of a ‘war’ metaphor in the title of your new book seems to indicate you have very strong feelings on the subject. What inspired you to write this book at this time?
Dr. Delisle: The subtitle of my book is “The War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds (and What We Can Do to Fight Back)”. To be sure, those are strong words–intentionally strong, on my part. Having worked in this field of study for 37 years, I’ve grown tired of the small steps and meager progress that we have made as a nation to serve our gifted children. Gifted children have educational, intellectual and emotional needs that differ from other kids their age who are developing in more typical ways–but we ignore these needs. If, as a nation, we really thought that gifted kids had special needs, then why haven’t we included them in federal funding formulae as we do for kids with disabilities? In 2013, the federal budget for children with disabilities was $12.9 billion. For gifted kids?: a whopping $5 million. If you assume that 3% of our nation’s K-12 children are gifted, that comes to about 2.5 million gifted kids in America–which means they get $2 of federal money each to address their needs. A Happy Meal costs more than that! The use of the term “War” in my book’s title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it’s just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year. Indeed, it is a battle in local, state and federal educational venues to even get people to admit that gifted kids need opportunities to pursue learning at their own pace. The budget cuts nationwide to gifted programs have been so dramatic in the past decade that it constitutes educational neglect.
“The use of the term “War” in my book’s title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it’s just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year.”
Moderator: The idea of ‘dumbing down’ has serious implications for society as a whole. What do you see as the consequences for America if this trend is not reversed?
Dr. Delisle: What happens if we don’t stop dumbing down our educational options for gifted kids? We’re seeing the results already: our nation’s stature as an educational powerhouse is in shambles when compared to many of our international neighbors. But more important than international test score comparisons is the personal cost paid by gifted kids who are told, in effect, that they don’t need anything special to excel; that their enhanced abilities and insights are not worth our attention; that sitting in a class with kids of lesser abilities will tamp down the egos of gifted kids and make them more sympathetic to students who struggle to learn; that giftedness is a myth because “everyone is gifted in some way.” The ridiculous bias against gifted kids in our nation’s schools emanates from so-called educational visionaries whose sight is hampered by the gauzy lens of professional ignorance. By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful.
“By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful.”
Moderator: What responsibility does the gifted community (parents, educators, organizations) bear with regard to the state of gifted education today?
Dr. Delisle: What responsibility does the gifted community have in regard to the state of gifted child education today? Part of the reason the field of gifted child education has not progressed much in 30 years is due to the infighting that occurs in this field of study. While some people contend that gifted children should be identified and served in gifted programs, others find the “gifted” label off-putting and want to eliminate it completely. Silly as it sounds, we can’t even agree on a common definition of giftedness or how to identify it. Some want to equate giftedness with eminence and developed talents, while others desire a more holistic approach to giftedness that encompasses social and emotional elements, not just intellectual factors. And even if, by some miracle, we could arrive at a consensus of what giftedness is, we’d still argue as to how educational services should be delivered. The state and national organizations that promote the needs of gifted children, and the professionals who write the books and espouse their theories, would do gifted kids a big favor if they could fight less and cooperate more.
Moderator: What do you propose to change course in this war on our nation’s brightest youth?
Dr. Delisle: So what do I advocate that we do to stop the dumbing down? Here are some ideas worth considering:
- First, we need to provide the same legislative protection for gifted kids that we give to students with disabilities. It should make common sense that if you are in either the top or bottom 3% of intellectual abilities compared to others your age, you will have some unique needs that demand more than the standard curriculum.
- Second, we need to make a national financial commitment to gifted children that explores everything from effective measures of student identification to best practices in instruction, to longitudinal studies that show us what works and what doesn’t. In my book, I elaborate extensively on how an outlay of $400 million over a five-year period could change the landscape for gifted children in America. This plan, developed by one of my personal heroes and one of our field’s finest contributors, James J. Gallagher, would be a game changer for anyone concerned about addressing the needs of gifted kids.
- A third suggestion I discuss is to take some of the absurd amount of money that we spend annually of high-stakes testing and use those funds for something that actually helps kids and teachers. The billions of dollars and countless classroom hours spent on assessment are robbing all children, gifted or not, of precious resources that are more vital to learning.
In my book, I review other areas we need to address–for example, defining giftedness once and for all; re-establishing elementary-grade “pull-out” programs; and admitting that the promise of differentiated instruction as the primary plan for serving gifted children is an ineffective, cheap way out for schools to pay lip service to meeting gifted children’s needs. Addressing these steps will not ensure a perfect world for America’s gifted kids, but it’d be a fine start. As I conclude in Dumbing Down America, saving gifted kids isn’t our choice–it’s our obligation.
Thank you, Dr. Delisle, for taking the time to do this interview. Dumbing Down America is available now from Amazon.
(Note: This post was cross-posted on the Gifted Parenting Blog.)
Talk about a hot topic! This week’s chat was already in full swing before the moderator even arrived! Radical Acceleration and Early College Entrance elicited strong emotions from both teachers and parents. This week’s guest, Madeline Goodwin (see blog post below) was quite articulate in her portrayal of experiences she had in college … beginning at the age of 13. Now a recent grad, Madeline has her sights set on graduate school in the fall.
Madeline was joined at the chat by her mother, Corin Barsily Goodwin, Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, to share the experience from a parent’s point of view. Many of her comments help put concerns of other parents in perspective and were well received by those at the chat. A full transcript may be found here.
We learned that Madeline was entirely homeschooled prior to entering college. This allowed her to progress at her own speed without concern from schools about her social development. It also made it easier to access and connect with experts in areas of study in which she was interested. It afforded her the opportunity to associate with people on her intellectual level who had shared interests.
What curriculum did the Goodwin’s use to homeschool? Corin summed it up with this comment,
“We were pretty eclectic. I brought out the workbooks and I faced a mutiny, so we did other stuff. Like visiting 56 National Parks!”
It was interesting to note that college wasn’t smooth sailing all the time; but not for the reasons one might expect. Even at the collegiate level, Madeline did not always feel challenged. At times, her young age made it difficult to socialize with older students and of course … she couldn’t even drive yet!
Regrets? None so far according to Madeline. “Academically, college was exactly what I needed, no regrets. Learned a lot, including about work ethic & study habits. College had clubs that I joined and I went to an alternative prom earlier this year!” She credited her family for helping to make the experience a positive one, ” Definitely had lots of support,guidance, and scaffolding from my mother, and patience from my brother who got dragged along!“
In the final analysis, it was agreed that the decision to accelerate is a very personal one that needs to be made by the student in consultation with their parents. It certainly is not for everyone; but it was the right one for Madeline!
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S. and Saturdays 11 AM NZ/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field.
Livebinder from Leslie Graves
Academic Acceleration at Hoagies Gifted Education Page
“College @ 13 Young, Gifted, and Purposeful” from Great Potential Press
Cybraryman’s Genius Hour Page
* Photo courtesy of Pixabay
This week on Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT, we will be chatting with Madeline Goodwin about the positive aspects of radical acceleration and early college entrance. She is the daughter of Corin Goodwin, Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, and recently completed her undergraduate studies at Southern Oregon University cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies and Biology at the age of 17. Madeline took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions for this interview prior to the chat.
Moderator: What was it like to be on a college campus with much older students?
Madeline: Weird, but not as much as one might expect. I’ve always been more inclined to spend time with people older than myself, and college gave me the chance to meet people who shared my interests and level of maturity. Some students resented me for being in college so young, and some professors disliked me for the same reason. I certainly stood out as being young, particularly in the first few years. As I grew older, I blended in more and people became friendlier to me, so my age didn’t matter as much – to them or to me. Developmentally I’m several different ages at once, so I tend to think of myself as “ageless,” although it never stopped being awkward when my classmates were discussing beer around me!
Moderator: You were quite young when you started college. What opportunities were afforded you during your undergraduate years?
Madeline: Most of my experiences were made possible due to my family; my mom and step-dad drove me back and forth to campus (an hour each way) several days a week for five years, and my brother got hauled along. Apart from classes, I did a few internships, and a lot of volunteering, including helping found a local climate action organization. My professors were wonderful and engaging, too. Possibly the people I must thank the most, though, are the baristas at Starbucks for keeping me awake in early-morning classes. :-)
Moderator: What extracurricular activities did you enjoy?
Madeline: I’ve always been an introvert, but I was involved with the campus Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center and did a lot of climate change outreach, including organizing and participating in events and giving talks on the issue. Towards the end I also participated in events by LGBTQ activist groups.
Moderator: What are some things that you are passionate about?
Madeline: My main interests are climate change, biodiversity, pollution… the environment in general. I’m also involved with social justice issues; especially LGBTQ, women’s rights and human welfare. I love teaching and I care about education; I spend a lot of time reading and writing. Animal welfare is of particular concern, although I’ve come to accept that I can’t fix everything – at least, not all at once.
Moderator: What would you say to parents/teachers who worry about social implications of radical acceleration? e.g., missing proms, exposure to older students, etc.
Madeline: I didn’t feel like it was a big deal. I did actually go to an alternative prom and I still have friends my age from when I was much younger. Besides, there are other (in my opinion, better) ways to meet kids in your age group besides sticking them together in a classroom. It is a bit more difficult to make friends because you are set apart from both your age peers and your academic peers, but I’ve found that the people who care about that are typically not people I would be drawn to spend time with anyway. Exposure to older students isn’t so different from exposure to age peers; it depends on who they hang out with. If they hang out with a bad group, they will be exposed to more bad influences. If they have a good choice in friends, then they will have more positive influences.
Moderator: What are your plans for the future? Short-term and long-term?
Madeline: I’m starting a graduate program in the fall, so I’d like to get my Master’s degree in the next few years. After that, I’m thinking about joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. At some point I want to get my Ph.D.; I’m particularly interested in U.C. Berkeley’s Environmental Science, Policy, and Management program. I would like to get involved in U.S. environmental policy, so I hope to run for public office or work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I love teaching and science education in particular, so I plan to get a teaching certificate and teach science in poorer areas. A life goal of mine is to travel to central Africa, and do field research and policy work in the countries of the Congo Basin – especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – because I find that region absolutely fascinating. All my research papers for school have been on the DRC. Other than that, I’ll probably write a book one day. Not sure what order all this will happen in, after my Ph.D. I’m sure life will throw me a curveball and I may end up doing something totally different. That’s what makes life interesting: you can never predict where it will lead you!
Thanks, Madeline, for taking the time to talk to us today. We look forward to your guest appearance on Global #gtchat this week on Friday, July 11th, at 7/6 C and 4 PM PT to discuss the fact that radical acceleration, as shown by your personal experiences, can have extremely positive outcomes and be personally beneficial to students in your position. Hopefully, we can allay some fears of parents and counter myths about early college entrance for gifted students.
Questions for this chat will be posted on our Facebook Page prior to the chat.
Where are you planning to be December 3rd through the 5th? May I suggest this year’s TAGT 2014 Conference in Fort Worth, Texas? Although the sultry days of summer are upon us, it’s not too early to be thinking about attending one of the premiere gifted conferences of the year! The conference theme is “In Focus” and will take an in-depth look at many aspects of GT individuals.
Not from Texas, you say? No problem! Everyone is welcome regardless of where they reside. Not a member of TAGT? As with most conferences, both member and non-member fees are available. Your state has its own conference? Great, but if you are unable to attend yours or would like to attend a larger conference; consider TAGT as well! This conference attracts many national speakers and over 2,000 attendees with whom to network.
Why should you attend TAGT 2014? What would you say to over 150 training sessions with top-notch presenters and world-class keynotes by Nikhil Goyal and Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman? Of course, from my vantage point, the LIVE #gtchat on Friday morning where you are invited to meet and participate in person with many of your friends from chat should be reason enough; AND our
infamous famous #gtchat TweetUp is not to be missed!
Not convinced yet that you should be making reservations? Let’s take a look at all the opportunities you will find at this year’s conference including the Keynotes, Conference Institutes (December 3rd) and the concurrent Parent Conference (December 5th). Did I mention that TAGT is an approved provider of CE credit for educators, counselors, psychologists and school board members?
This year’s opening keynote (December 4th) will be given by Nikhil Goyal. At age 19, Nikhil Goyal is an activist and author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School as well as a book on learning, forthcoming from Doubleday-Random House in 2015. He has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC and FOX and has written for the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post and Forbes. A Motivational Speaker, Goyal has spoken at Google, The Atlantic, Fast Company, NBC, MIT, Yale University, Stanford University, SXSW and others. He was named one of the “World Changers” for Dell #Inspire 100 (2012), named to 2013 Forbes 30 Under 30: Education List, one of ORIGIN Magazine’s The Nation’s Top Creatives.
The closing keynote (December 5th) will be delivered by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman. He is a cognitive psychologist who studies the development of intelligence, creativity, and personality. Recently, Dr. Kaufman became the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to publishing more than 25 book chapters and articles, Kaufman is the author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, co-editor of the Philosophy of Creativity, co-author of The Psychology of Creative Writing and co-author of The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. He co-founded the popular nonprofit website The Creativity Post and writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Mind.
Dr. Kaufman completed his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Yale University in 2009 and received his master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from Cambridge University in 2005, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Kaufman also earned a B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University in Psychology and Human Computer Interaction.
Still unconvinced? Let’s talk Conference Institutes! These half-day training sessions feature some of the best-known and most knowledgeable presenters in the field of gifted education. The institutes allow participants to go into greater depth on specific topics which can result in more comprehensive strategies for implementation. Some of the sessions available this year are:
- Developing Promotion Strategies for Self-Regulation: Critical Skills for Underrepresented Students’ Success in Gifted Programming with Dr. Richard Cash.
- Differentiating Language Arts Learning Experiences for Gifted/Advanced Learners with Dr. Susan Johnsen and Dr. Todd Kettler.
- Gifted Education: A Sherpa for Guiding Everyone to New Heights with Dr. Sally Krisel.
- Tools of the Trade: Honest Collaboration with Technology with Ginger Lewman.
- The Intensity of Giftedness with Dr. Lynette Breedlove.
Included in this year’s presenters are Lisa Van Gemert, the Gifted Guru, of American Mensa; Ian Byrd of Byrdseed Gifted and Byrdseed TV; Dr. Bertie Kingore; Michelle Swain and Lisa Conrad (that’s me). This year, I will also be presenting on “Using Twitter in the Classroom” and look forward to meeting all my Twitter friends.
If you are a parent, there is the Parent Conference on Friday! Presentations will focus on parenting strategies, meeting the social and emotional needs of gifted youth, educational enrichment and other relevant topics. This is a great time for parents and guardians to come together, ask questions and learn more about how the unique needs of gifted children can be met in the home, classroom and community.
Now that you’re ready-to-go, here’s where you can find information on registration and hotel reservations. Conference sessions, exhibits and more will be held at the Fort Worth Convention Center and several events will take place at the host hotel, Omni Fort Worth Hotel. TAGT has contracted with Omni to be able to provide extremely attractive pricing. Better yet … bring a friend and share expenses. See you there!
Although often a concern for parents of gifted children, this week’s chat saw an influx of teachers interested in how this question would be answered. During the course of the discussion of who should teach gifted children, many aspects of today’s educational system came into question. Do personal attributes of a teacher affect their ability to teach a distinct population? How important is certification in a specific area of instruction? Can education be delivered outside the traditional school house? What role does teacher-training play in the delivery of specialized education? And finally … is it okay to use gifted students as teaching assistants in the classroom?
Our first question explored whether or not a teacher had to be gifted themselves to teach gifted children. A vast majority of checklists found in academic journals suggest that this is indeed a recommended if not essential requirement for teachers interacting with gifted students. However, most (but not all) of those voicing an opinion in this chat did not believe it should be required as simply being gifted did not necessarily make one a good teacher; although it was desirable trait. Other qualities such as empathy for gifted students (see “Can Empathy for Gifted Students Be Nurtured in Teachers?” in the links below), a desire to teach in a gifted classroom, acceptance that their students might well be more intelligent than the teacher and adequate professional development were mentioned as more important.
Certification was a different matter. Clearly, most felt it was essential that teachers be certified in gifted education if they were teaching in a traditional classroom. Celeste, a homeschooling mother in Australia, expressed it this way ~ “YES – what vocation allows professionals to serve without relevant qualifications?” It was pointed out that the certification process should be meaningful with extensive review of the nature of giftedness including issues such as twice-exceptional (gifted and LD), asynchronous development and social-emotional needs. Certification was also seen as a pathway to better understanding gifted children.
Celeste, a homeschooling mother in Australia, expressed it this way ~ “YES – what vocation allows professionals to serve without relevant qualifications?”
Many of those who regularly attend #gtchat homeschool their gifted children so we believed that it was important to recognize this growing segment of the homeschooling community. Gifted homeschoolers told us that for most it was a necessity as regular educational settings simply could not meet the needs of their children. Parents felt they knew their children better, were qualified to teach or had access to resources in their communities or online (see link to Gifted Homeschoolers Forum). They also told us how much work they put into educating their children and the sacrifices that had been made to have a parent available to homeschool.
An edited (we don’t think you care to see all the retweets!) transcript of the full chat may be found at Storify. Check out the beautiful new interface that Storify has provided us making our transcripts much easier to read!
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S. and Saturdays 11 AM NZ/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. For those who find the Friday time slot inconvenient, we now also chat on Sunday at 4/3 C and 1 PT in the U.S. and 9 PM (21.00) in the UK/10 PM (22.00) in EU countries.
Gifted Education Professional Development Package from the Australian Government Department of Education *Excellent resource for teachers
How Are Gifted Teachers Different from Other Teachers? (pdf) by Dr. Linda Silverman
“Homeschooling Gifted Children” from Hoagies Gifted
Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Families (Amazon) by Lisa Rivero
Homeschooling Highly Gifted Children by Kathi Kearney
Homeschooling with Profoundly Gifted Kids by Kathryn Finn
Photo of teacher courtesy of By the U.S. Census Bureau (the U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Feature Photos) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Locating age-appropriate books for high ability learners can prove difficult for several reasons. Asynchronous development may mean that a very young child could comprehend reading material well beyond what may be considered appropriate for their age. As Lisa Van Gemert of American Mensa pointed out, interest levels and sensitivities also play important roles when finding appropriate yet challenging books for these children. Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources commented that material deemed appropriate for a child’s chronological age might be considered too simplistic and unsatisfying to the child. Leslie Graves, President of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, noted that the depth of thought embedded in the content and the pace of information offered would also make many leveled offerings inappropriate as well.
Reading patterns found in gifted readers can be different than those of typical readers. These kids often start reading earlier than their age peers and demonstrate deeper comprehension of what they read. Kate B. stated they may be self taught, read faster and be voracious readers. Justin Schwamm, Latin teacher at Tres Columnae, related that many gifted learners read and enjoy multiple books at once; which can drive others crazy. Moderator, Lisa Conrad, added that it’s still important to respect the developmental process and allow a child to enjoy reading at various levels. Parents should resist the urge to ‘push’ a child to read simply because they excel in other academic areas.
Reading to children was still considered an important role of both the parent and teacher even after children were reading well on their own. Jerry Blumengarten, well known content curator Cybraryman and former teacher, remembered family reading time as enjoyable and an important time to be set aside even after children were reading. When he taught Language Arts, his 9th grade students loved when he read dramatically to them. Jayne Frances reminded us that reading aloud is important for pronunciation of words and sharing more precise or alternate definitions than those gleaned from context. Many also related the importance of emotional bonding that occurs when adults read to children whether it was a parent or teacher.
The popular school reading program ‘Accelerated Reader’ did not fare well in the opinions of many at this chat. This program seemed out-of-sync with high ability learners. Justin Schwamm told us that he was not a fan because extrinsic rewards for an intrinsically-valuable task are problematic at best.
Questions for this chat are here and a full transcript of this chat can be found at Storify. Links from the chat and additional links are below. Thank you to all chat participants who shared links with us. Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT takes place every Friday at 7/6 C and 4 PT (U.S.) and on Sunday at 4/3 C (the 3rd week of the month) on Twitter. Follow @gtchatmod for more information. Please join us!
Guiding the Gifted Reader (1990)
Reading Lists for Your Gifted Child from Hoagies Gifted
Book List for Very Young Precocious Readers (link on bottom right of page)
Book List for Pre-teen Gifted Readers from Suki Wessling
The Challenge of “Challenged Books” Gifted Child Today Magazine Spring, 2002
Books for Young Readers from the MN Council for the Gifted & Talented
Appropriate Content for Gifted Readers from Duke TIP
3 Reasons I Loathe Accelerated Reader from Lisa Van Gemert, The Gifted Guru
Dear Google, You Should Have Talked to Me First from Jen Marten
Reading Lists from Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources
Cybraryman’s Early Literacy Page
Reading List for Key Stage 1 Gifted Readers (pdf) from Potential Plus UK
Cybraryman’s Reading and Literacy Skills Page
Cybraryman’s Books Page
Orientation (The School for Gifted Potentials Book 1) by Allis Wade
Revelations (The School for Gifted Potentials Book 2) by Allis Wade
Book Lists from Davidson Institute for Talent Development
The Gifted Reader’s Bill of Rights (pdf) by Bertie Kingore
*Photos: Courtesy of morgueFile
** Photo: Courtesy of Pixabay