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Education United States

Failing Our Geniuses 815

Posted by kdawson
from the harrison-bergeron dept.
saintlupus writes "Time has an interesting article about the failure of the US educational system to properly deal with gifted students. For example, up to ten times as much money is spent nationwide on educating 'developmentally disabled' students as gifted ones. Does No Child Left Behind mean that nobody can get ahead, either?"
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Failing Our Geniuses

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  • of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:40PM (#20268823) Homepage Journal

    Does No Child Left Behind mean that nobody can get ahead, either?
    Yes.
    • Re:of course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by liquidpele (663430) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:47PM (#20268911) Journal
      Absolutely, ask any teacher. 95% will say yes.
      I thought about this the other day, anyone know if they've ever tried splitting the smarter/average/dumb kids up into their own classes permanently from 5th or so through 12th, as in they hardly ever see the other groups anymore except between classes and at lunch? I would be curious if the social structures in each group would clash, or if the system would work.
      • Re:of course (Score:5, Insightful)

        by netruner (588721) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:07PM (#20269145)
        The problems happen in a couple of ways:
        1.) "My kid should be in the smart class" (whether they belong there or not)
        2.) Claims of discrimination / creation of a caste system being unacceptable.

        Remember, school board officials are elected and must bow to political pressure.

        One of my mentors used to always tell me: "Culture is the hardest thing to change". Parents want they perceive to be the best for their kids whether it really is or not. They also (typically - no matter how many sob stories you hear) have a greater stake in them than the teachers that only see them for a few hours a day.

        Would you trust someone at the local public school to put your kid on a path that will determine what opportunities will be available to them? As one of my college professors said: too many Einsteins are passed over because the teacher was looking for that one Gauss.
        • Re:of course (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Aladrin (926209) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:22PM (#20270011)
          You fail to take a few things into account:

          1) If the kid isn't gifted, they won't WANT to be in a harder class.
          2) If the kid isn't gifted, they will do extremely poorly in a harder class.
          3) If the kid isn't gifted, his friends will tease him unmercifully for being in the harder class. (Gifted kids don't have friends. Everyone teases them anyhow.)

          I was in the 'GIFTED' program in elementary school. I learned a lot of things there that I would never have had a chance to learn at that age otherwise, but the class itself wasn't that much harder. What -was- harder was that I also had to do all my regular schoolwork as well. The other teachers singled me out for being in GIFTED, too. For instance, 1 year ahead of everyone else, I had to make sentences from my spelling words. I eventually got so bored with it, I started to make stories from them. And then so bored I used the words -in order- to make stories.

          In middle school, they had another program that wasn't nearly as good, and a year after I left elem. school, they cancelled the GIFTED program, and the middle school one right after I went to high school. Those schools have nothing of the sort now until High School, where their are Advance Placement (AP) classes that are harder, but not really any more interesting, and dual-enrollment (colleges classes at the high school).

          Without those classes, I would not have gotten into computers in 4th grade (Apple IIe!) and definitely wouldn't be who I am today. I have to wonder if I'd have the same sense of purpose without it. My sister doesn't have that sense... She only had 1 year of GIFTED and none of the one in middle school, I think. She got straight A's the entire way through school, with the exception of a band teacher who said 'nobody should get all A's' and gave her a B solely for that reason. She duel-enrolled in high school early and completed 4 years of highschool and 2 years of college in only 3 years. (Yes, she graduated both in the same year.) She burnt out on that, but that's another story. She's in college for Pharmacy now and getting straight A's as always.

          Without those classes, I'd have been bored stiff. I'd definitely have a lot of time on my hands to get in trouble with.

          Yes, we are failing our geniuses. (I am not genius level IQ. Any geniuses in the same situation would be very poorly handled indeed.)
        • Re:of course (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hxnwix (652290) on Friday August 17, 2007 @10:19PM (#20271509) Journal
          My jHS and HS provided three tracks: one for the unmotivated, one for those either naturally attentive & quick or studious and one for everybody else.

          It worked well when teachers made sensible placement recommendations; keeping students with similar motivations and interests together serves the same function as university selectivity. In those cases where teachers irrationally recommended toward lower tiers, slighted students who wished to migrate (back) to a higher tier in a subject enrolled in summer school. Occasionally, some teachers recommended that a student take a remedial summer class, automatically preventing advancement.

          In my case, for example, a certain teacher recommended that I take remedial algebra the summer before entering highschool. The school sent an enrollment form to my parents' house, which I intercepted and destroyed, enabling me to request another enrollment form - this one blank. I submitted it, enrolling myself in summer honors geometry, placing myself one year ahead of the curve, one tier up :-) I'm immensely glad that I did - it meant that I had already taken calculus BC when it came time to take AP physics, and it also enabled me to take calc IV off campus.

          Neither my early education in manipulating bureaucracy nor my immersion in physics-as-Newton-intended-it would have been possible in the standard egalitarian gulag. I don't foresee sending my children to a public school; the opportunities and the quality of education are simply gone. Fortunately, they were strong enough in my day that I can afford to send my offspring to private school. TBQH, that's probably the goal of NCLB: to privatize quality elementary education, thereby further stratifying society and protecting the ignorance of the conservative voting block, who will, in bigotry and fear, will continue to vote consistently against their own interests.
      • Tracking (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Descalzo (898339) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:56PM (#20269717) Journal
        As another responder already said, it has been called 'tracking,' though I don't know if it's illegal. My school district frowns most heavily upon it, and prefers to deal with it in-class. But what if a student is 'mis-tracked?' If it's a track in which the student is re-evaluated annually then that kid is going to be really messed up for a year. I have been toying with the idea of regrouping on a weekly basis. The problem with a weekly basis is that it's hard to make a week as meaningful as a year. It's a hard question, one teachers and administrators are trying to solve.


        On a related topic, it's odd that if a student has an IQ of 70, that's like 2 standard deviations below the norm, and the student is identified as intellectually disabled. Failing to identify and serve this student's needs is going to get your school into an enormous amount of trouble.
        Then you have another student with an IQ of 130. This student is no more normal than the other. He is intellectually gifted. Failing to identify or serve this student's needs will not even earn anyone a slap on the wrist.

        This problem will get solved when a slashdotter decides he has enough money to take this comparison all the way to the Supreme Court.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by blahplusplus (757119)
          "Then you have another student with an IQ of 130. This student is no more normal than the other. He is intellectually gifted. Failing to identify or serve this student's needs will not even earn anyone a slap on the wrist."

          There's a huge difference though, the high IQ type has all ability to self acutalize. The internet and library are there for a reason, you can learn at any pace you want, its more likely gifted kids are just too lazy to do their own learning. In the age of the internet there is less an
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dbc (135354)
            Sorry to inform you, but it doesn't work like that. Kid's need intellectual coaching, just like the future sports stars need sports coaching. What if you had a stand-out little leaguer, and the coach absolutely refused to nurture that athletic giftedness. Two things would happen: a) the kid would not become a major leaguer, even if he had the potential, and b) every dad in the neighborhood would get together and form a lynch mob to take out the coach (rightly so, I'd join). Yet, your attitude with respe
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by uncreativ (793402)
              "A normal classroom is a torture for these kids."

              Ohh so true. My 2nd grade teachers thought I had learning dissabilities. In reality I was just so damn bored.
              Thankfully my mother was a teacher for the school district, so when she told my teachers they needed to challenge me to get me to do better they were willing to give it a shot. They probably hated me for the trouble I was in class and would probably try anything by that point to make me less annoying. My teachers were somewhat surprised that all of a s
      • Re:of course (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:39PM (#20270259)

        anyone know if they've ever tried splitting the smarter/average/dumb kids up into their own classes permanently from 5th or so through 12th, as in they hardly ever see the other groups anymore except between classes and at lunch?

        Yes. I went to school (through high school) in India and I was lucky enough to be in such a system as you describe. That is one reason why the whole idea of "jocks" and "geeks" and "nerds" was so alien to me until I came to the US. In my day, the person we strived to compete with and get ahead of was the super-geek-jock :P - the guy/gal who did everything right. Kinda nice when you think about it. That gave me an edge that I have never regretted. My 3.5 years of college in the US (and I say this in a good way) were the most relaxing in my life, even with a physics major and I ended up learning a LOT of other stuff as well (I love liberal arts schools :D).

        To give you an idea of what the system was:

        Starting with the 3rd grade, the entire school (10 classes per grade level with about 50 students each = A CR**load of students :P), was put into the running. Classes were named from A through J and your initial class was determined by a criterion that no one seemed to know :P. However, after that, it was all merit-based. Your class (A - J) in the next grade was determined by how well you did in the current grade (exams, etc.) Upward mobility was the key and with it came the chance to be with the smart kids and learn from them. Oh it was farking beautiful :D. And it didn't really hurt anyone either - if you wanted to be a fuckup, you had full freedom to do so, without bothering the sincere kids and as a bonus you got to hang out with other fuckups like yourself :D. Win-win! Everyone's happy.

        Of course, it couldn't last. The parents whose kids were in the loser classes saw this as a social stigma (albeit well-deserved). I heard that they discontinued this practice a few years ago so my hometown in India should be reaching full mediocrity right about now :P.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by robgig1088 (1043362)
      Yeah that about sums it up. In our school district, they're pushing more regular students into our magnet schools (this is a Louisiana magnet school, mind you). Basically they're trying to level the playing field. Unfortunately, this means the AP students don't have as many higher-level classes to take because they have to cater to the regular-class students. If you ask me, High Schools should be like colleges, where they get to choose whether or not you're smart enough to attend. This sort of thing ju
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <SatanicpuppyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:50PM (#20268953) Journal
      "When everyone is special, then no one will be."
    • This is new? Yes, of course no child left behind means nobody can get ahead- but it didn't start with no child left behind. EVERY person I know who tested with an IQ greater than 105 had this problem in high school, and to a lesser extent in grade school (but only because I went to a rural grade school with extremely small class sizes).
    • Re:of course (Score:5, Informative)

      by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) * on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:08PM (#20269161)
      Your response is correct, but the Time article doesn't appear to address the reason. Most people are familiar with the phrase "No Child Left Behind," but don't actually understand how it works.

      AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) is a factor in the ranking of school systems. Specifically, it was designed to expose the fact that many school had masked the few poor performers with the majority of successful students.

      What it effectively means is that all "sub-populations" (broken by ethnic groups, ESL/Limited English Proficiency, "at-risk," and low-income, among others) must demonstrate "adequate yearly progress." It's designed to even be a bit forgiving - the low-income group doesn't necessarily have to pass, they just have to have improved a reasonable amount from the year before. A subpopulation counts if it is 1% of the school population or 30 kids (IIRC).

      If a school fails to meet AYP for two years in a row, they become a "school of choice." Parents may now choose to pull their students from that school and send them to another one, and the failing school will pay for transportation. I'm not sure how it works out in small, rural districts where a given high school is the only one in the district.

      Once a school fails in AYP, kids start getting pulled. The kids who get pulled are the ones who have parents who care about education; that usually translates to the kids who do well in a school being pulled from it. You can see how much this would impact a school.

      If a school fails to meet AYP for five years in a row, a radical restructuring is due; this generally means that large amounts of the staff need to be fired, or the school should be converted to a charter school or something similar. In practice, though, the actual actions at this stage usually aren't as substantial.

      With the background out of the way, it's fairly easy to see why geniuses don't matter: they'll pass the test. Five or ten ESL students (or low-income, or at-risk, or whatever) can make or break a school of 3000. With the way the NCLB program has structured AYP, it should be obvious where a principal/district would focus resources.

      I'm not arguing that schools don't need monitoring; they do, no doubt. But if this system sounds ridiculous to you, please do all of us a favor and let your elected officials know.

    • Yes.

      The answer that immediately came to my mind as well.

      I'm a science teacher, and the focus of my school is exactly as described - it is to raise the test scores of marginally achieving populations. There are advanced courses in most subjects, but other than that no extra attention is paid to gifted kids, except at the most minimal level (i.e. the extra efforts of one sponsoring teacher) in some extracurricular clubs. Even the training provided to districts by national consultants such as those of Pr

  • Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oskay (932940) * on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:41PM (#20268835) Homepage
    >Does No Child Left Behind mean that nobody can get ahead, either? Of course it does. If *any* child gets ahead, *millions* of children are left behind that one. I have always referred to this program as "no child gets ahead"-- it's turned out to be remarkably accurate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In Sweden the phrase used is "Lika för alla" (The same for everyone). My principal says that means: "Lika dålig för alla" (Just as bad for everyone). They are very anti-elitist here in Sweden (I blame it on years of being run by trade unions aka the Social Democrats).
  • by faloi (738831) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:41PM (#20268841)
    The public education system has been failing gifted students since long before No Child Left Behind.
    • It's no surprise. Some cultures love their smart people. The Asian's love their smart people. They glorify them, they treat them with a lot of respect, and view them as a source of national pride.

      We, on the other hand, do not. Culturally, Americans view intellectualism with suspicion. We love the captain of the football team; big, handsome, and dumb. You have only to look at the debates on science to understand that. There is societal pressure to not appear too smart, or you'll have a number of unflattering stereotypes applied to you. The last two losing presidential candidates both had their intelligence used against them in an unflattering way; they were know-it-alls, dorks, geeks, namby pamby sissy faggot intellectuals, whereas the guy everyone regards as the dumber candidate is trustworthy and strong.

      A lot of it probably has its roots with Christianity. The Devil is smart, remember? When Dante was populating the Inferno, he dumped Odysseus in the 8th circle, 1 up from the bottom. Why? Because he's a smart, tricky bastard, just like the Devil is supposed to be. This country has a lot of radical Christian roots (Puritans, anyone?) so it's not all that surprising that our views on intellectualism are shaped around that.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:03PM (#20269081) Journal
        I think you might overstate your point a bit, but I do think you have one never the less. The rise of intellectualism during the Enlightenment was also a period when it was permissive to view religion with suspicion, where the human mind was something to be glorified as much if not more than some fuzzy sky deity for which Europe had been battered bloody for a couple of hundred years before. Heck, men like Madison and Jefferson, who didn't bother to hide their own contempt for Christianity, were not only accepted in society, but became major politicians and statesmen, and were major architects of the United States itself. By Lincoln's time, we were already heading into the post-Enlightenment era, where politicians had to make all the right religious sounds.

        Now we have powerful lobbies seeking to undermine science education in the United States, trying to find ways to sneak past that great product of the Enlightenment Age; the Bill of Rights, so that there superstitious worldview can be promulgated in public schools.

        If the US wants to know why its surrendering the production of scientists to other parts of the world, they only need to look at all those small-minded, anti-intellectual twerps that manage to get on school boards and state Boards of Education, with their Bible in one hand and hatred of knowledge in the other.
      • ... We love the captain of the football team; big, handsome, and dumb ...

        You have basically proven that you are just as ignorant and just as wiling to stereotype as those your rail against. Captains are usually intelligent. And some football (American) positions do require intelligence, the ability to quickly analyze a fluid situation (an unfolding play), develop a successful plan and refine that plan in real time as further developments occur. The fact that these skills are applied to big guys hitting
      • by clragon (923326) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:29PM (#20270129)

        It's no surprise. Some cultures love their smart people. The Asian's love their smart people. They glorify them, they treat them with a lot of respect, and view them as a source of national pride.


        I lived in China for the first 10 years of my life, so I know the Chinese culture well.

        You said Asians love their smart people, it's true, but only under certain perimeters. The first problem is how do you define "smart"? Are smart kids the ones with the highest IQ test scores? Are they the ones that get the highest marks in class? Or are they the ones that can sell the most cookies to neighbors?

        In China, IQ Scores are redundant and are not paid any attention to by the education system. Here however (In Canada), it is used to determine if a child is able to enter the gifted program in elementary school.

        What the Chinese actually value is someone who can learn fast, think fast with flexibility and without making many mistakes. Although one might argue those people can be called "smart", but smart is too general a word in English and could be referring to a wide rage of characteristics. See, the Chinese does not value IQ or "gifted-ness" because it doesn't reflect what a person could accomplish. Instead, to get into the fast-track classes in China a child has to be placed in the top 40 in his or her grade (this is according to the middle school I was going to go to, there were 60 kids per class and 8 classes per grade.) So instead of getting the kids to take a IQ test of which they have no control over the results, getting into the fast-track classes becomes a competition between students so the winners are respected. In Canada, the gifted kids doesn't "beat" others to get into gifted classes, so there is much less of a reason for other kids to respect them.

        One type of smart person the Chinese frown upon are people who stay home and study the textbooks all day, but can't carry the knowledge over and apply it to the real life. It wouldn't matter if the person has the highest mark in the class, if he or she can't solve simple social problems then they will receive little respect.

        This is very similar to the definition of a Nerd in the western culture. However, one key difference is the clear line drawn between a "nerd" and a smart person in China, while here in Canada it is assumed anyone who has the highest mark in the class must be a nerd.
  • by bit trollent (824666) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:42PM (#20268849) Homepage
    I feel like the education system totally failed me.

    Err actually I went to a gifted & talented middle school (100 smartest kids in Houston). Then I went to a private Jesuit high school. Then I went to a relatively small public college in Dallas.

    And now I make fat cash. I guess I really don't have anything to complain about.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:44PM (#20268863)

    Does No Child Left Behind mean that nobody can get ahead, either?
    Yes. "Not leaving a child behind", in educational context means lowering the level of the education for the average and the smart students.

    Anyone with half a brain would tune education for the average person, or very slightly above the average to encourage improvement and the stupid/disabled and smart kids would get special programs to help their development the best. Leaving no man behind is a stupid analogy to the problem, as the stupid kid who can't learn more drags down the kids who can.
  • Well, hang on. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seebs (15766) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:44PM (#20268871) Homepage
    Maybe the developmentally disabled kids need a lot more help to be functional (and if they don't get that help as kids, we end up feeding them their whole adult lives), and the genuises don't need as much help?

    Honestly, I wish I'd gotten help for my actual limitations (mild autism, which has been moderately crippling at times), but frankly, for the genius stuff, it would have been sufficient for the schools to mostly get out of my way.
  • by overshoot (39700) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:45PM (#20268883)
    I was one of the "beneficiaries" of the 1950s-1960s "Sputnik" educational reforms.

    Then, like today, it was much easier for schools to keep classes uniform by holding bright kids back so that more effort could be spent on the "slow" ones. Uniformity is the goal, and it's a lot easier to dumb down smart kids than the other way 'round.

    Oh, and here's a clue: if you offer bonuses for teachers of math and science, the teachers with the most seniority (regardless of whether they can add) will teach those classes. My kids had a math PhD teaching music, but she couldn't get into the math program against the ed majors who ran the system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:45PM (#20268889)
    Well, in a society that regularly ridicules people because they are smart, what do yo expect?
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:45PM (#20268891) Homepage Journal

    "For example, up to ten times as much money is spent nationwide on educating 'developmentally disabled' students as gifted ones."

    Duh! Smart kids learn faster than 'tards. Whodathunkit? Was this article written by Captain Obvious? So you've got a choice - either invest more in educating those who are slower learners, or pay to support them. Which is cheaper in the long run (hint - you don't have to be a genius to figure that one out either).

  • Fail! (Score:4, Funny)

    by uberjoe (726765) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:48PM (#20268921)
    Failing our Geniuses?

    Well my school sure failed me!

  • by geekd (14774) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:50PM (#20268941) Homepage
    I was in grade school in the early 80's. I went to a good public school. My parents were both teachers and chose to live in that neighborhood because of the school district. Even then, the gifted program was just OK. My parents had me in several after-school classes and activities to bolster the schools shortcomings.

    It still comes down to parents doing actual parenting. If you've got a gifted child, you have to know they are only going to get so much from their school.

    I was lucky. My parents knew what they were doing. They let me explore my interests without pushing. They had me in a creative writing class. They got me into science competitions. The best thing they did was buy a computer for the house. This was a TRS-80 in 1982. It was a stretch for the household budget, but messing with that taught me more than anything else.

    geekd
  • by Token_Internet_Girl (1131287) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:50PM (#20268947)
    I am 25 years old. I spent 1st grade through 8th grade in the ALPHA program in Florida, which required an IQ testing of 135 or above to attend. I would say that on the whole, I felt like I was constantly dealing with uninteresting and repetitive work. I know being gifted isnt "a handicap" but there was always an air of "ok well, you're smart enough, there are plenty of other people who actually need our attention." The only time I was being truly challenged was in my 2 hours of ALPHA a day, in which times we would do brain teasers, read Shakespeare, do simple physics projects, etc. Looking back I know our budget for that class sucked royal asshole. Our class was in the most broken down portable room on campus. The teacher often brough her own materials and made up stuff for us to do on hand-written photocopies. So yeah, I can see how this article would have some weight in truth.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:51PM (#20268973)
    It's hopeless to make talented students go to schools where even the most violent and the most stupid can not be denied admission. Gifted students will be bullied (sometimes literally) to death because of their different personality, tendency not to hang around in peer groups that can not understand them and plain jealousy. Besides, how exactly can a teacher lecture in a single class where some students are having trouble with multiplication tables and others have questions about derivatives?

    Ideally, we need a system of student competitions that identifies talent and sponsors the winners for tuition in private, more challenging schools - as much for their protection as for accelerated education. This is unlikely to happen though because of both lack of money and current attitude of political correctness that allows "special needs" students to beat up gifted ones at will. In the meantime parents should step up to the plate, do home schooling the best they can and organize study groups where students can help each other get more information from books and Internet.
  • No Child Left Behind (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArchAngelQ (35053) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:52PM (#20268989) Homepage Journal
    Just to be clear, the 'No Child Left Behind' nonsense has no additional funding for schools, and just additional requirements. Specifically, testing, testing, and more testing. That's it. Really. It requires a great deal more testing of students than ever before, and a certain pass rate for a school to get existing federal funding.

    The end result is that children who are just below the pass rate on the 'pre-tests' (really, just more tests, but the results only get examined by the teacher or the school faculty) get the most attention. Those above it, especially well above it and those well below it, are more or less shafted by the way it's designed.

    Alternately, several school districts have simply changed the rules for what constitutes a pass, and what a failure, on their tests, so that they have a high enough pass rate to continue to get full federal funding.
  • As it happens... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday August 17, 2007 @06:56PM (#20269029) Journal
    For all the hysteria about the failure of the US educational system, going back at least to Sputnik and probably long before, it continues to generate the most creative, innovative people in the world. Just because it's obvious to the author that the only thing to do with very smart kids is to move them ahead multiple grades, or separate them from their families and isolate them with other very smart kids, doesn't mean that's really the best way to maximize their potential, let alone their happiness.

    Achievement levels off once you start generating knowledge yourself. Learning logarithms when you're 10 instead of 14 isn't going to make you significantly more likely to "cure leukemia or stop global warming".

    Look at those "geniuses" who get packed off to college in their early teens. Have any of them ever accomplished anything noteworthy?

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:16PM (#20269239)

      For all the hysteria about the failure of the US educational system, going back at least to Sputnik and probably long before, it continues to generate the most creative, innovative people in the world.


      I'd like to see the evidence that people educated in the US system are, per capita, more "creative" and "innovative" than those produced in every other educational system in the world. Really, this sounds to me more like nationalist mythology than anything resembling a fact, and contrasting it with "hysteria" is somewhat ironic.

      Learning logarithms when you're 10 instead of 14 isn't going to make you significantly more likely to "cure leukemia or stop global warming".


      I don't think the difference between "gifted" and "average" students is learning logarithms at 10 instead of 14. Its more like the difference between learning logarithms at 10 and having a vague idea as an adult that they are somehow connected to the Taco Bell chihuahua.

      Look at those "geniuses" who get packed off to college in their early teens. Have any of them ever accomplished anything noteworthy?


      Even assuming the answer is no, wouldn't that demonstrate that, indeed, the US educational system is, contrary to your argument, failing the gifted? I mean, if they weren't being failed, you'd expect them to acheive noteworthy things at the same proportion as the rest of the population.

  • Nothing new. (Score:3, Informative)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:06PM (#20269127)
    My K-12 days were in the 60s/70s. My mother was a teacher who quit after my sister and I were born. She used to be infuriated after parent/teacher meetings where she would ask a question and get the "don't worry, we're the professionals, you're an untrained parent" attitude when she had her education masters from Stanford.

    Frustration with the schools led a group of parents to form an action group that discovered, among other things, that the district had claimed they had a MGM (Mentally Gifted Minors) program to get funds when they actually weren't doing anything for the gifted children but rather just grabbing money for the budget.

    They did make a small dent - especially when my dad was elected and re-elected as head of the Board of Education. But I'm not sure that any of the good they did lasted much past his term of office.

    The former Secretary of Education commented on NPR the other day that 40 years ago the best option for college-educated women was teaching and that's what about 50% of them did. That pool of (probably unfairly) cheap teaching labor dried up long ago. If you want good people as teachers you are going to have to pay them. Conversely, the teaching establishment needs to stop the same-pay-for-all nonsense. Teachers in difficult-to-fill specialties like science and math should be paid more. Top-flight teachers should be compensated better as well. Bad teachers should be fired. (There's no excuse for tenure in K-12.)
  • It depends... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:06PM (#20269129) Homepage
    ... on whether or not the gifted student is smart enough to figure out how to use resources to direct their own learning.

    I'm one of the first people to admit there are problems with many public schools. I went through an education to be a secondary math teacher. I stopped after student teaching because I realized I didn't want to deal with a lot of the issues.

    But when I look back over my public education -- in Utah, where per pupil spending traditionally lags pretty far behind many other places -- I have to admit it was pretty damn good overall. When they realized I was breezing through all the reading primers in first grade, they made sure I knew how to use the school library and pointed me at a few particular topics. I got after school access to some of the first computers the schools had. My parents helped, taking me to the local library and enrolling me in community classes, but the staff was helpful. That was elementary school. My high school had a full quiver of AP classes and the teachers were, by and large, good. And they had a program where advanced students could also take courses from the public community college. All in a small-government, relatively low income and not large tax-base state.

    I daresay I didn't get near as much out of my public education as I could have if I were more focused and ambitious. One guy took all of the computer science classes, took advantage of after school lab time to learn everything he could about the unix minicomputer we had and C, and got a job not long out of high school working as a sysadmin for a salary that a lot of college grads don't get. Couple of people I knew used some pretty advanced language skills to work as au pairs or English teachers in foreign countries. Me, I learned to play nethack in the lab after school. :)

    The point? I think most of the smart kids -- especially if they have any kind of decent direction from parents, or a counselor, or some kind of mentor -- can take advantage of the existing system just fine, and learn to find resources outside of it to further their own goals.

    The ones with developmental disabilities, by contrast, are often the one with issues that are actually keeping them from getting even a fraction out of the system. That's why a disproportionate amount of resources are directed there.

    None of this is to say there shouldn't be some changes in how things are done. I'm just a tad skeptical of sweeping statements like "no one can get ahead." My observation is that's simply false.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rakishi (759894)

      ... on whether or not the gifted student is smart enough to figure out how to use resources to direct their own learning.

      The point? I think most of the smart kids -- especially if they have any kind of decent direction from parents, or a counselor, or some kind of mentor -- can take advantage of the existing system just fine, and learn to find resources outside of it to further their own goals.

      Kids are kids. Just because a kid is a genius doesn't make him anything other than a kid. You're expecting these kids to not only be smart but also extremely motivation and fully knowledgeable about what is possible.

      You know what they'll figure out on their own? That it takes 10 minutes to get the password of every student in the school. Why? Because it's about the most interesting thing they can do during school hours.

      How do you expect a kid to be motivated about anything when they're forced to sit for 6

  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:11PM (#20269193)
    When I used to go to middle school (grades 6 and 7), our classes were split into three groups, A B and C, based on how well we were doing (A=best, C=worst). There were separate classes based on the group (group A studied together with other group A students and separate from students from the other groups).

    There were more than just raw grades that determined what group you were in. Behavioral problems (you are dealing with young kids, remember) were a very big factor, and overall, how willing you were to learn took precedence over your natural talent. That's why you saw good and bad grades even in the A group (where I was in), because many kids who did try hard and therefore were in A group still didn't manage to do well, especially in courses like math.

    It also meant that even some group C students got As, based on things like improvements, behavior, etc.

    And back then, nobody had a problem with this system. Yes, the grades were mixed (getting an A in group C was nowhere near as hard as getting an A in group A) but the final grades don't really mean anything in middle school, it's more about what you actually learn. The shift and focus was very different. Group A (the students of which were more disciplined and hardworking) actually focused on the academic curriculum, while group C students were working more on social and behavioral issues (which to them, at that point, was more important to learn than just the academics).

    And it's not like these were two different schools. Only some academic-based classes (math, English) were separate, while classes like gym or arts, as well as other activities (breaks, field trips) were together, so it did not create a "segregationalist" impression. Most importantly, it provided each group with the study THAT GROUP needed most, the problematic kids got the attention they needed and the rest had a chance to actually learn the subject without having the problematic kids interfere.

    P.S. Just because I see this question coming: Yes, most students in group A TENDED to be white and in C there were more minorities, but we still had quite a few minority kids in A, and the race itself was not a factor. (The minorities in group C were there because not because they are the minority, but because they were poorly performing or problematic students who happened to be the minority). Yes, due to social factors and whatnot there tended to be more minority "problem" students compared to the general population, but you know what? Back then the schools were designed to provide an education and teach students a set of skills (whichever skills the students needed the most), instead of playing politics and trying to fix (or pretend to be fixing) social problems that have nothing to do with the school's purpose.

    Nowadays, of course, any school board member who THINKS about trying to introduce such a system would be labeled a Nazi racist elitist snobbish evil person who eats children for breakfast...
  • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:11PM (#20269197)
    Although I'm not close to the level of the kids in the article, I was always in the advanced classes throughout my K-12 days. For example, I was three years ahead in math. Even being so advanced, I always had a very easy time, and I got excellent grades. And this was all at very good schools in the Bay Area, where I had plenty of classmates who went to Cal, Stanford, Ivy Leagues, etc.

    But then it all changed when I got to college.

    I went off to college, and I got my ass kicked. Royally. This was a concept that was totally foreign to me. I wasn't prepared to learn stuff that didn't come to me instantly. I had no work ethic. I ended up flunking multiple classes my first semester freshman year. While I had the intelligence to succeed in college, years of skating through classes had lowered my expectations and made me overconfident. I ended up graduating just fine and I've got a nice job, but throughout my time in college I didn't come close to my potential because I had gotten so accustomed to taking the easy way out.

    Looking back on it, there came a point when I was no longer challenged in middle school and high school. As soon as I hit the farthest that the school would advance me, I stagnated. The problem was that I was always judge against my age group peers. If you're three years ahead and still at the top of the class, most people think that it's a great job. But it's not. You can learn a hell of a lot, both academically and socially, by being pushed beyond your comfort zone. Without a constant challenge, there is much less incentive to keep pushing yourself. Regardless of intelligence level, be it special ed to gifted, our focus on education needs to be identifying and providing difficult but attainable goals for all students. Having one standard for everyone is inevitably going to fail people at one or both ends of the curve.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shados (741919)
      I hear that a lot. It actually happened to my girlfriend (yes, I have one!), even with me warning her about it (since I had finished college before she started, being a few years apart and all).

      The thing is, how much you know, or how skilled you are, is completly insignificant in life. I use daily less than 1% of what I've learned between 7th grade and the end of college, even though I'm working in exactly the field I studied for. The world changes, things change.

      The only thing that really matters, is how g
  • by netsavior (627338) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:39PM (#20269507)
    Don't forget that historically many people who went on to be geniuses were considered retarded or in modern terms developmentally disabled... like Einstein, for example. Many extremly technically gifted people are categorized as being Autistic, which often comes with high intellegence, with low social skills... And autism is one of the biggest cost initiatives in the no child left behind campaign. Special needs != Stupid High performing student != gifted/genius No child left behind just makes it more painfully obvious that the school system is only a very expensive, very useless state mandated babysitting service. Real learning happens when people are left to persue subjects they are passionate about. I can't believe people still think that a genius will be somehow less valuable and less effective with less school resources. In fact, I would be willing to say that the less the "education" process gets in the way of learning, the better.
  • The Money (Score:3, Informative)

    by eepok (545733) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:40PM (#20269515) Homepage
    The statistic stating that "up to ten times as much money is spent nationwide on educating 'developmentally disabled' students as gifted ones" has no bearing on whether or not gifted students are getting their due and appropriate education. The simple fact of the matter is that special education requires MANY MANY more resources than a class specialized in advanced education. I work at university sponsored school for students with ADD, ADHD, and Asperger's kids and I can personally attest to the amount of money that needs to make sure these students grow up to become normal functioning members of our society. Psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, specially trained teachers -- almost all of which have their PH.Ds. It's no surprise it costs more. As others are stating, the failing more frequently comes from poor school districts that aren't able to afford the advanced courses (or the better-skilled teachers to teach them). Or, more pervasive, the American love of idiocy and stupidity. I believe the best way to change it around and start helping our gifted students would be to publicly award smart people on TV instead of athletes and actresses.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:44PM (#20269583) Homepage
    If you really want to exceed follow this bit of wisdom from Mark Twain:

    "I never let schooling get in the way of my education."

    Schools are NOT the beginning and end of our education unless we choose to believe it (unfortunately many of us do nowadays.) Fortunately if you have a gifted person and just give them the opportunity to learn and explore and show them where resources are and how to use them (Library, searching Google, etc.) they will go running with their education themselves.

    For many of us those opportunities were the home computers of the 80s and bunch of programming books and type-in game articles.
  • by morari (1080535) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:04PM (#20269789) Journal

    Does No Child Left Behind mean that nobody can get ahead, either?
    The school system has always been set up to cater to the lowest common denominator.

    I am officially a genius. I spent years in alternative classes, set aside to cater to my unique "gift". These classes occurred one day out of the week, in which we left the confines of the normal teachers' textbooks and sat around solving slightly more abstract problems. Some really fun projects took place as well, but they were few and far between. Afterwards we were still required to make up the work that we had "missed" in normal class that day and we received no special credit for our alternative work. It was akin to gym class, where the only way to get something other than "Satisfactory" on your report card was to not participate at all. This was up to the halfway point in junior highschool, afterwards I was traditionally home schooled and then attended an online academy.

    Even for the regular kids, school is meant to be slow and plodding. You cannot get a head, but you can fall behind. The teacher is there to slowly explain things so that everyone can attempt to comprehend them. If that means boring 80% of the children that could manage fine without, then so be it! The public education system really isn't about learning though, is it? It's about molding youth into the form that civilization sees as beneficial. It is social conditioning with the intent of forcing you into being a productive member of society. You're made to memorize things while never truly understanding, and many of said subjects aren't nearly as valuable as others that aren't even taught at all. Of course, what is and isn't valuable is largely dependent upon what talents you have. I for one was never given the opportunity to indulge any of my interests in a school setting. Everything I know (save for some advanced mathematics and science) were self taught. My lifelong talents further guided me in the direction that I wanted to take my life and now contribute to a very satisfying lifestyle.

    Not everyone can be successfully self employed, but anyone can find something that they like and make it their own if they only try. Too many of us get caught up in being or competing with the proverbially Joneses to live a happy life, and much of that is due to the social conditioning we encounter throughout youth. Many are not told or cannot see this when it is happening, only to be too far assimilated into the machine or much too beaten down by it to do anything once they do realize. Don't let that happen.

  • by solar_blitz (1088029) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:56PM (#20270473)
    One of the reasons our nation's gifted children are suffering is because of a severe lack of skilled, qualified teachers to suit their needs. Let me elaborate with a personal story: my mom always talks about how my grandmother was a second grade teacher, and was well known for her ability to teach her second grade students well enough to read from the newspaper by the end of the school year. Parents went out of their way to get their children into her courses. The problem, though, was that she had a horrible salary. She was a single mother and had to take care of four kids. Life for my mother was hard.

    Teachers like my grandmother aren't around anymore because other industries pay better. That's not to say people are greedy money grubbers, though, because in most of the United States it is difficult to support oneself on a teacher's salary. So when given the choice between taking a $40k teaching gig or a $60k software developing gig in a state like, say, California (where schools are nearly last place in the country and living costs are HIGH), the majority would go for the $60k gig. And without good teachers or resources, we end up taking the mindset of "How do we keep the less gifted students on track with the norm?"

    We all see ads and propaganda for the Army, right? Recruiters at every school. But where the hell is the propaganda for teacher recruitment? If our public education system had the same budget as the military, none of these problems would've existed. We'd have had ads asking for teachers playing at the theaters before the previews came on. Superintendents of public school boards would be making speaches at universities about why you should get a job in teaching. Gifted students would have access to advanced courses and cirriculum in the same school as the normal kids. (I've got nothing against the nation's military, though, and I wasn't intending to give that message off. Sorry.)

    On another note, I took an IQ test a while ago and found out that... well, my IQ wasn't as high as the girl in the beginning of the TIME article, but it was up there. I don't remember being able to talk as well as she did, but in my psychology research I found out I did a lot while I was a kid. Memorizing the names and locations of the United States, making large structures with building blocks, y'know? However when I was at school I was a complete bonehead! I'd find it hard to read a lot of the material they gave in class and outright hated writing and grammar lessons. And I was always imagining different things, I never really focused on the teacher's lessons or anything. I was told that some of my classmates didn't even think that I would get past high-school.

    There's a lot in deciding who is smart and who is not. A lot of the issues that students have are simple barriers or developmental issues that they haven't grown out of. Things like dyslexia, attention deficity disorder, or even an early fear of math. And there are a lot of issues with standardized testing, because many students learn and study in different ways, and if teachers aren't aware or open to these different types of learning methods, how are students supposed to excel?

    Add onto that a lot of immigrant children don't even know English, so how are they supposed to learn in a classroom? One of the issues with the "No Child Left Behind" Act is that it rewards schools that perform well in academic standardized testing, but when a lot of students from poor immigrant families perform poorly because of a lack of education or the language barrier, the school and the entire district suffer the consequences. Ultimately the children are being taught material from the SATs and standardized testing for the sake of passing the exams only!
  • Cue The Moaning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MadMacSkillz (648319) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:24PM (#20270893) Homepage
    Let loose the slashdot moaning about how bad the public education system is... regardless of the fact that the average slashdotter wouldn't last two days as a teacher. Boo hoo, the parents and administration won't support me and none of the kids want to learn, and I'm somehow supposed to motivate them. Welcome to public education. It's HARD to teach. Here's some good advice for anyone - unless you've actually done a person's job, shut the hell up. And yes, I HAVE taught. At one point in time I taught gifted 4th and 5th graders how to program, years ago. Some of those kids are now in college, studying computer programming. So I've actually DONE something. You want to change public education? Triple teacher salaries to dramatically increase competition for jobs and radically improve the quality of teachers, and change USA culture so that parents and kids respect education (good luck.) Though since we seem to value money so much, increasing teacher salaries might have the same effect.

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