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Scapegoats: The Potato Chips of Gifted Education

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Scapegoats are like potato chips—you can’t have just one!

Who’s the scapegoat in your gifted education situation? In our field it is not difficult to find someone or something to blame for the fact that gifted students aren’t getting nearly the services they need. Most commonly we blame the teachers. According to research, teachers generally believe they are differentiating for their gifted students, but evidence suggests otherwise. Who is the scapegoat in that situation? Do we blame large heterogeneously-grouped classrooms that require superhuman efforts to do the impossible to accommodate for the diversity of need among those students? Do we blame the lack of training for these teachers who have never had training or professional development in gifted education? Do we blame the administrators who are unwilling or unable to effect change in these classrooms?

How about attempts to differentiate that went awry, either because the student didn’t respond positively to the teacher’s efforts, or because parents demanded something different from what the teacher and student wanted? Another easy scapegoat to blame is the student who may be exhibiting characteristics that are negative, due either to lack of motivation resulting from boredom or desire to fit in with age peers, among other reasons. There is always the scapegoat of government, whether local, state, or federal, where there is a void of support for gifted educational, both philosophically and financially.

We can continue to blame all these potential scapegoats while the reality is that gifted students continue to grow older and continue not to get the services and funding required to challenge, expand, nurture, and encourage their abilities. Or, we can provide antidotes to scapegoating by accepting personal responsibility at our levels of contact.

  • If you are a teacher, meet individually with those high ability and talented students in your classes. Encourage them to let you know areas that they would like to study and get them started on a path of individualized, independent learning that is, at least partially, self-directed.
  • If you are a student, take steps to let your teachers know the extent to which you are and are not engaging with the curriculum, take initiative regarding your learning goals, and communicate your preferences for study beyond the curriculum content or beyond the level of content.
  • If you function at the advocacy or legislative level, don’t ignore this special group of learners. Help bring awareness to their special needs. Work through parent and educator groups, community involvement, and local and state and federal legislation to make sure that all students receive the services they need. Join a local advocacy group to see what you can do. Join NSGT and help us in our goals!

Let’s say bleat to scapegoating and find greener learning pastures for our next generation of students of high ability and potential.

What antidotes to scapegoating do you have in your cabinet?

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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