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Taxation Without Representation in Gifted Education

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Today is commonly referred to as Tax Day and, hopefully, all reading this blog have completed their obligations in this regard, at least for the past year. Living as I do in a world of all things gifted, the word tax makes me think of other things as well. Just as the noun tax can signal good feelings in those for whom refunds are given or services are made available, and not-so-good feelings in those who feel overly encumbered by taxes, the verb tax can elicit similar emotions to those of us involved in gifted education.

On the not-so-good side, we too often tax the patience of our brightest students, requiring them to do routine work that doesn’t interest them, endlessly reviewing curriculum they already know, and not sufficiently allowing for creativity in their educational goals, products, and assessments. I think we also tax the patience of educators who are required to implement policies and practices that they don’t believe are in the best interests of gifted students, who are not prepared adequately to work with wide-ranging exceptional students, and who are frustrated by the size, diversity, and overwhelming needs of their classrooms. Finally, the patience of parents can be taxed by the frustration of trying each year to work with schools to provide specialized programming for their children. Parents have the opportunity to know a great deal about their children’s abilities through a lifetime of activity with them and it is challenging to work effectively as a team member with educators who don’t know that student as well, who really don’t have the time, expertise, and training required to give them that specialized programming, and who must exercise objectivity, as most are told by the majority of parents how wonderful their children are.

So, let’s think about the positive aspects of the tax verb in reference to gifted and talented education. If we think of taxing as requiring a lot of something from someone, then taxing becomes a productive and positive concept. Surely gifted students are capable of tackling a lot, doing a lot, and producing a lot, and if all these capabilities are sought within areas of personal motivation, they do so willingly, eagerly, and exceptionally. If we want to tax our students, in a good way that they will embrace, we must present them with interesting authentic challenges, encourage them to think beyond the A, 100%, or last column on the rubric, and praise their processes, efforts, and mistakes as all important to learning more, going “beyond”, and creating new knowledge that produces new solutions. You can probably figure out what you would have to do as a parent or teacher to work with your students to accomplish these appropriate taxing goals. In this way, every day can be Tax Day, and that’s a good thing!

If you have experiences where you have been taxed by your efforts for gifted children, either positive or negative, please feel free to share what you learned from that experience.

All the best,

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

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