A Gifted Counternarrative

A few posts back, I was worried about what to write on for my final paper in a course on using narratives in academic writing.  My first two papers had been on gifted education, so I knew my last one would as well, but I didn’t have a solid direction on it.

My final product ended up being a piece on why academically gifted students need a counternarrative.  A counternarrative is a story that goes against what is common knowledge.  In this case, the “official” narrative (which has also been expressed as myths about gifted students – see here and here) that I addressed was that academically gifted students will be fine without extra services because of their abilities, with some attention paid to the related narrative, that gifted education services are elitist.

I would like to say up front that of course, some gifted education services are elitist, and some are unneeded, but that’s due to flaws within the system, not due to the concept of gifted education.  At my high school, classes aimed at the academically advanced (Honors/AP classes) appeared to serve primarily as a racially/class segregating tool, not to implement any kind of meaningful curriculum differentiation.  I also believe that the label itself, “gifted,” serves to further reinforce the narrative that the programs are elitist/extra, but that’s not a battle I’m up for fighting.

Instead, what I wrote about was my belief that gifted education would be best served by showing specific cases of how a lack of gifted education hurts via storytelling, as the research is already on “our” side and it hasn’t done much for us.  I gave my own high school experience as an example–I dropped out of high school at sixteen due to a lack of options–and used it to springboard to an argument I’m still wrestling with: gifted education should be treated like special education and/or academically gifted students should have access to the same types of resources as the athletically gifted.  I especially like the athletic metaphor because academically gifted students vary as much in what they’re skilled in as athletes vary between sports, but the special education comparison is also valid, as academically gifted students vary as much from the norm in terms of IQ scores as students in need of special education do.  (Big note, not advocating IQ as a meaningful measurement here, just as a quantifiable example).

What writing this paper (and continuing this blog) showed me is that I’m constantly learning more, and even my interpretation of what I’ve read/experienced has changed from the first paper I wrote in this class to the most recent one.  Probably the most significant shift would be giving up on meaningful differentiated education within a mainstreamed classroom, but that’s a topic for another entry.

I think it all comes back to Dr. Kettler’s talk at the TAGT conference – the most important strategy in gifted education and in education at large is to be flexible.  Both mainstream education and gifted education have to fight against the notion that a one-size-fits-all solution exists, and we do a disservice by trying to make that nonexistent solution appear.

Your link of the day – Radio has emerged as an awesome vehicle for storytelling as advocacy, here’s just one example of some powerful stories that can shift public opinion on crucial issues.


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