In a highly theoretical and suppositional world, monkeys with typewriters (keyboards) could ostensibly create the works of Shakespeare. Theoretical probability has shown that over the vastness of time and space, nature appears to sporadically generate highly talented individuals capable of creating phenomenal works of art, though the singularity of these occurrences highlights their rarity. Statistical probability aside, one person, William Shakespeare (1585-1613), is credited with this body of distinctive work. Nonetheless, some people could still believe that monkeys with keyboarding prowess were capable of creating world-class literature. If this supposition were repeated often enough, and widely enough, others might believe it as well. Supposition trumps reality.
The field of education, like other fields, can fall prey to theory and supposition cloaked as fact; this can happen when theoretical pedagogy is divorced from real world experience. For example, in the field of gifted and talented education, there is currently a recurring supposition/theme - that limiting access to talent development will somehow provide educational equity. Though educators often listen politely to illogical arguments such as this (because fads come and go), and continue to engage in proven best practice, some theories cannot be left unchecked. Serious discourse is necessary because some people will believe the false supposition.
Recognizing that gifted individuals exist in all demographic groups is a tenet of best practice in gifted educational pedagogy. Challenges and shortcomings notwithstanding, public education provides opportunities and serves the greater good (Mitra, 2011). The traditional model, however, often leaves students on either end of the academic spectrum feeling alienated and frustrated.
Strategies to promote quality education for all students begin with resources. Refusing to address the inherent inequities of public school funding (Matheson, 2020) leads to a disconnect between good pedagogy versus easy solutions. School funding aside, however, there are certain strategies that promote talent development for all students:
Knowledge building requires a comprehensive humanities-based curriculum. Though some students have multiple external opportunities to develop their talents, ALL students can benefit from in-school services; this will level the playing field. Eliminating these opportunities only causes more inequity. For too long, whether because of misguided suppositions coupled with inadequate funding, this is what has happened–gifted programming has been under attack. Only when we collect and analyze data, use best practice strategies, target instruction to meet the needs of all learners, and provide opportunities to fail and develop growth mind strategies in our students will gifted education succeed.
The problem isn’t Advanced Learning/Gifted and Talented; elimination is not the solution. Ultimately, if we want to promote opportunities for ALL learners we must strive to empower teachers and systems with resources and encouragement. Teaching is hard work; when done right, it makes all the difference.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D
WI Association for Talented & Gifted