Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gifted, is a bad word only when misused

According to the LSU biography, Dr. Martin Luther King, "[b]ecause of his high score on the college entrance examinations in his junior year of high school, he advanced to Morehouse College without formal graduation from Booker T. Washington. Having skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades, Dr. King entered Morehouse at the age of fifteen." In 1964, this gifted young man went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yes, Dr. King was a gifted student who skipped grades. He would have been denied that opportunity had he been a student at MCPS. A website quotes an MCPS administrator as insisting, "The district's systemwide model for acceleration ensures that students can access an appropriate, above-grade-level curriculum every day without skipping a grade." I personally offered the administrator the opportunity to post her comments here and received no answer. Courageous conversations … .
In a review of a book on Lincoln, the New York Times wrote, "Having received almost no formal education, Lincoln embarked on a quest for learning and self-improvement. He read incessantly, beginning as a youth with the Bible and Shakespeare. During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ''stunning work of self-education'' was the ''intellectual power'' revealed in Lincoln's writings and speeches. He relied, [the author] notes, on in-depth research and logical argument to persuade his listeners rather than oratorical flights." In Montgomery County, the AEI Advisory Committee, presently revising the gifted and talented policy, cares for neither. To quote the Committee notes, "One Board member asked what research the committee had conducted in preparation for policy revision. Members were silent." Yes, Lincoln wouldn't have felt at home with the MCPS AEI Committee.

In a September 8, 2009, memorandum to the BOE, Weast wrote, "MCPS begins identifying students who can work at advanced levels as early as kindergarten, so that schools can provide an appropriate instructional program to meet students' varied needs." How does the system identify "students who can work at advanced levels as early as kindergarten?"

In Montgomery County, we select students "ready to work above grade level," label them "gifted," and incessantly argue about gifted and talented education.  How many of our "outstandingly" bright minds, with "remarkably high levels of accomplishment" are being denied the opportunities they deserve by the absence of a robust, rigorous, gifted and talented program?
Renowned African-American pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson's biography states, "When Mrs. Carson saw Benjamin's failing grades, she determined to turn her sons' lives around. She sharply limited the boys' television watching and refused to let them outside to play until they had finished their homework each day. She required them to read two library books a week and to give her written reports on their reading even though, with her own poor education, she could barely read what they had written." Hard work and sound family values have been drowned out by a chorus of pontification over labels and the absence thereof.
Oh, so long ago, Dr. King, spoke about our values, and said "[T]he real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood."
On Sunday, some of our "… most academically gifted young students in the country," were honored. Dr. Carson titled his book "Gifted Hands." Gifted, is a bad word only when misused. Let me say that again, Gifted, is a bad word only when misused.
We need leadership with the "moral and spiritual genius" and the courage to make us a brotherhood committed to walking out of the wilderness and doing what is best for our exceptional children.
If you read Harvard's book about MCPS, a tome that seems to depend an awful lot on emails and phone calls from school headquarters (Carver), the "achievement gap" is being narrowed by Carver. I would make an equally valid claim: the "achievement gap" will be eliminated through the hard work of our children, strong family values communicated by parents, hardworking teachers, principals, and, yes, by a society that forms a united brotherhood. Yes, I too have a dream.


  1. Did Dr. King's High School system have magnet programs? Are MCPS students prohibited from taking college courses (at UMCP or Montgomery College, for example)?

  2. The last thing I needed was to look at another power point presentation, but here is an interesting link on research related to the (positive) benefits to grade skipping:



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