Quick hit: “Gifted and Talented”

Because we all know exactly what that means:went to a good school and didn’t throw pencils into the ceiling.

Most of the children at this program for “special” children were Asian, Indian or upper-middle class looking whites, which made me wonder if gifted and talented means you can afford a private tutor and science camp.

As a kid who was labeled the other kind of special (remedial) and later found to be dyslexic and bright, I’m very suspicious of categories. If I didn’t have knowledgeable parents, I would have spent twelve years in special education programs. So at one point, as a parent told me the importance of gifted and talented children being around other children who are special, I asked her “What exactly is gifted and talented, anyway? Isn’t it often linked to exposure? And is it possible that bored, inner-city students are too smart for the work they are doing, but never given the test to prove that?” She stared at me blankly.

My school’s G&T program consisted of “you already know how to read, you don’t have to do Phonics worksheets, go read a book in the back of class or something”. One summer – and it was pre-established with my parents that it would be just this one, because the fee was like $3K – I went to a three-week summer camp for “the Gifted”. It was one of the whitest things I’d ever experienced, and I grew up in northern Wisconsin. Though, let’s be honest – when tuition is $3K for three weeks, you know exactly what sort of riff-raff you’re keeping out.

Sure I would have liked to skip a grade or three, but considering I’m just now at 28 figuring out what I want to do with myself, I’m pretty sure my early exit from high school would have seen me in roughly the same condition as this guy:

He was 15 and getting ready to graduate from high school. I asked the boy – a tall, awkward, Indian kid with braces and a buzz cut — what he wanted to do after graduating from high school pre-maturely.

“I want to go to Bollywood and be a choreographer,” he said. He isn’t a dancer: I’m not even sure he was aware that Bollywood isn’t a city.

One thought on “Quick hit: “Gifted and Talented”

  1. Athenae says:

    I asked her “What exactly is gifted and talented, anyway? Isn’t it often linked to exposure? And is it possible that bored, inner-city students are too smart for the work they are doing, but never given the test to prove that?” She stared at me blankly.
    That’s the question you don’t ask, for God’s sake. Never ask if somebody else might be just as deserving as you! It undermines the whole idea of deservingness that keeps you alive.
    Reminds me of the passage in Savage Inequalities where Kozol asks the rich kids if they’d be willing to make school funding more fair and they said something like, “But how would that benefit me?”
    A.

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