Opinion
Special Education Letter to the Editor

All Students Deserve Appropriate Challenges

June 03, 2014 1 min read
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To the Editor:

The author of the letter to the editor “‘Gifted’ Label Is Crucial to Ensure Access to Much-Needed Services,” which critiqued our Commentary failed to respond to our main point—that the positives of gifted education can be accomplished even more effectively without first “identifying” a class of people known as “gifted” students.

It’s certainly true the label of “gifted” sometimes allows access to services from which most students are excluded. If those services provide an appropriate level of challenge, then the label has done its job. However, in many cases, those services would have been beneficial for many students—not just “gifted” students. In other cases, absence of the gifted label prevents students from receiving services from which they could benefit. Finally, some educators find the term off-putting. In such instances, the term acts as more of a barrier to, rather than a catalyst for, services.

The author suggests that fond memories of gifted programs should be the metric of their success. But why is having fun and enjoying school only the purview of “gifted” students? This sentiment has caused many public relations problems for the field. Our position does focus on academics (as defined by local schools—including any area of human endeavor) because these are areas that are the purview of schools. But we believe our proposal for challenging all students can help a greater number of learners feel more stimulated and valued, and also allow students to forge social and emotional connections with others who are ready to engage with the material.

We believe the field can accomplish these worthy aims without the unnecessary and often counterproductive labeling of students with a term that is far removed from their educational needs.

Scott Barry Kaufman

Scientific Director, The Imagination Institute

Researcher, Positive Psychology Center

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pa.

Matthew T. McBee

Assistant Professor of Psychology

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tenn.

Scott J. Peters

Associate Professor

Department of Educational Foundations

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Whitewater, Wis.

Michael S. Matthews

Associate Professor of Gifted Education

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Charlotte, N.C.

D. Betsy McCoach

Associate Professor in Educational Psychology

University of Connecticut

Storrs, Conn.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 04, 2014 edition of Education Week as All Students Deserve Appropriate Challenges

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