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
Matthew T. McBee
Assistant Professor of Psychology
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tenn.
Scott J. Peters
Department of Educational Foundations
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Michael S. Matthews
Associate Professor of Gifted Education
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
D. Betsy McCoach
Associate Professor in Educational Psychology
University of Connecticut
A version of this article appeared in the June 04, 2014 edition of Education Week as All Students Deserve Appropriate Challenges