To the Editor:
Although the authors of the Commentary “Gifted Ed. Is Crucial, But the Label Isn’t” make some very good points about the mismatch between gifted students’ abilities and the educational services they receive, I find their premise—that the gifted label is unnecessary—to be quite naive.
Labels in special education (and yes, gifted children are special-needs students) provide access to educational alternatives that align with the students’ unique learning needs. Simply put: No label, no access. Instead of advocating elimination of the gifted label, the authors should argue for its strengthening. Perhaps when the label is celebrated instead of discarded, identified gifted students will receive more than the minimal services that most schools now provide.
The authors’ views of the benefits of gifted programs are shortsighted, as they focus entirely on enhanced academic growth. While such growth is both expected and beneficial, it is seldom the reason that graduates of gifted programs recall these programs so fondly. Rather, it is the social and emotional connections that gifted kids forge with other students who are as smart as or smarter than they are that make these programs so memorable.
Gifted kids are more than academic superstars, but the authors of the Commentary perceive them from a one-dimensional vantage that does a disservice to the gifted students they presumably support.
James R. Delisle
North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The author, now retired, was a distinguished professor of education at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
A version of this article appeared in the May 07, 2014 edition of Education Week as ‘Gifted’ Label Is Crucial to Ensure Access to Much-Needed Services