Perspective | It’s time we stopped with the phrase “gifted and talented”


Last week, I two toddlers wearing “Genius” T-shirts. When I the first one, I smiled, as I undeniably have a soft spot for ironic baby . But when just hours later the second “genius” came waddling along, it gave me pause. I know these clever shirts proclaiming that our are “ like ” or “sassy like Mommy” are just supposed to be and . Yet I feel slightly troubled by what lies under the our attempts to label our children with myriad .

The “Genius” one left a distinctly in my mouth, and after a few days of pondering, I realized why. It was a tiny incarnation of the “ and talented” program, which is a I’ been struggling with as a .

When I was in 5th grade, I was selected to participate in (, ), a program that took place during two hours of every Friday afternoon. I recall playing challenging that required teamwork and higher-level questioning, completing independent projects, on one occasion making a collage about (hmmm), and then trotting merrily to class with my above-average classmates.

I moved the following year, and was placed in a similar program with a different name: . Was it, shudder, because were “ ?” It was my first and last meeting. Although I carried straight A’s—aside from my B in P.E.—after a snide comment from one of my fellow students, I chose never again to participate in a gifted and talented program.

Over the years, I’ve heard it referred to as ULE— Experience—and Exceptional Learners, but where I live it’s straight up “GT—gifted and talented.” My experience with GT as a parent of non-GT students has been eye-opening.

When my oldest , now 13, was in Montessori preschool, the staff provided a parent meeting where we could questions about kindergarten and elementary . Hands shot up around the room: “Tell more about the GT programs in the district.” “When can we test for GT?” Aside from the occasional inquiry about bilingual programs, it was pretty much the same: How do we get into the GT program?

My husband and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Who knew that all this our precocious darling had been surrounded by entirely gifted students? Over the few years, acquaintances would ask me when I was getting my daughter tested for GT. “I’m not,” I usually replied simply. The high-pressure program was not something I wanted for my , who now is a 4.0 roll student in middle school. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure she qualified for GT; her grades have much more to do with her personality and determination. But the entire operation left a bad taste in my mouth.

Semantics to me, perhaps more than most . ’t even get me started on my hang- about the word “blessed.” To me, being “gifted and talented” a whole lot like being bestowed with a well, gift, that others were not granted. It’s pretentious, and slightly obnoxious.

However, the value of these programs is undeniable. are students whose needs are not being met in a one-size-fits-all curriculum: a multitude, and not just the above average variety. It is difficult to comprehend the challenge of teachers who must constantly adapt their learning experience to the diverse group of students they . These programs are absolutely essential and provide a much-needed, enriching, stimulating education for the who are becoming bored in their classrooms, who are potentially even causing problems because they aren’t being challenged.

The future of ’s public gifted and talented is now in the , thanks to the -appointed School Group’s recommendation that the existing GT programs be replaced by magnet . A group of teachers have instead called for  overhaul and reform of the system instead of elimination, which they hope affect other GT programs around the . But perhaps there is more fundamental reform required than altering the selection process and addressing the issues of economic privilege and segregation.

Perhaps what we really need to address is what we call these programs and conceive of them. The pressure behind TAG, including the we use to describe it, needs to change. So too the frenetic to test our kids, not necessarily because we want to accommodate their learning style, but because of the proclamation that they are gifted and talented and therefore destined for a higher purpose, to a breeding ground of , , and -esteem issues. And what does it do to the kids who are excluded from this elite group?

I often when I hear someone counter the name of these kind of programs with the sentiment that “All kids are gifted and talented in their own way.” Because it sounds so trite—the equivalent of a participation award. And yet. At the of revealing myself as a special snowflake kind of person, I do believe all children are gifted and talented. Whether they are athletic, , deeply empathetic, or bold , or simply themselves. Platitudes be damned, they are all gifted and talented in their own way.

It’s time to change the of these advanced or specialized learning classrooms to reflect that. Our children are paying attention, and they can absolutely read between the lines. What kind of do we want to send them?

Stephanie is a , of two girls, early educator and , and of Listen To Your Mother and .

: an actual that was given to one of our ’s children.

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