January 25, 2009

Ron Matus drinks the kool-aid

Aaaiiiieeee! One of the local, well-trusted education beat reporters for the St. Petersburg Times has bought into the bright students still bored criticism of NCLB. I've explained before why that's an ugly argument against No Child Left Behind, as well as why it's bad for what's good about enrichment/advancement programs but I'll repeat the gist:

  • Selective focus fallacy: If students in your advanced classes are bored, check to see if all students are bored. Chances are that the answer is "yes."
  • Historical amnesia: While I have concerns about Advanced Placement courses as an equivalent of "hard and rigorous," there is no doubt that Florida provides far more opportunities for students of all kinds to take AP courses than the state did 10 or 15 years ago.
  • The "they're special" rut of gifted-ed arguments: For almost a century, we've distributed educational resources and opportunities based on assumptions that there is a fixed student capacity (or fragments of capacity). If gifted-education advocates cannot run away from that assumption, they are not nearly as smart as they need to be, either politically or intellectually.
  • Insults to the rest of humanity: Surely we can talk about the need for more and better investment in education without denigrating those absent from the room. If you're a parent and don't think your children are gifted and deserve individual attention, you need your heart checked. And if you don't think parents of the kids you're not talking about will be upset when you claim that your kids (and not theirs) are special, you need your head examined.

What is especially surprising is that a good reporter such as Matus did not look for anyone with a different take on the issue.

A few minutes ago, one of my daughter's best friends rang the doorbell to say hello while she's in the middle of her daily training run. In elementary school, she would never have been considered for the type of gifted-education program that Ron Matus discussed in this morning's article. Today, she's 17 years old, a good friend to many peers, a joy to be around,... and in as many AP classes as her friends who were in elementary and middle-school gifted programs. She would not have been where she is today without an incredible drive to achieve and without also some assistance in elementary schools from an astute second-grade teacher and an effective teacher of pullout services. To all advocates of gifted education who have a static definition of what giftedness is, and are willing to push it in a policy context, you would do well to remember that there are more talented students "than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Update: Ron Matus responds.

Listen to this article
Tags: gifted education, No Child Left Behind, reporting
Posted in History on January 25, 2009 2:32 PM |