Educating the Gifted and Talented

“People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.” -John Holt-

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rejection can lead to depression

If a student is in any way different, or has the courage to have opposing ideas, others may taunt, tease or ignore that individual altogether. "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." As a result affected teens may become rebellious or turn emotional pain inward by cutting themselves, using alcohol or drugs, and sometimes even committing suicide.

Surprisingly, rejecting those who differ may be biological. In her book "The Nurture Assumption", Judith Rich Harris writes that "When a chimpanzee was stricken with polio and returned to his group as a cripple, the members of the group attacked him. Dislike of strangers, translates very easily into dislike of strangeness. If you are different you are not one of us." It takes courage to be a non-conformist, or, as Robert Heinlein writes in his book Gulf, being a pink monkey among brown monkeys is a fatal mistake. And so, most children will adapt.

Having or not having a group to identify and socialize with is indeed of great importance to school children. According to Harris --more than having a friend--it is peer acceptance that predicts life fulfillment in adulthood. A survey showed that a third of college students blamed peers for feelings of dejection. Students who had been well adjusted before, changed after being rejected, laughed at, taunted, and bullied by peers. Some even became physically ill when in school. Canadian sociologist Anne-Marie Ambert calls it peer abuse. She says it’s a serious problem that does not receive enough attention.

For gifted kids rejection may be the final blow that leads to depression. With a mental mind as old as the age of some of their teachers, they can feel miserably out of place in school. When classmates tease or ignore them and make their day unbearable, they become seriously at risk for under-achievement and dropping out.

Just like a pink monkey, gifted students may appear to be different and quickly learn it is safer and easier to "wear a brown monkey suit" in order to be accepted by a group. Unfortunately, not showing their true selves also prevents recognition by real peers. In a regular classroom with little or no access to those who are like themselves, gifted students may develop serious behavioral and emotional problems. Not surprisingly, a large number of high school dropouts are identified gifted students. Losing them to learning may mean that their talents and possible contributions to society are lost forever.

A solution is to group students of like needs and abilities for at least part of the school day. Research shows that not only the gifted students but also their classmates benefit from such measures. Teachers can more easily note the learning status of the groups and spend more instructional time on each.

Experts agree that gifted kids need the chance to interact not only to stretch their minds but especially to feel validated and accepted by others like them. Unfortunately, starting in middle school, there no longer is a gifted and talented pull-out program. Exposed to a new and very different learning environment, teens may feel more lonely than ever. If we want gifted students to do well in school they--just like other students--deserve an opportunity to be with those who appreciate and accept them.


  • At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My Daughter is turly gifted and she can't show her true ability because the school she goes to is slower than she is. The bad thing is we can't put her in any other schools.
    Any suggestions.


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