- the special logic of a special education cliche -
When I taught 5th grade, a full 50 percent of my students were classified as part of the school's special education program. Because the school practiced the mainstreaming model of special education, children had to be pretty far below the average in ability to qualify for the program. The school's administration and special education staff kept telling us that "every child is able to learn" and "every child is gifted".
Well sure, every child is able to learn something, but some children are able to learn much more than other children. NOT every child is truly gifted. Most are average -- that's what average means -- and many are below average. It doesn't serve the needs of children with intellectual deficits to pretend that they are geniuses, and it doesn't serve the needs of truly gifted children to pretend that they are just like their classmates. They know better, and so do their classmates.
I remember one student who consistently scored in the 99th percentile in standardized tests. She could have learned anything, with the proper support. The problem was that I could hardly ever give her the attention she needed because I had to spend so much time teaching the rest of my class skills that they should have learned in the 2nd grade.
This gifted student had no one at her intellectual level to interact with. The special education zealots tell us that it is socially beneficial for intelligent children to be forced to study with the mentally retarded, but I never observed any benefit for this student. She was ready to learn algebra, but was forced to spend her time helping her classmates learn single-digit addition.
The bottom line is this: as long as all children are grouped together regardless of intellectual ability, teachers will be forced to teach to the students of lowest ability while the rest of the class waits for them to catch up. Read all the educational theory that you want, but this is what happens. In such an environment, gifted students get bored and turned off to school. They become restless and start causing problems for their teachers just in order to stimulate their active minds.
The fact is that intellectually gifted children are different from other students, and pretending that it isn't so won't make them any less above average. When we defund programs for gifted and talented students, we fail to invest in the children that have the greatest potential to improve the lives of the next generation.
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