There is a huge but subtle undercurrent bias or leaning among educators and staff when it comes to teaching the gifted. I’ll give you a prime example. I attended the substitute orientation for a district near Houston today. All was going along just fine, the Human Resources guy had a nice sense of humor coupled with the seriousness of the job of a substitute in teaching and role modeling for children.

He had an easy going and flexible style and probably didn’t even know that he had said something that ‘set off fireworks’ in my head. His quote was “some people don’t want to teach gifted” as part of his speech on making sure you know the assignment before you sign up for it. He also mentioned other special positions as well. Maybe he said it thinking that there wouldn’t be a gifted teacher in the midst; maybe he was thinking that he had a nice crosscutting of the type of positions, who knows. But couldn’t he have said, “maybe you want to teach only gifted students”. The positive swing of the comment sounds so much better, don’t you think?

I guess you can call this ‘subtle discrimination’. It’s not anything like what women in Afgahnistan or Iran are dealing with. I’m currently in the middle of the novel, “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” What is the parallel here? That type of discrimination got its start very subtly and became a full blown way of life over time. The author of the book talks about how she plays a game with herself “imagining that she is invisible”. She sees the bones of her body holding up the black covering not the academic professor and loving mother she really is.

Can there be a connection between a full-blown discrimination in Tehran and the subtle discrimination of the gifted children or a teacher of the gifted? To a gifted child, who has little experience to draw from, I believe there is. Adults have the maturity and experiences to realize that the world just isn’t a perfect place. To a gifted child, what is is what is. There isn’t a need to change because, frankly, they aren’t aware that there is a problem. The gifted child deals with his or her disappointments in much the same way as this woman in Tehran – imagining that they aren’t really there anyway.

Will anything come of this? Probably not. But it did in Tehran. It is most real for the author of my novel and it didn’t start out that way. It is so important for teachers and speakers to be aware of the value each individual can bring to a program or project. Never, never discount the value of an individual, celebrate it! Always be positive in your remarks. You never know when you could be part of a total, cultural discrimination in the future.Even the Pope can make mistakes and must be careful when speaking. His quote during his latest speech was taken from a 1400 Byzatine ruler which had something to do with religion and fighting with a sword has caused bad feelings in the Muslim world. I hope that the apology from the Pope can extinguish any cause for this to be laid in the ‘pile’ of discrimination against a culture but likely it will.

One Comment

  1. I don’t teach gifted kids or anything like that, but I have to say that I’ve heard/noticed comments similar to the one you described in this post. I agree that this kind of discrimination starts out very small, but can easily escalate into something that is much more difficult to deal with.

    September 19, 2006

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