"Gifted Education: Losing the Racism and Elitism" by Dona Matthews
Psychology Today blog, September 28, 2021
As publicly funded programs designed exclusively for gifted and talented students continue to draw both vocal critics and passionate supporters, there is opportunity for independent schools to evaluate their own practices and to redefine what it means to meet the needs of the gifted learner. Bringing heightened challenge to those with exceptional academic capacity can, often justifiably, attract the charge of elitism and racism based on evidence of inequities in both the access and outcomes of classes for high achievers. Dona Matthews takes on the myths and points of contention in gifted education including dependence on IQ scores and the creation of a "gifted/not-gifted" divide that is socially divisive and frequently unjust. Matthews calls for transformative change and proposes, in useful, practical terms, a shift in mindset that calls for meeting all exceptional needs more broadly across the population. She uses recent advances in the science of brain development to point us away from a forever, all-in view of giftedness. Her "optimal match" definition of giftedness shifts the focus from scores to seeing giftedness as a subject-specific ability at a particular point in time, requiring adaptations to the curriculum. Matthews highlights the benefits of reducing labelling, broadening access, and increasing the potential for effective enriched education for any who need it. Creating optimal learning environments requires trusting capable educators to identify talents within their contexts, enrich meaningfully, and support parents in fully understanding their child's needs and skills. To see giftedness differently opens the potential for gifted education to take its place as a dynamic, flexible, inclusive, and responsive resource in every classroom.