Richelle’s draft essay

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Richelle Benjamin
Professor Jack Dougherty
EDUC 300
20 April 2012

“How have the goals and methods of gifted education changed since the 1950s? What do these goals and methods say about the intended purpose of gifted education?”

The gifted child in American education is the child who exhibits a high level of intelligence and creativity. Gifted education in the U.S. exists to foster the abilities of these exceptional students in order to cultivate the skills they posses. These gifted programs cater to the needs of gifted students, providing a challenging curriculum instead of holding the child back with a curriculum catering to average or below average students. This recognition of the need to distinguish the education of gifted students from other students has existed since the turn of the 20th century. However, the gifted education provided in today’s public schools is definitely not the same type of education provided then.  An examination of the history of gifted education will show that the methods and goals of gifted programs have changed throughout the years. Gifted education is linked to the country at large, morphing to meet the demands that the country places on the student, in an effort to produce good future American citizens.

One of the first demands on gifted and talented education came as a result of the two major World Wars. World War I and World War II brought the United States into the forefront of international turmoil and affairs. In addition, the “involvement of the United States as a force and defender of persons… forced our leaders to seek other leaders” (Imbeau). Seeing how important good leaders were during these two wars, current leaders knew that their children had to be well educated in order to secure the safety and global dominance of the United States. Politicians and educators, therefore, looked to gifted education to prepare the minds of students who had already shown the incredible capability of becoming these leaders. The goals of gifted education during this time were to develop intelligent and globally aware young citizens who would later grow up to use their skills for the betterment of human kind, both within the United States and in the international world, especially when conflicts arose.

Another major historical event changing the goals of gifted education occurred in the year 1957 when Russia launched Sputnik into outer space. This event “caused an uproar because political leaders of the U.S. realized that this country had been upstaged by a potential global adversary” and that “educators who had been berating an educational system that drastically failed to meet the instructional needs… of our brightest youth… were correct after all” (Haenesly). Russia had beaten the United States in a contest of intelligence, and politicians saw that the best way to combat this was to promote the education of America’s gifted. Therefore, the goals of gifted education during the late 50s and early 60s began to focus on producing students who were globally competitive. The country needed youth with the ability to win the intellectual battle against its adversaries. Especially, “the fields of math and science were seen as the means of making sure we had the talent to lead the world in our exploration of space” (Imbeau). As a result, a greater emphasis on the subjects that would produce future space engineers had begun. Gifted education revolved around the need to send America outside the atmosphere.

Works Cited

Haensly, Patricia A. “My View of the ‘top 10’ Events That Have Influenced the Field of Gifted Education During the Past Century.” Gifted Child Today Magazine 22.6 (1999): 33–37. Print.

Imbeau, Marcia B. “A Century of Gifted Education: a Reflection of Who and What Made a Difference.” Gifted Child Today Magazine 22.6 (1999): 40–43. Print.

4 thoughts on “Richelle’s draft essay”

  1. I’m particularly interested in how this paper will turn out. Having participated in a Gifted Program in Pennsylvania’s public school system, and having endured many long IQ tests, I’m really excited to see an investigation into this side of test-based tracking. Maybe Prof. Dougherty has already keyed you into this, but tracing developments in student testing might further elucidate changes in gifted education, since there has to be a way of finding out which students are or aren’t gifted. The issues with said tests could also make for great discussion fodder, especially with the semi-controversial nature of tracking with regards to fallible test scores. Overall the research question seems clear and the topic is really interesting, but a greater diversity of sources can definitely help. Then again, we’re at the research stages of this project still to a large degree, so I don’t mean to insinuate that this is your final amount of research by any means.

  2. Richelle,

    I love your research question and am interested in learning more about these gifted programs. I feel that it may be a bit too broad in terms of location. Will you focus on the United States or look at how these programs have changed internationally? Your draft is well organized and easy to read. You do a great job in introducing the topic and the two historical events that have shaped the creation of these programs. I’m not sure about what else you will discuss but it will be interesting to read about the different arguments these programs raise. Also, are there any recent events that led to any other changes in their goals today? I think that for background information you should include where these programs exist (if they exist more in some places than others), where they do not exist and how are students chosen to participate in these programs. With that said, your off to a great start. I am interested in reading more about gifted programs and how they have changed.

  3. I really like this question and so far I think your answer seems persuasive. This essay certainly has a lot of potential. It might be beneficial to look at tracking in general and the more recent criticisms of it (not just because of fallible test scores but the controversy over whether these types of divisions are fair or ethical). Though I’m sure you are still researching, this paper would definitely benefit from primary sources. I don’t know how difficult they would be to find but i think it would be fascinating to see proposals for starting gifted programs as well as curricula and old news stories or opinion pieces touting gifted programs.
    Overall though this is a fantastic start and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

  4. Richelle, I’m wonder if the “Related Literature” section of this particular article may help you to put state-level changes in gifted education into historical perspective. See especially this section:
    “A handful of studies address fiscal and human resource equity and adequacy issues related to gifted education (Baker, 2001b & 2001c; Baker, 1995; Baker & Richards, 1998; Curley, 1991). Baker and Richards, for example, chronicle the decline of gifted programs in Northeastern states (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York) in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the hands of those who perceived such programming to be elitist (discussed by Renzulli & Reis, 1991). The irony of Baker and Richards’ findings is that the reduc- tion of publicly funded elitist programming (i.e., programming made available to a small, appar- ently privileged group of students) was associated with the emergence and expansion of numerous fee-based private programs for gifted children.”

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