Reviewed in the 2e Newsletter, Issue 7, 2004.
This book is a frank appraisal of the sorry state of gifted education in the United States today. The title comes from the following passage:
America's ambivalence about talent leads to school and society asking less and less of bright children, so over time they develop their talents less and less, and shrink into a shadow of the people they could be. This is genius denied.
As you read Genius Denied, expect to experience a gamut of feelings. One might be disbelief at how, as a nation, we've turned a blind eye to the needs of our brightest and most promising students. Another might be sadness as you read the real-life accounts whose gifts go unrecognized, unappreciated, and undeveloped. You might feel anger as you read that only half the states offer certification in gifted education and about the same number require no particular expertise for teaching gifted classes.
On the other hand, you're likely to feel admiration for the authors of this book, who make such an impassioned plea for the children they refer to as a "natural resource that's being squandered." But impassioned as it might be, this book, with its nearly 30-page bibliography, is based on research rather than emotion. Don't let that scare you off, however. The book is written in a very readable rather than scholarly style, made even more so by the personal accounts of children the Davidsons have come to know and help through their philanthropy.
In the 1980s, Jan and Bob Davidson were the highly successful creators of educational software, such as Math Blaster and Reading Blaster. After selling their company, they looked for ways to make a positive difference. Their research led them to the cause of gifted children, whom they found to be "one of the most underserved and neglected student populations in America's educational system." In 1999 they founded the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit foundation that nurtures the nation's brightest students.
Throughout the book, the Davidsons, with Laura Vanderkam, paint a picture of an educational system tied to notions that are outdated and even false. One such notion is grouping students by age in the classroom. The authors explain that "we squander our own deep vein of talent" by running our schools like factories, "sticking a child on the assembly line at age five and shuffling him through 180-day years of hourly bells, lockers, and repetition until he emerges at age eighteen 'educated.' By design and often by ideology, such schools are unable to nurture children who cannot think inside the box."
Along with exposing the dismal learning situations many of our brightest students endure, the authors also cite examples of young people who are coping and even thriving. A number of them, including about half of the children who take part in the Davidson Institute's programs, are homeschooled. Others are fortunate enough to be in schools that, in the authors' words, "make learning the fixed goal and keep strategies flexible." Schools that meet the needs of the brightest students tend to share a set of characteristics beyond flexibility. Among them, according to the authors, are:
The Davidsons explain that, in their experience, the ideal solution is to create schools specifically for gifted children. They state, "Any large district can create a magnet primary and a magnet secondary school for high-ability students. Smaller districts can combine to create such schools - the kids will travel for this opportunity. Any district can combine high-ability learners in self-contained classes, give them teachers trained to aim two to three years above grade level, and change the curriculum to challenge those who need more."
However, it may be a while until the creation of such schools comes to pass. Recognizing this, the Davidsons conclude their book with lists of steps that parents, educators, students, legislators, and others can take in the meantime. Following these simple steps could take our nation a long way toward helping America's gifted children get what the Davidsons say they need:
. . . challenge, flexibility, and understanding . . . teachers and schools that are convinced these children's minds are a national resource . . . and a culture that valuesintelligence as the gift it is.
About the Davidson Institute
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers what they describe as programs and services to support profoundly intelligent children and adolescents, their families, and the educational community that serves them. In addition to making information about gifted and talented youth available to the general public, the Institute offers these programs:
For more information, visit the Davidson Institute website: http://www.davidsongifted.org.
Genius Denied Website
For more information, visit the Davidsons' Genius Denied website http://www.davidsongifted.org/About-Us/Genius-Denied. One of the highlights is the Davidson Gifted Database, described as "the world's largest online searchable database of resources for gifted students, their parents and the professionals who serve sthem." Also, be sure to check out the library page, where you can access articles on twice-exceptional topics as well as many other topics.
©2004. Permission to reprint granted by publisher of 2e Newsletter.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.