Reviewed by Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
With more than 35 years of experience in gifted education, Dr. James Delisle writes with immense passion in the book, Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation's Brightest Young Minds. Delisle calls on America for change; he urges our nation to support America’s gifted children and provide them with the same opportunities as the rest of the student population which equates to an appropriately challenging education. Additionally, this book also offers examples and anecdotes of how gifted children in America are at the bottom of the education barrel. Gifted children are not provided the attention and services they need in order to foster their intellectual abilities. Just because they are smart, does not mean they should languish in classrooms repeating information they already know. Throughout Dumbing Down America, Dr. Delisle shares specific examples of how gifted students, when forced to sit through classes filled with information they learned long ago, begin acting out or tuning out until they are placed into an appropriately challenging environment, if they are lucky enough to have parents and/or understanding educators advocating on their behalf.
Delisle provides readers with a historical overview of gifted education, and discusses legislation (or lack thereof) that has impacted gifted students. Though Delisle points out the absurdity in certain education legislation such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), he also discusses programs, though not specifically designed with gifted children in mind, that have provided gifted children a chance to shine and be challenged intellectually (i.e., problem-based learning, Advanced Placement and the STEM initiative). While these programs offer a chance for gifted children to use their intellectual abilities, they are not a comprehensive solution. There should be more programs specifically designed to serve the gifted population.
Chapter Two discusses Jan and Bob Davidson and how they came to realize that profoundly gifted students are the ones most stifled in the traditional age-grade lockstep when they are capable of working three or more years ahead of grade level. These students can also be socially isolated without any true intellectual peers. This chapter also discusses the impact the Davidson’s philanthropic endeavor, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development (DITD), has had "on the entire gifted education field" (p. 27). Delisle states the DITD website is "arguably the most comprehensive of the thousands of other websites that target gifted education."
At the end of this compelling book, Delisle proposes solutions for America’s gifted education programs. He stresses that now is the time to change legislation, to train educators and to implement programs for gifted children. Delisle urges America to not let gifted children fall through the cracks or be left behind. We need to nurture gifted students and provide them with the opportunities for appropriately challenging curriculum and instruction. America needs to do a better job of educating the educators and give teachers the tools to be able to foster the intellectual abilities of gifted children.
Overall, this book is an engaging and powerful read, and a passionate call for change that excites readers to join the cause of supporting America’s gifted children. Dumbing Down America takes a comprehensive look at the state of gifted education, offers solutions that can begin now, and emphasizes the importance of providing America’s brightest minds with the chance to be heard. "For too long, genius has been denied and our nation has been deceived. With knowledge, tenacity, a strong collective voice, and a gifted child's needs at the forefront of your efforts, we can do better. Saving smart kids isn't a choice; it's an obligation" (p. 202).
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.
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