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Every Talented Student Deserves a Seat at the Table

When I was growing up, there was a program called “Project MAGIC”. You had to be invited to participate in this program as it was reserved for gifted and talented students.

My older sister and brother were both in this program.

I wasn’t.

I can’t believe that all of these years later, it still stings a bit. Was I not good enough? Talented enough? Should I have been let in because my siblings were?

The answer is no to all of these questions.

I am not arguing for nepotism, nor do I think that these types of programs should be a free-for-all. I would like to propose a more inclusive definition of gifted and talented programs.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think that honoring and celebrating the achievements of students is essential to learning. However, I think we have left out all achievements - not just academic. During my teaching days, I had a remarkable student. He was not my best student, and struggled with the essays he wrote. We worked together during my office hours, and I could tell he just didn’t see the point in mastering academic writing.

I used to worry about him- how is he going to succeed in college if he can’t write a solid and clear academic essay?

On our last day of class, he gave me the most beautiful gift. It was a painting created entirely from spray paint. He told me all about his process and how he created this one especially for me. I was taken aback because I misunderstood his lack of interest in my passion after I saw an example of his.

Gifted and talented programs are wonderful options for academically high achieving students. They offer excellent opportunities as well as preparation for the rigor of college courses. However, what has happened in high schools is that these academically gifted programs appear to be the only way - or the best way - of capturing and celebrating the talents of students.

I argue that these programs are a bit short-sighted as they may be causing the growing epidemic of students who are disinterested in academic pursuits because they have been academically ostracized - especially young men in our society.

I acknowledge that you can view this whole essay as written by someone who is bitter about not being included. That may be true. A writer always writes what she knows. Yet, I hope the point that I am attempting to make conveys a broader perspective.

Talents can come in many forms. Gifted students should include technical/mechanical prowess in the same vein as our most talented academic students. Every talented student deserves a seat at the table.


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