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"Problem" Students

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Cal

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Smart 'problems'
Thomas Sowell

September 13, 2005


During my first semester of teaching, many years ago, I was surprised to encounter the philosophy that the brightest students did not need much help from the teacher because "they can get it anyway" and that my efforts should be directed toward the slower or low-performing students.

This advice came from my department chairman, who said that if the brighter or more serious students "get restless" while I was directing my efforts toward the slower students, then I should "give them some extra work to do to keep them quiet."

I didn't believe that the real difference between the A students and the C students was in inborn intelligence, but thought it was usually due to differences in attitudes and priorities. In any event, my reply was that what the chairman proposed "would be treating those who came here for an education as a special problem!"

A few days later, I handed in my resignation. It turned out to be only the first in a series of my resignations from academic institutions over the years.

Unfortunately, the idea of treating the brighter or more serious students as a problem to be dealt with by keeping them busy is not uncommon, and is absolutely pervasive in the public schools. One fashionable solution for such "problem" students is to assign them to help the less able or less conscientious students who are having trouble keeping up.

In other words, make them unpaid teacher's aides!

High potential will remain only potential unless it is developed. But the very thought that high potential should be developed more fully never seems to occur to many of our educators -- and some are absolutely hostile to the idea.

It violates their notions of equality or "social justice" and it threatens the "self-esteem" of other students. As a result, too often a student with the potential to become a future scientist, inventor, or a discoverer of a cure for cancer will instead have his time tied up doing busy work for the teacher.

Even so-called "gifted and talented" programs often turn out to be simply a bigger load of the same level of work that other students are doing -- keeping the brighter students busy in a separate room.

My old department chairman's notion that the better students "can pretty much get it without our help" assumes that there is some "it" -- some minimum competence -- which is all that matters.

People like this would apparently be satisfied if Einstein had remained a competent clerk in the Swiss patent office and if Jonas Salk, instead of discovering a cure for polio, had spent his career puttering around in a laboratory and turning out an occasional research paper of moderate interest to his academic colleagues.

If developing the high potential of some students wounds the "self-esteem" of other students, one obvious answer is for them to go their separate ways in different classrooms or different schools.

There was a time when students of different ability levels or performance levels were routinely assigned to different classes in the same grade or to different schools -- and no one else collapsed like a house of cards because of wounded self-esteem.

Let's face it: Most of the teachers in our public schools do not have what it takes to develop high intellectual potential in students. They cannot give students what they don't have themselves.

Test scores going back more than half a century have repeatedly shown people who are studying to be teachers to be at or near the bottom among college students studying in various fields. It is amazing how often this plain reality gets ignored in discussions of what to do about our public schools.

Lack of competence is only part of the problem. Too often there is not only a lack of appreciation of outstanding intellectual development but a hostility towards it by teachers who are preoccupied with the "self-esteem" of mediocre students, who may remind them of what they were once like as students.

Maybe the advancement of science, of the economy, and finding a cure for cancer can wait, while we take care of self-esteem.
 

Jake

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I can relate to this, being one of the "gifted" students I've always had teachers I feel I know more about the subject than they do. We recently moved and I'm going to end up graduating early because of the advancement I've had from their programs, There are few classes they have I haven't taken. It's a crock of crap but they have to pay for a year of college classes next year.
 

Soapweed

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I think maybe I was "gifted" early on, but got stymied in similar fashion. With my motivation in a non-motivating mode, now it is just easier to put happy faces in salt bunks while making the cattle checking rounds. :) :? :???: :shock: :evil: :wink: :) :cowboy: :pretty: :!:
 

Faster horses

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Several years back, we kinda got on this subject with a man we had a lot of admiration for. He said that our country spends a lot of money bringing subpar or handicapped kids up to 'average' and not much, if anything, on gifted children. That was a huge mistake to his way of thinking; money should have been spent on the gifted as well in order for them to reach their potential.

I had never thought of it that way before, but he was right on. We see lots of special ed teachers in school systems. What do we see for the above average kids? That they are unpaid teachers aides and nothing more?

Something drastically wrong here.
 

Liberty Belle

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Half of our kids should have been in a gifted program, but the fact that they attended a country school helped immensely. With several grades in the same room, they were allowed to move ahead on their own, something that would have been impossible to do in a town school.

Although they did become, in effect, unpaid teacher’s aides to a certain extent, they were rewarded for their service by being allowed to advance beyond the grade level to do many things that interested them.

Our country schools are almost a thing of the past. We only have three left in our very large county and when they disappear we will all be poorer for it.
 

Denny

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Faster horses said:
Several years back, we kinda got on this subject with a man we had a lot of admiration for. He said that our country spends a lot of money bringing subpar or handicapped kids up to 'average' and not much, if anything, on gifted children. That was a huge mistake to his way of thinking; money should have been spent on the gifted as well in order for them to reach their potential.

I had never thought of it that way before, but he was right on. We see lots of special ed teachers in school systems. What do we see for the above average kids? That they are unpaid teachers aides and nothing more?

Something drastically wrong here.

Our kids changed schools a few years ago the school they left did'nt offer any real "Brain Teaser" classes but made alot of required B.S. classes so the kids could not get into post secondary as seniors.In Minnesota if you get your required's taken care of your senior year of high school can be done in college and there is no charge for that year.

The old school had a career day they had some resorts come to recruite house keepers and such they also had the local Truss manufactureing company there.My wife asked them about why they did'nt have any high tech type jobs there.The reply was that most of these kids are'nt going anywhere after college so they brought in some local jobs.Jobs that pay $10.00 an hour for top pay nothing like selling the kids short.But dont worry they have a good school sports program.
 

koj

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I have had the privalege of seeing this problem from different views. The first experience came at a small high school in SD. Funds were extremely low so there really were not a lot of classes besides the core curriculum. I did receive a very good education there, but there were so many opportunities missed. FFA, for example would have been a huge benifit to our community.

The second experience is as a high school teacher in an inner city school. I was hired on as a shop teacher. Come to find out, this school is one of the tops in the nation for it's engineering program, which I am now a part of.

The point of this rambling is that there are all sort of opportunities out there, it is the job of the administrators, teachers, and especially parents to go out, find them, and make it happen.
 

Cal

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Jake said:
I can relate to this, being one of the "gifted" students I've always had teachers I feel I know more about the subject than they do. We recently moved and I'm going to end up graduating early because of the advancement I've had from their programs, There are few classes they have I haven't taken. It's a crock of crap but they have to pay for a year of college classes next year.
Hang in there Jake, and stay motivated! We're glad to have such a bright young man join us here.
 

Hanta Yo

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My biggest concern is "no child left behind". We have more money spent on the "title" kids (those lacking and left behind) and nothing for our gifted and talented. My daughter is a gifted. It breaks my heart for the teachers in our Jr Sr High School to spend their time in the middle, without spending the effort to help those who are gifted. Man, those gifted kids are going to be our leaders sometime in the future :nod: :nod: :???: :???: What is happening to this country? It just breaks my heart. As far as my daughter, I've homeschooled her before, if this Jr high gets bad, I'm going to homeschool her till she graduates!
Jake, good for you, hang in there, and I know that you are a LEADER!
It seems those who are naturally born leaders aren't taught, given extra special attention or whatnot, those naturally born leaders step up to the plate and get whatever job done that is given them, without complaint, and giving the very best of themselves.
You, buddy, just give to the world what God gave to you to share. :D :D

You have a great day tomorrow! :D :D


Hanta Yo
 

Broke Cowboy

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Once upon a time there were few - very, very few children that were considered gifted. One in many thousands

Not to offend anyone here - but now-a-days it seems everyone has a gifted or advanced child on their house.

I believe it is because standards have been lowered to the point of no return.

If a child can read, write and carry on an intelligent conversation - that child is considered gifted.

What have we done? We have created a system that turns out children with multiple degrees and yet that person cannot read or write.

No child left behind? Yup a good idea. But everyone forgets that in doing so we hamstring the smart ones - to our own eventual detriment.

What a shame.

B.C.
 

Jake

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Broke Cowboy said:
Once upon a time there were few - very, very few children that were considered gifted. One in many thousands

Not to offend anyone here - but now-a-days it seems everyone has a gifted or advanced child on their house.

I believe it is because standards have been lowered to the point of no return.

If a child can read, write and carry on an intelligent conversation - that child is considered gifted.

What have we done? We have created a system that turns out children with multiple degrees and yet that person cannot read or write.

No child left behind? Yup a good idea. But everyone forgets that in doing so we hamstring the smart ones - to our own eventual detriment.

What a shame.

B.C.

This is kind of like asking parents how good little Johnny is ag baseball... "oh he's really good, there's just coaching issues and he has to play right field a lot"

Not 10% of the popluation of highschoolers today is truly gifted or at least acts like it. There are maturity levels that I strive to uphold for myself my siblings that are unheard of from the highschool generation of today. They are the set of people that is going to finish the collapse of the U.S.
I pride myselves on people not being able to tell that I'm just a Junior but there are people that would rather be known as acting like 2 year olds, and just because their parents think they are smart/gifted doesn't even come close to saying that they are!!

and Thank you Hanta Yo
 

katrina

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I have a totally differant perspective on no child left behind. We have a child that is on title nine. And we are in the process with the help of special teachers to help him learn learning skills that will hopefully get him off the bottom of the class. If he does not learn them now he will be a burdon to sociaity. And as a parent I refuse to let that happen. I have been spending one day at our country school helping the teacher with kindegarden and first grade students. It's real eye opener... To those children who are gifted I say get off your duff, quit your compalining and get to work. You have the ability, as nike says "Just Do It". Take some night college classes even in our little town of Valentine we have college classes at night.. I know because I have one of those gifted kids too. And I guarentee you having the skills are way easier than being overwhelmed and not having them. Sorry for the rant.
 

Broke Cowboy

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katrina said:
I have a totally differant perspective on no child left behind. We have a child that is on title nine.

I have no idea what that means - but reading between the lines I would say it is not good.

And we are in the process with the help of special teachers to help him learn learning skills that will hopefully get him off the bottom of the class.

A parent that cares and actually does something? Well done.

If he does not learn them now he will be a burdon to sociaity. And as a parent I refuse to let that happen. I have been spending one day at our country school helping the teacher with kindegarden and first grade students. It's real eye opener... To those children who are gifted I say get off your duff, quit your compalining and get to work. You have the ability, as nike says "Just Do It".

Unfortunately it is not that easy. If there are no resources or money or teachers to guide and challenge - it does not happen. As for being able to do it - yes it is possible - but the guidance is necessary - otherwise it is a bullet that simply riccochets and eventually runs out of energy and falls to the earth - joining the regular masses. Opportunity lost.

Take some night college classes even in our little town of Valentine we have college classes at night..

Tough for a gifted 7 year old to do this so therefore perhaps somewhat short sighted.

I know because I have one of those gifted kids too. And I guarentee you having the skills are way easier than being overwhelmed and not having them.

Yup.

Note I wrote - No child left behind? Yup a good idea.

I also wrote this - But everyone forgets that in doing so we hamstring the smart ones - to our own eventual detriment.

So I will go out on a limb and say perhaps not "everyone".

But in the end there does need to be a balance - and I do not believe I am seeing it. We spend a lot of time effort and money on one end of the spectrum and on the other end we spend nearly nothing.

Sorry for the rant.

You call THAT a rant? I just figured you were expressing an opinion. Rant is when you hammer someone - don't see no hammer yet.
 

katrina

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Thanks BC.
Tough for a gifted 7 year old to do this so therefore perhaps somewhat short sighted.

Our son took college classes at the age of 12.. It can be done.. Be prepared to jump through alot of hoops, but it can be done....
 

DOC HARRIS

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Broke Cowboy said:
Once upon a time there were few - very, very few children that were considered gifted. One in many thousands

Not to offend anyone here - but now-a-days it seems everyone has a gifted or advanced child on their house.

I believe it is because standards have been lowered to the point of no return.

If a child can read, write and carry on an intelligent conversation - that child is considered gifted.

What have we done? We have created a system that turns out children with multiple degrees and yet that person cannot read or write.

No child left behind? Yup a good idea. But everyone forgets that in doing so we hamstring the smart ones - to our own eventual detriment.

What a shame.

B.C.
BC - You have perceived the current situation in education exactly right. "Gifted" is an ethereal term in my opinion. Gifted - as compared to - what?? Intelligent as compared to - whom?? Mentally "slow" or "deficient" as compared to whom - and decided BY whom?? It has seemed to me that our so-called "school system(s)" have arbitrarily determined that who, what , where, why, when, and how our younger generations will be "guided" and instructed and 'aimed' toward certain goals and professions and businesses - regardless of what the capabilities or desires or talents of the individual student (of ANY age) may dictate. My wife and I have raised three boys - all of them "gifted" in their own right - and EACH of them are in the business that THEY wanted to pursue - and each of them in a different profession! Our oldest son is Personnel Relations Manager of a very large (20,000 - 30,000 employees) Fortune 500 company and is extremely successful at it because he LOVES his work. I would HATE it, and would fail miserably. Our second son is a Mathematical Genius and Project Manager and Computer Analyst ( for 42 years!) and is extremely successful at it because he LOVES his work. I, on the other hand, have a Basic Mathematics Textbook I had in Ag School within arm's reach and refer to it more often than I should have to! Our third son is a Captain Pilot with a major Air Line and is extremely successful at it because he LOVES his work! Both my wife (Ruthie) and I (I like to think) were successful at our respective careers because we LOVED our positions.

In My Opinion - for what it may be worth - our Educational Leaders, Psychologists and Sociologists are more imbued with "Doing GOOD" than with "Doing RIGHT" - - and the entire dilemma of the Education of our future nation's Leaders falls directly on the heads of our past Left-Wing Liberal Governments and the apathy of the last four generations of parents!

DON'T GET ME STARTED!

DOC HARRIS
 

TSR

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katrina said:
I have a totally differant perspective on no child left behind. We have a child that is on title nine. And we are in the process with the help of special teachers to help him learn learning skills that will hopefully get him off the bottom of the class. If he does not learn them now he will be a burdon to sociaity. And as a parent I refuse to let that happen. I have been spending one day at our country school helping the teacher with kindegarden and first grade students. It's real eye opener... To those children who are gifted I say get off your duff, quit your compalining and get to work. You have the ability, as nike says "Just Do It". Take some night college classes even in our little town of Valentine we have college classes at night.. I know because I have one of those gifted kids too. And I guarentee you having the skills are way easier than being overwhelmed and not having them. Sorry for the rant.

I agree with much of what you say Katrina. I might add that somewhere along the way we've forgotten the very basic goal of education-- which is to make every person a good citizen of society, who can take an active part in society, and not be a burden upon society.
In my opinion every student has talent of some kind but no matter how hard you try, you can't teach everyone of them to be research scientists. All the educators I know just want them to be the best that they can be- achieve all that they can. To be successful in today's world you have to have a college degree in an area where you can get a job, have a skill, or probably the hardest thing,be willing to out work anyone. JMHO

The qualifications for "gifted" have been lowered in the public schools making it much easier for someone to be classified as gifted. Also the qualifications for Special Ed. ( handicapped / learning disabled students) have been raised, now that is just one mistake of NCLB.
Hearing people talk about giftedness reminds me of the old football player bragging about the past-- The older he gets the better he was or so he thinks.
I see nothing wrong with having the smarter students occasionally help the ones having trouble with a particular concept/skill. This is called peer tutoring and it does work, and it benefits both parties. Sometimes kids have a way of communicating things to each other better than teachers or parents. Or could it be that students might just pay more attention to one of their peers?
Back to the gifted for a moment, there aren't many schools, or households for that matter, where students don't have access to a computer. How can anyone blame someone else for their lack of knowledge, the student that wants to learn beyond the curriculum can. There's always help if you are willing to search for it. At our high school we have several faculty who teach courses at our local 4 yr college. They are primarily Math teachers. I hate to see the day that they retire because it will be hard to replace them. Why should anyone want to go through the rigors of a university math curriculum for teacher pay?
Finally, don't you think the ills of society have taken their toll on a lot of our children? When we cure society's ills and shortcomings, lots of things will improve, espeially in education. I'm not naive enough to believe we can cure all of society's problems but we need to try to do our best. And before you label me a liberal I didn't say anything about this goal being left 100% to the federal government. Guess I've rambled enough.
 

nenmrancher

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Something from left field, as a country educated kid that left and went to college and work straight out of high school, I can tell you that just about every employer I have ever had at one point or another has told me that they would rather hire a small town or farm/ranch raised person over a city folk just about every time. Why? because we tend to have a work ethic, and manners. Our educations may not be the best but we know how to use our brains and think. That is something they just dont teach any more is how to think and solve problems. Everyone just expects the boss, parent, teacher to tell them how to do everything and when to do it. Someone needs to come up with a class that teaches common sense and critical thinking!! Just my couple of cents worth :D
 

Northern Rancher

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All I know is that the R-Calfer's would for sure be in the slowwwwww group-easily misled-poor interaction with others-failure to separate fantasy from reality. We are very lucky here with our school system-my kids are at the top of their respective grades and their teachers find different ways to keep them interested and challenged. Myself I would habitually fail three subjects -French,Art and music but still get honours at the end of the year lol. One thing I find that is alot different than when I went to school is the interaction between home and school-the parents are alot more involved than back in my day. My advice fpor parents dissatisfied with their local school system is to do something about it. As for todays youth becoming the downfall of our society-that argument has been trotted out by everybody over 40 since Christ was a cowboy-I know lots of teenagers who have their heads screwed on straight. By the way I think our own Ranchers Net Hurricane- Katrina has hit the nail right on the head.
 

Hanta Yo

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Broke Cowboy said:
Once upon a time there were few - very, very few children that were considered gifted. One in many thousands

Not to offend anyone here - but now-a-days it seems everyone has a gifted or advanced child on their house.

I believe it is because standards have been lowered to the point of no return.

If a child can read, write and carry on an intelligent conversation - that child is considered gifted.

What have we done? We have created a system that turns out children with multiple degrees and yet that person cannot read or write.

No child left behind? Yup a good idea. But everyone forgets that in doing so we hamstring the smart ones - to our own eventual detriment.

What a shame.

B.C.

Broke Cowboy,

I agree totally with you. What has our society done? Dumming down. I am of the "old thinking", you are of the "young folks" and GOD BLESS you for being a good parent. No Child Left Behind so let's "dumb down" our smarter kids. Our smart kids haven't changed through the years, just the qualifications for smart kids have. So our truly smart kids don't count because they don't fit in "No Child Left Behind". Broke Cowboy, I am having a hard time expressing myself on this, but my instinct says we ARE on the same page here, and this all boils down to "DUMMING DOWN!

You take care, bud,



Hanta Yo
 

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