Breaking the Artificial Ceilings We Place on Gifted and Talented Children (2-3-16)

On January 23, 2016, the Economist Magazine sent a clear warning to world leaders about the ways that “governments are systematically preventing [youth] from reaching their potential.” In the article “Young, gifted and held back” authors at the Economist pointed to many policies, practices, and traditions that limit the ability of individuals under the age of 30 to excel in their adulthood and even lead their communities to prosperity. The piece briefly mentioned the importance of investing in education, but I would like to call our attention to an aspect of education that is constricting human and economic flourishing—the neglect of children with extraordinary gifts and talents with high potential for excellence and productivity.

According to the last available data from the OECD PISA in 2012, school systems across the globe only produced 12.6 percent of students that could perform at the highest levels on mathematics. Results are far worse in the United States where only 8.8 percent of American students achieved at the highest levels. If the “Pareto Principle” still stands, the U.S. is short 11.2 percent of the 20 percent of the population needed to lead the nation to continued prosperity. Put simply, an education system that values mediocrity over excellence will cut the world's legs off at the knees.

The United States and other nations in our global community must place a priority in breaking the artificial ceilings we place on children with extraordinary gifts and talents in our schools from all populations including economic, racial, language, and disability backgrounds. We know what works—strategies like early entrance into kindergarten, grade skipping, and curriculum compacting should be allowed and used as appropriate for the child.

We must ensure that our school systems are flexible and adaptable to the needs of the individual child, as we continue our quest to ensure that all children have a solid basic education. When we do this, we will restore hope that our global civilizations will continue to grow and prosper into the future.

Editor's note: This is part of a series of blog posts that is collaboratively published every Wednesday by the National Association for Gifted Children and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Each post in the series exists both here on the NAGC Blog and Fordham's Flypaper.