Education of gifted students: A civil rights issue?

  • Gallagher J
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There are many students with high native abilities that remain uncrystallized because of a lack of opportunity, practice, and motivation. It is the responsibility of families, schools, and society to create a more favorable atmosphere for the full development of all students — including those with outstanding talents. THE TOPIC of civil rights has shaped many educational discussions and decisions during the past three decades. In the context of education, civil rights means the guar-antee of equal opportunity and justice for all and the actions taken against those barri-ers that stand in the way of such equality. How does the issue of civil rights bear on an area of special education such as the education of gifted students? There have been various suggestions that programs for gifted students may serve as a haven for upper-middle-class white students and thus may qualify as a new and more subtle form of racial and ethnic discrimination. Such concerns emerge from one indisputable fact: the differential representation of the sexes and of racial and ethnic groups in classes for gifted students. 1 In advanced math-ematics classes, we find more boys than girls. 2 In programs for gifted students at the elementary and middle school levels, there is a relative shortage of black and Hispanic students (less than half their proportion in the general population) and a relative sur-plus of Asian students (more than twice their proportion in the general population). 3

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  • James J. Gallagher

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