Response to Borland: In Defense of Eminence as An Outcome of Gifted Education

Response to Borland: In Defense of Eminence as An Outcome of Gifted Education

Education July 04, 2012 / By Paula Kubilius, Rena Subotnik, and Frank Worrell
Response to Borland: In Defense of Eminence as An Outcome of Gifted Education
SYNOPSIS

Paula Kubilius, Rena Subotnik, and Frank Worrell respond to Jim Borland's post about their recent monograph, "Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Research" in Psychological Science.

We very much appreciate Jim Borland's comments on our monograph, "Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Research". Jim has often asked compelling questions that have pushed the field to think hard about basic assumptions and beliefs, and we appreciate his support for many of our ideas.  However, his critique of our assertion that eminence should be the goal of gifted education prompts us to clarify this recommendation that perhaps we did not explicate as clearly as we had hoped.

Our recommendation on eminence, which is one of several, has proven to be the most controversial component of our article and the most misunderstood. To be clear, we are not proposing that gifted education focus only on a few students, those who can become eminent, and we would hope that this would not be the outcome of any application of our ideas.  Rather, we propose that gifted education focus on the traditionally identified gifted child, children who currently are not identified but should be, and those who already demonstrate exceptional potential and achievement in a domain. All of these students should be encouraged to participate in both in-school and out of school activities focused on their domains of strength and/or interests.

We particularly argue for increased early educational attention to those youth who show exceptional potential in domains, including a focus on content knowledge, discipline-specific skills, and psychosocial training. Finally, where talent development as we conceive it most differs from traditional gifted education is that it doesn't end at graduation from 12th grade.  Instead, it continues into adulthood, with young scientists, writers, dancers, or historians working with coaches and mentors to develop their individual voice and personalized niche.

Rather than reducing the number of students gifted educators would work with, our framework would increase those numbers because we advocate for increased effort on providing ways to create circumstances for talent to emerge, especially for students who have traditionally had few of these opportunities.

We agree with Borland that gifted students need an appropriate education in school (e.g., special programs, acceleration options) on a daily basis and see this as a vital component of talent development and of our proposed framework. Out of school experiences should be coordinated with appropriate in-school ones and sometimes adopted by schools as a regular part of their programming and curricula because they contribute to building motivation and commitment to further study in talented students.

We do not have to choose between improving the day to day education of gifted children and moving as many students as possible towards creative productive careers in adulthood. In other words, giftedness as national resource and giftedness as special education are not mutually exclusive; they are complementary, and we are suggesting we can and should do both. Borland is correct when he says eminence is rare, but the abilities that are needed for that level of achievement are far less rare. Our goal is to make the cultivation of those talents far less rare as well.

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