Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Making Giftedness Count for Others

When it comes to statistics, we do have to be careful because there is something called "the Bell Curve," which still has credibility regardless of what the implications may be for a society. We were not all created equal in intellectual capacity; and, specifically, we were not all created equal when it comes to doing differential equations, solid state physics, thermodynamics, circuit design, etc. You get the idea. We cannot turn a person into a science and math person just to meet a certain percent that may "look right" or show the wrong picture, as your article implies (“What’s Wrong with This Picture” - Connection, Jan. 25).

You state that "school leadership can't continue to act like there are things they can't do anything about." Because I am familiar with what courses in college a young person who is gifted in science and math faces, I can only imagine what a young person faces who is not gifted in science and math and is thrust into that academic environment. With these students, we see high flunk out rates, suicide, and general switching of careers.

It has been observed by those who teach music that yes, any student can learn to play an instrument with great perseverance and practice even though not possessing a real aptitude in music. But there are those who also will state that you do not choose music. It chooses you. This is what I have observed in math and science students who excel. And, I might add, all people in the world benefit by the diligence and giftedness of these chosen few. If you talk to one of these students who have entered the adult world of science in our universities as professors, at a government lab, and in industry, one of their greatest impressions left is that they feel a very deep obligation to push forward the world of science and math for the benefit of all mankind. They are not full of themselves. They are humbled that somehow science and math chose them. Some even feel the burden of knowing they need to make that giftedness count for others besides themselves. Many sacrifice family and friends because their time is focused on their project at hand.

To admit a student who is not truly qualified into TJ with the idea that they will be given remedial classes in math or science just dooms that wonderful person of other talents to a life of knowing, feeling, and believing that he/she is somehow "not as smart" as others met along the very, very difficult road of the hard sciences — even for the gifted..

You speak of "geographic disparities." I believe you might want to check to see what State Sen. Scott Surovell studied when he went to high school and on to college and into the world of the hard sciences and math. You cannot legislate what people are good at. They can study and study and study; but it will be the student who is truly chosen in science who succeeds in inventing machinery like MRI, chemotherapy implants, or lasers to alleviate human suffering, or the team of scientists who discovered black holes and how our universe regenerates itself, or finds a way to put up a replacement for the Hubble telescope. As a society, we may need to decide if we want to try to force children into a mold that dooms them not to ever be capable of "keeping pace with their companions" in advanced science and math; or if we want to recognize that all children have value for the people they are with the talents they have.

There is one point we need to revisit, and that is the early academic programs at our elementary schools in math and science. Math and science do build on early learning. It is difficult when a student gets to the ninth-twelfth grades and suddenly realizes that they want to be considered for TJ. It does behoove our early educational system to provide a level playing field for children early on in order that we do not miss giftedness in S.T.E.M. subjects. This is certainly not the fault of TJ if the feeder schools do not furnish students who have been given every opportunity to meet their individual potential. It is the mission of TJ to provide an opportunity for qualified students to enter their doors where TJ is obligated to produce young people who have the attitudes and abilities mentioned at the end of paragraph 2. School leadership cannot do anything about disparities once a child reaches eighth grade testing time for TJ.

Most sincerely in the interest of all children,

Carol G. Ford

Burke

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