With all the talk of failing schools these days, we often forget that schools can fail their brightest students too. Gifted children forced into a "one size fits all" approach to schooling find themselves bored or frustrated, which can lead to underachievement, behavioral problems, or depression. Without sufficient challenges and resources, say Jan and Bob Davidson, America's brightest young minds languish, never reaching their full potential. Society can't afford that loss.
In Genius Denied, the Davidsons -- founders of a nonprofit institute that provides assistance to gifted children -- offer hope and practical advice to parents and students alike. Through their own experiences and those of the families they've worked with, the Davidsons show parents how to find an appropriate education for their children, when to go outside the school system, and how to create a support network with school authorities and other parents. Genius Denied shows that with commitment and creativity, gifted students can get the education they deserve, one that nurtures their talents and minds.
The Davidsons, a husband-and-wife team, established a nonprofit organization to assist especially bright kids and their parents in their quest for educational fulfillment. They draw on their clients' experiences in this manifesto for change. For gifted students, "doing well does not mean doing one's best," they believe, and highly intelligent children are often as inclined to fail as to succeed. Of course, the terrible shape of education-and public schooling in particular-isn't news, and approaches to learning for specialized groups like the gifted are often as jerry-built as those for the learning disabled. Like a gentle, scripted but persistent public service announcement, this book reminds readers that when it comes to education, legislators, lobbyists, administrators, teachers, parents and even gifted children themselves sometimes fall into lazy, conformist patterns of thinking and action, and that both the current situation and the forecast for the future are fairly discouraging. The Davidsons make a compelling case for re-approaching giftedness as a potential disability (to give more attention to gifted kids) and an even stronger argument for parents, teachers and citizens to consider the potential loss to American society in the costliest imaginable terms. Above all, they want readers, whatever their relationship to the gifted, to start thinking about the issue. This is an exhortatory book that doesn't resort to finger pointing; it even includes "what you can do about this" suggestions aimed at everyone from policymakers and principals to parents. Agent, Carol Mann. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
April 05, 2004
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Excerpt from Genius Denied by Bob Davidson
At the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit organization we founded in 1999 to help our nation's brightest children get the education they need, we're always amazed by the stories families share with us. We receive an e-mail from a mother who describes how her son, at age two, learned all the state capitals as an afternoon diversion and later solved three-digit arithmetic problems when he was bored in his stroller. We smile at the story of another toddler who tried to weasel out of trouble for throwing a toy back at his sibling by claiming he was just following "Newton's Third Law." A ten-year-old composes a set of complex piano pieces. A teenager pursues a patent on an antibody he developed to slow the growth of tumors.
Sadly, not all the stories we hear make us smile. Most tell how schools and communities neglect these highly intelligent children. They are kept with children their own age, rarely given work that challenges them, and told they will just have to learn to work at the same pace as everyone else. We hear of children who read and comprehend their math books in the first two weeks of school and spend the rest of the year gazing out the window. Teenagers who read Dostoyevsky for pleasure suffer the tedium of classes that devote weeks to books written for young adult audiences.
This book is about their stories. We have changed these children's names, but not the details of the difficulties they have encountered trying to eke out an appropriate education. This book is about whether schools and communities choose to squelch or nurture the flame of intelligence in their young people, and what happens when they choose to deny or embrace this national resource. Learning becomes a joy when children have what we call "aha!" moments. An equation works, a story makes sense, and a little connection forges in a child's brain. The harder a child has to work to make that connection, the brighter the lightbulb burns.
People always ask us why, when we sold Davidson & Associates, our educational software company, and entered the world of philanthropy, we chose to work with gifted children. Our reply is that we have always wanted to help children become successful learners. Even before founding Davidson & Associates, Jan taught English at the college level and tutored children of all ages. Bob's ideas for our math and reading software helped thousands of students discover that learning can be as much fun as playing video games. We want all children to have these "aha!" moments. So we searched for the population that traditional schools serve least, the population that is least likely to learn and achieve to its potential. We believe that highly gifted students are that population.
Over the years, we have discovered that when it comes to leaving no child behind, highly gifted students are the most likely to fall through the cracks in American classrooms. They are the most likely to underachieve, to suffer the greatest gap between their potential and what is asked of them. This is what we mean by "genius denied."
"Genius" means extraordinary intellectual ability, and people use the word in two different but related ways. In one sense, genius means high intellectual potential; in the other sense, genius means "creative ability of exceptionally high order as demonstrated by total achievement." This book uses both meanings. Works of eminence require years of preparation and require minds working to the best of their abilities. If we fail to recognize and nurture extraordinary intellectual ability in our children, we will deny them the opportunity to develop their talents to their full extent and deny them, and the nation, the satisfaction and benefits of what these children may someday do.
At the Davidson Institute we try to help highly gifted young people find ways to keep learning to the extent of their abilities. Our Davidson Young Scholars program provides guidance, resources, and educational advocacy assistance to hundreds of families of talented young people ages four to eighteen. Our Davidson Fellows award program provides scholarships to students who already have completed works of great importance. Our Educators Guild provides teachers with resources and training to identify and nurture gifted students in their classrooms. And we grant awards to schools with an exemplary record for nurturing intellectual talent.
We are writing this book to share the stories of the children, families, and teachers we have met through these programs, and to help readers understand how schools deny these "aha!" moments to bright students by failing to challenge them. We do not believe that most educators or schools or communities are hostile to the needs of gifted learners. Rather, most people are simply indifferent.