"Every Student Deserves a Gifted Education"
What a real pleasant surprise to see this in my mailbox when I got home today. It was a copy of the #1 New Release in Amazon books on Education Administration. In this book, Brian Butler speaks the hard truth about what we are currentlly getting wrong in basic education. Every student deserves a good education. That is what "gifted" really means. And as Brian Butler strongly states in the title of his book, every child deserves a good education. Every child is unique in talents and strengths. Every child is precious and gifted so every child must be matched with good quality instruction. When we begin to categorize children as early as elementary school, all we are doing is labeling them according to their parents' resources. That is not "gifted". That is "privilege". Limiting good education to children born with privilege will only exacerbate inequity in society, completely undermining our objective of providing education for all.
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Brian, of course, not only tells us what is wrong, but he also shows what needs to be changed in order to achieve equity in education. First, we must abandon the incorrect notion of fixed intelligence. There is no such thing since everyone has the capacity to develop and grow. Second, we should label our instruction as "good" or "bad", and choose the "good instruction. We must refrain from labeling students as "good" or "bad", "gifted" or "not gifted". We should identify "good" and "needs improvement" skills because this will inform our instruction. The only label that we should use for children is their given name. Third, one teacher can be overwhelmed by the daunting task of ensuring every child gets a quality education. For this reason, instructors should work as a team, collectively inspired to make every child succeed. Fourth, teachers are human beings, we must take advantage of that, as we are more than capable of establishing a fruitful relationship with all our students. And lastly, for a teacher, what could be more aspiring than educating all children? We must use that dream to provide us the strength we need, because courage, commitment and hardwork are all required to achieve equity in education. Society is not going to quickly shift to these ideals. Parents will always be on the lookout to find ways of bringing advantages to their children. Competion is still the word out there and not collaboration. Exclusivity is still more fashionable than than inclusivity. Segregation is still favored over diversity.
This is not an easy task. As a parent who also want the best for my children, I have to remind myself more than once to look out for the well being of every child, not just my own. It is truly rewarding that I not only received a copy of Brian's book, but a signed copy:
I do remember serving in the advisory committee of Fairfax County Public Schools on Advanced Academics. It is tough. Everyone in that committee was against me. I remember clamoring for a more equitable and inclusive admissions policy for the premier high school in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Yes, labels are still present in Fairfax county. Advanced academics remains in elementary schools. But I believe we are moving slowly to a more equitable education.
Finally, it is gratifying (and it is a great honor) to be quoted by Brian in his book. Thank you so much.