Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time for a Class-Action Suit on Behalf of Smart Boys?

Per a previous post, I believe that intellectually gifted students, especially boys and especially in the elementary school, are our most underserved students. That, of course, is ironic in that gifted kids have the greatest potential for solving societal problems and for the U.S. thriving in the global economy.

For 40 years, despite a vigorous lobbying effort by the National Association for Gifted Children, our legislatures have made clear they don't want to fund bright kids' education. Indeed, nearly all funding for the gifted has been reallocated to the lowest achievers, using such vehicles as Title I and No Child Left Behind.

Civil rights groups achieved many of their goals by skirting the legislature and, instead, filing lawsuits : Brown vs Board of Education (integrated schools,) Larry P (special education), Gratz vs University of Michigan (reverse discrimination.)

Perhaps advocates for bright kids need to take a lesson for the civil rights groups: file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of bright kids, especially boys (who are so underserved in today's girl-friendly, boy-unfriendly schools) demanding merely what the courts and legislators have bestowed upon special education children: sufficient funding to provide an appropriate education.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think the general public might have trouble seeing gifted children as a civil rights group needing special protection. After all, one of the likely reasons gifted programs lost their funding is because those children were seen as not needing help. If they're so smart, why would they need help? These same people seem to forget that gifted children are children first. If nothing else, a class action lawsuit certainly would garner some attention to the issues of gifted kids.

Another thing that might potentially give such a lawsuit trouble: gifted programs might be construed as racist, and if anybody can convey that message, it would stand no chance.

Example: earlier this month there was an article in the Denver Post. The gifted program in the Denver Public Schools has mostly white children. Because of that, minorities and ESL students get special consideration that their white counterparts do not get. And as I understand it, Denver is not the first school district to do it.

I'm inclined to think that the parents and advocates of gifted children should get together and just pull their children out of the public schools. If their needs are not being met and their repeated requests for help are being ignored, why stick around? There are a handful of programs and schools that really do serve gifted children, and maybe their efforts and resources would be better spent on creating more of them.

That sounds elitist, I suppose, but those who have the potential to and ultimately do make the world better are not going to stick with the masses or status quo very long.

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for another intelligent post.

I do believe that the public's antipathy toward the gifted precludes the educational or legislative systems from helping gifted kids.

That's why I think a class-action lawsuit is likely to be a more successful approach. Instead of having to convince the public or legislators, you need only convince a fair-minded judge or panel of judges. Especially if the suit was brought outside the 9th Circuit, it is possible that the Court would rule in favor of gifted kids' rights to an appropriate education, just as they have for other categories of special-needs kids.

Yes, advocating for any group in which minorities are "underrepresented" will be viewed--unfairly--by some as racist. But I'm optimistic enough to believe that in a court of law, it will be recognized that as long as all races have reasonably equal opportunity to apply for entrance into the group, it is not racist. For example, old, Asian, disabled people are underrepresented in the National Basketball Association. As long as there is dispositive evidence that their "underepresentation" is the result of being insufficiently capable of doing the job, it can't be called racist, ageist, or ableist (if that's a word.)

Bek said...

I'm a gifted person, a scholar of gifted theory and policy, and a third-year law student. I reached the same conclusion independently and I intend to organize and pursue just such a lawsuit.

I received GT services in elementary and middle school, but millions of others have not. Even in my case, I was never provided with information on the social/emotional/psychological issues that accompany giftedness. As such, I have suffered irreparable harm, which could have been avoided or mitigated, because existing research was not, and is still not provided to gifted students.

As a taxpayer and citizen, I have an interest in policies that effectively encourage gifted youth to manage their gifts and achieve their full potential. As a gifted person, I have personally suffered immensely as a result of existing policy. My struggles have impacted my relationships, my well-being, and my future. I now know that I am not alone.

The lawsuit you describe is precisely what I intend to undertake. I seek equitable damages - a court order that the government execute a plan designed to meet the needs of all gifted persons, which means correcting the shameful underrepresentation of minority groups in gifted education programs.


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