Gifted Students Shy from Fast-Tracking
Fans of Prof. Miraca Gross (of the University of New South Wales in Australia) will be happy to learn she and her colleagues are undertaking a study of how Australian schools deal with gifted children. Gross has spent years advocating radical acceleration for profoundly gifted kids. Of course, in Australia, as in the U.S., sometimes it feels like shouting into the wind, according a recent
article in The Australian.
“I'd rather be doing well in an easier grade than be behind in a harder one,” one girl named Ceili told the newspaper.
Her attitude, the paper notes, reflects that of many educators, who worry that acceleration puts too much “pressure” on students.
For whatever reason, in the past few years, mass media in the US -- and Australia, which does not escape the English language media echo chamber -- have decided that kids are under too much pressure. They feel pressured to do well on tests, get into good colleges, participate in the right activites, etc.
Of course, given children’s actual test scores, the percentage of kids enrolled in college who need remedial classes and other such realities, I’d say they could use a bit more pressure. Or maybe any pressure they’re feeling isn’t applied in a direction that achieves results. I’d also point out that children in the US watch an average of 4 hours of TV a day, and some measurements in Australia have clocked well over two hours a day for children. If families turned off the tube, some of that time pressure might be alleviated.
But I digress. Fortunately, Prof. Gross has several good responses for those who worry that accelerated gifted kids will be under too much pressure of the kind news stories claim all kids are under. “Most of these kids would be topping the class if they went up a grade. They don't realise that,” she says.
And then the kicker: “Teachers equate acceleration with pushing the child. Teachers are afraid of hurting a kid by pushing them, so they feel better doing nothing -- but that can in fact do more harm.”
Hopefully, Prof. Gross’s new study will lay the ground work for acceleration becoming the default option for kids who need more challenge -- the accepted option -- rather than something strange and “pressured.”