Specialized High Schools in the Humanities
About a dozen states across the country have created specialized residential high schools for gifted students (usually covering junior and senior years). Most focus on math and science. I've written about my own school, the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and the Humanities, which also focuses on students with gifts for literature, history, religion and arts studies. At times I've wondered why none of the other schools made it clear that students with humanities gifts needed differentiation as well. I'm happy to report, however, that I was wrong. Texas has such a school as well.
The Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities, like the Texas Academy of Math and Science, offers students the opportunity to earn college credit as they also complete advanced high school course work during their junior and senior years. You can visit the school's website here.
I still think the Indiana Academy model is the best, since it combines top programs in math, science and the humanities on one campus. Where should a Texas young person with profound gifts in math and writing enroll? While I don't mind the idea of kids getting to specialize in high school, this seems like a rather arbitrary distinction.
But I'm glad that Texas recognizes that not all gifted kids express their gifts through being, say, math whizzes. I've always been amazed how little differentiation there is in humanities coursework in most schools. Granted, creative assignments (such as writing a paper) can differentiate themselves. But some students in a given grade may be able to focus on the deeper philosophical meanings behind a work, while some are still having trouble understanding the vocabulary words. Forcing all children to follow the exact same lesson plan bores the former and confuses the latter.
I've certainly experienced this in my own life. I know I'm a much better writer than I am a mathematician. Yet I had differentiated math curriculum since fourth grade. Only as a tenth grader did I wind up with an independent study in literature/writing (and that was because I'd enrolled in too "easy" a level of English to start with -- because that was the only course that kept my schedule open enough for me to take a math class with children two years older than me!). While I had a few quite good English teachers along the way -- interspersed with some rather wretched ones -- specialized, accelerated classes simply weren't as high a priority in this subject.
That's too bad, because children with gifts in the humanities, no less than those with gifts in math and science, need to have their creativity honed and trained. They need to be pushed to think deeper, to draw more insightful conclusions. While I wish Texas had combined its schools from the get-go, I'm happy that the Lone Star State recognizes that advances in our society may someday come from right brain types as well.