Where Geniuses Go To School to Learn

We pledge to “leave no child behind,” but in American schools today, thousands of gifted and talented students fall short of their potential.

In their best selling book, Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds, Jan and Bob Davidson describe the “quiet crisis” in education: gifted students spending their days in classrooms learning little beyond how to cope with boredom as they “relearn” material they’ve already mastered years before.

There are hundreds of thousands of highly gifted children in the U.S. and millions more whose intelligence is above average, yet few receive the education they deserve. Many school districts have no gifted programs or offer only token enrichment classes.

Education of the gifted is in this sorry state, say the Davidsons, because of indifference, lack of funding, and the pernicious notion that education should have a “leveling” effect, a one-size-fits-all concept that deliberately ignores the needs of the gifted. But all children are entitled to an appropriate education, insist the authors, those left behind as well as those who want to surge ahead.

The Davidson’s, who had become wealthy developing learning software like the best seller Math Blaster,  decided to do something about it. In 1999, they established The Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 non-profit organizantion in Reno Nevada offering student scholarships, summer programs, an academy and even programs for teachers of gifted students.

There is one catch however. They only except young geniuses into their program. To be more specific, their program is designed for the “profoundly gifted” child between the ages of 5 and 18, with tested IQ above 145.

“These are the kids in the last one-tenth of 1 percent of ability level,” said Jan Davidson. “Basically, as high as it can be reasonably measured.”

Parents who wonder whether or not they might have a “gifted” child, whose IQ has not yet been tested, should consider the following behavioral clues in their children:

  • a precocious ability to think abstractly 
  • a need for constant mental stimulation 
  • an ability to learn and process information quickly
  • a precocious ability to perceive patterns and form connections
  • a prodigious ability within a particular area, such as math, music. etc

“In this day and age, you can customize to the students’ needs,” said Jan. “If you are advanced in one area, if you are reading at a higher grade level, you should be given an opportunity to read at that higher grade level.”

“That’s one of the things we worry about all the time,” said Bob. “America is putting out now many fewer Ph.D.’s than China, fewer Ph.D.’s than India. This is a technology world that we live [in], and these are the kinds of kids that can contribute to our country’s advances in these kinds of areas.”

Some of the students who have joined their program are so smart that even Davidson Academy had to retool its curriculum to stay ahead of these kids. But they did it.

That’s the point. To keep filling in the cracks, so kids won’t fall through them, even the brightest of the bright.


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