Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Julian Stanley and Bright Children

I teach at Cal State, Los Angeles. One of the most interesting programs there is our Early Entrance Program, which admits students to college who have not finished high school. Rich Maddox, the program director, recently circulated an email announcing the death of Julian Stanley, an innovator in education for gifted children. The email included this article by Thomas Sowell.
Bright children and their parents have lost a much-needed friend with the recent death of Professor Julian Stanley of Johns Hopkins University. For decades he not only researched and ran programs for intellectually gifted students, he became their leading advocate in books and articles.

His efforts were very much needed. Unusually bright children are too often treated like stepchildren by the American educational system.

While all sorts of special classes and special schools are created for various categories of students, there is resistance and even hostility to the idea of creating special classes or schools for intellectually gifted students. …

While it is well known that the average American student does poorly on international tests, what is not so well known is that gifted American students lag particularly far behind their foreign counterparts.

Professor Julian Stanley pointed out that the performance level of gifted American students "is well below both the level of their own potential and the achievement levels of previous U.S. generations." In other words, our brightest kids have been going downhill even faster than our average kids. …

Julian Stanley did not just criticize existing practices. He created special programs for unusually bright high school students on weekends and during the summer at Johns Hopkins University. The success of these programs has inspired similar programs at Purdue University and elsewhere.

Such programs have not only produced academic benefits, the gifted students in such programs have expressed an almost pathetic gratitude for finally being in a setting where they are comfortable with their peers and are viewed positively by their teachers. …

Julian Stanley made a unique contribution to the development of gifted children, both directly through his program at Johns Hopkins and indirectly through his research and advocacy. Fortunately, he is survived by collaborators in these efforts, such as Professors Camilla Persson Benbow and David Lubinski of Vanderbilt University.

The effort must go on, both to stop the great waste of gifted students, whose talents are much needed in the larger society, and for the humane purpose of relieving the frustration and alienation of youngsters whose only crime is being born with more intellectual potential than most of those around them.
I'm glad that Cal State, Los Angeles is doing its part.

At a recent meeting to decide which students should be admitted to the program for next year, Rich described the admission criteria. Besides intellectual and emotional maturity and readiness, Rich also considers need, i.e., the possibility that students are trapped in an environment in which their skills make them targets of anti-intellectual sentiment. I hadn't realized how serious this problem is. I'm glad that we are available to help at least some of these students.

Here's an article from the John's Hopkins magazine about Julian Stanley.

No comments: