Reflections on Graduation

For many years, I have I have been involved with helping doctoral candidates to prepare for their graduation ceremonies.  It’s a privilege to engage with these clever and accomplished researchers. It’s fascinating to learn about the new knowledges they have created.

But, as I watch the graduation pomp and pageantry, my thoughts turn to the children who will probably never earn high academic degrees. Some will face physical or cognitive barriers that make learning difficult; others will choose paths that lead to happy, fulfilling lives with only minimal formal schooling.

My concern, though, is for the children who are highly able learners but whose talents go unrecognized or ignored. Through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, nations worldwide have made a promise to children “to do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.” Have we kept this promise when it applies to gifted children?

When there are resources available, the first priority is to help children living in poverty, in war zones, or in other circumstances that are abusive and cruel. That’s exactly as it should be. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, it is safety and security that are essential. But somehow, the resources must be found to provide opportunity to highly able learners who many people incorrectly assume can survive without help.

Until we find the ways and means to look for gifted children and provide for their needs, many talents will go undiscovered and wither. It’s not necessary for all of them to graduate from the school system with high degrees. It is, however, essential for them to lead full and productive lives, both for their own self-actualization and for the common good.

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