That was the question asked and discussed in a segment on CBC radio on Nov. 4th. It followed the proposal to cut classes for the Ottawa Carlton School Board.
The arguments have been made before. The main one centres on elitism. It’s pointed out that classes for gifted include many children whose parents can afford to pay for psychological testing. A rebuttal I would offer is that school districts, certainly here in British Columbia, are increasingly reluctant to do the testing for free. It is evident that if children are “identified” as gifted, then programs have to be provided for them. It’s a cost-saving for government if there are fewer identified children. It’s a fact that the numbers of identified gifted have declined markedly since the Liberal government was elected in BC in 2002.
One of the most distressing arguments is that “segregating” bright children negatively affects the mainstream education system. Something about skimming the cream off the top. The rebuttal to that is that gifted children should be encouraged to fulfill their own potential, and should not be relied on the increase the performance average of publicly-funded classroom. A better way of looking at this is to talk about “congregating” gifted children together so that they can benefit from being with peers who have similar levels of cognitive functioning, and face the same kinds of anxieties and challenges that are common among gifted children. Unlike other exceptional children, who benefit from being in the mainstream, gifted children benefit from being grouped together, as the research clearly shows: Six Guidelines for Grouping Gifted Learners
Other arguments are presented throughout this blog. Parents, as always, have to advocate for their gifted children. The audio file for the CBC program on this topic shows that the discussion continues.