Prisoners Of Time

Sometimes, when you read something, you can believe it is just what people need to hear – until you look at the date and you wonder – Haven’t they heard this already?

This happened to me during my Christmas reading, when I chanced upon a report “Prisoners of Time”, first published in the United States in April 1994 as the Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. The Education Commission of the States reprinted it in the Education Reform Reprint Series in October 2005, noting that the series’ aim was

“to confront, once again, education policymakers and the body politic with out-of-print critiques of American education that are as relevant today as they were at the time of their original publication” (p. 1).

May I add, today, in 2011,  nearly six years on, many aspects are still the same around the ‘worlds of education’.

“The problem with our schools is not that they are not what they used to be, but that they are [emphasis added] what they used to be.” In terms of time, our schools are unchanged despite a transformation in the world around them.” (p20)

What particularly caught my eye at the time was the title – “Prisoners of Time” – as it was a great description of what happens to many of our gifted students who get trapped in an annual, age-bound school system.

Second thing I liked, was the coloured illustrations to liven up the report – and really kept me reading it (visual person that I am!!). It seemed to me that it doesn’t take much extra effort to make something stand out, but it can make a huge difference on the impact.

Our gifted kids don’t need a completely new curriculum, but they need a process that can make things different enough to capture their attention and keep them engaged. This doesn’t happen when you make them stay in their age appropriate classes for all lessons, or when you don’t give them the opportunity to really show you what they know, so as not to have to repeat things unnecessarily. Who wouldn’t get bored at school if that happened on a regular basis.

We have access to above-level testing of students, and to pre-test before topics are started. It should be happening with all students, built into a system of planning what will be appropriate for your class each year. And even if testing isn’t appropriate, there are many other ways to find out what will make a difference in these student’s learning. (Go to any Gifted Education website and read about “Differentiation”). Later in the report, recommendations explain …

“And because they progress through each standard at their own pace, students can graduate as early as age 14 – or as late as age 21.” (p39)

Now this might be American, but gifted students worldwide come up against these issues – still! Maybe if we read the articles and acted upon them when they first come out, or at least when they are reprinted for emphasis, we would start to make a change for all our kids, and not just the gifted.

Just a thought about reform … online!


About Debbie Smith

New Zealand Educator interested in online education, giftedness, and other special needs in education.
This entry was posted in Education Reform, gifted education and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Prisoners Of Time

  1. Debbie Smith says:

    My husband reminds me frequently about the ‘latest’ flurry over global warming. He tells a story of when he was rebuilding a section of his grandmother’s house, first built in 1919, in Auckland. He found an Auckland newspaper in the wall cavity, dated 1958, the year he was actually born. In it was a third page article talking about how the latest phenomenon, reports of the earth warming up, was reported with great vigour. So, he thought, the earth has been warming at least for the last fifty years. It’s not a new phenomenon at all, and if the predictions back then had come right, we would be under water by now if we live within 20m of sea level. Funny how things seem to be talked about – and fifty years later they are still being talked about!
    I wonder if they will still be taking about this in the beginning of the 22nd century!!!!

  2. Josh Shaine says:

    Abraham Tannenbaum once compared the gifted child movement to a rocking chair, constantly moving but going nowhere.

    The year was 1972. 38 years later, can we say it is any better? Eh… maybe the smallest bits, with the (US) public boarding schools. But not much, that’s for sure – and backwards in some regards.

    (“A backward and forward glance at the gifted” in the National Elementary Principal)

    • Debbie Smith says:

      Thanks for that, Josh,

      I wonder if it has something to do with playing lip service to a topic some people don’t really understand.
      Sometimes, it is not until you have ‘lived’ with a gifted child, spouse, parent etc, that you really “get” them.

      Sadly, it’s hard enough for teachers to form really strong bonds with any class members throughout their one year stint with them, even if the students are willing to share. How much more difficult for a student who really feels like no one understands them?

      I have been married to my ‘creative-gifted’ husband for nearly eight years now, and am only just beginning to understand some of his ‘differences’. It’s not enough to just use the throw away line – Oh, men are from Venus; women are from Mars! Even on planet Earth, people in one continent have very little understanding of others from a completely different continent.

      Just thinking again … out loud!

  3. Debbie Smith says:

    Well, I think I will have to have a read of Wipple’s work. This has obviously been going on for a lot longer than I was aware. My first real experience with the history of the study of giftedness, in New Zealand, was through the work of New Zealander, George Parkyn, in the 50’s.
    Thank you very much for your insights, Josh.

  4. Dragonfly says:

    Can relate, as all readers, with their own personal stories. We have been geographically moving over the last six years, though still in the same space.
    We were in NZ in mid-2009 in search of solutions – but unless you are in the right place at the right time with access to the right people/information – its disheartening.
    Just hoping that GiftedPhoenix’s crowd sourcing will take off in a big way this year.

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