Special Classes for Special Children

Ihave been an educator for more than 20 years and a parent of highly gifted children. I am as yet unable to control my complete frustration at the uneducated and insensitive attitudes about highly gifted students such as those presented by Joan Martin (Point/Counterpoint, Feb. 26).

I, too, want my children to have a well-rounded life, and my attempts to find that in the Los Angeles Unified School District have been the most disappointing experiences I have had as a parent.

Adolescents who are highly gifted are parceled into little pieces like “Science/Math” or “Humanities” or “Performing Arts” and denied the opportunity to explore the wide range of interests common to the highly gifted in an educationally appropriate setting. As a 10th-grader at Birmingham High School, my daughter came home frustrated daily because she was forced to endure teachers who were threatened by dealing with extremely bright students, and because she as a “well-rounded” child continually felt the need to stifle her own intelligence and creativity to fit in with the norm.

We were continually told by the administration that she “belonged in a magnet,” but, being a “well-rounded child,” which one? Should she go with her love for the theater and choose “Performing Arts” or continue with honors and advanced placement math and science classes and choose “Math/Science” or go for her love of writing and literature and choose “Humanities”?


Luckily, my children have had the opportunity to participate in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Academically Talented Youth Summer Program, which has given them an arena for letting go and being fully themselves. And, fortunately, we have found an alternative to the boredom and tedium of fitting into the norm in LAUSD during the school year.

The Oakwood School now provides for our children an opportunity to enjoy math, science, social science, humanities and even, when the urge hits, to learn to tap dance. It is a pleasure to interact with teachers who understand the varied needs of bright teen-agers, teachers that demand that students look beyond themselves by requiring 30 hours of community service in order to graduate, and teachers who help students celebrate who they are as individuals.




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