Developed by Darryl Bradshaw; Profound Gentleman Policy Director

Gifted programs in American Schools saw their introduction in the mid-1950s. Since that time, there had been a presence and demand for identifying and cultivating students’ intellectual ability.

The gifted tag is a badge of honor, and percentage. Parents push their children to obtain the academic distinction and students push their mental boundaries to sustain the status.

Since the 1950s, the American educational system has treated intellect as a commodity with private school being the pinnacle and our beloved public schools being the lesser.

Education has evolved from or a natural right, into a commodity, that is traded and reserved for those with the means to obtain it. With Public education being something provided by law, it has been stripped of the truly valuable part and watered down to meet the requirements set forth by our nations’ compulsory education laws.

Like other commodities, education centers industry that capitalizes on those who are educationally gifted and possess intellect in abundance.

Lewis Terman (Father of the gifted child distinction) at the budding stage of America’s Gifted child program development understood that intelligence and mental capacity are something you are born with. In the early 1900s, he and his associate began to test students to determine their intellectual level.

Those with higher intellectual levels were studied more and a value was placed on their involvement in educational discussions and institutional development. Terman’s work was hailed as revolutionary, it allowed a person’s “Smarts’ ‘ to be measured.

But there was an issue, the intellectual tests were biased. The process that Terman developed was culturally homogeneous, meaning the test would cater towards the American Majority in its questioning and verbiage.

As Terman conducted more longitudinal tests, his findings were hailed in high regard, but who were the children he was testing, where any of Terman’s “Termites” minorities?

When conducting his series of tests and observations known as Terman’s study of the gifted, there were little to no Children of color included in the studies.

The lack of children of color in these studies would have lasting impacts on the topic of gifted children. (1) it normalized the absence of children of color in the gifted studies and programs. (2) it gave a face to ‘the gifted child’.

Stereotypes of gifted children often include ethnicity. Because Terman’s study of the gifted included few children of color, the notions held widely about gifted children rarely include children of color. This phenomenon helps to explain why there are so few people of color in academically
gifted programs today.

Currently, we are working against history when it comes to reimagining gifted programs with an influx of both students and educators of color in gifted Ed-programs.

Functional education with a labor focus was the preferred type of education for the common man of color before the turn of the 19th century. Booker T Washington has often credited with conditioning the African American mind away from education that did not materialize into food or economic sustainability.

In his Atlanta Compromise speech, he stated; “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” (Washington, 1895) he was critical of African Americans who favored universal education over trade or technical education like W.E.B DuBois.

Both Washington and Dubois worked tirelessly in their efforts to advocate for their education perspective, but Booker T Washington would have the endorsement of the government and philanthropist to strengthen his argument. Trade schools, employment, and survival became the basis of education for Communities of color all over the nation.

With most families of color only seeing education to earn a wage, there was little focus on extensive learning and application that would lead to them earning the gifted distinction.