Afterthought: Gifted Education: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation?

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All students deserve a high-quality education; however, some students are denied such an education due to their ethnicity, class, gender, language, and/or disability status. That is why United States Education Secretary Ame Duncan has declared education the civil rights issue of our generation. Gifted and talented education programs can no longer be reserved for a set few. In the 21st century, it is essential that those who have historically been denied access to these programs, e.g., students who are economically disenfranchised and students of color, have the opportunity to participate in gifted and talented classes/programs. More than two-thirds of students who are economically disenfranchised and students of color are in schools with low graduation rates, high attrition rates, and minimal access to preparatory curricula, enrichment courses, and gifted and talented programs.

In this issue of the Black History Bulletin, authors have addressed the importance of providing African American students in K-12 settings with the opportunity to participate in gifted and talented programs/classes. They also addressed the importance of providing young, gifted, and Black teacher candidates in teacher education programs with knowledge of the historical legacy they inherit and the educational philosophy that Black educators embraced in the past. Along with their articles, they have provided culturally responsive lesson plans for both K-12 and higher education settings.

The sentiment across all these articles is clear: young, gifted, and Black students are overlooked and underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. In the article "Separate and Unequal: The Underrepresentation of African American Students in Gifted and Talented Programs," the author expresses concern with the limited number of African American students in gifted and talented programs; however, this same population of students is overrepresented in special education. Perhaps the issue of underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs for African American students can be viewed as providing credibility to the argument that gifted education legislation has created a vehicle for separate and unequal educational circumstances for students of color.

The underrepresentation, and in some cases decreasing enrollment, of African American students in gifted and talented programs/classes has become a national epidemic that contributes to the achievement gap between African American students and their White counterparts. In the article "The Causes of Underrepresentation of African American Children in Gifted Programs and the Need to Address this Problem through More Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices in Teacher Education Programs," the authors contend that most of the resources and energy have been dedicated to addressing African American children who are not meeting academic standards, and African American children who excel in school have been underserved and neglected because of an effort to close the achievement gap between European American and African American students. Although it is important to address and work toward closing the achievement gap, it is also important to address and work toward supporting, engaging, and providing programs and activities to develop our young, gifted, and Black students.

Though the other articles in the issue do not specifically and explicitly address the underrepresentation of African American students in gifted and talented programs/ classes, they do express the need for providing young, gifted, and Black students in both K-12 and teacher education programs with nurturing leadership opportunities. In the article "Developing African American Leaders in Today's Schools: Gifted Leadership, the Unfamiliar Dimension in Gifted Education," the author reiterates the 1972 federal definition of "gifted and talented," which was amended to incorporate leadership ability. …