LETTER:Schools of thought about gifted young

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From Professor Joan Freeman

Sir: It is sad that David Aaronovitch is still propagating some tired old myths about gifted children (Magazine; "IQ", 26 August).

The literature is absolutely not, as he claims, "full of case studies of gifted children who have been let down by the system". Rather, what scientific research is showing clearly is that special provision for the gifted has never worked.

In the US, many millions of dollars have been invested in different forms of education for the gifted, but all the latest evidence shows that it has practically no long-term effect. For example, the most recent investigation of adults who had been at the prestigious Hunter School for the Gifted in New York found that even by the ages of 40 to 50, no outstanding career results could be detected from their special education.

Here in Britain, my own 14-year nationwide study comparing the education of 210 gifted and non-gifted children points to a wide variety of provision. Some is terrible, some is superb, but most is adequate. On the whole, the gifted did well, and for those who did not, there were usually personal reasons for their underachievement.

The group at Brunel are far from being "pioneers", as described by Mr Aaronovitch. Their proposed route of special education for the gifted has been deeply trodden for nearly half a century. Gifted adults do not emerge from nowhere. The "late developers", Einstein and Freud, were gifted children who had enjoyed excellent conventional educations before they became world famous.

Should there come a time when there is hard evidence to show that specialist provision for gifted children results in gifted adults, then that is the time to spend the money. Right now, one has to ask whether all the time and effort is merely providing some bright children with enjoyable mental exercise and the feel-good factor.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Freeman

Founder President

European Council for

High Ability

London, W1

26 August

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