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Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds

Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds

4.2 10
by Jan Davidson, Bob Davidson, Laura Vanderkam
With all the talk of failing schools these days, we often forget that schools can fail their brightest students too. Gifted children forced into a "one size fits all" approach to schooling find themselves bored or frustrated, which can lead to underachievement, behavioral problems, or depression. Without sufficient challenges and resources, say Jan and Bob Davidson,


With all the talk of failing schools these days, we often forget that schools can fail their brightest students too. Gifted children forced into a "one size fits all" approach to schooling find themselves bored or frustrated, which can lead to underachievement, behavioral problems, or depression. Without sufficient challenges and resources, say Jan and Bob Davidson, America's brightest young minds languish, never reaching their full potential. Society can't afford that loss.
In Genius Denied, the Davidsons -- founders of a nonprofit institute that provides assistance to gifted children -- offer hope and practical advice to parents and students alike. Through their own experiences and those of the families they've worked with, the Davidsons show parents how to find an appropriate education for their children, when to go outside the school system, and how to create a support network with school authorities and other parents. Genius Denied shows that with commitment and creativity, gifted students can get the education they deserve, one that nurtures their talents and minds.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Davidsons, a husband-and-wife team, established a nonprofit organization to assist especially bright kids and their parents in their quest for educational fulfillment. They draw on their clients' experiences in this manifesto for change. For gifted students, "doing well does not mean doing one's best," they believe, and highly intelligent children are often as inclined to fail as to succeed. Of course, the terrible shape of education-and public schooling in particular-isn't news, and approaches to learning for specialized groups like the gifted are often as jerry-built as those for the learning disabled. Like a gentle, scripted but persistent public service announcement, this book reminds readers that when it comes to education, legislators, lobbyists, administrators, teachers, parents and even gifted children themselves sometimes fall into lazy, conformist patterns of thinking and action, and that both the current situation and the forecast for the future are fairly discouraging. The Davidsons make a compelling case for re-approaching giftedness as a potential disability (to give more attention to gifted kids) and an even stronger argument for parents, teachers and citizens to consider the potential loss to American society in the costliest imaginable terms. Above all, they want readers, whatever their relationship to the gifted, to start thinking about the issue. This is an exhortatory book that doesn't resort to finger pointing; it even includes "what you can do about this" suggestions aimed at everyone from policymakers and principals to parents. Agent, Carol Mann. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It's all about aha! moments, those special times when a concept, a theory, or whatever else a child has been struggling to understand finally makes sense. But many children are denied these aha! moments because they aren't being challenged in their education. The Davidsons, founders of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, an organization that provides assistance to gifted children and to schools, are concerned that highly intelligent children are not being offered the best education possible. Surprisingly, they claim, these children are the most likely to fall through the cracks in American classrooms. They're also the most likely to underachieve and to suffer the greatest gap between their potential and what is asked of them. Pointing out the need for curriculums that are not age defined-the need to get away from an educational philosophy demanding that children of the same age do the same thing at the same time-the authors ask the following: What new ideas are we squelching by not allowing these children to stretch their minds? Through their work with gifted students, the Davidsons have discovered teaching methods that nurture the intellect. They present these methods eloquently and suggest forceful ways to restructure schools to embrace rather than deny genius. Recommended for most public libraries.-Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"I absolutely recommend this book."
-- Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., Director, The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, The University of Iowa

"Through their work with gifted students, the Davidsons have discovered teaching methods that nurture the intellect. They present these methods eloquently."
-- Library Journal

"A handbook for parents who want to be general contractors of their gifted child's education, whether in the system or out."
-- The New York Times

"An absorbing look at how our nation is neglecting children of exceptional intelligence."
-- Booklist

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
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5.80(w) x 8.64(h) x 0.94(d)

Read an Excerpt


At the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit organization we founded in 1999 to help our nation's brightest children get the education they need, we're always amazed by the stories families share with us. We receive an e-mail from a mother who describes how her son, at age two, learned all the state capitals as an afternoon diversion and later solved three-digit arithmetic problems when he was bored in his stroller. We smile at the story of another toddler who tried to weasel out of trouble for throwing a toy back at his sibling by claiming he was just following "Newton's Third Law." A ten-year-old composes a set of complex piano pieces. A teenager pursues a patent on an antibody he developed to slow the growth of tumors.

Sadly, not all the stories we hear make us smile. Most tell how schools and communities neglect these highly intelligent children. They are kept with children their own age, rarely given work that challenges them, and told they will just have to learn to work at the same pace as everyone else. We hear of children who read and comprehend their math books in the first two weeks of school and spend the rest of the year gazing out the window. Teenagers who read Dostoyevsky for pleasure suffer the tedium of classes that devote weeks to books written for young adult audiences.

This book is about their stories. We have changed these children's names, but not the details of the difficulties they have encountered trying to eke out an appropriate education. This book is about whether schools and communities choose to squelch or nurture the flame of intelligence in their young people, and what happens when they choose to deny or embrace this national resource. Learning becomes a joy when children have what we call "aha!" moments. An equation works, a story makes sense, and a little connection forges in a child's brain. The harder a child has to work to make that connection, the brighter the lightbulb burns.

People always ask us why, when we sold Davidson & Associates, our educational software company, and entered the world of philanthropy, we chose to work with gifted children. Our reply is that we have always wanted to help children become successful learners. Even before founding Davidson & Associates, Jan taught English at the college level and tutored children of all ages. Bob's ideas for our math and reading software helped thousands of students discover that learning can be as much fun as playing video games. We want all children to have these "aha!" moments. So we searched for the population that traditional schools serve least, the population that is least likely to learn and achieve to its potential. We believe that highly gifted students are that population.

Over the years, we have discovered that when it comes to leaving no child behind, highly gifted students are the most likely to fall through the cracks in American classrooms. They are the most likely to underachieve, to suffer the greatest gap between their potential and what is asked of them. This is what we mean by "genius denied."

"Genius" means extraordinary intellectual ability, and people use the word in two different but related ways. In one sense, genius means high intellectual potential; in the other sense, genius means "creative ability of exceptionally high order as demonstrated by total achievement." This book uses both meanings. Works of eminence require years of preparation and require minds working to the best of their abilities. If we fail to recognize and nurture extraordinary intellectual ability in our children, we will deny them the opportunity to develop their talents to their full extent and deny them, and the nation, the satisfaction and benefits of what these children may someday do.

At the Davidson Institute we try to help highly gifted young people find ways to keep learning to the extent of their abilities. Our Davidson Young Scholars program provides guidance, resources, and educational advocacy assistance to hundreds of families of talented young people ages four to eighteen. Our Davidson Fellows award program provides scholarships to students who already have completed works of great importance. Our Educators Guild provides teachers with resources and training to identify and nurture gifted students in their classrooms. And we grant awards to schools with an exemplary record for nurturing intellectual talent.

We are writing this book to share the stories of the children, families, and teachers we have met through these programs, and to help readers understand how schools deny these "aha!" moments to bright students by failing to challenge them. We do not believe that most educators or schools or communities are hostile to the needs of gifted learners. Rather, most people are simply indifferent. With all the other educational crises plaguing American schools these days, why, people ask, should we focus on children who seem better able than other students to fend for themselves? People believe these children have it easy. They ace tests without trying. They race through their homework.

We first answer these questions by saying that schools should not discriminate against gifted kids. All kids — low-achievers, high-achievers, and those in the middle — deserve to have their educational needs met. But we also have another reason for wanting schools and society to nurture gifted children. Through our work we have met young people who have composed symphonies, written novels, made advancements in the treatment of cancer, and found new ways of compressing data for faster and cheaper storage and retrieval, all before they were old enough to vote. These young people benefited from parents, teachers, mentors, and communities that supported and encouraged them. Unlike so many of their talented peers, their genius was nurtured, not denied. We want to live in a world where such talent is harnessed and put to use. We can't expect to benefit from gifted children's creativity later if we let schools dull their minds into indifference now.

The simple solution, it seems to us, is to make sure that gifted children, like all other children, are given material that is challenging enough to allow them to learn. We also know that children learn best when surrounded by their intellectual peers. Yet in a country with one hundred types of toothpaste on supermarket shelves, schools still follow a one-size-fits-all educational model. Children march in lockstep through grades with their age peers, regardless of their capabilities. Changing schools so they focus on whether a child reaches her potential — instead of focusing on whether she passes the standardized test and spends 180 days in a seat — will require a major shift in thinking for parents, teachers, administrators, and policy makers.

It won't be easy, but it is a cause worth fighting for. Such individualized education will make school more humane for all students and, particularly in the case of gifted students, will reap rewards for society for years to come.

The first three chapters of Genius Denied discuss the problem — how schools shortchange their brightest students, even in gifted programs, and how America's lowest-common-denominator culture has created this educational neglect. The next four chapters show how parents, teachers, mentors, patrons, schools, and society can help gifted students achieve their potential. A What You Can Do section at the back of the book provides practical suggestions for nurturing your own gifted child or other gifted children in your community.

In five years at the Davidson Institute we have met hundreds of highly gifted students through our programs. We know these students can do anything if given the chance. In America today, however, too few schools take that chance. They prefer instead to live with the consequences of genius denied.

Copyright © 2004 by Davidson Institute for Talent Development

Meet the Author

Jan and Bob Davidson are the founders of the Davidson Institute for
Talent Development, which provides financial and other assistance to gifted children. They live in Incline Village, Nevada.

Jan and Bob Davidson are the founders of the Davidson Institute for
Talent Development, which provides financial and other assistance to gifted children. They live in Incline Village, Nevada.

Laura Vanderkam is a contributing editor at Reader's Digest and is the coauthor of Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. She lives with her husband in New York City.

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Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago

The title is long, and speaks volumes. Why are we, as a country, denying our gifted children an appropriate education? What can we, as parents and as educators, do for these unique children?

What is gifted education? Genius Denied differentiates between the elitist enrichment programs billed as gifted education by school districts across the country, and real gifted education, appropriate level curriculum in major subject areas. And it asks important questions, like why is gifted education tied to the student¿s age, rather than to his or her educational needs?

The gifted children hurt by our national policy of egalitarianism aren¿t the rich kids, the Davidsons points out. Wealthy parents can afford the private schools, tutors, and specialized programs that gifted children need to survive and grow; they can afford to move to other school districts or states when such programs are unavailable. It¿s the socio-economically disadvantaged, the immigrant, even the middle-income child who¿s family cannot afford such privileges; these are the children who are denied an appropriate education.

Genius Denied is not just a story of educational failures; it details education successes, and how we can duplicate them for other gifted children. And it¿s not only the gifted children, but our society as a whole that will benefit. While not every gifted child is a future inventor or political leader or composer or scientific discoverer, every gifted child IS important to the future of our nation and our world, and none should experience the educational misfortune that has been experienced by child after child detailed in the book.

Genius Denied is a book that should be read, and taken to heart, by every school administrator and policy maker, and by every parent of a gifted child. And maybe, with the help of this book, Genius Denied will become just a book title, instead of our national education policy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It provides a lot of criticism, but not very many solutions. As a teacher and a member of the community I am always looking for ways to challenge students who are extremely gifted while still serving those who need more help. However, this book provided many tragic stories without many ways to help other than to say WE'RE GETTING IT WRONG. That's fine, but I'd like more imput on how to get it right.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Genius Denied' is an engaging read on an overlooked American tragedy: the neglect of our nations brightest children. I'm a teacher and I've seen many brilliant students who need a more challenging education program than the one I am allowed to provide in my mixed-ability classroom. 'Genius Denied' gets to the heart of 'Education's Dirty Little Secret' and offers sound solutions for what schools and parents can do to remedy this oversight. I highly recommend this book to all who care about education and our nation's future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An interesting premise -- that our brightest children are not served by our educational system. True to an extent, but neither does it serve the least bright. The authors are pushing their own personal agenda here, and play loose with the facts to make their arguments. Their assertion that one in five high school drop-outs is gifted would seem to indicate that these students complete high school at a MUCH lower rate than the general population -- highly unlikely! They ignore the fact that the country identified as having the best schools in the world (Finland) offers no special opportunities to highly intelligent students. Although there may be merit to some of the arguments made in the book, any value it might have is undone by poor writing and marginal editing. Very little distinguishes Chapter 1 from Chapter 8 from the website, which is free. Save your money and your time, read the graph above and realize that you have learned as much as this book has to offer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful, although it identifies situations in our educational systems that are certainly NOT wonderful. The authors provide individual accounts of issues faced by gifted students, as well as data regarding educational practices. The latter is supplemented by their website, www.geniusdenied.com. In detailing these situations, they don't attack the participants; they don't fragment us further by dividing us into various special interests. Instead, this book helps every reader to understand the educational needs of gifted children and the harm that can result when those needs are not met. It inspires us to ask ourselves what we can do to help, then goes on to help us answer that question and identify positive steps that we can take. Genius Denied is a book worth reading, whether you are a teacher, parent, community member, policy maker . . . It would be a wonderful book to hand to the parent or teacher that understands gifted children, to share the fact that others care, too. It would also be valuable to the parent or teacher who does NOT understand these children's needs, because it presents these needs in a thoughtful way that may prompt improved understanding.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very resourceful book for parents and educators that would like more information on how to meet the unique needs of gifted youth. Jan and Bob Davidson eloquently describe the 'quiet crisis' in our schools today and offer realistic suggestions to support and challenge gifted students. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Genius Denied is an exceptional resource for educators, administrators, professionals, and parents of gifted and talented students. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making a positive difference in the lives of gifted youth. It not only addresses the challenges that the gifted population faces in our education system today, but it also gives practical suggestions as to what one can do to effect change in gifted and talented education across the nation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a must have and a must read for anyone with a gifted/talented child. parts of the book brought tears to my eyes as i realized the torture my child goes thru at school every day.