Among the many definitions of inertia, I prefer “lack of movement or activity, especially when activity is warranted or needed” [emphasis added]. What does inertia have to do with a center for gifted education and talent development that literally buzzes with intellectualism, innovation, and insight? Answer: Very little – except we try to avoid inertia by proactively determining when activity is warranted or needed.
Two recent publications have brought home this point. Tom Clymes’s book, The Boy Who Played with Fusion, tells the story of Taylor Wilson (check out the TED Talks); the book emphasizes what can happen with bright children when parents and educators with an entrepreneurial spirit find ways to match learning experiences with curiosity and intellect. Taylor Wilson likely would have achieved a nuclear-fusion reaction – but he might not have done it just as he was turning 14 and he might not have been the 32nd person on earth to do so – were it not for Jan and Bob Davidson who created, in 2006, the Davidson Academy on the University of Nevada-Reno campus. Taylor’s parents enrolled him in this free, public high school when Taylor was 13. There, he attended classes in the mornings and spent his afternoons in a corner of a physics lab. And the rest is history.
As I read Clyme’s compelling volume, I was filled with gratitude for my friends and colleagues, Jan and Bob Davidson, who had the remarkable foresight to build an academic institution for the very brightest students and locate the program on a university campus. Their phenomenal generosity matches their far-reaching vision, which inspires the entire field of gifted educators to find ways to meet the extraordinary needs of outstanding students.
The second publication, hot-off-the-press, is Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students by Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright. Finn and Wright offer a compelling analysis of American education (institutions such as the Davidson Academy notwithstanding) that challenges anyone who cares about America’s bright, highly-able students to ask questions about the current status of gifted education in the U.S. and around the world. The next issue of our newsletter will focus more on this volume. Meanwhile, I ask you: do you care?
If your answer is yes, then I hope you will continue to become informed – with these two books and with the Belin-Blank Center’s new, two-volume publication, A Nation Empowered. The reason to enroll students in above-level testing and specialized programming, register for professional development, or review the extensive information on our websites is simple enough: activity is warranted and needed.