The Issue of the ‘UN’ Special Issue - Points of Reflection

Michelle Frazier Trotman Scott
Donna Y. Ford
Joy Lawson Davis

Throughout history - past and contemporary - gifted education has been scrutinized and critiqued about racial and economic inequities. Most concerns pertain to the persistent and extensive under-representation of Black and Latinx students in gifted education, along with increasing consideration to those who live in poverty. For specificity, each year, Black students tend to be under-represented by approximately 50% and Latinx are under-represented by nearly 35%. These discrepancies create a sense of urgency to be proactive and equitable to increase access; work that will or appears to go against the aforementioned access will counter the goal and mission of NAGC in supporting all gifted students, regardless of race, income, gender, and other exceptionalities. (Click here to read NAGCs position statement on identifying and serving culturally linguistically diverse gifted students.

In a few months, proposals will be due for a guest edited issue of Gifted Child Quarterly, the premiere journal of the National Association for Gifted Children. While special issues are typically exciting due to the opportunities provided for scholars to write and publish on special topics, the issue to which we are referring brings deep disappointment.  The special issue, which we have deemed an ‘un’special issue, is devoted to the commemoration of Lewis M. Terman’s longitudinal study of 1,528 gifted students almost 100 years ago. We are displeased with the resurrection of Terman‘s work, which has been proven to be biased and inaccurate.

The five points of reflection below communicate our views and concerns regarding how this specific ‘un’special issue is inappropriate, harmful, and divisive for the field of gifted education and under-represented students now and in the future; we vehemently believe that it will undo/reverse/set back progressive, empathetic, ethical, and culturally responsive advances.

  • Nationwide, school districts struggle with the development of programs that are equitable and provide access for gifted children from all backgrounds (e.g., racial, ethnic, economic, linguistic). They, like their more privileged peers, need the full support of NAGC and its publications in their work.
  • The history of eugenics is a blemish on the history of America. Terman, who was a leader in the movement, specified his beliefs about the inferiority of African Americans, Hispanics, and individuals with special needs. A special issue will become a contemporary publication that will be archived by the NAGC Journal Gifted Child Quarterly (and social media blogs and posts).
  • Gifted children of color, their families, and the educators who support them look to NAGC, its leaders, its publications, and associated outlets to provide a visionary, equity-grounded and culturally responsive framework for the future of accessible gifted education services in our nation’s schools. NAGC is the most influential and impactful professional advocacy organization for all gifted students. NAGC must take this charge seriously.
  • GCQ is the premier journal for the major organization supporting gifted children in the nation and should always keep the needs of all gifted and talented children and their families in mind. NAGC publications must promote scholarship that moves research, theories, conceptual models and paradigms, and lived experiences forward based on equity, while honoring cultural differences and students of color who are not recruited and retained in gifted and related services on a consistent basis. 
  • While a historical view may be deemed  commendable, a broader and  more comprehensive and contemporary view of gifted education scholarship over a 100 years is advisable and recommended;  included must be the work of scholars highlighting giftedness  among cultural groups, those dealing with the impact of poverty, and those working with special needs gifted students.

We believe that there is nothing culturally responsive about the content of Terman’s work, as indicated by the acronym ‘UN’SPECIAL that appears below:

Unhelpful/Unusable -- uses unreliable and questionable measures of intelligence

Negligent -- useful data were not utilized to share accurate information about intelligence with marginalized groups.

Separatist -- is dividing us as a field at a time when we need to focus on being inclusive and focused on equity.

Polemic -- only one perspective is shared and promoted and that perspective is biased because it focuses on and promotes the status quo. 

Eugenics grounded -- shares and promotes untruths about the inferiority of African Americans, Latinx, and individuals with special needs.

Culturally Unresponsive/Assaultive -- supports the notion of superiority of one race. Does not take into account the lived experiences of students from culturally different backgrounds.

Ill-informed research -- used to report on the supposed low inherited and unchangeable intelligence of marginalized students.

Accusatory -- blames and places the burden on the victim/accused and denies and diminishes the negative impact of discriminatory practices.

Lies -- lived experiences are negated and misinterpreted which resulted in misinformation, distortion and lies being published as truth, facts, and reality.

Terman’s work, grossly represented and mis-represented special populations of students. We cannot stand by without voicing our concerns and appreciate the opportunity to voice them in this platform.

Michelle Frazier Trotman Scott, Ph.D., University of West Georgia; Chair, National Association for Gifted Children, Special Populations Network
Donna Y. Ford, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Joy Lawson Davis,Ph.D., Education Consultant, Author

The views expressed herein represent the opinion of the authors and are not necessarily the National Association for Gifted Children.