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Theories and the Good: Toward Child-Centered Gifted Education

Authors:
  • Medical Library Association
  • Institute for Educational Advancement

Abstract

Educators tend to look to theories for ideas on how to educate gifted children. Theories are, however, not value-neutral explanations, but complex attempts to serve human goals that contain values and ideas for action, as well as explanations. When there is a disjunction between a theory and ideas about what is good for gifted children, the latter should be our guide. The most important value in gifted education, we argue, should be child-centeredness. Theories can serve this value by helping us to understand the perspective of a gifted child. Most models and theories (Maslow's and Dabrowski's being the primary exceptions) address the conditions that promote gifted achievement and do not illuminate the inner life of gifted children. And yet, the pressure to achieve often has negative consequences for the emotional well-being, of the childs. Roeper's education for self-actualization and interdependence offers an approach to gifted education that respects the inner life of gifted children and assists the mine finding their own Way in life.
http://gcq.sagepub.com/
Gifted Child Quarterly
http://gcq.sagepub.com/content/43/1/4
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/001698629904300102
1999 43: 4Gifted Child Quarterly
Barry A. Grant and Michael M. Piechowski
Theories and the Good: Toward Child-Centered Gifted Education
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On behalf of:
National Association for Gifted Children
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Theories
and
the
Good:
Toward
Child-Centered
Gifted
Education
Barry
A.
Grant
Chandler,
Arizona
ABSTRACT
Edvzcato~rs
tend
to
look
to
theories
for
ideas
on
howt
to
educate
gifted
cilildren.
Theories
are,
however,
Ilot
value-neutral
explanations,
but
complex
attempts
to
serve
human
goals
that
contain
values
anal
ideas
for
action,
as
well
as
explanations.
Wh~en
there
is
a
disjunctio~n
between
a
theory
and
ideas
about
what
is
good
fcor
gifted
children,
the
latter
should
be
ollr
gtlide.
The
most
important
value
in
gifted
education,
we
argue,
should
be
child-cen-
teredness.
Theories
can
serve
this
vtalue
by
helping
us
to
understand
the
perspective
of
a
gifted
child.
Attest
models
andl
theories
(Maslo~w's
and
D~abrowski's
being
the
primary
exceptions)
address
the
conditions
that
promote
gifted
achievement
anal
do
not
illuminate
the
inner
life
of
gifted
chil-
dren.
Alld
yet',
the
pressure
to
achieve
often
has
naegative
consequences
for
the
emrlotional
well-
being,
of
the
child.s
Roeper's
eduocatio3n
for
self-actu-
alization
and
interdependence
offers
an
approach
to)
gifted
education
that
respects
the
inner
life
of
gifted
children
and
assists
them
ine
finding
their
owrn
Wav
n
life.
How
Important
are
Theories
in
Gifted
Education?
One
of
the
assumptions
in
gifted
education
is
that
theories
provide
a
rationale
for
practice,
guide
research,
and
offer
answers
to
basic
questions.
Accordingly,
it
is
believed
that
the
field
of
gifted
edu-
cation
cannot
move
ahead
without
better
theories
of
the
development
of
giftedness,
the
nature
of
intelli-
gence,
the
social-emotional
constitution
of
gifted
stu-
dents,
and
the
many
other
phenomena
studied
in
the
field.
Whether
the
field
needs
better
theories
to
move
ahead
partly
depends,
of
course,
on
what
we
mean
by
moving
ahead.
If
moving
ahead
means
that
we
will
have
better
theories,
better
explanations,
more
organized
Michael
M.
Piechowski
Northland
College
and
coherent
research,
more
agreement
on
basic
ideas
(e.g.,
What
is
intelligence?
How
does
creativity
develop?),
then
of
course
theories,
partly
by
definition,
help.
If
moving
ahead
means
that
the
lives
of
gifted
children
will
be
better,
then
better
theories
may
or
may
not
help.
A
good
theory
is
one
thing;
a
fulfilling,
mean-
ingful,
or
happy
life
is
another.
A
good
theory
is
testable,
generates
predictions,
orga-
nizes
disparate
information,
avoids
internal
contradic-
tions,
makes
phenomena
intelligible,
resolves
puzzlement
or
confusion,
stimulates
new
work
to
be
done,
and
so
forth.
We
refer
here
to
formnal
theory,
as
distinct
from
both
the
everyday
theories
we
use
to
cope
with
life
and
"theory"
as
a
synonym
for
"idea"
or
"point
of
view."
The
good
for
children
is
a
completely
different
matter.
Here
we
are
clearly
in
the
moral
and
political
realm
where
con-
ceptions
of
the
good
life,
the
goal
of
schooling
and
educa-
tion
,
the
purpose
of
life,
and
such
are
addressed.
A
number
of
people
have
called
for
better
theories
in
gifted
education
(e.g.,
Cohen,
1988;
Cohen
&
Ambrose,
PUTTING
THE
RESEARCH
TO
USE
Our
paper
rides
two
horses,
but
they
complement
each
other.
The
first
horse:
By
understanding
the
characteristics
and
limits
of
social
science
theo-
ries,
we
can
become
more
thoughtful
in
our
use
of
theories
and
more
aware
of
the
role
of
moral
values
in
our
work
with
gifted
children.
The
most
impor-
tant
question
we
can
ask
is:
what
is
the
good
for
children?
The
second
horse:
By
pushing
conven-
tional
success
and
achievement
(e.g.,
good
grades,
high
status,
high
paying
jobs,
stability),
we
push
children
away
from
who
they
are.
What
we
need
to
do
is
simple:
Stop
pressuring
children
to
perform
and
achieve
on
our
terms,
stop
weighing
children's
worth
in
the
currency
of
accomplishments,
stop
killing
intrinsic
motivation,
and
give
up
the
fear
that
children
will
be
unsuccessful.
Allow
children
their
own
route
to
self-actualization,
otherwise
no
self-actualization
is
possible.
4
GIFTED
CHILD
QUARTERLY
*
VOLUME
43,
NO.
I
*
WINTER
1999
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THEORIES
AND
THE
GOOD
theories
as
attempts
to
come
up
with
the
most
accurate
description
and
explanation
of
a
phenomenon
or
class
of
phenomena:
personality,
self-concept,
moral
devel-
opment,
the
nature
of
giftedness,
and
so
forth.
Theories
in
this
sense
are
lenses,
ways
of
organizing
data,
ways
of
making
sense
of
experience.
For
example,
Kohlberg
described
and
explained
something
he
called
moral
reasoning
and
how
it
develops;
Dabrowski
described
and
explained
a
developmental
process
that leads
to
what
he
believed
is
an
integrated,
highly
moral
person-
ality.
Depiction
is
a
basic
purpose
of
formal
theory,
the
one
people
most
often
refer
to
when
talking
about
the-
ories.
However,
aformal
theory
may
or
may
not
have
implications
for
practice.
2.
Application:
Theory
as
engine.
Theories
help
us
do
things
and
give
us
new
ideas
for
things
to
do.
This
is
not
theory
as
lens,
but
theory
as
tool;
or,
as
we
prefer,
theory
as
engine.
Theories
are
not
passive
devices
for
ordering
information,
but
engines
that
can
be
harnessed
to
do
work.
In
offering
ideas
about
the
way
the
world
is,
theories
give
approaches
and
suggest
means
for
chang-
ing
the
world.
For
example,
until
Dabrowski
created
the
idea
of
five
levels
of
character
development,
it
would
not
have
occurred
to
us
to
design
forms
of
counseling
or
programs
that
help
people
move
toward
the
higher
lev-
els
of
development.
One
reviewer
pointed
out
to
us
that
theoryy
as
engine
presumes
that
theory
assumes
a
life
of
its
own
...
such
a
premise
conveys
that
it
is
the
engine
not
the
driver
making
the
decisions."
We
believe
this
does
happen
and
is
known
as
mainstream
research,
what
Einstein
contemptuously
referred