P.O. BOX 1586







Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children

Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs

Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida

Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado

Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education

Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon

Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - Director of Graduate Studies, Caldwell College, Caldwell, New Jersey

Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented

Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois

Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Consultant, Lombard, Illinois

I started publishing this periodical nine years ago in the spring of 1987. Our goals then were to "serve as a forum for discussing current issues on educating the gifted, and to present the best possible ideas concerning how to improve this field." Encouragement received from Michael Walters and James LoGiudice helped sustain the work involved in producing GEPQ during those early years. In the first issue (April 1987), an article by LoGiudice emphasized the need for developing a rigorous curriculum for the gifted. The ideas he expressed are even more valid today than in 1987, even though this field has changed considerably during the last nine years. In 1987, the national trends in educating the gifted were at their peak, whereas a serious decline has occurred in current programs and funding for the gifted. One of the primary reasons for continuing to publish this quarterly has been the strong support received from our friends and colleagues in gifted education and related fields. Through the years, they have emphasized that GEPQ provides an alternative and critical voice to more traditional viewpoints concerning the identification and education of gifted students. They have strongly encour-aged us to continue publishing this periodical up to and beyond the year 2000. To help GEPQ survive and thrive, I have requested that the following individuals serve as members of an advisory panel. All of them have graciously agreed to provide advice and ideas related to continuing and expanding GEPQ. Their willingness to be on this panel is greatly appreciated and provides further encouragement to this publisher, his authors and the readers of GEPQ.

Members of Advisory Panel for Gifted Education Press Quarterly

Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children

Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs, Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida

Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Commu-nications, Boulder, Colorado

Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education

Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon

Dr. Adrienne O'Neill -- Director of Graduate Studies, Caldwell College, Caldwell, New Jersey

Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented

Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois

Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Lombard, Illinois

Articles in Current Issue

Stephen-Schroeder Davis discusses the results of his dissertation research (University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, 1995) which concentrated on studying the attitudes of teenagers regarding high academic achievement. James Delisle and James Webb describe an important national organization for studying the social and emotional development of the gifted, SENG. In addition, this issue includes an inspiring speech that Diane Grybek made to gifted students, and Michael Walters discusses the works of a genius of English literature, E.M. Forster.

Maurice Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher




My recently completed doctoral dissertation required a content analysis of 3,514 essays written by Minnesota secondary students in response to these questions: "Would you rather be the best-looking, smartest, or most athletic student in your class? Why? Why didn't you choose the others?"

These essays and thousands like them are written each month by children in grades 1-12 for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "Mindworks" column, a forum for young writers edited by Misti Snow. Ms. Snow and the Star Tribune graciously allowed me access to all 12,000 essays for the month of January, 1993, when the above questions generated one of the highest response rates in the 10 year history of this unique feature. I chose to concentrate my efforts on students in grades 7-12, as I teach in a junior high school and have always been interested in adolescent issues.

Each month Ms. Snow publishes excerpts from the students' essays and writes an accompanying summary to frame the issues raised by the young authors. I found the excerpts and Snows' essay both compelling and disturbing. For this particular feature, Snow also included an approximation of the responses each category received: "most intelligent" (47%), "most athletic" (37%), and "best-looking" (10%). Six percent were not categorized as they did not address the questions, were illegible, etc.

The relatively high percentage choosing most intelligent was intriguing, as it appeared to contradict previous investigations, notably the seminal research of Coleman (1961) and Tannenbaum (1962). These two landmark studies indicated that "brilliance" - alone (Coleman) and "brilliance" - coupled with “studiousness" (Tannenbaum) were viewed by the vast majority of adolescents with indifference, if not disdain. In Coleman's investigation, for example, when students were forced to choose between brilliance, popularity, or athleticism (boys) or "a leader in activities" (girls), only 30% selected brilliance.

The possibility that the high percentage selecting most intelligent (47%) might not tell the whole story - in fact, might be an overly optimistic "false positive," - is foreshadowed by this excerpt from Snow's summary:

“But mixed in with the benefits described were thousands of tales about the ‘dark side’ of being the smartest. Both those who have experienced it and those who haven't told of how difficult it is to be intelligent because of the teasing, taunting and bullying smart students receive from their classmates.

“To be smartest means to be called such nicknames as these: pencil-head, suck-up, study-buddy, brown-nose, teacher's pet, Mr. Brain, Polly Perfect, egghead, smarty pants, brainiac, smartazoid, dweeb, wimp, and the most common - nerd, dork, and geek.

“The common view of smart kids is that they have few friends, don't know how to play and spend hours reading the dictionary. They're bullied into doing other people's homework. They sometimes get beaten up. They're often used by classmates when it's convenient and otherwise ignored or mistreated. Very few kids said that being smart makes kids popular”

My investigation was an attempt to methodically test Snow's impressionistic overview of the issues and percentages involved. The overarching question was: “Does intelligence come with a price for secondary students?”

Determining Categories

Initially, I needed to verify Snow's original categorizations relative to both the student choices (intelligence, athleticism, or appearance) and their rationale (the answers to the questions "Why? Why didn't you choose the others?").

Snow's estimates regarding the three categories were quite accurate. The actual percentages were: "most intelligent," 53.8%, "most athletic," 37.3%, and "best-looking,” 8.9%. Her seven major rationale categories were also extremely accurate, and fit approximately 95% of the responses. They were:

(1) Smartest chosen for assumed post high school (scholarship, career, monetary) benefits; (2) Smartest chosen for immediate academic benefits (reduced homework, easier grades); (3) Smartest chosen for immediate peer social benefits (increased popularity and prestige); (4 ) Most athletic chosen for assumed post high school benefits; (5) Most athletic chosen for immediate peer social benefits; (6) Best-looking chosen for assumed post high school benefits (modeling, a movie career); and (7) Best-looking chosen for immediate peer social benefits.

Although a number of alternative rationales reemerged during my analysis, these seven covered the vast majority of essays. The most significant rationale to emerge beyond the pre-determined ones listed above was “fear of anti-intellectual stigma," which essayists experienced (or perpetrated) in various forms: teasing, bullying, harassment, and exploitation (providing answers on tests or assignments) being the most common.

Performing the Content Analysis

The essays were scanned quickly to confirm/amend Snow's broad category counts. In most cases, the students followed standard essay protocols; an introductory paragraph and topic sentence ("I would choose best-looking because. . .”), the main body of the essay, and a concluding paragraph, so categorization was relatively easy and usually matched Snow's original determination.

More difficult was determining the respondents' primary rationale. This was ultimately a judgment call, with the rationale stated first, most vehemently, or with the most supporting detail usually indicating the students' intended rationale and subsequent category classification. Those essays not fitting the major categories were classified as "other" and were analyzed and classified separately.

Results of the Content Analysis: Those Selecting Best-Looking

This was not a popular category, as a total of only 312 students (8.9%) selected best-looking. Females were twice as likely as males to do so. The immediate social advantages (popularity and prestige) of good looks were the primary rationale offered, although a few students alluded to the post high school rationale of a modeling or acting career. Of more significance was the fact that of 312 respondents, fully 44% alluded to or advanced anti-intellectualism as a factor in their decision making process sufficient to incline them to avoid most intelligent and select best-looking instead. For example, Kay, 18, stated: "Being the smartest would mean being used by others to get good grades (either by cheating or copying). It would also cause resentment because a high test score raises the curve.

Not surprisingly, this group evidenced a strong concern for the superficial qualities of appearance with an attendant concern for popularity. Almost 70% offered immediate social benefits as their rationale, were well aware of the retrograde effect intelligence may have on popularity, and said so in their essays. Those choosing best-looking were the most likely to allude to anti-intellectualism.

Females were more likely to allude to fear of stigmatization than were boys, whereas boys were more likely to advance negative stereotypes with comments such as, "It seems the brainy ones are home studying and doing homework, while the good looking ones are out with their friends or girlfriends having a good time." - Matt, 18.

Results of the Content Analysis: Those Selecting Most Athletic

The sheer number of responses (1,310, or 37.3%) in this category, as well as the rationale offered and the gender and age differences, elevate the significance of "most athletic" beyond that of "best-looking.”

The gender differences, although significant, were not as overwhelming as might be anticipated: 758 males (46.7%) vs. 552 females (29.1%) preferred most athletic. Both genders clearly recognized the social benefits of athleticism. The gender difference emerged relative to the "long term benefits" of athletics; very few females saw athletics as a viable career option, while many males (especially those in junior high) appeared to view mere participation in junior high sports as a path to collegiate and professional stardom.

Significantly, junior high males selected most athletic as frequently as most intelligent and best-looking combined, an orientation which may explain the frustration voiced by many junior high educators evaluating the scholarly efforts of this population.

This result was disconcerting on several levels. First, the actual chances of a high school athlete successfully pursuing a professional career range from 4 in 100,00 for white males (the most likely), to 4 in 100,000,000 for black females (the least likely) (Miracle & Rees, 1994). Second, the enormous prestige and focus bestowed on athletes by the media, community and school leaders, and peers necessarily diminishes the attention and nurturance afforded scholars.

This is a severe problem which appears to be growing worse. As sociologist Christopher Hurn (1985) has written, the schools' "distinctive dilemma” is the problem of motivating and teaching a captive population, many of whom would rather be elsewhere, so athletics are offered as a combination reward and incentive, with the implicit threat of revocation if certain (minimal) standards are not maintained. The danger inherent in this Faustian bargain was noted by Coleman (1961) when he observed that by using athletics to engage students, we risk relegating academics to secondary status while making athletics primary.

I submit that in far too many schools and for far too many students, this has already happened.

In Coleman's study (1961), athletics were the top priority among youth in all 10 of the high schools he studied, and the "pure athlete" received twice the recognition and social rewards than did the "pure scholar." Tannenbaum (1962) found athleticism to be the key determinant for social acceptance in his study of 615 New York City high school juniors. Athletes were also the favored population in Cramond & Martin's (1987) replication of Tannenbaum's study. The population they studied was experienced teachers!

More recently, an Educational Communications, Inc. (1990) survey of 2,000 senior high students found that 66% felt that " ... student athletes get more respect/acclaim than student scholars.”

Add to this body of research the prevalence of community billboards, parades, quarterback clubs, and bonfires honoring athletes, the media's saturation coverage of athletics and other (nonacademic) celebrities, and advertisers' relentless marketing of athletes, and it should not be surprising that athletes continue to be the "governing elite" (Geertz, 1983) in most schools.

In my study, the reverence for athletics was reflected in several potentially injurious ways:

(1) Respondents in the junior high selected most athletic with almost the same frequency as most intelligent and best-looking combined; (2) The enormous social benefits of athleticism - for both genders - was the most frequently listed rationale. Athleticism was approximately 55 times more powerful than intelligence for procuring popularity and prestige among peers, and was also listed as a means of obtaining special privileges from teachers; (3) The other primary rationale - a collegiate and/or professional career - competed with popularity and prestige, especially among boys. These respondents are headed for twin disappointments: not only are college and professional careers unlikely, but time spent practicing - sometimes at 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. - erodes both their interest in and ability to pursue scholarship, and may therefore result in academic problems; and (4) Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that students choosing most athletic alluded to or advanced anti-intellectualism twice as often as those who chose most intelligent (453 vs. 186).

Representative student excerpts include:

“I would choose to be the most athletic, more than looks, more than being smart. Being smart gets you places, but you don't see anyone smart who's famous. They (famous people) are all singers, actors, or athletes. That's why I want to be an athlete.” - Eric, 12

“I would choose to be the most athletic. I think people who are athletic are more respected than attractive people and much more respected than smart people. There are many reasons I believe this. One reason is that in my school athletic people are more respected than smart people. If someone is good in sports then they automatically make instant friends.” - Derik, 15

“I would choose to be the most athletic ... (because) if you're not smart you can get a nerd to do homework for you.” - Kyle, 14

“The reason I would choose to be the most athletic person in my class is because our school is so into sports that choosing to be the most athletic would be obvious.” - Jill, 15

Over 37% of the respondents selected most athletic, a disturbing enough fact by itself. An equally discouraging subtext was the number of respondents who overtly acknowledged the preeminent benefits of intelligence while selecting most athletic as the safer choice. Their willingness to sacrifice their intellects (even hypothetically) to appease peers consumed with athletic fervor was most unfortunate. Matt, 15, and Brenda, 13, exemplify this group:

“I might choose being the smartest because you could really get good grades, but on the other hand, people would be pressuring you to give them answers. Not only that, you would get teased by a lot of kids in today's society.”

“I didn't take the smartest person because I couldn't take everyone teasing me. And some wouldn't like me because they say I would be the teacher's pet. And yet it would be nice to be on the honor role and learning all sorts of new and interesting things ...”

The wistful ending to Brenda's excerpt saddens me. How many students would pursue ideas more passionately if they weren't encumbered by the ridiculous stereotypes and deliberate slights aimed at intellectuals? And why aren't great athletes derided as "coaches' pets?"

Results of the Content Analysis: Those Selecting Most Intelligent

Readers may disagree with my assessment, but I find it appalling that barely half (53.8%) of the 3,514 students in this sample selected most intelligent. To be fair, that figure surpassed the 30% in Coleman's (1961) study, and there was demonstrable maturation toward an intellectual orientation for both genders as students moved toward graduation. That said, there still exists both the fact that almost half the respondents (and, in one subpopulation, junior high boys, more than half) selected something other than intelligence as their preference, as well as the additional concerns listed below:

(1) Nine of 3,514 students (.3%) offered increased popularity as their rationale for selecting most intelligent. While popularity may be both ephemeral and superficial, it is nonetheless important to most adolescents. As these essays make clear, many are willing to compromise their abilities and achievements to appease envious peers; (2) The stigma of high intelligence is common knowledge among junior-senior high students. Seven-hundred and seventy-seven respondents (22.1%) alluded to or advanced anti-intellectualism in their essays. Some did so even while selecting most intelligent. Many more did so while voicing fear of sanctions that would befall them if they chose most intelligent, and so selected something else. And some appeared to support the stereotypes and so dismissed most intelligent immediately. Again, it seems logical to assume that such beliefs would result in the underachievement gifted kids too often demonstrate; and (3) Approximately 80% of those selecting most intelligent did so for the perceived long term benefits intelligence offers. While the students' farsightedness is encouraging, the down side is that for many, there exists only long term benefits. It's both a tragedy and a scandal that a discerning, inquisitive mind is a social handicap at just the time children are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and subsequently can be made to feel both afflicted and blessed with their intelligence.

These essays were typical of the ambivalence expressed by many:

“But there are disadvantages to being a junior Einstein. Everybody would think I was a nerd. I'd be the first to go down in dodge ball. People would pick on me and throw my books in a puddle. And I would be extremely unpopular.” - Tim, 12

“But if I was smart, people might be mad at me for being right all the time. I would score good grades so everybody would ask for the answers to tests and stuff and I might get caught giving them away, so that's how I see being smart as a disadvantage, but I think I will get farther in life if I were smart.” - Robert, 14

“Being the smartest kid might not be a piece of cake in school, but this special gift would pay off down the road.” - Angle, 15

“The choice is between being popular for three years or successful for life. I plan for the future and choose success.” - Alicia, 17

“... if I had to choose I would risk having no friends; I would choose being the smartest in class.” - Barbara, 15

Barbara has stated precisely what Miraca Gross (1989) has labeled the "forced-choice dilemma" of gifted youth: intimacy vs. achievement. Only in a culture deeply conflicted about intelligence could such a poignant predicament present itself to vulnerable children. And only in America could the dilemma be most intense within the typical public school, an institution supposedly dedicated to developing the life of the mind.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The present author joins a long list of researchers (Coleman, 1961; Tannenbaum, 1962; Brown, 1989a, 1989b, 1990, 1992; Coleman & Cross, 1988; Gross, 1989; Purcell, Gable, & Caillard, 1995; Singal, 1991; Snow, 1993) who found the price to be paid for (demonstrating) high intelligence is potential rejection from one's peers. While it is certainly true that not all youth reject intelligence, generic peer culture (the cumulative weight of adolescent opinion) certainly does. Brown (1992, p.10) states:

“. . .peer pressures direct high school students toward moderate levels of achievement but stops well short of encouraging true devotion to scholarship. . .it imposes upper (as well as lower) limits upon the intellectual effort that students can put forth without fearing some sanctions from their peers.”

Sadly, it seems many adolescents view high intelligence with similar (though perhaps more intense) opprobrium as they do any deviation from the "mythical norm" (Howley, Howley, & Pendarvis, 1995, p.200), though in most every other case, it is a deficiency (of money, looks, athleticism) that is stigmatized, rather than an abundance.

The crucial point here is that the values extant within peer culture - including the unattainable, and from my view, undesirable - "mythical norm" - are derived from adult values expressed in the media, local communities, and within schools. If this is true, these values can be modified to create a more humane and appropriate egalitarianism, that of ". . .according respect to individuals whose circumstances differ. . .rather than the presumption of conformity to a mythical norm.” (Howley, Howley, & Pendarvis, 1995, p.200).

Presumably, this respect would extend even to those whose brilliance and work ethic distinguishes them from their age peers.

How might this be done? Beginning with the outside circle in the concentric circles of influence, I would recommend the following:

(1) Community billboards and calendars should include schedules for all teams and all competitions, and should highlight the variety of non-competitive forms of intense engagement (art shows, photography displays, public readings, plays, concerts, etc.) specific to the community; (2) Local papers and radio stations should promote and highlight scholarly and artistic efforts with the same regularity, professionalism, and fervor currently reserved for athletics; (3) Community banquets, awards, and scholarships should be given for scholarly and artistic achievement as well as for athletic prowess; and (4) The mere listing of honor roll students should be enhanced with feature articles and photographs of particularly interesting and noteworthy achievements, detailing the stories and the processes that resulted in the high grades or high class rank. If this is done consistently over a period of time, it should become easier for secondary schools to more consistently embrace and promote academics and the life of the mind.

Moving to the second circle (school climate) and dealing specifically with the current athletic hegemony:

(1) Make pepfests infrequent and optional, as mandatory attendance and dismissal from class may send the wrong message to impressionable students; (2) Honor all forms of achievement. Perhaps seasonal ceremonies honoring all teams as their respective seasons conclude would be more egalitarian than pepfests and banquets reserved primarily for athletic teams. This would also create opportunities for recognition of students who participate in non-competitive endeavors such as service learning, charity and volunteer work, or who have published or displayed works of merit; (3) Mandate that career units include statistics on the likelihood of athletic scholarships and professional athletic careers to paint a realistic picture for secondary students, many of whom, according to the present study, need to be disabused of the mythology that high school sports participation is a promising path to athletic fame and fortune after graduation; (4) Institute academic/artistic lettering, and exalt the status of these programs to the status presently reserved for athletics; (5) Reduce or eliminate release time from school for participation in extracurriculars of all kinds whenever possible; (6) Reduce or eliminate practices and games which necessitate late nights and consequently compromise the subsequent school day for participants; (7) Require reasonable progress toward graduation and/or a minimum GPA for participation in extracurricular activities; (8) Hire academic/artistic activities directors comparable to athletic directors to recruit and coordinate participation in the many nonathletic extracurricular activities available for students; and (9) Assess school hallmarks such as banners and trophy cases to assure equitable placement and visibility for both athletic and nonathletic endeavors.

More general recommendations for school officials and students include:

(1) Treat anti-intellectual epithets and invectives as seriously as if they were sexual, religious or racial in nature; use existing policies to allow or force school officials to address such harassment; (2) Lobby for academic/artistic lettering, banquets, and recognition programs; then wear the letters and attend the programs. Scholar athletes can be especially helpful to nonathletic scholars by wearing both kinds of letters, thereby making academic lettering more immediately acceptable to classmates; (3) Examine the location and attention given to trophies, awards, ribbons, etc., won during extracurricular contests; insist that academic and artistic endeavors receive equal prominence to those of athletics; (4) Analyze both school and local newspapers. If a disparity exists between the coverage of scholarship and athletics, suggest ways to address the imbalance. Request equality in other forms of community recognition such as billboards, posters, and activities calendars.

And finally, recommendations for gifted advocates:

(1) Reintroduce and use the term "gifted" rather than its various euphemisms ("high-end learner," "high potential child," "accelerated learner," etc.) which are not useful in appeasing critics and often serve to both confuse and diffuse advocacy issues; (2) Resist calls to become absorbed within "general education" until and unless it can be demonstrated that general education can meet the needs of the gifted appropriately; (3) Practitioners should resist embracing school reforms (cooperative learning, outcome-based education, middle school philosophies, full inclusion) until the potential impact of these movements on gifted students has been examined. This need for resistance is especially true regarding the current orthodoxy of heterogeneous grouping; (4) The entire array of educational alternatives (post-secondary options, continuous progress, graduation standards, vouchers, privatization, etc.) should be continually evaluated for their potential impact on this population; (5) Funding and program mandates should be established; (6) Require at least one survey course for all prospective educators on the education of the gifted child; (7) The special education paradigm of the "least restrictive environment" should be applied, in court if necessary, to gifted children; (8) Schools with gifted programs, provisions, or advocates should make overt reference to the "forced-choice dilemma" as early as possible to help gifted children prepare for the tension between academic achievement and popularity; (9) A service learning, civic responsibility, or volunteer requirement should be instituted in secondary schools to establish the concept of community service to young people; and (10) Parents should talk with their children about the relative value of popularity, friendship, and achievement.

In summary, my investigation of 3,514 Minnesota secondary school students' attitudes to the superlatives of intelligence, athleticism, and appearance found some cause for optimism, as it was determined that a slight majority (53 percent) of the respondents preferred "most intelligent." In addition, maturation was evident, as students became significantly more likely to express a preference for intelligence as they aged.

There were also troubling findings. Junior high males expressed a preference for superlatives other than intelligence: 56 percent selected something other than most intelligent. This group also evidenced the disturbing and misguided assumption that athletic participation was likely to result in a professional sports career. A plurality (44.5 percent) of junior high males selecting most athletic offered long term benefits (scholarships or sports career) as their rationale for doing so.

Perhaps most troubling was the clear indication of a robust, pervasive anti-intellectualism overtly informing 22.1 percent of the responses. That 777 students would allude to the social stigma of intelligence without a specific prompt suggested that the present study unfortunately confirmed previous studies by Coleman (1961), Tannenbaum (1962), and others in finding that intelligence is not highly regarded by a significant number of secondary students, who seem to be reflecting the values and priorities of the culture at large.

Further research suggested by the present study includes:

(1) An exploration of the appeal of athletics and its possible relationship to anti-intellectualism. Respondents selecting most athletic were approximately two times more likely to acknowledge or advance anti-intellectualism than were those who selected most intelligent; (2) Continued research examining teacher attitudes toward intelligence and scholarship. The Cramond and Martin (1987) study, the Howley, Howley, and Pendarvis (1995) investigation, and Singal's (1991) observations suggest a need for such exploration; (3) An investigation into specific approaches that may hasten maturation toward an appreciation of intelligence and the concomitant reduction in its stigmatization. Are there ways to hasten and generalize this developmental trend so it is more pronounced among secondary students?; and (4) A search for the root causes of anti-intellectualism. The present author has advanced envy-based resentment as a primary cause. Are there other reasons? If so, what can be done to reduce this most unfortunate phenomenon?

Author's note: An expanded version of this article will appear in a forthcoming issue of The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education.


Brown, B. B. (1989a, March). Can nerds and druggies be friends? Mapping "social distance" between adolescent peer groups. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Brown, B. B. (1989b, March). Skirting the "brain-nerd connection": How high achievers save face among peers. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Brown, B. B. (1990). Peer groups and peer cultures. In S. Shirley Feldman & G. R. Elliot (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 171-196). Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Brown, B. B. (1992). School culture, social politics, and the academic motivation of U.S. students. (pp. 2-39). Manuscript submitted for publication in T. M. Tomlinson (Ed.), Hard work and high expectations. Washington, DC: National Society for the Study of Education.

Brown, B. B., Lohr, M. J., & Trujillo, C. (1990). Multiple crowds and multiple life styles: Adolescents' perceptions of peer group stereotypes. In R. E. Muuss (Ed.), Adolescent behavior and society (4th ed., pp. 30-36). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Brown, B. B. & Steinberg, L. (1990). Academic achievement and social acceptance. The Education Digest. 55(7), 57-60.

Coleman, J. S. (1961). The adolescent society: The social life of the teenager and its impact on education. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe.

Coleman, L. J., & Cross, T. L. (1988). Is being gifted a social handicap? Journal for the Education of the Gifted. 11(4), 41-56.

Cramond, B. & Martin, C. E. (1987). Inservice and preservice teachers' attitudes toward the academically brilliant. Gifted Child Quarterly. 31, 15-19.

Educational Communications, Inc. (1990). Who's who among American high school students: Twenty-third annual survey of high achievers’ views on education, social issues, sexual issues, drugs. Lake Forest, IL: Author.

Educational Communications, Inc. (1993). Who's who among American high school students: Twenty-third annual survey of high achievers views on education, social issues, sexual issues, drugs. Lake Forest, IL: Author.

Gross, M. U. M. (1989). The pursuit of excellence or the search for intimacy? The forced-choice dilemma of gifted youth. Roeper Review. 11, 189-194.

Howley, C.B., Howley, A.H., & Pendarvis, E.P. (1995). Out of our minds: Anti-intellectualism and talent development in American schooling. New York: Teachers College Press.

Janos, P. M., Marwood, K. A., & Robinson, N. M. (1985). Friendship patterns in highly intelligent children. Roeper Review. 8, 46-50.

Miracle, A. W. & Rees, C. P. (1994). Lessons of the locker room: The myth of school sports. New York: Prometheus Books.

Singal, D. (1991). The other crisis in American education. Atlantic Monthly. 268 (5), 59-74.

Snow, M. (1992). Take time to play checkers: Wise words from kids on their parents, friends, worries, homes. and growing up. New York: Viking Penguin.

Snow, M. (1993, January 5). Kids value intelligence for lasting benefits. Star Tribune. pp. E1-E2.

Tannenbaum, A. J. (1962). Adolescent attitudes toward academic brilliance. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University.



Dear Reader:

Pendulums swing and paradigms shift, but why do they have to do so in such wide arcs? The article that follows shares some of our frustrations with the field of study that has occupied our lives for the past generation: gifted child education. For just when we thought we were making headway with a sometimes skeptical public about the unique needs of gifted and talented children, we find that even some gifted child education "experts" question the presence of the social and emotional aspects to being gifted.

Through this article and our organization, SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), we hope to rekindle a flame that should never be extinguished: the right for gifted children to act gifted, to think deeply, to enjoy enthusiastically and to feel angst even before they know how to define it. We invite you to join us on our journey of rediscovery. There is too much at stake -- the mental health of our world's most able and sensitive children -- to not speak up in their defense.


Jim Delisle and Jim Webb

Co-Directors, SENG





At a recent meeting of the National Association for Gifted Children's Board of Directors, several members got into an extended discussion of "best practices" to be used with able learners. When the issue of affective concerns arose, some board members questioned whether there really were any social and emotional needs that were unique to gifted children. They wanted to see research — hard data — that proved the existence of such issues.

Jim Delisle, who was present, was puzzled and wondered if the question was being raised in jest. It was not. It appears that we must realize a sad truth: the field of gifted education has become so enmeshed in curricula, instruction, and educational reform that it has lost its soul (Delisle, 1995).

The gifted child education field was founded by psychologists such as Lewis Terman, Leta Hollingworth, and George and Annemarie Roeper, who supported special provisions for gifted learners precisely because the emotional make-up of these children differed markedly from that of their age-mates. They recognized that the mind, as keen as its insights might be, needed to have the company of the heart in order to be put to fullest use.

Yet psychologists and similar professionals are still largely unaware of the social and emotional needs of these children. They, like many in current society, accept the myth that "a bright mind will simply find its own way" and that "gifted kids are always a joy to have in the family," or they simply do not know that these youngsters are at higher risk for certain types of emotional and interpersonal difficulties.

Some of these problems are externally caused. For example, there are great pressures to conform to peer pressure, and to fit in with mediocrity. Our society is ambivalent as to whether it values individual excellence or fitting in with the mainstream. Our schools so often have "dumbed down" their curricula, but simultaneously left little challenge or room for achieving beyond the basic levels.

Other difficulties stem from the very nature of gifted children; though, because gifted children are such a diverse group, the span of these problems is great. Some frequently seen challenges include; the dyssynchrony between motor skills and mental level; intensity which seems to permeate everything; the lag of judgement behind intellect; lack of understanding of peers; excessive idealism, self-evaluation and perfectionism; questioning or challenging of traditions; and feelings of stress and depression (Webb, 1994).

Perhaps hard research data have not yet been generated in all of these areas. Yet parents and teachers recognize the validity of these concerns. We note with pleasure that many state associations, including the Michigan association, do recognize the importance of the psychological aspects of these children and their families.

With this in mind, we wish to announce the development of a resource that will be close at hand. On September 1, the Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG) Program — which has been located at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio — will be moving to Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. In its 14 years, SENG evolved into a national presence in response to the crying — yet overlooked — needs of families of gifted children and their teachers.

SENG evolved from a tragedy that had ties to Michigan. In 1980, a 16-year-old computer whiz kid named Dallas Egbert attended Michigan State University. He disappeared and was the subject of a nationwide search. His parents hired a private detective who found him working in the oil fields. After bringing him back to Dayton, they sought professional help. However, the help was too little too late, and young Dallas committed suicide. Through the efforts of his parents, the SENG program was begun and now enters a new phase.

This past year, SENG held its 14th Annual National Conference in Richmond,Virginia; prior conferences have been held literally from coast to coast. Topics in the conferences have been varied, important, and of real concern to parents and teachers. The presentations had practical, take-home value. The quality was high, and the atmosphere friendly — particularly to families. Always, there was focus on the social and emotional needs of gifted, talented, creative youngsters and their families — both at home and at school.

From the beginning, SENG established Parent Guided Discussion Groups. The model proved to be effective, describable, and exportable. We have taught others across the country — and internationally — what we have learned. These parent groups continue to be a key element of the SENG program.

The focus on involving parents is paramount, particularly because many parents say they are made to feel unwelcome or irrelevant in many other settings. Though both are important, it is generally recognized that good parenting can overcome poor teaching; but the reverse is seldom the case. And, in the current, largely dumbed-down, educational climate, teachers and administrators who want to reach out to gifted children find themselves caught by the very system that employs them. The educators need parent involvement desperately, for it is through informed parent involvement that changes can be made.

SENG has done workshops for numerous school systems and for parent advocacy groups to help highlight social and emotional concerns. The SENG office regularly is flooded with calls from parents wanting advise and guidance. We have sent countless packets of printed material, and spent thousands of hours on the phone — at no charge, thanks to donations received.

But the time for change has come. Wright State University offered its faculty an early retirement incentive program, and Dr. Webb decided — after weighing pros and cons — to avail himself of that opportunity. The window of that opportunity closed on August 31, 1995, and Dr. Webb will move to Phoenix, Arizona, to begin a new chapter and to establish SENG-type programs on the West Coast.

Beginning in September — SENG's 15th year — the primary base for SENG will be at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, where it will be headed by Dr. Jim Delisle. Dr. Jim Webb will be a consultant, but Dr. Delisle will be the main person. Dr. Joanne Rand Whitmore, who is Dean of the College of Education, will be instrumentally involved as well.

To locate SENG at Kent State University is an excellent fit for several reasons. Jim Delisle and Joanne Whitmore are giants in the field of gifted education, and have focused much effort on social and emotional needs of gifted child-ren and their families. Both have published extensively in the area — for example, Joanne's classic book, Giftedness, Conflict and Underachievement, and Jim's Gifted Kids Survival Guide II and Guiding the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Youth are well known. Their national leadership and visibility, as well as their sense of vision, will advance the causes of SENG.

Both have strong and enduring interests in social and emotional issues in the field, and a commitment to work with families as well as with school systems. They will institute at Kent State University, within a matter of a couple of months, virtually all of the current SENG programs — and will add additional dimensions to the programs as well.

What may be most exciting to Midwestern parents and teachers is that the 1996 SENG Conference will be held in Cleveland.

These are exciting times, and represent a wonderful opportunity for gifted children and their families. It is our hope that through SENG, the psychology of gifted children, which addresses social and emotional issues of giftedness, will no longer take a backseat to academic concerns.

The SENG program at Kent State University will flourish — of that we have no doubt. Hopefully, it will expand as we find additional funding sources. We invite you to help in this cause, both locally and nationally, and we hope to see you in Cleveland at the 1996 SENG Conference.◆

The authors may be reached at the following addresses:

Dr. Jim DelisleDr. James Webb

SENG-College of Education7625 E. Camelback Road

405 White Hall/Kent St. U.Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Kent, OH 44242


Delisle, J. (1995, July/August) Au Contraire, Psyched Out: Searching for the Soul of the Gifted Child Education. Gifted Child Today, 10-11.

Webb, J.T. (1993) Nurturing Social-Emotional Development of Gifted Children. In K.A. Heller, F.J. Monks, and A.H. Passow (Eds.), International Handbook of Research and Development of Giftedness and Talent. Oxford: Pergamon Press.



(Awards night talk to high school age gifted students completing highly challenging summer programs in mathematics, engineering and biomedicine at the University of South Florida Summer Program for Gifted Students.)

It's always awesome to meet with this group - the survivors - at the end of a summer session. You probably already know that by and large you are pretty incredible people, and this is not the first or last time someone will tell you this.

To a large extent this is a tremendous break. You enjoy the intellectual demands of school work more, and you will reap the rewards of greater opportunity in a world in which opportunity is shrinking for many. Part of this is literally a total gift: something you did nothing at all to earn. Part of your ability is a gift from heaven, a fortuitous combination of the genes of your parents.

Another part of that thing you have that makes you special is something you did work hard on: your motivation, stick-to-it-iveness and organization. Yet even in this less measurable area there are things that came to you as gifts. Some of these abilities are inborn also: functions of the hereditary structure of your brains. To some extent they are responses to the special care your parents and other people impacting your lives took to stimulate that brain and increase various functions that were already there. But your capacity for benefitting by the things that came to you as gifts is yours alone. Like athletes who take the wonderful physical capacity with which they are born and train it until they are champions, you have taken your native ability, combined it willingly with the offerings of society - including parents, teachers and friends - and trained and tuned it. But there had to be something there to begin with. Just as there are people who take tennis lessons for years and never become more than barely adequate at the game, there are students who are just as motivated, just as hard working as you, students who may even have surpassed you grade-wise in younger years; and their reward is to see you fly by them with less effort. It may be hard for others to understand.

This is the other side of the coin. There is no free lunch. The gifts you were given are not gifts after all, but markers of responsibility. If life gave you more, you owe more to life.

There is no oath for gifted students, but I can think of parts of two oaths that individuals make in other fields of study that overlap yours in terms of the power literally - they put into the hands of those who study them: One is the oath that students of martial arts take in their classes: that they will limit their newly learned skills to the mat except in self defense, and never use those skills to willfully hurt another.

The other originates in the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take. The actual words, in about the second paragraph are, "I will keep them from harm and injustice. . . ." but we often hear those words paraphrased "First, do no harm. . . .”

What does this mean for the individual with great intellectual ability? Basically I see you as having three great responsibilities, the fulfillment of which you owe to the world, the neglect of which will ultimately destroy your own happiness, as well as others, and the responsibility you owe yourself to find the area of pursuit that you truly love and follow it.

1. First, do no harm. It's hard to imagine anyone in this group not following this rule. It means don't recklessly hurt other creatures (including human beings), for your own amusement or self aggrandizement. Sometimes we have no moral route except one that causes pain. I agonize over students’ grades, for instance. Especially students like you, where sometimes even a B seems like the end of the world. I have to consider the student who worked harder, who stayed on task more faithfully, and actually earned the A; and I must also consider the student who worked hard and faithfully, but the clear and brilliant understanding came a little more clearly and a little more brilliantly than to another whose work was just as demanding. So “A”s cannot be given away fairly. And words have come out of my mouth that I never dreamed were cruel until I listened to them as they hung in the air. But the cruelties I'm thinking of are the cruelties we practice unthinkingly because we can. The cruelty of the INs toward the OUTs. The cruelty of big people towards little people. The clever, witty, teasing remark with that razor sharp bite of truth or the put-down which a gifted student can do so much more devastatingly than anyone else and which always gets a laugh at someone else's expense.

It also means that we don't turn our back on pain when we see it in other creatures or in our fellow man.

2. The second responsibility you have is to respect and care for all your fellow men, not just those who are smart, like you. We have probably all had to deal with the medical specialist who has no time to listen, or discuss treatment with his worried patient; the lawyer who ridicules his culturally diverse clients behind their backs, the businessman who loses his temper at the hourly wage earner who is trying to help him but "wasting my time." None of us will ever be important enough to justify lack of compassion toward those whom life did not bless as you are blessed. Regardless of whether we are "people oriented" or not, everyone deserves respectful communication.

3. Leave the world better than you found it. It's humbling to realize that all the great advances in the condition of man were products of the minds of a few. We don't know the names of most of those few, but we can extrapolate from those we do know about that some were great leaders whose followers eagerly embraced their offerings, and some were toilers in back rooms who humbly brought forth inventions and philosophies which were to be promoted and disseminated by others. But all were remarkably talented folk.

Is the world a better place than it was, say 5000 years ago? Is it a good thing that human beings have become the dominant species, sometimes at great cost to other phyla? Is the improvement of health care worth the danger of over-population? Does man still commit horrible acts upon his fellow man in places like Rwanda and Bosnia? Hitler and Stalin were manifestations of my lifetime, even though not, thank God, of yours. Was an ancient Arcadian world of long ago better? Did it exist at all?

Not all of the world has been reformed or improved, and some places, are no doubt worse off. Still, unless people like you are committed to the hope and ideal that we can be better, and make the world better, there is no hope at all for mankind. So there is the homework for all your tomorrows. Your presence here is a tribute to all your teachers and professors and parents who cared enough to get you to this point. The debt you owe is not to them, but to the future, and to yourselves.

Which reminds me, there is one more responsibility - a fourth one, if you will - that I hope you will pursue: find a life's work that you love, and follow it passionately, and your life will bring you joy beyond rubies.

Thank you.







"Liberty, he argues, is connected with prose, and bureaucrats who want to destroy liberty tend to write and speak badly, and to use pompous or wooly or portmanteau phrases in which their true meaning or any meaning disappears." Two Cheers For Democracy (1951) by E. M. Forster. Harcourt Brace, p. 74.

The major concept being expressed in the American political arena lately is concerned with "values." On the Republican side we hear about "family values" and on the Democratic side we hear about "caring values." The issue of values is going to be crucial in the 1996 presidential election, as well as for Congressional and local politics. The sensibility of the gifted can help us to understand this debate. Thomas Jefferson was an advocate of public education because he believed that an electorate that has been trained to think beyond propaganda is important to the survival of democracy.

The British writer, E. M. Forster, was concerned with both democracy and human values. His sensibility in all of his novels emphasized the discovery and expression of human values. The conflicts in Forster's novels are related to class, racial and national-tribal matters, and his protagonists are even in conflict with their own sense of personal values. In Where Angels Fear To Tread (1905) and A Room With A View (1908), the main characters are British upper class individuals who come to Italy to partake of its art and music. At the same time, they have a sense of cultural superiority over the Italians, especially the working classes and peasants. Also, there are sharp class distinctions between these British expatriates. In A Room With A View, one of the main characters (George Emerson) is criticized because his family connections are with the middle class management of the railways instead of the landed gentry. "This Miss Bartlett had asked Mr. George Emerson what his profession was, and he answered the railway. She was very sorry she had asked him. She had no idea it would be such a dreadful answer, or she would not have asked him." (p. 82).

Multiculturalism is one prevailing concept being extolled today, especially in public education. In his 1924 novel, A Passage To India, Forster captured the need for multiculturalism and respect for cultural diversity. This novel describes the lack of appreciation for different cultures and the total lack of social contact between the imperial bureaucracy and the native people. He also captured the need for positive contact between the Hindus and Moslems, and showed the explosive and destructive consequences of cultural isolation. "I believe in teaching people to be individuals, and to understand other individuals. It's the only thing I do believe in." (A Passage To India, p. 127).

During World War II, Forster served his country through radio broadcasts where he read his essays that described and inspired listeners in the values of British democracy. These broadcasts were also beamed to Nazi occupied Europe. He believed it was crucial for the war effort to define what the allies were collectively fighting and dying for. The essays were brought together in a collection named Two Cheers For Democracy (1951). One of them is an example of great expository writing, "What I Believe In." Forster perceived that the allies were fighting for the integrity of human relations and the survival of the human spirit. "What is good in people -- and consequently in the world -- is their insistence on creation, their belief in friendship and loyalty for their own sakes." (p. 73). He described humanism as being the characteristics of curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the survival of the human race. Forster's mentors were Montaigne and Erasmus. For the elections of 1996, E. M. Forster can be a mentor for gifted students by helping them to understand the basic meanings of democratic and social values.