Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is the U.S. Overlooking Its Most Gifted Students?


I’m headed to Quebec City this week, and in preparation I’ve been reading “Champlain’s Dream: The European Founding of North America” by David Hackett Fischer. There are also quite a few education titles on my vacation reading list, and we’ll be featuring some of the authors in upcoming episodes of EWA Radio.

In the meantime, you can catch up on my conversation with Tom Clynes, author of The Boy Who Played With Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star. Clynes profiles Taylor Wilson, who became the youngest person to ever achieve cold fusion, at age 14.

The book is a great read just for Taylor’s journey from a “regular” upbringing in Arkansas to center stage at Ted Talks (with more than 1.3 million views and counting). But Clynes also asks some important questions about what U.S. schools are doing to encourage the nation’s brightest kids – and where the system is falling short. Taylor ends up attending classes at an unusual public charter school: The Davidson Academy in Reno, Nev., which targets profoundly gifted students. Clynes builds an argument that the underpinnings of the Davidson approach would actually benefit many students: individualized instruction, allowing students to advance at their own pace, and crafting content to meet their interests. Too many bright kids are simply bored in school, and a few hours of “pull-out” sessions designed for gifted kids just isn’t going to be enough, Clynes said.

In fact, those are all components of “student-centered learning”, an approach that’s gaining popularity nationally. (We talked to students and teachers about the approach at EWA’s National Seminar in Chicago this spring.) If you’re looking for experts on gifted education — or a wealth of other topics — check out EWA’s newly revamped Source Search. It’s the fastest way to find the voices you need.