BOSTON — One of the first educators to recognize the need to identify gifted youths and then get them into college-level instruction was Julian Stanley, professor emeritus of psychology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Since 1967, he has worked with more than 1 million kids he calls "my prodigies." Dr. Stanley may be best known for creating "Talent Search" in 1972, a prospecting tool to locate talented youths. In a phone interview, he shared his thoughts on educating gifted youths:
Dual-enrollment (high school and college simultaneously) and early enrollment (full-time) programs:
"I think they [dual enrollment] are excellent and badly needed. Every state also ought to have a state-supported early-entrance program.... The cost of not doing this is our brightest kids getting bored.... Then, because they've been slacking off, they aren't as well prepared for college when they do go."
Putting kids into college full time before age 16:
"I wouldn't want a kid to be a resident student under the age of 16.... It's hard to pretend you're 18 when you are 16. So I think it's generally better to wait."
The importance of a social life for gifted youths in college:
"In some of these programs there is no social element. They're for local people. They come in, the college lets them take the course, and they go home. Students will tell you that what's happening socially is at least as import as the academic component."
Summer courses and programs for the gifted:
"Many emphasize thinking skills and creativity, but do not focus on academic subjects. It's what I derisively call 'creativity in a vacuum,' - it's not tied to a subject. I believe it needs to be very academic and give them something to really learn."
What parents should do if they think their child is gifted:
"Advanced-placement courses [in high school] should be challenging enough for most kids. If they are bored with that, then look into one of the early-entrance college programs if the kid is eager to do that. Sometimes, of course, it is not the child - it really is the parents who don't want 'my baby' to leave home."