Society often unfriendly to gifted girls, minorities

If some worry that children with special gifts don't receive enough attention in US public schools, that concern grows even deeper when dealing with certain subsets: Children of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, those with physical disabilities, the very young, and the exceptionally gifted are all groups within which giftedness is often either undetected or not properly fostered, say experts.

"Our country is turning its back on a vast reservoir of talent," says Joseph Renzulli, director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Among the groups that may need particular nurturing are young girls. Society is not always as friendly to gifted girls as it is to gifted boys, say some who work with these children. "We encourage precocity with boys, but not when it comes to young females," says Starr Cline, teacher and coordinator of the gifted program in the Herricks School District, New York.

Adolescence is particularly tough on gifted girls, say others. Barbara Kerr, a psychologist who has specialized in studying highly talented girls, writes in her book "Smart Girls" of young girls who enjoy their special gifts as children but come to doubt themselves as teens. Their need for love and a sense of belonging often outweighs their desire to excel, Dr. Kerr says - and many end up lowering their career goals or denying their talents.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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