Gifted Education: The Best and Worst of Times

Editor’s note: The 2021 National Association for Gifted Children convention’s closing session posed the following question to a group of panelists: “During this time of unprecedented change, what words of insight and inspiration do you have for gifted educators and advocates as they leave our convention and return to districts and schools?”

The following is the response given by Dr. Richard Olenchak of Purdue University and is published here with his permission.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.
Gifted/talent development/high ability education today feels a lot like Dickens’ representation of the era of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities. While global society desperately needs to facilitate the blossoming of human abilities in all domains (which is the best of times), we continue to debate what giftedness means and how to identify it (which is the worst of times).

While the field continues to employ laudable research to spotlight approaches useful for enhancing equity of opportunity in gifted and talent development education (which is the age of wisdom), there nonetheless are indeed other works that harken to the bad old days of elite programs that were restricted to but a few (which is the age of foolishness).

And while mounting evidence contributes to an understanding that equitable educational services to nurture talent for the many are not only necessary but fair (which is the epoch of belief), many a naysayer refuses to acknowledge any evidence about the benefits of gifted education, leading to more than a few proposals to eliminate school gift...


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About Richard Olenchak

F. Richard “Rick” Olenchak currently serves as professor of educational psychology and research methodology, professor of gifted/creative/talented studies, and professor of higher education at Purdue University His Ph.D. in educational psychology, emphasizing giftedness and talent development, was completed at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut. Having taught Grades 2 through 11, including teaching at a specialized school for “twice-exceptional” students, Dr. Olenchak has served as a P-12 Director of Talent Development Education in two school districts, as well as director of two public school federal grants in gifted education. Rick previously served as president of the National Association for Gifted Children, president of the International Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP), and president of the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students.