Al Baker's January 12th New York Times article, "Gifted, Talented and Separated -- In One School, Students Are Divided by Gifted Label -- and Race" examines the sometimes controversial practice of having G&T programs (as they're commonly called) sit alongside general education classes -- and the strained dynamic that results where peers as young as five are labeled and slotted into one group or the other based on a single standardized test.
In his piece, Baker highlights one of the most problematic components of this issue: the glaring disparity between the racial breakdown of general education classes and G&T classes. The school he focuses on, P.S. 163 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is predominately filled with children of color. Their G&T classes, however, are "turned upside down." At P.S. 163, the majority of the students labeled "gifted and talented" are white.
This issue certainly deserves our attention and our efforts at reform. What bothered me, though, was a photograph that accompanied the article (shared here). In it, six fourth graders from one of the school's general education classes -- every one of them a child of color -- stand in a row. Each child holds a card with one or two words on it. The words are:
Around, Saw, Skipping, Them, The Room, We
As the article explains, the children have been asked to arrange themselves so that their cards, when placed in a row, form a complete sentence. The children have lined up incorrectly; their resulting sentence reads: "We saw them around skipping the room." In case you haven't had your coffee yet, the sentence should read: "We saw them skipping around the room."
Baker's article was about the racial breakdown of G&T classrooms versus general education classrooms. It was not about poor performance by general education students. I wish The New York Times would have had the journalistic integrity to choose a germane illustration, rather than selecting a visual simplification that could only serve to embarrass its subjects.
Surely, this photograph of children making an error in the process of learning was not necessary to get Baker's point across that segregation is a bad thing in our schools. Next time, let's leave the kids out of the picture.