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New Student Movement Looks for Changes in GT

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The GT classroom

The GT classroom

Coleman Erickson

Coleman Erickson

The GT classroom

Samuel Reich, Rookie Reporter

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Five posters strongly criticizing the Gifted and Talented (GT) program were found on the walls of the GT room on Thursday, Sept. 14.

These were put up by members of a new student-led movement, Students Against Gifted and Talented (saGT).

The posters stated that GT markets itself as a class for students “for whom advanced classes are just not enough,” calling it “nothing more than a glorified study hall,” and claiming that it causes students to have “complete dependence on the program.” They also said that the program causes its students to be “socially underdeveloped,” and have an “overly elevated view of themselves.” It was titled “Looking for Change?” and undersigned “Promoted by S.A.G.T.”

Gifted and Talented is a program offered here at Wheat Ridge High School that engages students’ creativity by encouraging them to pursue individual or group projects based on their interests, as well as trying to provide an environment of openness and student and teacher support. It also is an alternative to freshman seminar and senior advisement.

saGT, according to its leader, sophomore Alex Harden, is an activist group that protests the branding of Gifted and Talented. “The term ‘Gifted and Talented’ does not fit,” said Harden in an interview last Tuesday. “We think that ‘The Learning Diversity Program’ is an infinitely better-fitting title.”

According to Harden, saGT has around 20 members and a core group of about 10, many of whom have wished to remain anonymous, because they are, he claims, “feared of being ostracized,” by their fellow students.

Besides the original posters, the movement has tried to spread its ideas by word of mouth, other posters, and most memorably, by having students interested in the movement write their emails on Harden’s t-shirt. Harden approximates the number of emails that were written on the shirt as “upwards of thirty-five.”

saGT has, however, experienced friction with the school’s administration over its fledgling few weeks as an organization. New posters they drew up, harshly criticizing the GT program for the problems they found with it, were banned from being put up in the school hallways, and Harden’s t-shirt was dress-coded by the third period of the day he brought it to school for being a distraction to the learning environment.

“We’ve been having a rough time getting our message out there,” Harden said.

The movement has also been met with disfavor by proponents of the GT program. GT teacher Lisa Lee denounced saGT for its methods of spearheading its attack without speaking directly with either her or GT’s other teacher, Elliot Holm. She claimed that the school’s principal twice invited who she called the “leader of the movement” to discuss the issues with the GT teachers, and he declined both times.

“I felt like communication was the biggest issue,” Lee said last Wednesday. “If you’re not willing to sit down with someone face-to-face to talk about it and you’re willing to do this anonymously, it doesn’t have the same impact as someone coming in, trying to do it in a way that can actually make change happen.”

Harden, however, hoped to meet with the GT teachers sometime the week of October 16th to talk about what he wants to see happen with the program. And if such an interview were to take place, there is a possibility of progress being made, both in Harden and Lee’s eyes.

“I think that we share very similar views on this,” Harden said.
Lee is not opposed in the least to a name change–in fact, she welcomes it, and even before saGT came into existence, had been hoping for a better name for the GT program.

“I think that the term GT [can be] off-putting,” she said. “When you say ‘Gifted and Talented,’ it often comes with the mindset … of thinking you’re better [or more] special [than others]. Because I feel like that’s not what we do in here, I would love for a different name.”

The alternative names Harden and Lee are suggesting turn out to be very similar–Harden has suggested “JeffcoWide to the Learning Diversity Program” and Lee “The Jeffco High School Center for Diverse Learning.” Neither is against subtle variations to either of these names, though.

Harden emphasizes that saGT is against the branding of Gifted and Talented, not the program itself. “GT in it’s current state provides a great mental health resource,” he said. “I do also think, though, that the term ‘Gifted and Talented’ does not fit that.”

He also stresses that saGT’s ultimate goal is changing the name of the program, which he believes will fix the problem. “The name is part of their branding,” he said. “Our idea is not to get rid of the program, not even to cut its funding. [There are] a lot of misconceptions about that.”

Whether or not saGT will accomplish its goal of changing the Gifted and Talented program’s name hinges on the success of Harden’s yet unscheduled meeting with the GT teachers sometime this week. If all goes well for Harden, the Farm’s “gifted and talented” will soon take up the new title of “diverse learners.”

 

This story was revised 11/2/17

2 Comments

2 Responses to “New Student Movement Looks for Changes in GT”

  1. Lisa Lee on October 24th, 2017 10:20 am

    I’m sad to report that Mr. Harden has yet to attempt to talk with anyone in the GT Center leadership. I also want to make sure that our community knows that Mr. Harden never discussed a name change until he heard that I’d often discussed calling our program “The Center for Gifted Diverse Learners/Learning”. Once someone told him my own personal ideas, he claimed them as his own. Of course no such name change would ever occur without extensive meetings with district and school leadership, as well as gathering community input. Lastly, I would once again like to extend an invitation to Mr. Harden to meet with us. I have no idea why he has chosen to avoid such a meeting so far.

    [Reply]

  2. Ivan Stanton on November 16th, 2017 10:16 am

    I agree with Lee on this topic. Harden should discuss his proposed changes with Lee, Holm, and district GT leadership, if he wants them implemented.

    [Reply]

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New Student Movement Looks for Changes in GT