Underserved

In the 1990s, less than one-tenth of 1% of funds went for programs aimed at high-achievers or gifted students. Most of the funds went for the “underserved.” I use that word a lot, professionally, and it refers to poor students (in both senses of the word), and especially to illegal immigrants. If you want to get funded by state and federal governments, you must convince them that a high proportion of your efforts are going to illegal immigrants. (I once had a proposal for a new city park turned down by the state because the particular city did not have enough of an illegal immigrant population to benefit adequately.)

It wasn’t always that way:

The Summer Science Program

Decades ago, our educators considered their highest calling to be the teaching of gifted students. California had, for example, a Summer Science Program in the little town of Ojai, north of Los Angeles and away from the city lights, where young people would learn astronomy and other subjects in a serious, hands-on fashion. In the process, they would discover new comets and asteroids; there are many now known named after the SSP Ojai students who discovered them. The students used modest instruments combined with careful observations and meticulous orbital calculations to predict where to point their telescopes on later nights.

The program was supported by CalTech and MIT, and had a wide variety of guest lecturers, including physicist Richard Feynman, George Abell (of Abell Galaxy Clusters fame), and, well, me. I was privileged to lecture there one summer, years ago. I was delighted have shared any role with Richard Feynman.

SummerScience

The SSP Ojai program ran for nearly half a century, but by the end of that time, California’s support for high-achieving students had been sidelined and replaced by free lunches and other benefits for the “underserved.” SSP Ojai shut down in 1999, but the program was able to successfully relocate to campuses in New Mexico and Colorado.

Change of Focus

What happened? Why the shift in focus — especially in California of all places, home of Jet Propulsion Laboratories and Hughes Satellite and Silicon Valley?

During recent decades, a gradual resentment seems to have built up against the “privileged” — from the adult high achievers and earners that are now derisively called “the 1%” to young persons of drive and intelligence, attacked by school bullies and ignored by the federal, state and local governments.

Intelligent, hard-working children have long been accused of being “little professors” or “suck-ups” or any number of acidic titles, but more recently they are often beaten (even sometimes killed) for their efforts. For most such children, this is still true —  but for black children, a worse insult has been contrived: They are “acting white.”

The Future

But these children, the ones who want to succeed and have the innate (if untutored) ability to do so, are vitally important. These, in my opinion, are the real “underserved.” They are not all possessed of high IQs, though many are. But they have a spark that our current education system allows to fade out and die for lack of attention.

Instead, we should “demand much from those to whom much has been given.” Challenge them. Engage them. They represent the future of the United States, and the future of humankind. They are the potential innovators, achievers, dreamers who could act on their dreams, the visionaries who need to learn wisdom and virtue.

Their success will be good for everyone.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • The essential difference: The Constitution was set up to provide fertile soil for individual growth. The statists are intending to produce conforming topiary. They think of non-conforming individuals as weeds to be eliminated.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • JeffR

    Keith,

    When presented with this task of stewardship:

    http://img-aws.ehowcdn.com/default/ds-photo/getty/article/64/7/462398933_XS.jpg

    …you and I would make sure every tree has an equal opportunity for water, nutrients, and protection from locusts. When some trees, in their uniqueness, inevitably thrive more than others, we’d use their seeds or grafts to jump-start the next crop. As you say, “Their success will be good for everyone.” Each generation would stand on the shoulders of the previous generation’s strengths.

    By contrast, the Socialist central planners would grab a chainsaw and cut the tops off every thriving tree until their heights are equalized with the outcomes of all other trees. None of the trees would feel inferior to the others. But the aspirations of the forest to someday touch the sky would never be realized.

    – Jeff

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