This article explores the ways in which gifted education programs as they are currently defined, designed, and implemented lead schools away from rather than toward broader school reform. The author argues that gifted education programs function as a form of educational triage, providing an excellent education for those students for whom educational failure would not be tolerated while leaving the general educational system untouched and immune from analysis and critique. Educational, political, and economic justifications for gifted education are explored with particular reference to alternative ways to conceptualize the debate and the response so that the needs of all students are addressed. Consequences for teachers, students, and society of implementing gifted programs are discussed. Some of the key issues critical to the reexamination of the gifted construct are then explored, including: silence, the pain of gifted students, characteristics of appropriate differentiation, the fear of abandonment of gifted students, the excellence/equity debate, and the possibilities of wide-scale reform. The article concludes with an elaboration of research and policy agendas that could move the educational system forward and avoid positioning school reform advocates, gifted education proponents, and full inclusion supporters in opposition to one another.
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