I am very pleased to re-publish this guest post by Dr. Joy Lawson Davis on why she wrote her book Bright, Talented & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (you can also read an excerpt of her book and my review). Dr. Davis and Bright, Talented & Black are making a real difference in schools and families across the country. Follow her blog at http://wearegifted2.blogspot.com/.
Why I Wrote the Book
by Joy L. Davis
The evolution of this book began over twenty years ago. I got started in Gifted Education as a teacher in a small rural district in Virginia. I was the elementary art teacher. One day I remember the principal asking me if I would be interested in assisting with the development of the district gifted program. The district administration was looking for someone who was creative, had a passion and an ‘eye’ for intellectual talent in children, and I think ‘a bit crazy or zealous’ for causes. I took the job on a part-time basis at first, and later moved to another rural district to do this same work fulltime, and that’s when I was fully introduced to Gifted Education as a doctrine, a discipline, a field of its own. I began work on my master’s degree while working this second coordinator position. Since then, I’ve been involved in gifted education in one capacity or another at many different levels.
Throughout my career, I’ve come in contact with teachers, administrators and parents who were concerned about ‘why’ African American and other minority culture students did not have access to the same services in gifted education as their counterparts of the majority group. Some knew gifted children from all cultural groups, had worked with them and were committed to making a difference in their lives. Others were more pessimistic and questioned whether or not children of color, particularly AA children, had the same high level intellectual and creative potential that they witnessed in white children. And, of course, when they saw me coming, they would ask questions: How can I get my child into the gifted program? Why is the evaluation process so unfair? I have referred students in the past, but they were never found ‘eligible’ for services, what did I do wrong? What are the benefits of being in the program because my child was in, and now has asked to be taken out—she just doesn’t seem to be as interested? My child is so sensitive and intense sometimes, this makes him different from his peers and it’s hard enough being a high achieving black male, why is he like this, and what can I do to help him?
Many of these questions were coming from educators, but many were also coming from parents and grandparents. From past experience as an educator and parent, I also knew that it was usually African American parents and family members who received the least amount of information from districts about advanced programs and gifted services. Sometimes this was due to their lack of advocacy skills, but other times it was the bias built into the educational system. This bias was there to maintain gifted programs as an elite form of education for the ‘chosen, vocal few’—those whose parents who were the most affluent and understood best how to advocate for their children.
Writing this book was an opportunity to answer those questions and share the wealth of information that I have accumulated as a gifted education ‘insider’, with families who are, more often than not, on the outside of this field. Their children are among the millions of Bright, Talented and Black students who have been long overlooked and underserved in gifted education programs. African American children and their parents need help to exercise their entitlement to gifted education services, and I believe that the information contained in this book can be just the help they’ve needed for a long time.
Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D. has over 25 years of experience in the field of gifted education. Among her positions have been that of a teacher, district level coordinator, the first Executive Director of the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts & Technology in Virginia, and State Specialist for Gifted Programs for Virginia Department of Education. Dr. Davis has been a consultant to districts across the nation. As an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Dr. Davis teaches courses in Diversity Education & Gifted Education. She is also affiliated with the International Gifted Education Teacher Development Network (Iget-Network), providing professional development support for educators in the Caribbean and South Africa. Recently, she was invited by the Vice Chancellor of the School of Education to the University of Wits in Johannesburg, South Africa to present in a seminar entitled: ‘Targeting High Potential Youth from Marginalised Communities’.
Dr. Davis’ research and publication interests have focused on development of comprehensive services for culturally diverse gifted learners and in parent involvement in the lives of their gifted children, with particular emphasis on the needs of African American gifted learners. She holds two degrees (Masters and Doctorate) in gifted education from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, and is Chair of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Diversity & Equity Committee.