Playing Favorites

Gifted Education and the Disruption of Community

By Mara Sapon-Shevin

Subjects: Educational Psychology
Paperback : 9780791419809, 275 pages, April 1994
Hardcover : 9780791419793, 275 pages, April 1994

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Table of contents




Introduction: Schools as Communities

1. Underserved and Over-Deserving: Rationales for the Support of Gifted Education

2. They're Good, They Don't Ask: Silence and Voice on Gifted Education

3. It Takes a Special Person to Work with Those Kids: Teachers and the Gifted Category

4. These Kids Really Show Themselves Early: Choosing Children for the Enrichment Program

5. I Only Want What's Best for My Child: Parents and Gifted Education

6. The Kids with Disposable Incomes: Meritocracy and Gifted Education

7. Visions of an Inclusive Future




Playing Favorites examines the ways in which gifted education disrupts the classroom community, deskills regular classroom teachers, limits their ability and willingness to meet individual needs, and impairs the creation of a climate of inclusion and acceptance of difference. Sapon-Shevin shows here that current models of gifted education are elitist and meritocratic, treating some children, not just differently than others, but better; and that in large urban districts, gifted education programs are often racist as well. By creating and funding gifted programs, the author contends, schools engage in a form of "educational triage," serving those children for whom inadequate programming and educational failure would not be acceptable while maintaining the status quo for the majority of the school population.

This book provides support for teachers, parents, and administrators who have found themselves caught in the struggle of insuring an appropriate education for some children without sacrificing the good of all. Incorporating the words of teachers, parents, and students, as well as related research and theory, this book analyzes the relationship between diversity, community, and social justice. Sapon-Shevin challenges the reader to reconsider ways in which schools can meet individual educational needs while preserving communities of learners as well as the commitment to the education of all children. Finally, the book extends the challenge and assurance that we need not choose between quality education for some and mediocre education for all.

Mara Sapon-Shevin is a professor in the Teaching and Leadership Program at Syracuse University. She teaches in the Inclusive Elementary and Special Education Teacher Education Program which provides teacher preparation for heterogeneous classrooms. Her areas of interest and expertise include full inclusion of students with disabilities, cooperative learning, teacher education and anti-racism, and diversity education. She is the author of many book chapters and articles related to these topics, and is a frequent presenter within the United States and abroad. She is active in teacher education reforms as well as school change projects throughout the country.


"This is a beautifully written book, replete with compelling metaphors that make the reader want to continue turning the pages. The author brings the reader into the lives of teachers, parents, and students so that we feel the deep pain of selecting and being selected for educational experiences that promise both more enriched learning and expanded opportunity for some than is afforded to others. "—Anne Wheelock, author of Crossing the Tracks: How Untracking Can Save America's Schools