Not since the Sputnik era has the federal government exhibited such a vigorous interest in increasing the rigor of math education in America’s public schools. In April 2006, President Bush created the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. This body advises President Bush and Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, on the best use of scientifically-based research in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Gifted education has a voice on the panel—Camilla Benbow of Vanderbilt University. However, a little bit of googling leads to the discovery that her appointment is controversial. The American Association of University Women objects because Benbow authored three research articles in the 1980s in which she argued the existence of “intrinsic gender differences that favor males at the highest levels of mathematics.” Other egalitarian educationists oppose her participation because they fear she will focus on more advanced and accelerated math courses for students demonstrating high ability in math and believe this will result in an unfair advantage for these students in society.
The question is, shouldn’t a panel on any topic or endeavor have broad representation—with individuals representing a variety of viewpoints? Limiting a panel to members who share similar philosophies would eliminate certain populations and methods from consideration. All students, regardless of ability, ethnic origin, economic status, or gender need a voice on this panel. Gifted students are fortunate to have the strong voice of Camilla Benbow representing their educational needs.
To keep abreast of the deliberations of the math panel visit mathpanelwatch.blogspot.com
—Kristen R. Stephens