Term of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Delores D. Liston

Committee Member 1

William Reynolds

Committee Member 2

Dan W. Rea

Committee Member 3

W. Jay Hughes


The purpose of this observational case study is to explore the phenomenon of labeling (i e., the label "gifted") contextually and transcontextually via mute evidence, formal and informal interviews, and visuals. A four-faceted prism (history, politics, sociology, phenomenology) serves as the lens through which the participants (including the researcher) struggle within a single school setting to make personal meaning of "giftedness." This multivariate qualitative study examines discriminately several homogeneous groups (each with established entrance criteria) and the individuals within these groups. Instead of the "gifted" population as a whole, the attention is on girls within two "gifted" populations and their mothers, the girls within a residential population and their mothers, and teachers/administrators. Many participants are African- American and the bulk of data was collected from lengthy, personal interviews. Children (i. e., girls) labeled "gifted" are considered apart from the programs designed for them. Interview schedules are consistent across groups. The history of education for the "gifted" is compared and contrasted nationally, statewide, and locally. In contrast to the excellence/equity dichotomy revealed in the literature, there are three opposing political forces at Fagan: excellence, equity, and a merger between the two. Redefining the struggle noted in the literature between advocates for the"gifted" and egalitarians is an hegemonic acceptance of a racially inequitable hierarchy at Fagan wherein groups of experts offer services (considered ameliorative but are actually harmful) for those placed therein. Placements are static and categorical. Entrance/sustenance requirements for those at the "top" are more stringent and pressure-filled than for those at the "bottom" yet all struggle to succeed within their respective settings. The higher one's position within the hierarchy, the more "special" one and his/her activities become and the more worldly, experienced, and complacent-yet more elitist one becomes. Most respondents express dissatisfaction with their current placements. All participants hegemonically accept the practice of labeling and acknowledge the existence of the label "gifted." The "gifted" are viewed positively. The "non-gifted" and programs for them and for the "gifted" are viewed negatively. Residential girls, their parents, teachers, and principal reject the residential label. Additional findings are as follows: A culture of silence (or fear) exists at Fagan. "Gifted" girls and their mothers were more talkative than others. All adults prioritize education. Interestingly, most teachers and girls prefer involvement in language arts related subjects than in mathematics or science In contrast to the turn of the century onset of national attention toward the"gifted" in reaction to the eugenics movement, Georgia and Chatham County programs for the "gifted" began mid-century in reaction to forced school integration. Lastly, this research serves as a mandate for ending the practice of labeling children (i. e., labeling children "gifted"). Implications for schooling are discussed.


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