People all over the world are eagerly awaiting the day they can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The fact that a vaccine was developed, tested, approved and distributed in about a year is remarkable. When you consider how long other vaccines have taken to reach this point, along with the number of diseases that have no vaccine despite consistent efforts, the current feat is even more extraordinary. Who are the people who developed these vaccines? Clearly, they are people with focus, creativity and skill. But they also likely possess exceptional intellect, gifts and talents. It’s unlikely that someone with an interest in Chemistry but extremely average skills (myself included) made a significant contribution to this life changing development. The world needs really smart people.
I find myself wondering about the educational programming these scientists encountered in their youth. How many were part of a structured gifted education program? Did they find teachers and mentors that fostered their interests and talents? How many had parents who were supported and listened to when they were advocating for the needs of their bright children at school? Were they intrinsically self-motivated. Or were they the kid in the back of the room who was failing because they were so bored? I wonder how many would-be vaccine developers never made it because there wasn’t support and encouragement for their level and style of learning.
Hopefully, we are beginning to understand that bringing down the top does not elevate the bottom any more than lowering your ceiling raises your floor. Every student deserves to be educated at the appropriate level regardless of where they fall on the intellectual or economic spectrum. Every student deserves the opportunity to learn something new every single day they are in school even if and especially if it’s a public school. And through this, we will hopefully develop the minds that will help us solve the many big challenges we face.