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American Education Ignores Its Brightest Young Minds

Critically acclaimed Genius Denied reveals education’s biggest “dirty little secret,” and identifies how America can harness the talents of its highly intelligent youth

Reno, Nev. (April 2004) With increasing global competition for talent, our nation’s need for intelligent, creative people in every field has never been greater. But for many of our most brilliant youngsters, school is a purgatory of boredom and lost opportunities.


“Highly intelligent students are largely ignored by our schools,” said Jan Davidson, co-founder of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing the talents of profoundly gifted students, and co-author of Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. “Our schools are structured to help struggling students meet state and federal standards, so the brighter the child, the more likely he or she will suffer in a school that teaches to the middle.”


“Suffering” in this case is chronic boredom that leads to underachievement and, often, dropping out of school. Research indicates as many as one in five high school dropouts test in the gifted range.


The alarming statistics don’t stop there. Almost two-thirds of states do not require that gifted students be identified and 58 percent do not require that gifted students receive an education appropriate to their abilities. Recent stories by the New York Times[1]and Wall Street Journal[2] detail how, facing new education mandates and decreasing revenues, states and local districts are eliminating funding and programs for advanced students. Approximately 1.5 million gifted students are underchallenged by standard school curriculums, and given this undemanding educational environment society suffers the lost of their potential future contributions.


 “America is doing itself a great disservice by neglecting the needs of gifted youth and essentially throwing away our most valuable resource,” Davidson said. “These students are the ones who will find a cure for AIDS or cancer, who will end our dependence on fossil fuels, who will create the new technology that will drive our future economy. By denying them the opportunity to develop their talents, the entire country – and maybe even the world – will never reap the benefits of what these students could someday achieve.”


Genius Denied, which Jan co-authored with her husband Bob and freelance writer Laura Vanderkam, calls for a major shift in thinking for teachers, administrators and policy-makers, and encourages school reform that focuses on attending to the educational needs of every student. The book outlines specific steps that students, parents, educators, mentors, patrons and policy-makers can take to make the system work – or to work around the system – in order to help gifted students achieve their potential. 


“We want to live in a world where such talent is harnessed and put to use,” the Davidsons write. “We can’t expect to benefit from gifted children’s creativity later if we let schools dull their minds into indifference now.”


The companion Web site to Genius Denied,, offers extensive resources for parents, educators, students, and others; and information about state and federal policies regarding education of gifted students as well as excerpts and reviews, and the latest news about gifted education. 


Genius Denied is available at and

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[1] "Schools, facing tight budgets, leave gifted programs behind," The New York Times, March 2, 2004 

[2] "Initiative to Leave No Child Behind leaves out gifted," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 29, 2003; and "In era of scores, schools fight over gifted kids," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4, 2004  

Jan and Bob Davidson are the founders of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit foundation that provides assistance to gifted children and to schools. They are the founders and former chief executives of Davidson & Associates, the educational software company that published “Math Blaster.”  They live in Incline Village, Nev.  The Davidsons will donate their portion of the proceeds from this book to assist gifted and talented youth.
Laura Vanderkam is a freelance writer based in New York City.

GENIUS DENIED: How To Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds
By Jan and Bob Davidson with Laura Vanderkam
Published by Simon & Schuster
April 12, 2004
ISBN: 0-7432-5460-0

Located in Reno, Nev., the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a 501(c)3 nonprofit operating foundation founded in 1999 by educational software entrepreneurs, Bob and Jan Davidson. The mission of the Davidson Institute is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference. For more information on the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, please visit, or call (775) 852-3483. 

Davidson Institute for Talent Development
9665 Gateway Drive, Suite B
Reno, Nevada 89521
Fax: 775-852-2184