Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Will GATE by another name smell as sweet?

By From page A2 | May 05, 2013

It’s hard to tell if the Great GATE Debate is over or just beginning. After Thursday night’s school board meeting, all we know for sure is that at least in name only, the GATE program is no more.

Given that labeling one group of kids as “gifted and talented” and the rest of the kids, by default, as “not gifted and talented” is a non-starter that never should have lasted this long, it was the least the board could do. But the question remains, does a rose — or a GATE program — by any other name smell so sweet? Except that there are more than a few folks in town who weren’t so sweet on the GATE program in the first place.

Hoping to change the perception that GATE serves only an elite group of kids to the exclusion of everyone else, the board chose to replace it with AIM, the Alternative Instructional Model program. As if that will fool anyone.

Because I have hacked into the emails and bugged the cell phones of all board members, I can reliably report that our esteemed leaders considered a number of alternative names before deciding on the incredibly boring and mundane Alternative Instructional Model.

Then again, it’s clear the goal in picking a new name was to erase any hint of elitism or favoritism. So they chose hypnotism, hoping to lull us all to sleep with three completely neutral and meaningless words that absolutely no one can brag about at the family reunion in North Dakota this summer.

“Yep, little Billie tested into the Alternative Instructional Model program back home.”

“Wow, did y’all hear that? Little Billie is going to be a model out there in California.”

Before picking AIM, board members first had to decide if the initials of the new name should actually spell a word. After all, the NAACP, AARP, AAA, UCD, the U.N., PG&E and ESPN have all survived nicely for decades without their letters spelling anything at all.

But given the history of GATE, it was felt that the non-GATE kids might get confused if the new program letters did not also spell a word. So they settled on AIM, but not without a fight.

Also considered were KIDS (Kid Is Damn Smart), WAIT (Wickedly And Incredibly Talented), LATE (Lucky And Talented Education), MATE (Make All Tests Easy), DATE (Davisites Are Truly Exceptional), UBER (Ultra Brainy Exceptionally Righteous), NO (Not Ordinary) and DAVIS (Daring And Vitally Intelligent Student).

Those kids who do not qualify to take AIM will be placed in the ODD (Other Dull Davisites) program.

So we will now have the AIMs and the ODDs, are never the twain shall meet. Or, as the ODDs understand it, never the train shall meet.

According to Friday’s piece by Jeff Hudson in The Davis Enterprise — which is staffed exclusively with former GATE students — “School board president Sheila Allen urged ‘the mixing of classes (of students in different programs) at every opportunity’ in everyday activities.”

Which is all well and good, but it still gets us back to the basic problem of non-GATE children boring the dickens out of GATE children, be it in the classroom, the bathroom, the lunchroom or the library.

Still undecided is what to do with those challenging students who are doing college-level math but kindergarten-level grammar. We don’t yet have an acronym for that bunch, but I’m sure the board can come up with one in due course.

I know, MAGIC (Math And Grammar In Conflict).

I think I just earned myself a spot in the AIM classroom of my choice.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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