Definition of Age Discrimination

Girl Left Out
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Age discrimination is the denial of equal services or opportunities for an individual based on age.

When most of us hear the term "age discrimination," we think of senior citizens being denied a job because of their age. Senior citizens can also experience other kinds of mistreatment because of their age. For instance, they are often disrespected and portrayed in movies and tv shows in unflattering ways.

They are cranky, or absent minded, or foolish.

However, age discrimination can also be applied to gifted children in school. They are often denied the kind of academic environment and challenge that they need simply because of their age.

In our educational system - and that of many other countries around the world - children are to start school at a specific age. In America, they start kindergarten at age 5, first grade at age 6, and so on. They are rarely allowed to start kindergarten early and are rarely allowed to skip grades. Instead, they most often must remain with children who are within one year of their chronological age.

The reasons given for keeping same-age children together are that children must learn to socialize with children their own age or that young children are not emotionally mature enough to be in a classroom with older children. However, there are problems with these reasons.

First, socialization simply means that a child needs to learn how to behave in society. They learn what is and is not appropriate behavior. Many gifted children already know how to socialize with others, most often adults, older children, or other gifted children. There is no advantage to learning how to interact with children who are chronological the same age, but mentally and socially younger.

Second, many gifted children are more emotionally mature than their age mates. And even if they aren't, they aren't any more likely to be more immature than their age mates.  However, because they are more advanced intellectually, many adults subconsciously expect them to act older than they are. In comparison, then, many adults (parents and teachers included) see these gifted children as less mature than their age mates. Whether they are more emotionally mature or equally emotionally mature, it makes no sense to keep them in an atmosphere where their only role models for appropriate behavior are their age mates. It makes much more sense to put them in an environment with older children, where they can learn more mature social behavior.

Denying gifted children the opportunity to advance academically, socially, and emotionally by forcing them to stay in classes with age mates is a form of age discrimination.

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