Mood: not sure
I recently had a business lunch with a representative from a major textbook publisher during which I explained to her my view of "bright kids" versus "slower kids" and the problems inherent in trying to teach classes with such wide differences in ability. I basically said that, when I was a schoolteacher, I decided at last that the best thing I could do was to train my focus on the brightest kids.
I don't know whether she agreed with that, but she said, in light of my own professional interests, that such a view might not be helpful to me. Good advice, of course, but it must be said that tracking (grouping kids by ability) is a good thing. I can't apologize for that.
It's a huge disservice to bright students with high potential to force them to endure the emotional and disciplinary disturbances of slower and less cooperative classmates. If our society could bring itself to accept the intellectual and behavioral differences among our youth ---and accept that all kids would be better served by more specialized attention at every level--- our education system could truly flower.
This isn't a call for the ethnic, gender, or cultural segregation of American schoolchildren. I don't believe in that shit and I say it's wrong. But I am all for honoring and serving the abilities of our brightest minds in one kind of class ---and recognizing what education theorists call "multiple intelligences" in other classes.
We don't have this sort of system instituted in enough places because this society does not do nearly enough to make the investment in education that it should. And I believe there's something fundamentally wrong with our political culture when we are afraid to provide our best students with honors and advanced classes. It's also unacceptable that we do not find more ways to engage those kids with different interests and abilities in ways that will make the most of their talents. The latter point is every bit as true as the former.
Shooting for the mean is a false kind of egalitarianism that disserves everyone.