“One does not equal all.”  My son wrote this phrase many times his last year in public school.  He wrote it with words and in mathematic symbols as a formula (1 ≠  ∞).  He wrote his phrase in response to group discipline being used at his school and hearing many staff members say, “One is all.”  I found the note written on tiny scraps of paper at least 20 different times.  He had a huge pile in his desk by the end of the school year.  I know he said the phrase to many school personnel in private conversations as well.  And, I know he left notes for his teacher too.  He was only 6 years old and he hated the fact that the whole class was punished for the misbehavior of just a couple students.  Sadly, it was the same students repeatedly causing trouble.  Group discipline was not changing their behavior.  Instead, it was creating anger in my son as well as some of the other children.  And, it was creating feelings of resentment.  He continues to have a strong justice sensitivity even today.

Little did my son realize at the time, his phrase was right on so many levels.  Many adults would tell him he was correct and try to explain to him why the teachers had no other choice.  It did not change the fact, he was right, “one does not equal all.”  One does not equal all is true of group discipline, gifted education, gifted identification, and age grouping of children at school.  He does know now how correct he was.  As a homeschooler, he appreciates that one does not equal all on many levels.  Gone is grouping by age but instead, he is taught at the grade level he needs.  He finally gets to take middle school level science classes and algebra.  There is no longer group discipline being utilized.  And, he meets other gifted homeschoolers in which they all have their own educational needs.

I heard from some teachers and some school administrators, “we’ve had kids like your son before, we know what to do.”  I also heard people tell us, “oh he is gifted, he should be fine in school.”  I should have used my son’s phrase with those folks because working with one gifted child does not mean you know how to work with all gifted.  In addition, just because a child is gifted does not equate to school being “fine.”  One gifted child is not representative of all. From our own experiences, the school was completely inadequate in meeting our son’s educational needs.  In fact, most of the school personnel told us to homeschool.  By the end of first grade, we were encouraged to either home school or do grade acceleration because the current school system structure was not working for our son.  We were lucky, the school was honest with us and they knew my son was right, one does not equal all as well as what works for one does not work for all.

One does not equal all applies to both gifted identification and gifted education too.  Each district and each gifted teacher has their own terminology and their own perceptions.  The  word gifted is a mystery to those not living or not working with a child who is gifted, but it needs to be understood.  Depending on what state or country one lives, different terms are used: gifted, gifted and talented, profoundly gifted, highly gifted, moderately gifted, mildly gifted, twice exceptional, etc.  This just adds to the mystery or confusion of giftedness.  Hoagies’ has an extensive list of acronyms and definitions used within gifted education that should help clear up some of the confusion.  

Once knowing the terms and what they mean it becomes even more obvious that one does not equal all in the realm of giftedness or education.  Grouping solely by age or solely by IQ (yes there is a private gifted school that does that) does not help the students.  In addition, the gifted identification practice of a student having to be gifted in all areas also does not help the students.  As an educator, the question should be, “What can I do to help my student(s) who already knows what I am teaching?” It should never be, “you can only do this grade level of work even if you already mastered it.”  The “one is all” kind of programming or identification does not work.  My son is right, one does not equal all.  

Additional readings for understanding “one does not equal all” are as follows:


This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “The Mysteries: The Wierd Stuff.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser: