But months before, another even more ground breaking movie about gifted children hit the box offices- a movie called Hidden Figures, about another brilliant girl, also named Mary (like the little girl in the "gifted" movie,) about how she and her friends grew up to be mathematicians in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). And not only were they gifted, and amazingly were identified for their talents and supported as they grew up into uniquely high achieving women, but they were from a traditionally under-identified and certainly under-served racial background- they were Black.
I finally got to see this movie. I didn't rush as fast to the theater when this came out because I normally don't like to pay for movies and I hate sitting in theaters without a remote control in my hand to turn down the loud volume as needed... But I did race to see the movie "gifted," because they gave me free tickets and because other gifted advocates had raved about it, which definitely changed my attitude enough to get me to go see it. But watching Hidden Figures tonight gave me a sick feeling in my stomach because of my awareness of the fact that I should have raced to see this one too. It is a movie that really deserved more hype in the field of gifted education than we gave it, and I am guilty of not giving it that initial attention. Luckily the movie got lots of accolades from the general population, so it may not have harmed the movie to not be so hyped by our smaller population of gifted advocates. But while many people focused on the issue of females, and particularly Black females, being allowed to work at NASA and actually being some of the most important brains behind our journeys into space, we could have been honoring it for something special... what wasn't focused on enough, was that these were gifted girls who grew up to rock the world, and this movie really did highlight their giftedness too.
These women faced hardships as women, but even the white women in their office buildings and careers often treated them less than friendly. They overcame their gifted differences as small children, finding somewhere that they could fit in and excel while not being just like the other children their ages. Then they made it through the challenges of high level academics (at least one being the first Black woman in her university, as well as fighting their way up the class ranks,) then into important jobs with NASA and working there each day, while fighting the biases and prejudice of the 1960s.
These women could not even go to work without having extra challenges of not having "colored" bathrooms nearby, or white men disrespecting them. Then, they had to go home and do all the parenting things that wives back then had to do (and one was even a widow...) They were role models for their own smart daughters and leaders in the civil rights cause by being role models to all of the other NASA employees and the people in their community.
They weren't allowed to access the books they needed or to enter certain places in public buildings. They sat in the back of the buses and court rooms, and watched their steps, but yet they quietly challenged the status quo with their work and their questions amongst themselves, as they tried to figure out how to get the information they needed to keep up with the changing technologies and even help other Black women learn those necessary skills.
And throughout the movie, their gifted traits shine through. They used quick wit as they lightened the mood with their social events in between the harshness of their jobs. They worried about things- even more so than women may stress similar high level jobs, because one wrong step back then and the whites might cut their employment short. And even with all of these challenges, they still continued to question the fairness of the world around them and push back, subtly, against the "way things always have been."
As we revel in the fact that giftedness is finally being highlighted in the movies, we need to give this movie the proper recognition it deserves. Hidden Figures is a wonderful movie about a few gifted girls and the futures they made for themselves against huge odds and a world in the midst of so many changes. If we don't hold this movie close to our hearts, and even hold it up higher due to the way it represents the true frontier in gifted education- that of identifying and serving ALL gifted children, not only those from the races that have stereotypically been given advantages and support, then we are still missing the most important point.
It is ironic that there are girls in both the "gifted" movie and "Hidden Figures" named Mary, and that both are talented mathematically... And that the talented Octavia Spencer is in both.... Yet, the similarities don't end there, and the differences are just getting started. We still have so much work to do.
I hope you will enjoy this movie as much as I did, and watch it with your children. It's beyond time for us to give all of our diverse gifted learners the support they need to excel. If NASA could do so in the 1960s, what is the excuse for our schools not doing so now in the 2000s?