I spent my entire academic career on the Honors track. Aside from math, which seems to be the one subject my brain processes at the speed of paint drying, I took the Honors and AP courses available in every subject. Yet I never really thought of the implications of separating out the smart kids until I read this editorial by Judy Jones.
The advantage of Honors courses was we could drive dragsters while everyone else puttered about in sedans. We could blow through material faster than the regular classes. When teachers knew everyone in the class could absorb material quickly, they could cover more ground and still fit in time for the students to explore their own interests.
At the same time, I recall being in those classes with a lot of the same people. The “gifted” students stuck together because, let’s admit it, it’s very fun to hang out with people who are at the same geek level you are. It’s great to be able to crack jokes about math or physics and have people laugh so hard that soda rockets out of their nose. Everyone else would just give you a look that asked “so what Star Trek dimension are you from?”
But that environment doesn’t reflect the working world.