The Governor’s Program for Gifted Children (GPGC) was established by Dr. George Middleton in 1959 as the McNeese Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) with 15 middle school students from southwest Louisiana. The SEP began accepting students from other sections of the state in 1962. GPGC began officially in 1964 when Governor John McKeithen approved a petition for the state to provide funds for its continued operation. Since then the Louisiana legislature has funded it every year but one. Governor Terry Sanford established the first governor’s school for gifted children in North Carolina in the early 1960’s. Although GPGC existed as the McNeese Summer Enrichment Program before the North Carolina Governor’s School, it became the second “governor’s school for gifted children” in the United States.
From the beginning we included achieving gifted children, but our focus was on the underachievers. Very few programs or curriculum adjustments in public school systems existed at the time, and only limited knowledge of how to meet the needs of gifted children in general was available. Our experience with the SEP led us to look more closely at achieving gifted children. Among this population we began to find a variety of other problems that were begging for attention.
Gifted children often experience boredom as a result of the necessarily greater amount of attention their teachers must devote to their less able pupils, and because the regular school curriculum is usually somewhat restricted in scope. Even so, the responsibility for reducing boredom is shared by both teacher and student. Gifted students do not have to be bored. They can use their considerable psychological resources to pursue some of their interests on their own while their teacher is busy with their less able classmates. For this reason, we use a “project approach” as a major instructional method in the GPGC Academy. Teachers of gifted children need to facilitate independent individual and group study by their gifted pupils.
In the GPGC community we try to provide an environment which is governed by the highest standards for intellectual pursuits, morality, and social interaction. We try to simulate an ideal society in which members of the community can learn about and acquire behavior that will be beneficial to all concerned. While we do provide ample opportunities for students to increase their fund of information, our emphasis has always been on developing thinking and problem solving skills. We do not try to teach them what to think, but rather how to think, and some of the things that need to be thought about by all humans – lonely students to form emotionally rewarding interpersonal relationships that they can pursue though great distances separate their homes.
Our entire system is designed to reward youngsters and their mentors for good citizenship and work well done. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: associating achievement with economic rewards (wages, in our economy); giving special recognition and awards given during the Festival; and in a negative way, letting the students experience reduced economic well-being when they fail to perform adequately. These material rewards are not intended as substitutes for the pure joy of achieving a worthwhile goal, but hopefully they will help bring more of our students closer to the attainment of such goals, and consequently to that special joy.