Tribute to Miraca Una Murdoch Gross AM, Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education.
Miraca passed away on Friday 28/Jan/2022 in Sydney, Australia.
Tribute to Prof Miraca U. M. Gross AM, godmother of Gifted Education (1944-2022)
Farewell to one of my dearest friends and mentors, who dedicated her life to the research and support of exceptionally gifted children. I sat with Miraca in her lounge room a little while ago, before the pandemic hit, and we spoke about Elon Musk’s school, IQ testing, and AI. She was a wonderful human being with an enormously prolific impact on gifted education here in the US, through the Australian education system, and around the world.
Miraca and I worked on several projects together (GE, Mensa, and others)…
The GE Decoding Genius audio series.
Listen to one of Miraca’s last studio interviews, recorded in Pyrmont, Sydney in September 2016.
Miraca published hundreds of books and articles on gifted education.
The Mensa Acceleration booklet. (2015).
Download from Mensa (external link).
Teacher PD pack
In 2004, in cooperation with the Australian Government, Miraca drove the massive 1,000+-page Professional Development Package for Teachers, which is still available for download via UNSW.
Favourite stories (comparison)
Miraca was both gentle and assertive in her written work. Here is one of my favourite pieces, from a sibling article to her EG book…
Let me propose to you an experimental study.
Let us take a child of average intellectual ability, and when he is 5 years old, let us place him in a class of children with severe intellectual disabilities, children whose IQs are at least four standard deviations lower than his [that is, a class of children with an average IQ of 40, defined in the DSM-IV as “severe mental retardation”]. The child will stay with this group for the duration of his schooling and he will undertake the curriculum designed for the class, at the level and pace of the class.
We will carefully observe and assess at regular intervals his educational progress, his feelings about school, his social relationships with classmates, and his self-esteem. We will also observe the child’s parents and their interactions with the child’s teacher, school, and school system. They will, of course, have had no say in the child’s class or grade placement.
As one cannot generalise from a sample of one, the study will be replicated with 60 children in cities, towns, and rural and remote areas across the nation. If this proposal appalls you, rest easy. Such a study will never be undertaken. No education system would countenance it. No ethics committee would approve it.
Instead, I will report some findings from a real-life study that is ongoing and that mirrors the hypothetical study described above. This study of 60 young Australians with IQs of 160 and above is in its 22nd year, and the majority of the subjects are in their mid- to late 20s. Like the children in the hypothetical study, the majority undertook their entire schooling in classes where the average IQ was 100, at least four standard deviations below theirs. These children, and their parents, were less than happy. The education systems were unresponsive and no ethics committee raised a whisper…
– Prof Miraca Gross, Exceptionally Gifted Children. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 29, No. 4, 2006, pp. 404–429.
Favourite stories (AIS)
I can’t find the wonderful example of Miraca comparing sports teams to academic teams, but this extract from her EG book is pretty close…
‘Elitism’, in Australia, has always been a strongly pejorative term, especially when used in connection with the fostering of intellectual talent. Recently, however, the terms ‘elite’ and ‘elitist’ have taken on radically different connotations when used in reference to the fostering of sporting talent.
In March 1989, two months before the Federal Government responded to the Senate Committee’s report on the gifted and talented by saying that everything that needed to be done was already being done, a House of Representatives Committee completed a report on the status of sports funding and administration in Australia, under the title Going for Gold. The thrust for this investigation came, in part, out of a certain disappointment, among Australians, in Australia’s performance at the Seoul Olympics the previous year.
Within weeks the Federal Government responded by committing 51.7 million dollars to provide assistance and encouragement grants for ‘elite’ athletes, with an additional 15.6 million to support the hiring and training of first-class coaches to ensure that Australian athletes could command a more favourable position in future international competitions (Bruer, 1989).
In 1989 the population of Australia was less than 17 million; this was an astonishing commitment of four dollars per head of population from a nation then in serious recession. The dedication of these funds to the training of young people gifted in the sensorimotor domain drew not a murmur of protest from the teacher unions. Nor did they express concern that the funds might have to be drawn from other sources.
The Federal Government turned down, flat, the Senate Committee’s recommendation for the establishment of a national centre for research in gifted education. Of course it could be said that we already had one! A national centre for the fostering of talent – the Australian Institute for Sport – was established in 1981. Ironically, its website claims that it was founded as a result of Australia’s poor showing in the Montreal Olympics.
Going for Gold (Commonwealth of Australia, 1989) used the terms ‘elite sport’ and ‘elite athletes’ quite unabashedly throughout. In Australia, ‘elitism’ in fostering the talents of her most able sportsmen and women is not only applauded, but also funded from the public purse; ‘elitism’ in discovering and fostering the intellectual talent of her most able youth arouses vigorous protest from politicians and educators alike.
The study reported in this book will follow the social and emotional development, and the educational progress, of a group of exceptionally and profoundly gifted children undertaking their elementary and secondary schooling in Australia in the last two decades of the twentieth century and the first few years of the twentyfirst. The social and political attitudes that influenced the education of gifted and talented children in the 1980s have had a direct and deleterious effect on the educational provisions offered to the majority of the children in this study.
– Prof Miraca Gross, Exceptionally Gifted Children.
Miraca’s submission to the 2001 Senate enquiry
Miraca was driven, passionate, eloquent… and diplomatic!
Here is a fascinating thread from our correspondence about the Mensa acceleration booklet above…