When I was growing up, there were plenty of "cool" kids who were also smart. Yes, we had more than our share of the uncool, I'm sure, but being in an upper-level class wasn't grounds for being a social outcast. And even if it had been, it wouldn't have been a huge deal because the school was big, the classes were full, and no doubt there were plenty of peers available in the class.
Which might be part of the reason I cringe when I hear people talking about being smart and uncool in the same sentence. And it hurts a little more when it's a gifted resource teacher who utters this sentiment.
At a middle school information night, Connor and I went to a break-out session on gifted services. The teacher acknowledged that - except for math - there are no leveled classes at the school. And whether I agree with that or not is somewhat immaterial. But when she tells the group of parents and students that one of the reasons for this is that it would be "social suicide" to identify a kid as gifted, or super smart, or anything other than a 100 IQ middle of the road thinker, I want to reach out and smack her.
Because in fact, school culture is something that the community builds. And it can, actually, be cool not just to be the star football player who may - quite literally - be sacrificing a piece of his future for the school, but also to be the smart kid who's able to process information at very fast speeds. S/he may solve a problem you don't even know you have.
I could give you several examples from my own middle and high school experience.
Also, it is not lost on me, that this excuse for not having leveled classes is the laziest excuse out there. A child who is gifted who doesn't want to be identified as such can always choose to drop down a level in classwork (if levels actually existed) if being in a class of high learners is too uncomfortable. Why we would take away the option of being grouped with similarly minded peers is beyond me, and I dearly hope there's a better reason out there.