Sunday, March 14, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Meritocracy

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series - where I speak to all topics gifted and how they relate to your child's well-being.  Please click on the tab above if you want to discover more about the Series and its topics.

My BFF from elementary until present day (shout out - Hi Cindy!) flies the friendly skies all around the world.  In the most random of all randoms, she ran into Husband two weeks ago when he had to fly to Virginia for the day.  She gave him a magazine she'd been saving to give me the next time she saw me.

The magazine contained an article about giftedness.

Gifted Exchange has already talked about it, if you want to see her take on it.  I'm weighing in too.  It's too salacious and controversial in the gifted arena not to, as far as I'm concerned.  Does it sound funny to call something about gifted children salacious?  Maybe, but it fits.

The article is from New York magazine and explores the NYC admissions process to Kindergarten.  Go check it out at the link then come back.  I'll wait.  Promise.

Ok, you're back?  Good, let's get started.

So the article, in a nutshell, says this (for those of you who might not have checked the link):

  1. New York City tests for giftedness at age 4. 
  2. Your placement at that age basically puts you on a track that goes all the way through high school graduation.
  3. 4 is too young to get an accurate test.
  4. Some kids test high who shouldn't.
  5. Some kids test low who shouldn't.
  6. There should be re-tests, but there aren't.
  7. Therefore, there is no such thing as giftedness.
Yes, yes, yes - it's a bit of a reach to move from logic deduction  6 to logic conlcusion 7.    And the article isn't totally doing that, but that's the tone you get throughout.  In my opinion.

Another standout from the article (which I've blogged about before), are the prep classes kids (at 4) can take to "ace the test."  

I have feelings about this article:
  1. On one hand it's appalling that parents try to stack the odds in their child's favor.
  2. On one hand I understand wanting the best for your children.
  3. On one hand I understand how many parents think they have/want to have a genius child.
  4. On one hand I understand the difficulty teachers face with parents who overestimate their children's abilities.  
  5. On one hand I understand the dislike of the term "gifted."
  6. On one hand I see that a 20 minute test (the length of the NYC tests, per the article) can't possibly signify the true measure of a child's intelligence.  (The test Oldest took at 4 lasted 4 hours with breaks.)
And, if I've become an octopus, that leaves me a couple of  hands to say how I really feel about the article!

How DO I really feel?  

My kids are Montessori kids, and I've long held the belief that quality early education can change the path for any child's life.  Kids learn so much in the first 5 years of life and waiting until 5 years old to "begin" their education truly misses some of their best learning time.  Montessori has taught me that every child has great potential and every child is way more capable than most adults give them credit for.  If we give children the opportunity, many can excel in school.  

That being said, if someone said to me, "your child's not gifted, she's the same as every other child in the class" it would be laughable.  To say an 8 year old who reads at the level of a 13 year old is the same as an 8 year old who reads at the level of, well, an 8 year old is preposterous.  

It would be like saying (and I have the distinct feeling this is going to make some of you mad) a child with autism, diabetes, ADHD or epilepsy shouldn't have those monikers, because they aren't THAT different.  That would be preposterous too, right?

Gifted children are different than their peers.  

Some more so than others.  Their giftedness can't be ignored merely because some states test in a way that admits children who maybe shouldn't be admitted.  

Here's what I think.  I think people can't buy in to the term gifted.  It sounds elitist.  It sounds special in a way it's not meant to be.  It sounds like a privilege, so some people practically storm the castle to get Little Johnny to be a part of it.  

And in so many ways, it is wonderful.  But it's also a challenge.  It is, quite frankly, a special need, but on a different level than what we think of special needs as a society.  I've seen giftedness called different things - "more," "high ability,"  just to name two.  And I agree that the term gifted isn't optimal.  It makes people think you're being elitist and it makes you feel like you're bragging.  

But the truth is - it's the word to describe our nation's genius and to suggest that there is no such thing, really, as giftedness, merely because of the way a state tests for it, just infuriates me.  

Like the head of the Ohio Association of Gifted Children said at the meeting a few weeks ago,  "It doesn't matter if you agree with the word 'gifted' or not.  You are here because that's what your child is and you might as well stand up for it and be proud of it.  Because if you don't as the parent, no one else will."  And that's grossly paraphrased, so I hope I got the essence.  

For a magazine to title an article (on the front page, no less), "The Myth of the Gifted Child," and therefore assert that giftedness is a myth, I invite you to spend a week at my house.  You might come away and say, "maybe there's something to this giftedness thing after all."  

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