We need programs for gifted children at least as much as we need programs for the challenged. We need specialized accommodation for all with specialized needs outside the first standard deviation.
If we, as a society, owe something specialized to those below average, we owe just as much to those above average.
We need to start by acknowledging that gifted does not mean special, and we need to make sure we don’t use “special” with a special meaning.
We must keep in mind that gifted is only a reasonable label. It helps us identify a group with exceptional characteristics. Further, exceptional does not necessarily mean above average. It can sometimes mean weird, or perhaps simply unusual, out of the ordinary.
The Calgary Herald carried an article written by Marcello Di Cintio about gifted children and some programs and teachers.
They need teachers and programs that focus not on the magnificence of their brains, but on the fragility of their hearts. “Unless their heart is intact, no learning can happen,” Aldred says. She quotes from Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow,” a poem she teaches her literature students:
…sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
“I can’t teach them anything,” Aldred says. “But I can reteach them their loveliness.”
My eldest teaches third-grade. She pointed me to this article. I always remind her the most important thing she can do is to love the children in her class. She knows. She does. It is frustrating because she isn’t rated on her love. She is rated on tests, and checklists, and various quantifications that may or may not apply to anything except some reformer’s criteria for something measurable, even if it measures nothing relevant to the real world. In public education, children are just numbers, just test results; their teachers are variously derived subsets of the aggregated numbers. Shameful.
The article is about the gifted. My daughter told me about it for that reason, and she expressed thanks for ensuring she had what she needed as gifted.
I’m tying this to everyone.
Everyone needs the same thing. We all need to be recognized as unique and individual. Not one of us actually fits into groups and categories. Sure, we have and need our tribes, our like minds and kindred spirits. We need them desperately. But, at the individual level, we are all exactly that–individual.
Gifted kids, unique kids, need unique things, extra things, and specialized understanding.
We can blame our schools, but I don’t.
I hold myself responsible. Two of my five gifted children were well suited to public school (our local system). The first, only barely. She thanks me, but we could have done better. We should have had her at home. We first noticed when it was almost too late for another. We started homeschooling. It has made a tremendous difference. I cannot say I have regrets, but it would have been better for all had we homeschooled from the start with the eldest. The one who thrived in school would likely still have been even better off had we homeschooled her.
I really want every child homeschooled. It is best. Mother knows best, even if she isn’t technically qualified. We need institutions to help parents educate their own children.
Having said it, reality steps in, and reality generally bites.
We must have alternatives for families that simply cannot homeschool. We need schools. We also need the Federal Government entirely out of it. The Fed should have no say, no funds, not departments, no standards, no goals, no say at all. The standard we hold for state and religion should be exactly the same for state and education.
We also need freedom for every individual. No compulsion. No coercion. No truancy laws.
Children are citizens, not property of the state. Not property at all. Children are to be protected by the law, not used or coerced by the body politic.
While Di Cintio writes well and describes well, it is impractical to explain giftedness and the needs of the gifted. In short, it takes one to know one. (Of course, nearly everyone can tell when he is being taken. While the truly gifted, with exceptional IQ, are difficult to understand, there is no justification for granting them extraordinary rights or power. Plato was wrong if he thought the philosopher-kings could be lifted above corruption by training. Power corrupts. It is an absolute.)
We really owe it to ourselves to figure it out. The story of young-Albert the misfit is widely know. Where would humanity be with Einstein? Some of our greatest minds were problem children.
We need our problem children. Many of them are the great minds that we need to help us move forward and better ourselves. All of them are worthwhile, with their own unique loveliness. All of them.
Our potentially great minds often have particularly fragile hearts.
We need to mind these hearts, but the statement, “Unless their heart is intact, no learning can happen,” is a statement true in all circumstances. It is also true that there are some other deeper needs that must be met before learning can happen, like sated hunger and basic security at home.
Schools deal with hunger, but inadequately. School is a poor and inadequate means for addressing hunger. Even more so, schools simply cannot address the needs of the home. There is no hope for improved test-performance in grade schools were most children are from broken homes. And, there is no easy answer to this problem. It must start small, and it will be long, very long relative to the needs of a child today. There is no simple nor grand solution. It is a battle that must be won with love, one heart at a time. I’ll add that I think it is mostly a problem we must address with men, and a boy is the only thing from which God can make a man. One at a time.
My writing here is about giftedness and the worth of every child, not daddies, or the lack of daddies, nor about radicalized feminism and the ill-advised war on masculinity that seems to pervade our society.
We fight for progress at the expense of tradition. That doesn’t work. Progressivism fails every time. Conservatism fails if taken to extreme. So, we must find balance. We must embrace the new while cherishing the old. We must build new institutions while respecting tradition. We must esteem heritage while learning our world as it is today. We must acknowledge that we are all different, and we all have different abilities and different needs. Of course, as I’ve tried to emphasize above, we all have the same basic needs. We are all the same before God. We must accept that one-size does not fit all. We actually need segregation (well, groupings) by innate, self-defining characteristics, such as ability, interest, and temperament. (We must never let ourselves regress to defining anything by externals.)
I know this, solutions do not lie in politics. The government cannot fix any of this. We must have more freedom, not more government. More autonomy, not more regulation. More local solutions, not more standardization.