Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gifted & Talented or Special Needs

Thomas Sowell talks about how smart kids get shortchanged and a pioneer who was their champion here.

I've noticed in my short time as a parent and my getting longer time on this earth as an adult who was public-school educated, that the Public Education system is barely adequate for students who fall into the mean. But the kids who are outside "normal" receive what truly can be called a "soft form of bigotry."

My "special needs" son is expected to be slow, stupid and incompetent--a perspective that I challenge the teachers on almost daily (the kids have been in school four days now and I have talked to, in person or on the phone, an educator every one of those days). The sincerity and desire of these people I don't question. But I believe they get lost in the trees and fail to see the jungle. His incremental progress on handwriting, for example, obscures his gifts in reading and math. Those talents shouldn't be let go while his handwriting catches up--that could take two years and by then he could be typing!

Marcus Buckingham, formerly of the Gallup Organization, hammers away on this same problem in the corporate world. Don't just try to shore up your weaknesses. They are likely to be weaknesses forever. Build on your strengths. And I'll add one thing: hire for your weaknesses and forget it. We have done that at our office. Our assistants are total opposites to us and help us in our blind spots. I could work on my lack of detail orientation, but why do that when I have someone who is gifted at it?

On the other hand, children like my daughter, for whom every intellectual pursuit is easy, faces considerable "soft bigotry" as well. She must wait..and wait...and wait for those who must work harder to get the same information. We have tried to mediate this problem by placing her in school at the youngest possible age. She will be 17 when she graduates high school or younger. We may change her academic venue when she gets a little older. We'll see. Even the GT programs in the public school lag behind the elite prep schools but they don't come cheap at $10-12,000/year...for elementary school. In the meantime, she enthusiastically learns quickly and blows through her work. Let's hope she keeps her enthusiasm.

Anytime you put 15-30 unique kids in a classroom a communistic process occurs. Everyone ends up being a different variety of poor, but they are all poor. Schools are huge beaurocracies created to feed the beast not the children.

School privatization would change this. Send your kid to a school that suits his or her needs. Bring competition to the table. The bad teachers and schools would die out. Certain schools would have waiting lists. Get rid of tenure. Where in the world but in education are you guaranteed a job regardless of ability (besides the court system, that is, and look at that mess!)?

Every child is unique. While some flexibility must occur because of the nature of group dynamics, a child shouldn't suffer because his gifts or lack thereof fall outside the mean.
More blogs about the woodlands rita.