Sorry, parents of gifted folk! I was out of town for the weekend when you hit my blog in a 3-day tornado of fury. I’m back, and all your “you moron” comments have been approved. (Even if you keep posting in Tablet magazine’s comments section that I’m a big censoring doody, I do promise I wasn’t deliberately silencing you. Long weekend. That’s all. Put the paranoia cupcake down.)
And I had a really nice time in RI, thanks for asking!
Anyway, you’re right: I chose a jokey, inflammatory headline. Totes immachure.
And you’re right: I should have said that I believe there are profoundly gifted kids out there. And that I believe they deserve education that inspires and engages them. Because I do.
I live in NYC, where every white middle- and upper-middle class parent insists his or her child is gifted. And I maintain that the way our current system tracks our kids, in a racially and economically divisive way, is truly tragic. According to NYC, only a miniscule number of gifted kids in this city are black and Latino. You really think that’s true? Gifted programs abound on the Upper West Side; there are swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that don’t have a SINGLE ONE. In my city, some of the greatest resources of our overstretched school system are reserved for these kids who’ve tracked into gifted programs at age 4. To the vast majority of their parents I say: Cry me a river.
I think kids who don’t come from homes filled with books and words and good healthy food and sleep hygiene and privilege (and pushy parents like the ones I watched at our gifted school playdate) deserve good educations too. Their potential may not show up at 4, so they may not test into a tracking-happy system that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: You tested gifted, so you get a better education, and you do better in school.
And I think the privileged do not always realize how privileged they are.
But here, skip to this part: If your child is two standard deviations (or further) from the center of the bell curve of human intelligence, isolated in the sliver-thin supa-mega-brilliance zone, I say 1) YOW, and 2) YOU ARE SO NOT THE PARENT I’M TALKING ABOUT when I title a post “I got your gifted right here.” (Also, I should have said “right heah,” really letting my RI accent fly.)
But if you are the parent of a bright or very bright child, then yup, you may well be the parent I’m talking about. I wish you’d focus as much energy on making your child a community-minded, self-directed, reflective, diversity-respectin’ citizen as you do on trumpeting your child’s brilliance. I DO realize I am privileged in that my kids got into a great public school that values teaching to kids with many different learning styles at many different levels of thinking and reading and math-doing. I am grateful for that every day. And I realize that in many communities, the gifted program is sadly the least chaotic place to learn; I’m sure not gonna criticize any clueful parent who does whatever she can to get her kid into a safe school with adequate resources. But using our privilege to gain a place in a decent program within a broken system doesn’t let us off the hook in a big-picture way. ALL our school systems should emphasize good citizenship, multi-level instructional approaches, appreciation of diversity in all its forms, empathy, collaboration, individualized education and professional development to help teachers teach to different levels in one classroom and handle discipline and classroom management. Because that could help ALL our students, not just the white ones with label-obsessed parents who police the interwebs for imagined disses of their progeny.
Not YOU though. Your kid is TOTALLY in that 5% who is too gifted for even the best inclusion program.