Why Gifted Children Need Attention.

In this past Sunday’s Boston Globe, there’s an article called The Poor Neglected Smart Kid, which is fittingly brilliant. In my opinion. It is also sadly a bit polarizing, in my opinion, but more on that later. There are tons of theories out there today about learning and teaching and why our schools need help, and some of them are interesting. The problem is that these theories apply to average kids. Not kids with learning differences, as I like to call them. And being gifted is a learning difference in the sense that gifted children need just as much attention as children with other labels do. Now before you attack me and tell me that I am wrong, I should say that I am speaking from personal experience. I was labeled in first grade. As gifted. And being gifted was a painfully isolating experience, not making my natural shyness any better. Often being the youngest and shortest kid in my class did not help my social skills develop. I imagine that feeling isolated because I was bored out of my mind in sixth grade English class because I already knew all of the material is not unlike the feeling students who don’t understand the material at all, and are therefore bored, experience. It would be oversimplifying things to say that we are at two ends of a spectrum. For me, being gifted meant better than perfect grades in English up until a certain point, but I probably could have used help in math even in elementary school. Not only that, I am mildly dyslexic and I probably have ADD. Investing more federal funding in our nation’s gifted children would be fantastic, as they are our most promising hopes for the future, but it’s not all about the money. I didn’t need to sit in English class and be bored. Some of that time could have been spent with somebody willing to tutor me for an extra fifteen minutes in math, and that would have been using a resource many schools already have if they are properly structured. But they aren’t, and that’s why our educational system is failing. A lot of people have seen our country’s future in STEM careers, and that’s why there are charter schools popping up everywhere geared toward subjects such as science. This is why I find that article polarizing. It mentions how in some countries in Asia, schools screen for gifted children, only to train them for STEM careers. And that’s fine for some people, but not for people like me, who are naturally more creative. The article does not mention how gifted children are best supported and helped by the government. Maybe the answer is that they are not, just like here in our country, on a federal level, we are barely doing anything to find out how our gifted children are best helped and supported. For me, thinking about these things is bittersweet. I believe that if my early childhood education had been better, if I had been challenged where I needed to be challenged and helped where I needed to be helped, my life, even today, would look a whole lot different. I believe that I am a creative genius, and I’m not sure enough was done to help me develop that natural talent. I don’t think we should be pushing our kids into STEM careers. Our country needs engineers and scientists and all that, sure, but don’t we also need good journalists and authors and philosophers? What about musicians and artists and photographers and chefs? And architects and designers and actors and historians and librarians and anthropologists? Math and science are great, but they’re not for everybody. I want to know what we are doing to help our children, gifted and otherwise, achieve success later in life by allowing them to explore all sorts of subjects, early in life, and at a level appropriate to their own specific development. Sadly, I think our educational system has a lot of catching up to do.

- Let’s talk schools. I think there is potentially a lot to be said for private schools, but personally, I wouldn’t really know since I didn’t attend one until college. I think sometimes parents send their children to private schools for what I believe are good reasons, such as public schools in the district not being able to deal with a child’s learning difference appropriately. There are other reasons parents send their children to private schools, such as family tradition. I think that the school should fit the child, the same way when young people choose colleges and universities, they are looking for the proper “fit” for them. Public schools have a responsibility to serve their students individually and as a whole, and yes, the system is broken, but that doesn’t mean that private school is the answer. Not all private schools are created equal, the same way that not all public schools are created equal. And now we have the charter school, which claims to be accountable to its charter, but in reality, these schools are overall no better than public schools. Personally, my opinion is that charter schools do a disservice to our society because they offer parents an easy way out from expensive private schools or broken public schools. But charter schools are often no better. The staff is no more qualified, sometimes even less. Also, many of these schools are focused on math and science. This is a new thing, and sadly, it makes me think that our country is turning into the Soviet Union. We’re pushing our children into STEM careers, but why? We should not be taking that choice away from our children.