I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It was a star before it was Harry's godfather's name

Last night we attended a demonstration about star-gazing and, when it was dark enough, we all went out and looked at Saturn, Mars, Sirius, and Betelgeuse through some really great wide telescopes. I am personally so blind to the distinctions among any of them thangs up thar that I can't find the big dipper without help. So, I am always amazed that anyone actually can.

The evening was sponsored by our school district's gifted program. And I am grateful for it, even while I am increasingly embarrassed that our gifted program is the worst kind of gifted program.

A "gifted" designation should be handled like a handicap, by which I mean, high IQ should be accomodated in the same quiet, mainstreamed manner as another challenge. As much as possible, there should just be a subtle shading of complexity and volume without a lot of fuss. It's not a reward. It's not an honor society.

Here's what a gifted program should not be -- a chance for elite parents to perpetuate their own privilege by gobbling up the resources of the school.

Here's what it should not be -- carte blanche for kids who aren't necessarily any better behaved than their peers.

Here's what it should not be -- a chance for parents who spend a lot of time, energy, and money giving their kids a leg up to congratulate themselves on the native intelligence of their well-coached sweeties.

It should not be fun field trips that basically send the message you're so far ahead you can afford to coast.

And it should definitely not be your career track or the pool from which you are encouraged to choose your friends.

I remember at the orientation for my step-brother's gifted program, a student asked what should I tell my friends who have not been invited to participate. The man replied, "You could say, 'You're good at other things, like sports.'" Well, now, as my step-brother was one of a handful of Black students in a really old-school burg, h*ll if we were going to turn down the chance for him to stand out in a positive way. But it sure didn't feel good to perpetuate all that rot.

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