Time magazine takes a provocative look at whether schools are not serving the needs of the smartest kids in society. The magazine asks “Are we Failing our Geniuses? and is generally referring to kids with IQs over 145, many of whom would need to skip three grades to be with their intellectual peers.
The article summarizes it best but also puts it in some pretty vicious terms. From Time.com:
“To some extent, complacency is built into the system. American schools spend more than $8 billion a year educating the mentally retarded. Spending on the gifted isn’t even tabulated in some states, but by the most generous calculation, we spend no more than $800 million on gifted programs. But it can’t make sense to spend 10 times as much to try to bring low-achieving students to mere proficiency as we do to nurture those with the greatest potential.”
“We take for granted that those with IQs at least three standard deviations below the mean (those who score 55 or lower on IQ tests) require “special” education. But students with IQs that are at least three standard deviations above the mean (145 or higher) often have just as much trouble interacting with average kids and learning at an average pace. Shouldn’t we do something special for them as well? True, these are IQs at the extremes. Of the 62 million school-age kids in the U.S., only about 62,000 have IQs above 145. (A similar number have IQs below 55.) That’s a small number, but they appear in every demographic, in every community. What to do with them? Squandered potential is always unfortunate, but presumably it is these powerful young minds that, if nourished, could one day cure leukemia or stop global warming or become the next James Joyce–or at least J.K. Rowling.”
“In a no-child-left-behind conception of public education, lifting everyone up to a minimum level is more important than allowing students to excel to their limit. It has become more important for schools to identify deficiencies than to cultivate gifts. Odd though it seems for a law written and enacted during a Republican Administration, the social impulse behind No Child Left Behind is radically egalitarian. It has forced schools to deeply subsidize the education of the least gifted, and gifted programs have suffered. The year after the President signed the law in 2002, Illinois cut $16 million from gifted education; Michigan cut funding from $5 million to $500,000. Federal spending declined from $11.3 million in 2002 to $7.6 million this year…”
The problem is just not about servicing these students intellectually but socially as well.
“Gael (Oswald), a math teacher, began to research giftedness and found that high-IQ kids can become isolated adults. ‘They end up often as depressed adults … who don’t have friends or who find it difficult to function,’ she says. Actually, research shows that gifted kids given appropriately challenging environments–even when that means being placed in classes of much older students–usually turn out fine. At the University of New South Wales, Gross conducted a longitudinal study of 60 Australians who scored at least 160 on IQ tests beginning in the late ’80s. Today most of the 33 students who were not allowed to skip grades have jaded views of education, and at least three are dropouts. ‘These young people find it very difficult to sustain friendships because, having been to a large extent socially isolated at school, they have had much less practice … in developing and maintaining social relationships,’ Gross has written. ‘A number have had counseling. Two have been treated for severe depression.’ By contrast, the 17 kids who were able to skip at least three grades have mostly received Ph.D.s, and all have good friends.’
I can’t pull any more quotes from the article so I encourage you to read the whole article if you have time. It is very interesting.
So here are my questions:
Do you think schools are screwing the smartest kids in our society? Should kids be able to skip two and three grades ahead to be with their intellectual peers?
What do make of the article’s contention that the kids on the low end of the spectrum are getting too much of the resources leaving the gifted kids out in the cold? At what level should we be spending on the lower-end spectrum? At what level of proficiency should they be brought up to?
Is it right not to spend of the less intelligent kids to spend more on the brightest?
What about the social and mental health implications: how can those needs be met for the highly gifted child?