An article showed up early last week that declared that today’s children just aren’t as intelligent as preceding generations. The concern, if I’m reading this correctly, seems to stem from an assumption that a child who does not score well in school or on a particular test can never be educated. This concern seems to assume that any number ascertained from a moment in a child’s life will accurately describe a child’s situation for all time. (I work with a mix of bright and average students. It may take some work on the part of the “average” student’s part, but generally I can find a way to explain the material so that they are just as capable of succeeding their mastery tests as my “bright” students. But I’m in a very lucky situation where it’s a small student to teacher ratio.)
This was in turn followed by an assertion that only those with high IQs should go to college while everyone else should focus on vocational school. (I had a good laugh at this one. I have a high IQ. I aced AP Calculus in high school and then turned around and failed Physics I in college. It had more to do with not being able to reconcile the fact that my professor, TA, and textbook were all saying different things than anything else.) On the other hand, the article did point out that there are alternate ways to acquire valid experience. It’s just too elitist in how it states it (for my taste, anyway.)
The third article goes back to the lower levels of education by giving us the statistics on federal aid given to developing the skills and talents of “gifted” children. The thought here seems to be that by taking the time to make sure children with lower IQs have a fair chance to master basic skills and knowledge, the children with higher IQs are left to atrophy when their own abilities should be cultivated, too. (The article also suggests at one point that “gifted” children, of which I was one, don’t bother to challenge themselves academically because they get the ego strokes they require on a more basic academic track. Please my above notes for my own feelings on that matter. I always took what looked interesting to me, and even if I didn’t do terribly well at it, I kept at it until I understood it. I have a few friends and coworkers who tell that makes me a rarity. I think it just makes me naturally curious and persistent.)
Fortunately, these three articles are presented as opinions. While I can respect this person’s take on the situation with our education, as a gifted person and a teacher, I think the author is off-base. I’ve seen kids who couldn’t do a simple addition problem go on to lead incredible projects in one of their recreational activities. I’ve known students who couldn’t name a single element off the Periodic table who spent part of their year in camps and workshops for talented youth musicians. Maybe the student is weak in one area, but they more than likely have another area where they shine. To shut them down as hopeless because they can’t pass one class, because one test said they probably couldn’t do anything, robs that child of any chance to become the best person they can.