Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Sometimes I shoot my mouth (or keyboard) off and get myself in trouble. I once made a crack about how bogus I thought the whole school labeling idea was, either here or in response to another writer's post. The gist of it was that I didn't believe specifically in the gifted label. After looking at the content of AP classes, it seemed the so-called advanced placement courses contained the kind of work that should be expected of all students. The kind of studies that were commonplace way back when. Nor did I subscribe to the "everybody's gifted" line of thinking. Sure, everyone has strengths, but the term "gifted" should be reserved for the true prodigies: the three year olds composing and performing their own piano concertos, the seven year olds attending college, the ten year olds with PhDs in nuclear medicine. Many children are smarter than the average bear, but to deem them all "gifted" diminishes the achievements of those who are truly outstanding. Like Syndrome says in The Incredibles, "...Everyone can be Super! And when everyone's Super... No one will be."

Well, this ruffled a few feathers.

Some people may have felt defensive because their child was labeled as such, and of course we all like to think our children are extraordinary, but to me, the impartial observer, the child was, no doubt, very bright, studious, and curious, but certainly not a genius. Unfortunately, thanks to our educational system, the general population has been dumbed down so much, that this is what passes for extraordinary these days: above average. Our standards have been significantly lowered.

Sour grapes, perhaps? You might have said that at the time. My child didn't wear the label, maybe I was just jealous. Now however, I can state it with absolute conviction. Today Gracie, my very bright, curious, middle daughter was tested by the school board's special education expert, and despite running a fever with her second case of strep throat in one month -- her teacher called this morning and asked that she not stay home as we had decided yesterday, because she had forgotten about the special appointment and rescheduling was nearly impossible -- scored in the 98th percentile. So she is officially "Gifted." What does this mean for us? Essentially nothing. Her present school does not offer a specific program geared to those types of students, although the teacher is able to work one-on-one with her pupils, allowing them to pace themselves. It was more of a hedge. If public school was to be in her future, she could at least be assured of acceptance on the Alpha Track at the less than mediocre neighborhood middle school or at the gifted-only K-12 charter school several towns away, the benefits of which are merely that you generally have fewer disciplinary problems with those students. Is the education any better? Maybe, compared to what the general population would receive. Better than what I could provide? Doubtful.

Considering that gifted classes seem to be on the chopping block in that good old egalitarian spirit, the one that says not only should everyone start out on equal footing, but everyone should finish on equal footing, the one that is eliminating the honor of naming one student valedictorian, this may be a moot point anyway.

I am sticking by my statement that the label represents bright, curious, above-average students. The students that should be the average have been elevated to this higher status due to the lowered status of the majority.

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