Rambling About “Gifted” Program(s) in School, I Guess?

I always get really cagey when the school sends one of the kids home with an “important” letter. Partially because they have a different idea of what important is. Their definition seems to be “anything sent home with your child.” Actual letters are pretty rare, but to a child anything in an envelope might qualify. So naturally when my middle child said their teacher sent them home with a letter, I was mildly curious.

I asked what it was about. The items of lesser importance are usually known to the children. Book fairs, field trips, fundraisers, that sort of thing they tend to be aware of. The “I don’t know, but the teacher said it was important” letter is somewhat more alarming. Especially if it accompanied my youngest. In that case I would assume it was a bill for damages. My wife said it was probably just a progress report, and she tends to know these things, so I let it go.

Well, it wasn’t. Wasn’t anything bad either, they apparently wish to test the child for entry into the gifted program and this apparently requires consent. I don’t know why you would decline, as I don’t see the harm in testing, but whatever. I very vaguely remember being tested myself. That was, well, a long time ago. Having been in the program during elementary and middle school, though, leads me to question a few things about it.

For one, I don’t feel that there was much particularly helpful in the elementary level program. I may have learned a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise, but not anything I feel was of long term value. Of course, we’re also talking about the early 90s, like 90-92. One of the lessons I do remember from that class was about the fall of the Berlin wall, but I was too young to really understand the significance at the time. At least they tried.

In middle school it became more of a mandatory AP class. It did afford a few unique opportunities, but on the whole it was just, say, a harder math class than everyone else got. As an adult I understand that is an opportunity, but as a child it doesn’t seem like one. Come to think of it, that class was also my second run-in with plagiarism.

The first one was in fifth grade and was perfectly fair, what I did was totally plagiarism. I took a short story, changes the names, nouns, and a few minor details, and turned it in. Pretty much textbook. The second is somewhat more of a grey area. It was a creative writing assignment. I did, admittedly, use characters from Star Fox to write something similar to what we now call fan fiction. I was called to task by someone who was a fan of Highlander because my story had a character who’s last name was McCloud, I guess? I hadn’t seen Highlander at the time and was mostly just confused because while I had borrowed the characters nothing he said about what I copied made any sense to me.

So I’m partly curious what, if anything, they have changed since then. I was also curious if those programs actually had any sort of correlation with better outcomes, but google was not being very understanding when I tried to look for that. It knew what I was asking about, but not what I was asking for. At this exact moment I’m not that worried about it anyway.

I actually don’t like talking about this topic all that much either. The whole idea of people being “gifted” carries a lot of baggage and connotations. Some people brag about it, some people lord it over others as though they’re somehow superior, and the “special” treatment only reinforces that idea. Even when it’s not the individual themselves, I’ve seen other children sidelined by adults this way.

As a result of how the continuing events of childhood played out, I often found myself in the weird position of favored eldest child/grandchild. I don’t believe this was intentional, really, they were just trying to be proud. My brother, though, who’s no less intelligent and capable than I am, was afforded none of those opportunities, none of that pride. I became some sort of perverse benchmark by which he was judged. I realize life isn’t fair, but was that really a price worth paying?

Either way, maybe I’ll get to see the new program, maybe I won’t. I apparently had a lot to say about it though, as I’ve gone on somewhat longer than normal. I’m gonna sign off and hit the publish button before I talk myself out of it, which I’ve been building up to slowly the longer I work on it.

Y’all take care, and remember, in my elementary school’s mock election in 1992, George Bush Sr. won instead of ol’ Willy Clinton. Ross Perot was at least on the list.

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