As a child, I benefitted from our board of education’s “enrichment” program. I got to leave class to do fun activities once a week, and spend a day with kids from all over the county once a month. We did science projects and word puzzles. I remember visiting the weather station in Wiarton once. We made friends and had crushes on all the “exotic” kids who were from some small town other than the one in which we’d grown up. But I spent most of my time in my own class with the kids who lived on my block, who were in my Sunday School class, who were born down the hall from me at the same hospital.
And I am very grateful that I had the opportunities I did through Trail (as our program was called). But I am also very grateful that I did spend most of my time in my “normal” class. I think that growing up with people with different interests and abilities is important. As I’ve continued my education, my direct circle of friends and acquaintances has become more and more educationally (and socio-economically) homogenous. What would I have gained if that streaming had started when I was 8?
All of this is one of the many reasons why I was so annoyed with the following paragraph in a Globe and Mail article about “gifted” programs for children: “Calgary parent Ralamy Kneeshaw didn’t want to wait until Grade 4, so she worked to get her son enrolled at Westmount in Grade 3. “They don’t become gifted at Grade 4,” she says. Her son was enjoying some extra attention at his old school in a “pull-out” program once a week, but it wasn’t enough. “He was only gifted for an hour a week. He loved that. But then he had to go back to regular everyday life.””
This parent has a completely skewed vision of what it means to be “gifted”. Her child is “gifted” all the time. Whatever intellectual capabilities have gotten him labelled as such exist no matter what kind of classroom setting he’s in. It’s the preferential treatment that he only gets once a week. And maybe that’s ok. A lot of life, even for those of us blessed with a superior intellect at the age of 8, as this child apparently is, is “regular everyday life”. I can hardly imagine that this parent is helping her son to be anything other than dissatisfied with it, if she expects his talents to be developed and catered to every minute of every day. A child who is raised to believe he’s too good for regular everyday life is not likely to turn out to be the kind of person we will want leading our next generation – an aspiration perhaps worthy for overly-involved parents of gifted kids?