Tag Archives: myths about intelligence

Reaching Poor Smart Children

As our nation’s Supreme Court welcomes its newest confirmed member, Elena Kagan’s high school is in a turmoil over questions of diversity according to an article in The New York Times on August 4, 2010. Hunter College High School, for intellectually gifted students, has been ranked the top public high school in the country. Yet it has experienced a significant decline in numbers of black and Hispanic students served in recent years and debate over admissions policy has left a respected principal with no choice but to resign and faculty and students up in arms.

Justin Hudson was chosen by the faculty from among all the graduates of Hunter this year to be the commencement speaker. I read his speech in an attempt to better understand the emotion-laden situation. “I don’t deserve any of this…. We received an outstanding education at no charge based solely on our performance on a test we took when we were eleven years old. We received superior teachers and additional resources based on our status as ‘gifted,’ while kids who naturally need those resources much more than us wallowed in the mire of a broken system….”Justin told his classmates.

“We are playing God and we are losing,” he continued. “Hunter is perpetuating a system in which children who contain unbridled and untapped intellect and creativity are discarded like refuse. And we have the audacity to say they deserved it, because we are smarter than them. We have failed to inspire and uplift an entire generation of children. I am acutely aware of where I would be right now without (Hunter).

“I hope that I will use the tools that Hunter has given me as a means to provide opportunities to others … I hope that in the near future, (quality) education will not be a privilege for the few in this world.”

The problem is not Hunter High School, but the entire broken system to which Justin refers. When I was coordinator of gifted programs in the schools and later consultant for gifted programming at our state department of education, I stated that the ideal would be to eliminate my position. That could only happen if all students received a quality education. All children should be taught the skills of creativity in the regular classroom. All children should be able to learn as quickly and deeply as they are able. No child should be expected to wait for others to “catch up.” No child should be denied an opportunity based on ethnicity or economics. All children should graduate with the same curiosity and sparkle with which they started kindergarten.

My goal now for “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart” is to get it into the hands of poor children through community centers, day care centers, and other community connections. At the same time, I am preparing to submit “Color Me Smart,” the story of children from diverse backgrounds who had doors of opportunity opened to them through WCATY, for publication. I need to reach a broader market. What I can do and what Justin can do are tips of the iceberg. It may seem like I can’t make a difference, but if I don’t try and you don’t try, what are the chances that “schooling” will improve? Wouldn’t it be nice to have children NOT hide their talents in school because they are proud to openly use and develop those talents? Will we ever be first in the world in education again?

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Myths About Smart Children

When I looked at news and links from www.schoolinfosystem.org, I happened to click on an archived article that caught my eye. The headline: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Written in 2006 by two parent activists from the Madison Metropolitan School District, the article went on to say: “Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that ‘they’re all rich, white kids’ and that, no matter what they experience in school, ‘they’ll do just fine.’ Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.” Their bottom-line question, after quoting statistics that clearly documented that high achievers at the start of their school career were dropping out of school disproportionately if they were poor or from minority populations, was: “Are we really prepared to sacrifice so many potential scholars and leaders of color?”

I find it appalling that the answer still seems to be “yes.” Why can’t our public school system ask of EVERY student, “How far can this student go?” Children of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, this is one thing that should be the same for all: the recognition that they are smart when they really are! Smart children cross all economic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. More than that, there are more poor children than there are rich children. So if we ignore the poor children when we consider talent development needs, we are losing LOTS of natural talent. These are children who might one day find – and, I’d like to think sooner rather than later – the cure for cancer, the key to peace in the world, the economic policy or health-care plan that will work for poorer and richer, conservative and liberal alike.

Poor children need someone to tell them they are smart. If their parents don’t know it, their teachers don’t see it, and the school systems deny those teachers the opportunities and tools to see all children for their strengths rather than their deficits, the chances are that many of them will end up among prison statistics as well as dropout numbers. Research suggests that the approximately 20% of the incarcerated could be classified as gifted – that’s a statistic AND an economic drain on our pocket books that we don’t want to hear.