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Mediocrity, thy name is school

By beejay76 - 26 October 2010 153

back to school

I would have thought, with an Honours degree under my belt, and having started a PhD, that there would be nothing for me to learn from kindergarten.

My eldest daughter started school this year, you see. Surely, with all that education, kindergarten in Canberra could offer me nothing more.

Well, it turns out not to be strictly the case. Sure, the reading, writing and arithmetic I’ve pretty much got in the bag, and the art and craft I can probably manage. It’s the philosophy I’m struggling with.

I would have thought that equality would be fairly high on the “values” agenda. The school certainly teaches a policy of a “fair go”, but it doesn’t seem to practice it’s preachings. Let me elucidate.

My daughter is gifted. She’s not the next Einstein and probably won’t cure cancer. She is, however, extremely bright. I’m astonished that the modern education system is at a loss as to how to deal with gifted kids.

Schools have come a long way with regard to learning support. Kids who are struggling, whether with disabilities or for other reasons have a swag of services at their disposal to help them get up to scratch. Parents have been the driver of this, of course, demanding services where once there were none.

However, although it’s taken as read that a child with an IQ two standard deviations below the mean needs special education, there’s absolutely no recognition whatsoever that the same might apply to a child with an IQ two standard deviations above. I find this grossly unfair.

Surely all children should have access to an education that is interesting, informative, engaging and appropriate? Average kids slot straight in. Below average have help. Why should the above-average be left out? This is hardly a “fair go”.

There is no real gifted program. They started an extension program in Term 2. It was 40 minutes twice a week. I thought that was pretty minimal, given that my daughter was bored in class for six hours a day five days a week. But after one term it dropped back to one day, as the teacher was ‘busy with other duties’.

I don’t know if it’s even happening this term. Imagine the furore if this was a learning support unit! Why should the gifted kids be getting this raw deal?

I think there are a few reasons. Firstly is that some people are unwilling to even admit gifted people exist. This is patently ridiculous. Intelligence, however you measure it, falls on a standard normal curve. The overwhelming majority within a certain band, with small numbers above and below. Those above are the gifted and the challenged. To deny it is just plain silly. I don’t think anyone would deny the existence of those with a developmental disability.

I suspect another reason is the ranking of schools. They may be highly motivated to get the underperforming students up to par, but those high-achievers? They are already cruising.

But I think the big one is our celebration of the academic mediocre. We’ve always had this tall poppy thing going on, but it’s getting out of hand. My daughter, and others like her, have never received any recognition of their outstanding academic achievements. The school simply ignores it. However, those who achieve at sport, chess or any non-academic activity are publicly lauded. They have swags of certificates every fortnight handed out to children (including my own) for things like “displaying caring”, or “recycling”. But as far as I know, none has ever received a certificate for academic excellence.

While I think sport, chess, caring and recycling are important, so is learning. In case we’ve forgotten, that’s what schools are actually for.

Celebrating a range of achievement is important. Supporting those with a disability is important. Recognising that we’re not all good at the same things is important. But also, recognising that some people achieve academically is important. Are we really so scared to recognise academic excellence that we risk stamping it out?

So this is what I have learned from kindergarten, 2010: achieve only where it’s popular to do so.

What’s Your opinion?


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153 Responses to
Mediocrity, thy name is school
Erg0 10:16 am 26 Oct 10

I learned a lot more about social interactions and dealing with people after joining the workforce than I did while at school. All that school teaches you is how to interact with your peers while both you and they are immature. This isn’t as useful in life as you might think.

In terms of the advantage of leaving college at age 17: one extra year of earning a full-time income, for a start. One less year of operating at well below your potential would be another perk. A year is a long time, it shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

Fiona 10:03 am 26 Oct 10

It’s all about inclusion these days, the mainstream class being able to accommodate and educate the whole range of kids, including extending those who need it.

So perhaps there are things you aren’t seeing that are going on because her teacher is including them in the main program?

johnboy 10:02 am 26 Oct 10

bright as a kid might be their physical and emotional development is unlikely to also be ahead of the game.

if they’re smart they’re already going to struggle to fit in, making them younger, smaller, and less emotionally intelligent than their peers will make it really hard.

When they’re 30 what will the advantage have been of finishing college while still 17?

JessicaNumber 10:01 am 26 Oct 10

Johnboy I couldn’t disagree more.

Beejay76, making bright kids “special needs” is probably giving them the wrong idea about themselves. Gifted and talented students are the reasons schools offer extracurricular activities. Take advantage of them, keeping her in something she finds difficult. For me that was music and a semester or two of weekly work experience in the primary school. I’m now a music teacher.

The most important thing kids learn from a good extracurricular programme might just be fearlessness in facing challenge and change.

Don’t be afraid to shop around schools even at the preschool/kindergarten level. It can vary a lot from one teacher and set of kids to another and even more with an independent curriculum. Try a bilingual school or one with strong arts focus if she doesn’t need as much time on her three Rs.

Good luck!

luther_bendross 10:00 am 26 Oct 10

I understand what you’re saying here, however the key word is ‘kindergarten’. Maybe they’re trying to teach her some intangibles like getting along with other kids and not looking down her nose at them. I do get your argument about equality and I get that you understand statistics. If my child was below par and I wasn’t getting the right environment at kindy, I’d find some extra-curricular activities to stimulate their needs instead of dumping my woes on the school. You are correct that gifted children should not be getting ‘the raw deal’, however this does not apply exclusively to gifted children. I’d also argue that these certificates that your daughter has not been the recipient of are issued for two reasons you’ve overlooked: 1. To encourage those kids who aren’t as amazing as yours; and 2. To show kindergarten-aged children that there’s more to life than academia, like sandpits, cleaning up and finger painting. I hope that as your daughter gets older that she receives the attention she requires, however I hope that in the meantime she’s allowed and encouraged to be a kid.

Erg0 9:53 am 26 Oct 10

Home schooling: it’s not just for cultists!

Seriously, though – after much campaigning by my mother, I was put straight into year 2 when I started primary school. If your kid’s truly bright then that might be the option for you. Extension programs can only take you so far, and I look at it as having given me an extra year in the real world that would otherwise have been wasted in school. Kind of sucked hitting drinking age a year after all of my friends, though.

p1 9:50 am 26 Oct 10

Do they really have special programs for the slow kids in kindy? (not the deaf, blind, or otherwise impeded, by just slow?)

As someone who on occasion got pretty bored at different stages of school, I suggest you teach the kid to immerse themselves in a good book.

PickedANickname 9:49 am 26 Oct 10

Hmmm my child’s public school (he is in Kindy) has much more than this on offer (awards for reading, maths, science and my son received a language award)and my nephew’s public school is linked in with Radford for gifted studies.

Honestly if your child needs extra stimulation you should probably do that yourself.

Kindy is much more about school readiness, friendship, the routine and socialisation. The foundations of school life. I wouldn’t be too worried that your child isn’t working on string theory yet. How are her interpersonal skills and relating to other classmates? Is she proactively seeking out knowledge by asking questions in class or volunteering to do extra projects?

Maybe you need to move to a better school district or look into a private school education.

Rangi 9:48 am 26 Oct 10

Thumper said :

(d) All of the above.

+1

Relax, teach her some extra stuff on the side if you are that worried

3Jane 9:47 am 26 Oct 10

[i]Supporting those with a disability is important.[/i]

Supporting those with a disability is patronizing and condescending, and it singles them out. What everyone needs is accessibility. It doesn’t hurt you to have to walk up a ramp, use a toilet cubicle with railings, or have Braille next to your lift buttons.

johnboy said :

The thing is the number one gift an education can give a gifted child is how to rub along with the dull slobs they’ll have to live the rest of their lives surrounded by.

But isn’t every Canberra child *gifted*?

la mente torbida 9:46 am 26 Oct 10

Summarised beautifully….both my daughters were gifted as well…education is 24/7

Thumper 9:43 am 26 Oct 10

(d) All of the above.

DeadlySchnauzer 9:36 am 26 Oct 10

Dude its kindergarten, get over it. Primary school is not about learning, its about interacting and socialising and running around and falling out of trees a few times. Be happy that your daughter can cope with the learning side easily and let her be a little kid. I’m sure she will get her time to shine when college/university rolls around.

Clown Killer 9:36 am 26 Oct 10

I’ll let you in on a secret. Every parent believes that their child is gifted and deserves better, closer, more attention then anyone elses. It’s a natural response born of 2.5million years of hominid evolution.

johnboy 9:28 am 26 Oct 10

The thing is the number one gift an education can give a gifted child is how to rub along with the dull slobs they’ll have to live the rest of their lives surrounded by.

Everything else they can teach themselves.

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