It’s making the rounds of gifted e-lists — check it out.
Here’s one interesting trail of snippets.
The author cites familiar researchers, like this one,
Leta Hollingworth noted that kids who score between 125 and 155 on IQ tests have the “socially optimal” level of intelligence; those with IQs over 160 are often socially isolated because they are so different from peers–more mini-adults than kids.
and this one,
Actually, research shows that gifted kids given appropriately challenging environments–even when that means being placed in classes of much older students–usually turn out fine. At the University of New South Wales, [Miraca] Gross conducted a longitudinal study of 60 Australians who scored at least 160 on IQ tests beginning in the late ’80s. Today most of the 33 students who were not allowed to skip grades have jaded views of education, and at least three are dropouts. “These young people find it very difficult to sustain friendships because, having been to a large extent socially isolated at school, they have had much less practice … in developing and maintaining social relationships,” Gross has written. “A number have had counseling. Two have been treated for severe depression.” By contrast, the 17 kids who were able to skip at least three grades have mostly received Ph.D.s, and all have good friends.
And then there’s this . . .
AS A CULTURE, WE FEEL DEEPLY ambiguous about genius. We venerate Einstein, but there is no more detested creature than the know-it-all. In one 1996 study from Gifted Education Press Quarterly, 3,514 high school students were asked whether they would rather be the best-looking, smartest or most athletic kids. A solid 54% wanted to be smartest (37% wanted to be most athletic, and 9% wanted to be best looking). But only 0.3% said the reason to be smartest was to gain popularity. We like athletic prodigies like Tiger Woods or young Academy Award winners like Anna Paquin. But the mercurial, aloof, annoying nerd has been a trope of our culture, from Bartleby the Scrivener to the dorky PC guy in the Apple ads. Intellectual precocity fascinates but repels.
which seems to reproduce the anti-intellectual attitudes the rest of the article critiques. Maybe that section is just poorly written/edited, but it seems to be equating “intellectual precocity” with “the mercurial, aloof, annoying nerd” pretty directly. (Plus, how does the fact that a majority of kids want to be the smartest support the preceding statment that there is no more “detested creature” than the smartest kid? Don’t those statistics just suggest that many kids would rather be smart than popular?)
Given all that, here’s what the author concludes:
But there is something to be said for being left to one’s own devices and learning to cope in difficult surroundings. . . . [Einstein] didn’t need a coddling academy to do O.K. later on.
[oh, well if it worked for Einstein no doubt it applies to gifted children everywhere . . .]
and finally prescribes
The best way to treat the Annalisee Brasils of the world is to let them grow up in their own communities–by allowing them to skip ahead at their own pace. [emphasis added]
The best way? There’s nothing in the article that gives any indication that the author would be able to make that determination better than the Davidsons, who’ve given piles of time, thought, and money to the issue of gifted education.
To be fair, what the author is advocating for, in his weird way, is better gifted education within the current system, especially allowing children to skip 3 or more grades. But how that leads to calling the Davidson Academy “coddling” (for those who favor cliques and fighting as part of the traditional “toughening up” experience of school, the article reports that kids still get that even when they are all in the top .1%) is beyond me.
I think the point was supposed to be that kids shouldn’t have to move to Nevada to get an appropriate education, but the author makes the bizarre choice to take a bunch of stories about families who found their salvation at Davidson and then insinuate that “the Davidsons simply created another kind of isolation for their students” and that “there is something to be said for being left to one’s own devices and learning to cope in difficult surroundings.” So the statistics about drop-outs and depression earlier in the article meant what?
[By the way, the title of the article: “Are We Failing our Geniuses?” Ah . . . nice word choice . . . that’s gonna win ’em over. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume a Time editor is to blame.]
If this is gifted advocacy, no wonder it’s going nowhere.