Friday, December 2, 2011

The Lowest Common Denominator

First grade bored me out of my skull. My teacher was a dear, sweet lady known for her patience and the sea of jonquils that bloomed in her front yard on the ridge above town every spring. I was more than she was equipped to handle, and when I couldn't understand why she kept punishing me for drawing in the margins of my paper or singing softly to myself while we colored or such, I'd first go silent and angry, and then burst into wailing sobs. She'd set me in the hallway in my desk, where eventually, the principal, whose office was next door, would find me and bring me inside to tell him what I'd done this time. This was a pattern that repeated itself all the way through the third grade, until he became the superintendent.

What this taught me was that teachers play favorites, and they often dislike bright students, especially the hyper-intelligent. If the child gets bored, and begins to entertain him- or herself because the assignment was unchallenging and/or too quickly finished, the child is a "disruption" and a "problem". Nothing changed from Day One until the moment that I graduated from graduate school. Yes, I had a great many instructors who were kind, understanding, challenging, and who genuinely liked me, and I treasure every single one of them because they constituted the minority.

That's 'play' in the present tense because one of my friends is fighting with the principal of her youngest's academic magnet school for gifted students because the above-described is both her teacher's (as well as his) perception of the little girl's behavior. I can tell you what's happening; she's BORED. If this is allegedly an elite, academically-rigorous environment, clearly her intellect is not being sufficiently challenged. Instead of questioning their own shortcomings, however, the ignorati running this school have decided to blame the child. They're threatening expulsion. What's going to happen when she ends up in a regular public school, where she's at least a semester to a year ahead of the others in her age-appropriate grade? It will exacerbate her ADHD, that's what.

It is neither moral, professional, ethical, nor fair to behave in this manner; they're playing dice with this child's future. That this principal dared look my friend in the eye and say he did not know what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was is nothing short of criminal, let alone stupid to a quantum degree. He holds a doctorate from a (granted, fourth-rate) College of Education at a regional university, and yet he is unaware of ADHD? He needs to be stripped of all of his degrees and fired. That's not just irresponsible, it's dangerously ignorant.

The absolute worst aspect of this is that the child in question is about to be robbed of her self-esteem, dignity, and educational opportunity at the administrative equivalent of gunpoint...and it makes me weep that it's because she's not more sheep-like. Even for the brightest students, it's still forbidden to be nonconformist. I was always taught that the difference between democracy and communism was that democracy was equality of opportunity, and communism is equality of result. Apparently it's still not the case in public education. I'd make a crack about it being Tennessee, but given that a friend of mine went through this here in Kentucky (his child is interviewing at MIT this month) to such a degree that he moved to Florida to escape it, it's just not funny or appropriate.

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