Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Whole "Gifted" Thing

So, I have been hanging out at Facebook quite a bit- to the detriment of my blog I'm afraid. It's so easy to splash up a sentence and skip over the whole paragraph thing...

Anyway, something that keeps hitting me in the face is that I'm just not all that special. Of course, I already knew that but what is also being driven home to me is that those other kids, the other ones that were in the special class with me... they're not all that special either. At least, not the ones on facebook. My mother always said that IQ was only part of the equation. The important thing was what you did with all that brain power. In fact, she claims that my brother has a higher IQ than I do. While I got a graduate degree and a job more white than blue collar, he did manage to finally get his degree from a less prestigious institution than I and then work a series of sales and blue collar jobs. However, of note is that he does love his current job and has acquired a number of skills associated with it and has climbed his way up to a supervisory sort of position. In fact, I would like to pause at this point to say...

Blue Collar Is Just Fine! No Degree Is Just Fine! I Am Not Better Than My Brother!

Well, I am better than my brother but for other reasons...

In contrasts, my husband has a very slightly lower IQ than I do (very slight, in fact, well within the standard variation and meaningless but I like to point it out anyway) but he has a Doctorate and is a Professor (with Doctoral candidates). I am more nimble linguistically but he has it all over me in math.

As for my classmates, they may skew slightly higher in the areas traditionally associated with higher intelligence- things like being doctors. But, on the whole, they seem to settle out roughly on par with the rest of my high school class. This is, of course, a skewed sample set, especially since the gifted class only went through 5
th grade, and, not everyone is on Facebook. We have a healthy smattering of teachers and engineers across the board as well as a few outliers like a wedding planner.

It makes me wonder what exactly is going on... If we had a school system that targeted highest achievement rather than adequate, would more of these "gifted" minds be doing more? Why is it that some children probably never were spotted as "gifted" but go on to such high achievement? Should we really bother to test at all but instead just look at the kids who stand out to the teacher for whatever reason? This is
certainly done in special ed. I had several students that were in my purview simply because of behavioral anomalies- intelligence-wise, they were completely typical. There was no terribly scientific way of quantifying that something was wrong but, when you begin to actually froth at the mouth and talk with your mother through the spine of your math book (and get answers) the general feeling is that, perhaps you could use a little "extra attention."

At the same time, I look at my children and see that they are likely quite bright. I say this as a person with a Master's in this sort of thing, not as a mother. As a mother, I would like them to be happy and pee pee in the potty- I don't care so much about their phonemic
awareness, startling linguistic developments and whatnot. But, as one who had memorize many a chart with expected times of milestones, I can say my kids are ahead. I suspect, that when raising them, it will be good to have this sense of perspective. It is helpful to know that no matter how bright, or not bright, they may turn out to be, that the numbers really won't ever mean anything much.

1 comment:

suzannah said...

i think you're right about how numbers just don't capture it all. i remember high-achieving kids in school who didn't meet the IQ bar who would have excelled in gifted classes, and then there were the slackers with the high IQs who took all the individualized attention and creative lessons for granted.

i was in gifted ed and my brother was not, and professionally, he's been considerably more sucessful than i was (at least financially), and he never even went to college. but really--who cares? are we happy? are we people who care about others? are we using whatever gifts and talents we each have in creative, fruitful ways?

(i appreciate your commenting on my post. it is definitely good not to feel alone. thanks!)