Gifted Children

In Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds, Jan and Bob Davidson deliver a scathing attack on the American educational system which leaves the nation’s most talented youth behind in order to use schools as an “equalizer.”  Anecdotes of gifted students who become depressed, opt out, or try to hide their intellect in order to fit in are horrifying reading. 

How can we wonder why the US educational system lags behind that of other countries if it is “not cool to be smart” in our culture?

Liz Perelstein


7 Responses to Gifted Children

  1. airb says:

    I am a gifted child and sometimes I do feel depressed.(then again, doesn’t everybody?) It seems that depressed people are often smart or gifted.

  2. jarc08 says:

    I definitely agree! This “not cool to be smart” (as you put it) is absolutely bogus! I remember when I was in grade school and I honestly always did as I was supposed to (my parents were and still are extremely strict). I got TORTURED in schools from the “popular kids” that could barely even spell the word “smart”! I was always teased for being the smart one and always carrying all my books home and always getting excellent grades! Are those students that teased me kidding me?! So I cannot be “popular” because I do the right thing, study hard, get excellent grades and STILL balanced my social life! No, that’s not “cool”, what’s “cool” is to fail out of school, get horrible grades, drink and party when we are underage and should be at home studying, and then not get in a good college which then leads to NO CAREER!

    Thank you for posting this blog! Unfortunately it’s apart of U.S. these days and it’s almost impossible to make students think otherwise!

  3. Rob says:

    What can I really say about this? It is a fact. However, only some people actually have this attitude- most people don’t. If you’re dealing with this problem, just stay away from the kids who have this attitude. Make sure that your friends are ones who like you for who you are, who recognize that your intelligence is a gift. Also, know that a lot of these kids who might be teasing you are doing it because they’re jealous- they wish that they had the intelligence that you had.

    In retrospect, although it’s a problem, it’s easily manageable. It’s just that some students need to know how, and need to know that this attitude is not correct.

  4. findingschools says:

    Responding to airb’s comment, I just finished reading the May 6, 2008 issue of the upper school student paper from a private school in Seattle. (Many would consider the school to deliver the premier college prep program in the Northwest. Students are academically gifted.)

    The article, “Students mental health issues,” reveals that 37% of students interviewed suffered from depression. In response to the question “Why do you think mental health issues are so prevalent?” on student wrote, “Everyone here is so invested in high achievement, we get incredibly competitive. We all begin to feel pressured by parents and teachers and peers. We get incredibly stressed.” There was the clear sense that students felt the need to meet unreasonably high expectations in academics, sports and extra-curriculars. 78% said that perfectionsim was a reality for them. Most respondents said that they would not be inclined to consult a school counselor because it was awkward to talk to adults and it would be “weird talking about things that are bugging me with a faculty member.”

    Students observed that at least two factors contribute to their depression. One student mentioned that high intelligence itself may lead to a predisposition to psychological disorders. He writes, “I wouldn’t say we’re geniuses, but we’re pretty close. Intelligence brings a few burdens . . . which lead to psychological problems.”

    The second factor is simply the net effect of having so many capable students in one institution. The same student adds, “Get a lot of intelligent people together, many of them overachievers, and you are going to see some cracks pretty fast.”

    In this educational setting it is “very cool to be smart,” so much so that some students may be driving themselves crazy in the process of getting a high school education.

  5. findingschools says:

    Regarding an alleged nefarious plan by the American education system to function as a “great equalizer” in an attempt to foster wide-spread mediocity, this is simply the result of a system functioning without adequate resources. American public schools can, optimistically, educate about 70% of students well. The group “in the middle” is the best suited to success in this system. Students who fall into the other 30%, above or below average, will not have their academic needs met. At least certainly not in the “mainstream” classrooms. This is not some plot to short-change these kids. It is simply that with a limited amount of resources, most of the educational emphasis will be directed at the most common group of learners: those in the middle.

  6. findingschools says:

    I am curious about the group for whom it is “not cool” to be smart. We observe significant numbers of public high school students pressured, whether by overt or covert means, to carry a significant academic load. Their schedules are full of AP classes, as many as four or five per semester. Add on top of that required “community service hours,” sports teams, leadership commitments and clubs, music lessons – etc., and one has to be incredibly capable, super-humanly so, to be successful. The clear message is, “the smarter the better.” These kids are must flaunt – not hide – their intellectual capacity to fit in.

  7. KLM says:

    Gifted kids are “special needs” kids also – just on the opposite end of the spectrum. I don’t believe our public school system caters to this group of kids (my kids just get more worksheets). They are actually punished for being smart and grasping concepts quicker than their peers. My daughter recently joined the Science Olympiad program which allows students to compete statewide in a science “fair”. As she was entering her classroom in this afterschool program, other students called her a “nerd”. Smart kids need to be celebrated. I do agree that it is not cool to be gifted but it is cool to wear the right clothes or play sports (as some examples). Because of this fact, I am volunteering to chair our school’s Honor Breakfast which honors top students and their families. One of the few events a bright kid can feel good about! KLM

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