I came across an op-ed in the NYT from September arguing that, in America, there is too much focus on raising the floor (of education) and not enough focus on raising the ceiling. Meaning, there’s more focus on bringing up the “weaker” kids and not much focus on the “stronger” kids. I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, so during my formative years, I was in school in Ontario (Canadian education, from what I remember, is known for being better than American education).
The op-ed goes on to describe how it is for those young students who are really smart, but because they go to public school, are prevented from getting the kind of education that will challenge/inspire them. Again, I didn’t do my K-12 education the US, so all I’ve got to go on is what I’ve heard/read. I do remember seeing Waiting for Superman and that painted a rather dire picture for some States).
The op-ed’s main thesis is that there needs to be a focus on these high-potential kids. Because their parents didn’t have the funds to afford private education doesn’t mean they should be prevented from getting a solid education.
I think that’s an argument that most people would agree with — to some extent. I’d like to make a different point, though.
It might seem a bit clichéd to say that, “every child is gifted,” but this is something that I truly believe. How? We are all gifted in a different way. Some folks may be more talented in kinesthetic activities and some may be more talented in musical activities. I certainly think that we all have the capacity to develop these talents, but I also think that some folks are born with a predisposition to certain talents. (I don’t know that I agree with it fully, but Gardner’s multiple intelligences is a good starter for what I’m talking about.)
So, if we’ve got all of these predispositions to talents, how come they don’t necessarily show up? Well, I would argue that it’s nurturing. Parenting is a monumental responsibility. Caring for and nurturing a little being is one of the noblest things one can do. I won’t go too deep into parenting philosophy in this post, but suffice to say, I think a great deal of responsibility falls on the parents to nurture those talents within their kids (major caveat: like there are predispositions to talents, I don’t doubt that there are also predispositions to “non”-talents that might make nurturing a bit more difficult). I’m not here to criticize how some people parent, but I do want to emphasize that all children are talented. It may just take a little extra effort to ferret out those talents, if the child had not been nurtured in a way that allows the child to be comfortable/confident in those talents.