18.12.13

THE SYMBOLISM MATTERS.

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews asserts "geniuses don't need gifted education."
Our schools have more than they can handle in helping other students become fully functioning adults. There may be something to the view that socially awkward geniuses need a safe place to be weird, but the better approach is to focus on stopping bullying of all kids. Public schools are mostly successful at finding people who know how to teach English, math, history and science, but we don’t know how to encourage creativity very well and might find it better to let the gifted do their own exploring.

Like any journalist, I have interviewed many bona fide geniuses, because they tend to make news. Their life stories suggest that such people are best left alone to educate themselves, as long as we make sure that they can get to all the riches of our culture and science and that we don’t require them to take grade-level courses that hold them back.
Yes, inculcating the habits of the middle class is probably the best public service the common schools can provide, and yes, there is plenty of room for improvement.

On the other hand, reverting to the old formula of skipping grades exacerbates the social isolation of the clever.  And emphasizing the teaching of calculus senior year, physics junior year, and proper literature beginning in the seventh grade, with a view to producing rocket scientists and medical researchers and creative writers, even if in the service of national goals such as landing on the moon or developing cancer drugs, lifts the tone for everybody.  We have to look no further than the failed rollout of the health exchanges, partial responsibility for which must be laid off on the common schools leaving the geniuses to their own devices, without structure or recognition.

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