I was “lucky” enough, much of my life, to go to school with rich/privileged kids, mostly white kids, in magnet schools and a just-a-block-from-the-Ivy-League college. It wasn’t given to me. I was no charity case or bottom of the bell curve admitted for flavoring. I was smart, quick, sharp, all that and more and without the “best” of preschools, tutors, trips to Europe, music lessons, dance classes, speech training, test-prep courses, etc. So I knew what The Girl was feeling at La Schmantzy Private School and in the car one day, I told her something like this about my experiences going to school with that category of kid: they were admitted, classified as “gifted” or “accelerated” or admitted to magnet schools or rigorous academic programs because they were prepped, tutored, pushed, crammed full from day one with as much as possible to emulate the upper echelon, the top 5 or so percent—typing lessons in 1st grade, senior year theses, occupational therapists for handwriting, college-application-padding multiple clubs and varsity teams and class trips—that I rightfully belonged to without being prepped beyond the gills. Like The Girl, I could read it once and get a B (and go read something else or wander library shelves and really learn some shit) without being tutored, without aiming for the highest A to have the highest A, without feeling a rabid bull of You’d Better breathing on me. I learned not because it was what I was told to do and expected to master in order to go to law/medical/graduate school and get a job as good as or better than my parents to maintain a lifestyle but because I loved it, because I wanted to know, because I cared, because I was insatiable. And that was the difference between me and them. I craved it. I sucked it up like air and never felt like I was trying to get through it to get to my life or fun or my new stuff. It was my food and sleep and nurture. I needed it, too, my ticket away from SMother and New Orleans and boredom and frustration and drug use just to have something to do with my mind. I deserved it. It wasn’t bought for me. I wasn’t preschooled and tested and tutored so I’d test high average (big fucking whoop) on the WPPSI and get into the pushy school with “high standards for our kids.”
And this is one of the fuels against gifted education—that it’s just for rich folks/the elite, for their kids to be separated and somehow made or seen as better and get more resources—and you end up with “magnet” schools that aren’t for the gifted but for those who can afford to, or can hustle up the resources or apply enough sheer willpower to, get their kids in one way or another, through neighborhood or private preschools or Sylvan or weekend classes or typing 35 wpm by age 8. Bright not-rich children are crowded out or never found and wither. Or apply their skills to “the streets.” “Gifted” is not the same as “academically prepared.” Gifted kids are not the dull automatons I went to Magnet High School or Expensive College with. Not all gifted kids get straight As. Some are so fucking bored they become dropouts. Though academically bright kids may be similar, there’s a huge range of giftedness and talent, some of which is not at all served in traditional classrooms and sometimes not even in so-called progressive classrooms.
I’m not (yet) calling for all-out class warfare. I want the idea that money buys intelligence squashed. Or at least seen for what it is—consumerism, not education.
End of part/rant 1.