A G Bitch Education

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.

photo © Darren Hester for openphoto.net CC:Attribution-NonCommercial
photo © daniel jaeger for openphoto.net CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

This entry was posted in About a Bitch, Educate, Floats You Missed and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A G Bitch Education

  1. TM says:

    I like the way you think….
    Sometimes I wonder if I’m practicing reverse snobbery when I want to puke every time I hear “my child is gifted”….
    There are so many talented, intelligent and truly gifted children who are left to rot because of their circumstances in life. What a shame in a country as rich as ours.
    Looking forward to part 2.

  2. G’Bitch,
    I am in favour of this rant. When I was a kid, they put me in a boarding school, as they figured if they didn’t, I would end up in jail. My paternal unit had made some money for a while, that made this possible. It was a good move. Although, I was bored shitless much of the time, I learned good work habits. This was important.

    Neither of my parents went to college. I was raised in a single parent home, so money was always short. Sometimes, being with the ‘Bisto kids’ (rich, but thick), was hard when we could not keep up.

    After that, I went through ugrad on grants and by working. I then worked my way through grad school. I was smart and motivated by the learning, but could get bored easily. I see these kids in classes often. I love them — they have a fire, a passion. When challenged, they rise to the occasion. I did not have it easy. My mild dyslexia has been improved by spelling checkers, but I see so many kids in this neck of the woods who have so many other issues to deal with.

    I am not fond of the ‘gifted’ kids, and actually those people in general. The system which permits the buying of advantage is fundamentally wasteful. My Mother often comments how had I been in the school system now, I would not stand a chance. If these kids show up in my classes, those are the ones I will give the extra time and attention. Too often I see myself. However, what I really, really hate is to listen to the people who have not had it hard attempting to relate.

    Privately, for some years now I also have also held a theory that the straight A kids, are not real survivors. I do not trust them. Did they never run into a professor, or a required class that they just hated too much to do well in? Are they grade drones? Did they not ever have to work late for an idiot boss? I recently heard that some group of graduate Deans have now done a study. Apparently, straight A students do not do well in grad school — they have no recovery experience. Also, they tend not to do well in their careers, after grad school. This gives me some hope. So, I look forward to future rants on this theme!

    The Combat Philosopher

  3. GentillyGirl says:

    None of this is about talent: it’s about desires.

    I could qualify for many degrees that I could be awarded, and a Ph.D or so (but none of it), because I studied at home), but I never used a school to do these things. (I wish I could have, but times were different then.)

    “Gifted” means you understand the import and the need for your study.It’s not the parent’s choice, but that of the child’s

    Let your girl do what she has to, and you have friends against the Future, even if it just means me. Trust me… there’s always a way.

  4. G Bitch says:

    I recently heard that some group of graduate Deans have now done a study. Apparently, straight A students do not do well in grad school — they have no recovery experience. Also, they tend not to do well in their careers, after grad school.

    Combat Philosopher, you are quite right. What it takes to get straight As–largely obedience and a narrow focus–are not skills you need later. Who needs to know how to cram for a final in the work world? (OK, a few folks like diplomats cram languages but still….) What does obedience to a teacher (who may not be well-trained or very talented him/herself) give you in the work world but a mat to put on your back for your employer to walk on in comfort and style?

    Gentilly Girl, thanks. Your comments always soothe me. Part of the rationale in taking her out of La SPS is to allow her to find her passions, interests, gifts and her True Self. When I remind her she did 3rd grade (an accelerated one at that) in less than 6 months, she gets a glimpse of The Real Girl.

  5. liprap says:

    “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.” – Mark Twain

    Just thought I’d share…

    The problems with schooling in this country are waaaay bigger than the school boards, but they are certainly slapped with the unwarranted label of being “saviors” of one school system or another, when, in reality, all of us need to be the saviors of our kids’ education, as well as our own education…

  6. Clay says:

    What you say is true to a degree.

    I think the real gift of magnet-type schools is competition. I’m a Ben Franklin grad and I can tell you that I worked my butt off for whatever grade I got, be it an A or a C. Most schools, you can coast through if you have any smarts at all and get straight A’s.

    Also, you’ve got some SCARY-smart people at places like Franklin. I’ve got 2 friends at MIT. You can’t buy smarts like that.

Comments welcomed. Really.