Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gifted Children and the Goal of Intellect

One of my children’s schools has a set of five educational Goals which they share with a network of schools across the world. The Goals form a mission statement of sorts, of how the school will guide its students to become full and active citizens. Each year one Goal is given special attention, and the school and students work to reinforce the principles within it. This year’s Goal is Intellect, so last week they launched the year with a non-uniform day on the theme. The children were allowed to dress up as anything that represented Intellect to them. The day was a great success and the children enjoyed using their imaginations to come up with interesting costumes and outfits. Among the mini-barristers and doctors, tennis professionals, Einsteins and Harry Potters an almost inevitable theme appeared.

A large number of children were dressed up as (in their own words) “nerds” or “geeks”, complete with oversized glasses and decidedly unfashionable clothes, hair and shoes. This didn’t surprise me, but it certainly disappointed me. In an event meant to show children how we should celebrate intellectual values, many of them had already internalised the message that being clever is a negative trait which invites ridicule from others. How can we expect gifted children to demonstrate their intellect in school when the prevailing attitude of their classmates is that being intelligent is to be doomed socially? I really hope that the school was able to use the costumes and what they represented as a “teachable moment”. If they missed their opportunity, I guess it becomes mine!

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