John Cloud wrote a great article in Time this Month called Are We Failing Our Geniuses?The idea behind it is that we focus so much educational energy on the students on the low end of education that we don’t adequately address those at the high end. The stats Mr. Cloud provides are suspicious to me, but not completely outlandish. One that I completely agree with is that the US spends 8 billion on students that are challenged and about 800 million on the gifted. So for every dollar spent on a student with superior skills to their peers, 10 is spent on those that have skills below their peers. Mr. Cloud doesn’t mention it much but I would bet that most of the students receiving the funding for special education have society failings. What I mean is that I don’t necessarily think there is something biologically wrong with them, but rather, their support system isn’t present and that results in a sabotaged education experience. The people at the other end (the smart kids) usually have supportive parents and probably financial means. That might just be a fact of life.
The US educational system is set up to be a volume producer; churn out as many adequate students into society as possible and the sum of the parts will be more than individual pieces. But say you are Ford, you want to sell as many Taurus sedans as possible. You set up your line to be most efficient for that automobile and that car meets the needs of say 90% of the population. But you know that people don’t necessarily buy for need. A car is too expensive to be simply a commodity for the majority of people. So you brand Ford with other automobiles that you have no intention of making efficiently. They are premium cars that require premium prices – The GT. You must showcase that car. You must put it in optimal situations. But most of all, you have to let people drive it.
So what I am getting at? I propose a highly inefficient path for all students. This path isn’t all academics though. If the kids are truly brilliant, then they must apply it. I want every kid to have the chance to build something completely new and novel. I don’t really know how to judge new and novel, but I guess its like obscenity, I’ll know it when I see it. It doesn’t have to involve the general population, but working completely independently probably won’t allow the student to continually progress, just like in the real world. The children that can’t hack it go back to normal education, and every step along the path gets increasingly more difficult. I want it to be highly inefficient because the few that make it through will produce that premium that will pay for it. Kind of like the GT. The ones that get close will also add back to the bottom line for society. This is primarily where I differ from the article. It states that children with an IQ of 160 are gifted, but then goes on to say that they are socially isolated and egotistical. That doesn’t sound like a gift to me. Sometimes academics becomes academics for the sake of academics. Its like the guy who always says that someday he’s going to write his novel, but never does. But always talking like that allows this person to create an intellectual cocoon that no one can dispute because he scored well on tests. So you are smart, big deal, now go do something.