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Acceleration for gifted students - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Acceleration for gifted students
I'm watching L&O:CI, and the plot deals with a genius child who was applying to a college program, and they've just discovered that he's horribly depressed and suicidal, and his father just oppresses him and so on and so forth.

And I'm thinking, just once, can they have the messed up kid be the one that they kept holding back for "socialization" reasons rather than challenging him and letting him fly? It's not like there's not already a huge social stigma against acceleration--it doesn't need any damned help. Kids can accelerate academically without being suicidal angst machines.

I am, of course, not at all bitter about this. I just loved being bored to death at school. Made my life.
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From: anatomiste Date: May 10th, 2006 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
One of my dearest friends, probably the most intelligent person I know, was held back in school for socialization reasons. By his parents. And he is (and was) horribly depressed, and certainly being held back had very much to do with it.

I'm not even sure that I know anyone who suffered psychologically from being accelerated.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure there are cases, but honestly, I've never met someone psychologically scarred by it either.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: May 10th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Suddenly, I'm reminded of Screwtape Proposes a Toast
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: May 10th, 2006 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Accelerated classes were basically my only social life. The same group that was doing the ... what did we call it? Don't remember ... gifted work in first grade was together in the Special Group (no, that's not the right thing either, but I totally can't recall) in third grade and Young Scholars in fourth through eighth, and then accelerated math from eighth grade on. And they were really my whole social group.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
God, yes. The gifted kids all stuck together for dear life. If it hadn't been for OM, drama club, the writers' guild, band, chorus, and Friday nights hanging out with everyone, I think I'd have been absolutely raving by the time I was seventeen.
alchemine From: alchemine Date: May 10th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I find the socialization argument illogical. What sort of social experiences will a ten-year-old with the mental abilities of a college freshman have in a class full of other ten-year-olds? Not the good kind, that's for sure.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Bingo. The kid is never going to fit in socially--not with the other college students, either, but certainly not with the other ten year olds. Ideally, a class full of very gifted ten-year-olds is the way to go, but my own take is that, when that's not available (and schools keep cutting gifted programs), you may as well deal with only the social frustration, rather than having social frustration and intellectual frustration.
From: heartsncraftslb Date: May 10th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Hello there!

I'm actually wrestling with making decisions, albiet on a smaller scale, in terms of my own child's education. J is five and a half, and is what's known as "twice-exceptional": Highly gifted, with special needs (behavioral/emotional) as well. Academically, he's able to do work three to four grade levels above where he is, but due to his age and maturity level, he'll be going into a second year of Kindergarten next year.

It's hard to be the parent of a gifted child. Some parents see their child's performance as a reflection of themselves, and pretty much get off on their kid's brilliance. I figure my little guy has enough to deal with without my making him do tricks, like a trained seal. ;)

I hope we never have to deal with J being as bored as I was in school -- or as bored as you were, too, LOL. We're lucky in that our district's public Montessori K-6, with the gifted program also housed in the same facility, is both nearby and free.

It's a fine line to walk -- how much is what the child needs, and how much is what the parent thinks the child needs (or even wants)?

(And now I'm kicking myself for having missed that show, LOL.)

Here's to gifted kiddos! - LB
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
The trained seal thing can be fun. My mother was very concerned about not parading me around like a circus freak, but honestly, I wouldn't have minded hitting some national spelling bees and so on. (Of course, it's occurred to me since that we couldn't have afforded to do most of that, so maybe the kind excuse was better than, "Sorry, sucks to be poor.")
spelling bee - (Anonymous) - Expand
cleindori From: cleindori Date: May 10th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Seconded, thirded, fourthed all at once...why does fiction so rarely show gifted kids as being happy with their intellectual peers, either their age or older, in academic and social situations? And why do so many people not realise that holding a child back to keep them "socialised" with their age-mates means nothing and worse than nothing when their real peers are either in higher grades, or spread out at different schools because there are no gifted programs in their district? Or maybe it's just some sort of strange coincidence that most of my best friends, the ones that I stay close with even when we live across the country from each other, are the ones I spent a year in a gifted accelerated class with.

Yes, that's right, academic acceleration ruins lives. And stifling the natural creativity, curiosity, and intellect of gifted students, particularly the highly gifted and therefore more "different" ones, is the right thing to do. School isn't for learning all you can to the best of your ability, it's for learning that if you let people copy your homework, they'll pretend to like you for a little while. *rolleyes*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Or maybe it's just some sort of strange coincidence that most of my best friends, the ones that I stay close with even when we live across the country from each other, are the ones I spent a year in a gifted accelerated class with.

I have the same coincidence. danaedark, chienar, and the rest of our gang were all gifted program, arts-obsessed geeks. I was looking through my high school yearbook the other day, and reading our messages to each other. They all boiled down to, "Hold on, hold on... we've almost survived this. Sure glad we're here for each other."

I have no idea where this comes from. It's an old prejudice--it shows up at least as far back as Little Men, where little Billy was born a genius, but his father worked him so hard that he got brain damage (!).

And yeah. Heaven forbid school should be involved in intellectual development.
torturedbabycow From: torturedbabycow Date: May 10th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Although, in all fairness, I did somewhat enjoy my schooling experience - just not the incredible boredom. I do feel like being forced to socialize with the 'normal' kids my age was probably helpful; by the time high school rolled around, I'd pretty much got the hang of it. I feel like I could very well have ended up less well-adjusted if I went the crazy acceleration route.

However. I'm also pretty sure I've permanently lost some of the joy I could have taken in academics. In being bored out of my mind at school, I learned how to be LAZY. I did not, however, learn to deal with the frustration of not understanding things. Attempting my first independent research project as an undergrad (admittedly a project rather over my head - my advisor can probably take some of the blame for this too) has been really, really frustrating as a result. And did I mention the 12 years of BOREDOM?

Sometimes I just have to daydream about what if - could I have been like that 13 year old who's applying to my college? The youngest person to ever ____? I mean, you can't have your cake and eat it too, I guess.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I was totally not ready for college, because I coasted through high school, and junior high. Skipped classes, didn't do homework, because I knew the stuff and could test in my sleep. I got to college and it was this huge culture shock. I mean, yeah... it was fun to be the one who didn't need to work at anything, and I don't blame that on anyone but myself--there's no reason I couldn't have knuckled down independently--but it didn't exactly serve me well in later life.
From: underaloggia Date: May 10th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, amen to all of it.

I was supremely lucky not to suffer from either forced acceleration or socialized deceleration, and zoicks it was hard enough to negotiate that balance between being smart and being cool... Basically, I failed, and always ended up being the smart one that everyone kinda hated. Unfortunately, in retrospect I can't be that surprised--I was horrified recently when my best friend recalled how I used to correct our teachers' pronunciation...

BTW, Fern, I only use this journal to read fandom stuff, but I've started a different LJ which I'll actually post in, in case a) you'd happen to want to check it out [plug; grin] or b) there's any confusion and I ever post here as eulistes.
avendya From: avendya Date: May 10th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
(Got here via friends-of-friends)

As an acclerated gifted child, AMEN. I spend little time with my age-mates now, and I thank god for it. My friends are three to five years older than I and that's OK by me - that's who I fit in with.

Thank god my parents let me acclerate. I don't know what I would have been like if I hadn't.

*loves you for this post*
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2006 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, my own social experience is a little weird on this one.

OK, on the one hand, I'm LD-gifted. There's nothing like getting stuck in the next to lowest reading group because of your spelling while having the highest reading level of anyone in the whole grade (not an entirely bad thing, however. I spent ten minutes on the work and the rest of the class reading). My school wasn't going to promote me early regardless of what the policy was.

On the other hand, a lot of my LD falls into socialization skills. Now, if they'd TAUGHT socialization, I could see the point. However, school system in my experience are addicted to social Darwinism. If the weak members are cut of from the rest of the herd and brought down, well, that's the point of the exercise (OK, I'm a little prejudiced and I really don't function well in large groups, especially chaotic ones. Kindergarten was and will remain my idea of the worst circle in Dante's inferno). Anyhow, the whole socialization argument falls a little flat with me since I don't see schools as promoting it.

On yet another hand, my grandmother went to college at fifteen. She has very strong feelings against anyone else in the family ever doing the same.

I also knew a kid in high school who had a 160 IQ who was flunking all of his classes his senior year because he couldn't pretend to be interested in them anymore. He also attended religion classes after school hours, and that's where he had a teacher who realized what the problem was and FINALLY convinced his parents and the school (although I think it was mostly the school that needed convincing) to give this kid some challenging material.

Oh, but guess what? He'd gone through twelve years of school without ever having to work. When he got into coursework that actually challenged him, he didn't know how to cope. No, I don't know what happened to him after senior year.

And, yes, I caught part of that episode and just turned the channel. Yes, there are parents who want to get their preschoolers into the right program to put them on the fast track to Harvard. Maybe some of them could be pushed to murder. There are also kids whose parents start training them for the NBA when they're two. Goodness knows what they'd do to get a kid there.

The difference is that we watch sports shows and admire atheletes. Most of us have played sports and, whether or not we were good at it, we probably accept it as normal that there are lots of people who love them. But when was the last time a school pulled all the students out of class to have a pep rally for the math students?

Sorry, ranting, and this is your space to do that.

From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel like I should add one of the pressures my grandma had was that she was very big on her friends in college NOT knowing she was younger than them, so I can see it depending on how child deals with that issue.

Also, if friends a child's own age are so important, there are other ways of doing it. There's scouts, baseball, and a dozen other things. Look, if you put a kid who's already five feet and weighs 120 lb of pure muscle in a boxing ring with a 60 lb kid who isn't four feet tall yet and that's the ONLY way you let them socialize, don't expect them to be friends. Even if they do become friends, don't expect it to be an equal friendship. For that to happen, you'd want to put them in a setting where size and muscle don't matter as much or working together on the same team where the small person still makes a contribution others recognize (and where maybe the big kid realizes size isn't everything and can even be a drawback).

It's the same with being gifted. Put the kids in an environment where the comparison is intellectual, and the heavyweight always wins.

riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: May 10th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Ditto on that. They wanted to advance me a grade in elementary school but didn't because I had a brother in the next grade up. As a consequence, I didn't really have to try at anything until an AP Biology class in high school. By then I was like, "What's this work thing?"
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: May 10th, 2006 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I suppose I'm lucky in that I am one of many gifted students at my high school. Sometimes it seems like everyone's father or mother is a professor of neurobiology or applied linguistics. We only have GATE here, and only in some elementary schools (not mine because it was Spanish Immersion, which is why I didn't transfer) and in one of our junior highs, and who's to say GATE is right for ALL the numerous intellectually gifted students we have here anyway? But we have so many Advanced, Honors, and AP classes all through our secondary schools that there was always plenty of options.
I can't think of a classmate of mine in advanced courses who is desperately unhappy because of them, but we (as in the students) all agree that our parents have an acceleration fetish in Davis. "Davis Parents" want keep their kid going, going, going, from soccer to Youth Symphony to Math Modeling and heaven forbid they slip from a perfect 4.6 GPA. It can be a bit oppressive at times, but on the other hand, you're more ostracized for underachieving (or even average achieving) than for overachieving.
As to socialization, I skipped a grade and sometimes I forget it and sometimes I feel my age rather strongly. I'll never get to sign myself out of classes and I can't legally drive people until I'm seventeen and a half (or, after I graduate...curses). I don't get to vote this year either. Other than that my skipping-a-grade is almost a non-issue *shrug*.
other_girl87 From: other_girl87 Date: May 11th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, and none of your friends care (or even notice very often) that you're younger. But I've always been bored in class, and even GATE didn't do me any good. I actually had a very bad experience with that, but it was mostly because I came into the program in the middle of it and everyone had already formed cliques. I was...well...not welcome. But I do think that children should be challenged - if there's no accelerated program, or if it doesn't work for them, they should be challenged at home.
tartanshell From: tartanshell Date: May 10th, 2006 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Kids can accelerate academically without being suicidal angst machines.

Amen! I started college when I was 14, and while I did end up being a suicidal angst machine for awhile (senior thesis + mono + extracurricular stuff out the wazoo? ow!), it had nothing to do with being in college. In fact, were it not for the fact that (for the first time in my life, thanks to being "the smart loser" in elementary and junior high) I had good friends, and I had a life (music and stuff), and I loved my classes, I probably would have been much more angsty and depressed. I don't think I could have handled high school.

Our society is so scared of smart people, though. There is a huge social stigma--"geniuses" (however you define that) are scary. No matter how much parents might hope for a highly gifted child, I think half of them are probably scared to death that they'll actually have one. Being on the honor roll is fine, a good achievement, but say to someone when you're 16 that you're a junior in college, and automatically, you're as "different" and "threatening" as you would be (to Average Joe) if you were physically handicapped or retarded. The conversation just dries up.

And I think that's where what you're talking about comes in. People want to think that highly gifted people who skip one or several grades must have been forced to do so, can't fit in, must be these little robots who are under incredible pressure from their parents. I think the idea that some people do very well with this kind of challenge and do fit in is too foreign. Too threatening. People want to see the very smart kid fail. Because what happens if there really ARE kids who could kick your honor roll student's ass academically, without batting an eyelash?

I think the "acceleration leads to angst and failure" idea makes everybody (except gifted kids who are bored to tears in the grade they "belong" in) feel better. And it sucks.

Sorry to rant! I get worked up on the issue, too. Particularly when I tell parents of gifted girls about the awesome program I went to, and they say, "But if Suzie skips high school, she'd miss HER PROM." *sigh*
akashasheiress From: akashasheiress Date: May 10th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having people look at you incredolously because you can't do a simple math equation isn't easy either. Someone said I was Gifted once, I think they're wrong.

But, yeah, I get what you're saying.
From: octobersnow Date: May 10th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quick comment. Socialization for the non-accelerated gifted in my experience: Making 'friends' that are only using you for help on their homework.

That was a fun lesson to learn. The reveal that these were not really my friends was so embarassingly public, that I still remember it to this day (13 years later) as one of my worst moments.
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