Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homeschooling a Gifted Kid? You're Selfish!

I was pretty dismayed to read the article "Public Schools Lose When Gifted Kids are Homeschooled" (found via SmrtMama on Twitter). And then I was ecstatic when I read the comments in response to the article.

First, the article. After detailing many of the concerns and complaints that some parents of gifted children expressed on a Facebook group, the author chides the parents (emphasis mine):

If parents of homeschool kids kept their kids in public schools, gifted education would have a stronger base of much-needed advocates.

. . .

When parents take their children out of public schools, they may not realize that they are taking away the magical collaboration that is so essential to learning. Homeschool parents may not realize what their children would have added to the classroom. They are taking away the peers that their public school counterparts are seeking, and they are taking away the ideas their kids would have brought to class discussions. There is no way for the community to regain what is lost when gifted kids leave.

Public schools need the voices of these insightful parents. Gifted education needs the support of these dedicated parents, who research gifted education, who study best practices, who analyze what is happening and what works. Most importantly, gifted education students need their homeschool peers in the classroom, because they are going to be architects of future community schools.

Duty. That's what the author is talking about.

The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

Ayn Rand, “Causality Versus Duty,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 95. (via the online Ayn Rand Lexicon)

In other words, public schools NEED gifted kids, and parents who choose to homeschool them instead of dutifully sending them to schools that cannot meet the needs of the children, those parents aren't doing their duty to be a part of the solution (which implies that they are then part of the problem). Sounds pretty selfish, doesn't it? Yes, yes it is. And hooray for that!

I don't have any sort of duty to send my child, gifted or not, to any school, simply because they feel like they "need" my kid. The government-run public schools do not have any moral claim on me or my children. And they have no claim on your kids, either.

Ugh. Particularly heinous was this plea (guilt trip!) that the schools need not only the kids, but the parents. You know, those parents who do all of this extra work for them (for free)! So, you selfish homeschooling parents of gifted kids, you're not only cheating the schools once by not turning over your children, you're cheating them twice, because who are they going to get to do all that research into how best to provide a rich learning experience for your child? Sheesh already.

So I was thrilled to discover that there are many parents who share the same sentiment! From the comments section of the article (my emphasis):

as the parents of these challenging children we have to do what is right for our families. When one has spent years banging one's head against a brick wall in order to make only a tiny bit of progress, and when your own child is suffering the consequences of being left in an inappropriate environment, you eventually wake up and realize that all of that energy that you are putting into the school can get a better return on investment by putting it directly into your child.

I'm sorry...if a building is burning and my child is inside, I am going to rescue my child, not attend a city council meeting on how to improve fire codes. Our public school failed me, failed my child, and I don't feel an obligation to fix the system for them. I begged for help from our principal and the teachers. I was met with indifference at best, sarcasm and hatefulness at the worst. I volunteered in the classroom, I played the game of endless conferences and assessments, but in the end I took my child out of that burning building and I haven't looked back.

My first priority is to my kids and their well-being. Aim your argument at the public schools, suggesting that serving the needs of gifted kids is actually in the best interests of the system, and I'm on board with you. I think you're right. But it is not in the best interest of my kids to suffer--and they did suffer quite profoundly!--the intellectual neglect and mistreatment of a curriculum that doesn't meet their needs, and I won't subject them to it any longer. . . It is NOT the duty of children and active, caring parents to sacrifice time, energy and sanity to try to fix a system that doesn't work for them. We can opt out of that and I for one feel no guilt whatsoever about doing so.

When a relationship consistently benefits one party and costs the other, it's not collaboration. And when the person consistently paying the price is a child, it's absolutely unacceptable. . . .

You would never choose to sacrifice your children to "educate" elitists who believe they are made from Teflon and that you have the problem, your child has a problem and the home environment has a problem - certainly there can be nothing wrong at the school! After all, you have insinuated the parents are at fault by not role modelling good collaboration skills, may I humbling suggest you review your data for this basis. Vote with your feet is my advice to EVERY parent of a gifted child. All of them are being sacrificed by "academics" and their dumbed down curriculum to make everything fair.

There were many other points made in the comments section, but I'm focusing here on a few of the remarks that are specifically aimed against the altruistic plea that parents stop homeschooling and put their children (who are selfish values to them) into a place that does not meet their needs, simply because someone at that school has decided the school NEEDS them. These commenters are right to resist sacrificing their children because of someone else's desires.

Hooray! I read comments like these and it encourages me, that people out there in the world have enough spirit, and enough selfishness, to ridicule and refute the horrible premise of this article.


Riceball Mommy said...

Reading those comments really is a boost, and that article was just a big terrible guilt trip. It ignores a lot of fact, I'm happy most people seemed to see through it.

Molly said...

I agree wholeheartedly. What parent would not want to do what is best for their child? Shouldn't that always come first? I am of the opinion that the school system doesn't need your child necessarily, they just want your money. I could be wrong.

I found a very interesting book recently called I Promised You Daisies by Robert A. Benjamin. It is the second book in an autobiographical series about the author's experiences as an unacknowledged gifted child. This book speaks of his struggles moving into adulthood as a result of his childhood and his gifts and talents not being encouraged. It's proof positive that if the best possible scenarios are not provided for a gifted child in their youth, the impact can be enormous in their later life.

Thanks again for your forthright expressions. Go, Jenn!

Rational Education said...

Fantastic post - thanks! I just posted a link on FB.

Anonymous said...

I admit i didnt read the article. However, when i informed my daughter's 3rd grade teacher that I might move out of town for a job, she sighed, and said "You know, your daughter could really help the school pass the state standards tests". I was SHOCKED!

When we moved, my daughter made me promise never to switch school districts again - this one was much better. But, alas, its still public school. I wish I'd managed to home school her.

Ryan said...

2010...the year that the gifted kids went on strike...and so it begins.

Chris Baker said...

There's one very important thing to keep in mind here. The public schools desperately need gifted and talented kids because they want to take credit for their achievements. Even though these kids do better without public schools, there are still many smart children who must suffer in the public schools. And when a person who spent his childhood in the public school system accomplishes something great like find a cure for a disease, the public schools can say: "Look, we are doing a good job. He couldn't have done it without us." Not to mention, smart kids help raise the scores on standardized tests.

Anonymous said...

From experience I know writers on get paid by how often people visit the article pages. Every time you sent people to that article the writer is getting more money. Might be why such a controversial article was written at all.

cathy said...

When I was in high school, the school system had heavy competition from private schools. My high school chose to become more competitive to retain or attract top students. It is not the duty of the parents to support the public school system. It is up to the public school system to offer something worthwhile to the parents. Many public school systems are not worth the tax money being funneled into them.

Kim Catacutan said...

Thanks for your post, Jenn. I'm sure the need to keep gifted children in the school system is about two things: more money and higher standardized test scores. We homeschooled our son through a charter program for the first semester of kindergarten. We moved to a nearby city and decided to homeschool on our own from then on. Needless to say, the teacher/advisor almost begged us to stay. My son was already doing 2nd grade reading and math, so I'm sure the school wanted to prevent losing money and a potentially high test score.

I'm happy so many parents responded to the article with their "selfishness" and did not fall for the author's altruistic, irrational guilt trip (it's your duty, the schools need you and your children). I just wish more people would see how harmful altruism is in other areas of our lives.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

The argument from duty in the article you discussed is very similar to the one I heard over and over from teachers--that my child had a duty to pursue a specific career (usually medicine or medical research) because she was so very intelligent and therefore somehow owed "society" and ought to "give back" to those less intellectually gifted than she.
I was aghast the first few times I heard this--and therefore relativel speechless--but then I cottoned on and would ask: "Why? I don't think it was society that gave her the brains--it is highly heritable, you know."

Jenn Casey said...

Thank you for your comments everyone! I'm glad to know so many agree with me. And thank you Jasmine for posting a link to FB--I owe my extra traffic on the blog to you!

One thing I didn't address in the post, because it wasn't the main point I was trying to make, is the question of what giftedness/intelligence is. As a former gifted kid, it's an interesting topic to me. In some ways it doesn't matter as it pertains to my own kids, since their education is very personalized, which is an advantage of homeschooling I think. I suspect they're all quite bright, but I wonder if there's a different between 'bright' and gifted.' No matter what they are--bright, gifted, average, etc. my approach would be the same, very individual with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. I still wonder about 'giftedness' though, because my school experiences were very valuable and enriched because I was identified as a gifted kid.

Regi said...

Thought some of your homeschooling or potential homeschooling readers would be interested in an article on the Independent Individualist which answers a request from a reader about resources for homeschooling material without a religious or Christian bias or content.

About Homeschooling

And possibly two related articles:

Our Prussian ``Public`` Schools


Education and Children