Just because an idea is old…

Educational options for gifted kids… over the years I have seen a lot of parents (starting with my own) searching for an appropriate – or at least a more appropriate, or the closest thing they can find to an appropriate – education for their gifted children, and I’d like to think that most of those who were looking found the best outcome they could. That’s certainly what they were trying to do and sometimes they had to move mountains to do it. And they made all sorts of choices and I won’t criticise any of them or say they were wrong for their child, but one thing I’ve noticed, goes a little against the grain for me.

Perhaps because these people are seeking something ‘different’, pretty much by definition, I’ve often noticed that they seem to be particularly drawn to what might be described as more ‘progressive’ or ‘modern’ or even ‘new age’ ideas about education. ‘Trendy’ ideas. ‘Radical’ ideas. It’s understandable – you are looking for something different from the norm in schooling because your kid doesn’t fit the statistical norms, and it’s easy for us to think that different means ‘new’ – that it means some sort of radical departure from what is happening now… well, yes, maybe that last bit is true but here’s the thing…

Modern education, current education is itself a product of a lot of ‘progressive’ thinking. While certainly there are some things about schooling and education that haven’t changed in a long time, there’s also a lot that has changed. And, personally, based on my own experiences as a child and as somebody who has been involved in education as an adult, quite a lot of the negative issues that affect gifted children in our current school system can be a product of some of those changes. This isn’t the place to really go into that in detail. But the point I would want to make is in looking for a good educational fit for their children who aren’t fitting in to ‘current’ schooling, parents might find it beneficial to look to the past as well as to the future. If the problem is with how a school is NOW, that doesn’t have to mean the only solution is forward looking.

I was happiest as a gifted child when I finally found myself in an educational environment that was more traditional, more old-fashioned if you will. And I’ve seen that happen for quite a few gifted kids over the years. Please understand, I am not saying that old-fashioned is always better – there are plenty of old ideas that were discarded for a reason – but to some extent, I think that means that many schools that still take a traditional approach have got rid of the bad ideas and kept the good ones, at least in general terms. Education founded on solid academic principles where academic achievement is the raison d’etre for what happens in the classroom has a lot going for it when it comes to educating gifted kids.

I remember – nearly twenty years ago now – when the Harry Potter books first became popular, initially speaking, they were extremely popular among gifted children, even before that spread to more mainstream fame. At the time, I wondered how much of that popularity with gifted children was in part was because Hogwarts was so different from their own schooling, and so many of them were not all that happy in their own school environments. Well, Hogwarts is a very ‘traditional’ type of school, in the sense I am talking about. The students are expected to reach high standards, encouraged to do so, in pretty strict environments, in very old fashioned ones. I think that actually has a real appeal for a lot of gifted kids, even without all the magical trappings. Especially when you feel trapped in a modern environment…

I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with going modern. Or ultra-modern. If parents look at some really new idea in education and they think it looks good for their child, great. Go for it. I just want to put in a plea for the idea that if you’re looking for something different from what is happening now, it may be worth looking to the past as well as the future for something different. And so often in gifted communities and other educational communities, I think this gets missed a bit. There seems to be far more emphasis on new ideas than looking to see which of the old ideas worked well.

If you are looking for educational options for a gifted child, don’t limit where you are looking too much.

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This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Educational Options.  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_education_options.htm

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2 thoughts on “Just because an idea is old…

  1. I agree that it’s important to examine past educational systems and find what about them worked. When I look back to my grandfather’s education, I am actually envious for my son. He was the son of a farmer, so he missed a lot of school – nearly the entire harvest season every year; and yet he got the work done and was advanced two grades over the course of his education. From what I understand, it was fairly typical back then. The thought process was, “if you can do the work, then you’re ready for more.” And, one of my son’s biggest complaints about Kindergarten was that it didn’t fit with his expectations of what school was supposed to be – he wanted desks! He didn’t want the chaos. He wanted quiet so he could think. From a modern viewpoint, that would just be awful to do to a young child. But for him, it would probably be an environment he could thrive in and enjoy.

  2. Thank you for an interesting post! I can see several of your points, and agree that high-expectation, traditional classrooms with a focus on achievement work well (even best) for some types of gifted students. I do think, though, that part of the evolution of options is due to better diagnosis of learning disabilities and better research on how children learn. I love your Harry Potter example, but alas, Hogwarts did not serve the divergent mind of Sirius Black as well as it did the well-organized, achievement-oriented mind of Hermione Granger. We need the creative minds and children with learning disabilities to thrive, graduate, and contribute to our society as much as we need the straight-A high achievers. Hopefully, funding for public education will increase rather than disappear, and we can expand options to include the needs of all students — including those who do well in a more traditional model.

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