There Is No Plan

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I’m Gifted And You’re Not

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America likes to tout the well-worn myth to its young that if you work hard and persevere you can be anything you want to be. The implication of the propaganda is that there’s a level playing field in this country. That “anyone” can get a piece of the American Dream. It’s a great big lie of course, partly because America also has an obsession with predetermined “chosenness.” We love the idea that some are destined for greatness – which flies in the face of the concept that everyone has a shot at it. But then myths always trump reality, because they’re usually so much more pleasant to ponder when you’re bored shitless at the office. Maybe it’s you that’s going to hit the big time.

There are many clues that lead to the not so bold assumption that the American Dream is a crock; the massive wealth gap, the ghettoization and subtle apartheid that pervades vast swathes of the nation, American gullibility, the proven statistical lack of social mobility in this country. Even the recession is unfair. It’s the poor bums who got tricked into buying a house they couldn’t afford with a time-bomb mortgage that are getting the worst of it.

But there’s one area where the American lie is particularly irksome and that’s education. The harsh realities of inequality are more painful when you’re dealing with the innocent. And the bad hands are dealt from the very beginning. I was recently chatting to a friend who told me of an incident that took place when she was very young. She lived with her uncle and aunt, and her cousin one day informed her bluntly,

“I’m gifted and you’re not.”

That stings, coming from a six year old, but how come the kid knew the term at all. The only answer is that they had been told. Parents all over America and beyond are obsessed with the idea that their children are “gifted”. They want the best for their kids which is great – but they don’t mind at all that it’s, perhaps, at the expense of other kids. It’s the Little League parents’ syndrome at a desk or in a music room rather than at home plate. And that unhealthy, deeply competitive obsession translates into policy. We say that no child will be left behind, but what we do is very different. Some kids don’t get out of the starting gate, while “gifted” kids get a helping hand. And yet everyone loses. The kids who are told or that feel they are not ‘gifted’ might sense the predetermination of their fate and lose their thirst for learning, further increasing their plight. The kids who are told they are gifted might feel the pressure and suffer as a result.

The truth is that every child is gifted, because childhood is a gift. And each and every child is gifted because every child has a gift. They might know it, they might not, but in some way, every child has the capacity to be a creative, imaginative, original thinker in their own way and at their own pace. Of course, every child can be wilful, stupid and self-centered too – even (or perhaps especially) the ‘gifted’ ones. It’s part of the very human tornado that is growing up. It’s parents that decide that their child is gifted and act on that. But if every parent saw their children as gifted, as they should, then the outlook for every child would be far better than it is. Of course that would deny the exclusivity many parents seek.

The very suggestion that some children are gifted while others are not is an affront to the whole nature of childhood. The world in school and outside of it presents so many opportunities for learning and curiousity for each and every child. But every day we’re confronted with the notion that some kids are destined for greatness while others are on a one way ticket to lifelong drudgery. What path one takes is not just about innate intelligence. It is about a child’s parents, their peers, their genes, their environment, their color, their temperament, their class, their friends, their humor, their charisma, their metabolism, their health, their weight, their diets, their height, even their looks.

Gifts always come with costs. There are as many morons and drudges in positions of power as there are geniuses sleeping on the streets. That is the nature of life. With so much trauma in the world, do we have to add another layer of needless humiliation to the lives of the next generation. Stop with the “gifted’ already.


Written by coolrebel

December 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm

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