Friday, January 16, 2009

gifted children and how I came to hate the rote

From ScienceDaily: Education Professor Dispels Myths About Gifted Children

Dr. Steven Pfeiffer, a professor and psychologist at Florida State, says in this study that gifted children really do need some sort of "special needs" program in order to reach their potential. He also says there needs to be more effort to identify gifted children. For a long time, "schools used one measure, the IQ test," but the traditional IQ test doesn't measure all the nuances of intelligence. In addition to measuring traditional intellectual and academic ability, creativity, artistic talent, leadership, and motivation should also be taken into consideration.

I agree with him on all accounts. When I was in high school, I knew several very smart kids who didn't do well mostly because they were bored (I was one of them; though I'll let you decide how smart I am). Though I don't think the whole "different kinds of intelligence" thing is very new. I remember in a high school psych class we discussed the different types of intelligence (which included inter- and intrapersonal communication, too, but I guess those could fall under leadership and motivation).

I don't like our current one-size-fits all school system. Everybody learns at different speeds and in different things; everybody's interested in different things; everybody has different strengths, weaknesses, and goals (though I don't know how clear those goals are at a young age. but I know I wanted to be an architect in my "tween" years, so it can't all be rock or sport stars). I also wish subjects weren't so cut and dry. It wasn't until I started taking college classes that I realized how interconnected disciplines are.

For example, I'm reading a book about the history and philosophy of zero. (Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife, if you're interested.) I never knew before that this mathematical concept and its philosophical equivalent of the void was extremely controversial in Europe because of reigning Aristotelian views that were enforced by the Church. (Aristotle believed the world was static and all space was filled, which went in line nicely with the Christian belief that God created a perfect world very recently and that the Earth is the center of the universe.) This is why when calendars were created during the Middle Ages, there was no year 0 representing the birth of Christ, and why centuries and millenia start on year 1 rather than 0. When the concept of 0 started taking hold of Europe during the Renaissance, not only were there huge advances in science and mathematics (solving Zeno's paradox, calculus, calculating tangent), the idea of the void allowed artists to finally develop true perspective. And now we are able to accept that the universe is expanding.

Philosophy should be a required course in secondary school, I think.

Anyway, I think if there was more emphasis on how different fields affect each other, and how they affect a person, regular students would have find school more interesting, as well as being more prepared for college or work or tech school or life.

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