The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ravaglia on American education and the gifted

Raymond Ravaglia is the Deputy Director of the Stanford University, EPGY (the Education Program for Gifted Youth) and recently he gave a talk in Singapore.

One of the themes he addressed, briefly, was the state of American education. He summarized the style of American education by stating that, generally, American classes are pitched to "to the left of the distribution" which he meant the Bell Curve, of IQ distributions. He said that this was done so that those "to the left" were not left behind. This worked in keeping those of lower IQs happy but it had an unfortunate side effect: those to the right of the distribution - the ones for whom EPGY was conceived - would tend to be bored by American education.

Thus, EPGY is pitched to the right of the distribution. It is deliberately aimed at stimulating some of the brightest students. This could have the unfortunate consequence that some on the EPGY (he didn't say it, but seemed to mean those who had just scraped into the courses) might be left out a bit, but he did say that the course instructors did generally manage to keep all-comers happy. Yet, he did make it clear that the type of pitch of material at EPGY was very different to what would be expected in a standard American classroom.

He addressed this point quickly and in passing, but I felt it to be one of the more important things that he said: this pitch to the left of the Bell Curve was one of the big failings in American education - for it ensured that ALL gifted children would be left out in the classroom. There is something not quite right in that. Are not the gifted an important intellectual constituency to be nurtured and groomed to become the best that they may? I would have thought so, but it seems that American education has overlooked this and only in exceptional cases is the matter of the education of the gifted properly addressed.

America is the world's leading nation - but how much longer can it be, if the needs of its most gifted are neglected? Your thoughts please.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:25 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that America is the worlds leading nation. Last I knew we were behind in technology and school scores and our dollar was slipping behind everyone else's currency. I think that giving gifted kids a compulsory education geared for the normal (or just left of the normal) is a horrible and ethically wrong thing. Its not just that it doesn't make the most of their potential, its very very detrimental psychologically, too. It can result in learned helplessness, severe socialization troubles, depression, apathy, etc.

Our schooling methods are so bad (in my opinion) that I would really rather see gifted kids (all kids for that matter) home schooled or go to a Montessori school or something.

I think our whole world is in danger, because of the abomination called public schooling. It destroys creativity, authenticity, individuality, the love for learning... and many other things that are necessary.

Have you ever read "Seven Lesson School Teacher" by John Taylor Gatto? Its very thought provoking. John was New York's teacher of the year and he resigned at the ceremony with that speech.

Here is a random copy of it:

- Kathy

7:41 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your comment Kathy. I, too, worry about public schooling...everywhere.

I haven't spoken much of my schooling but it wasn't a pleasant experience, in general: there has to be a better way.

Perhaps homeschooling is it. We are presently evaluating options and will see what works.

I haven't seen the article you mention but will take a look at it. Thanks for referring me to it.

Best wishes

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the first poster's comments, with the exception of Montessori. It was good for our child during the Primary years, but in Lower Elementary, they were reluctant to move him beyond his age-mates. Sometimes Montessori is good, but it is not the sure thing we had thought it to be.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your views on Montessori: yours is the first I have heard to cast any doubt at all, about the conventional view that all is well with it.

Montessori is very popular in Singapore by the way.

Best wishes

10:12 AM  

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