Recently, as I was collecting The Boy from a visit to my mother's house, during which he had trotted out some particularly impressive tricks and skills, Baboo mentioned that it would be interesting to see how he would score on an IQ test. You know, because he is obviously a genius. Clearly. At least that's how I interpreted it, and I am sure that's how she meant it. No one is prouder than a mother, except, of course, a grandmother.
My immediate reaction was to think this was a grand idea. That was my ego thinking. Within minutes I realized, given that we are home-schooling, IQ testing would be entirely pointless. Whether The Boy scores at the top or the bottom of the scale won't make a whit of difference in how Tad and I raise him or teach him or feel about him. We don't need a number to tell us that he is capable of great things. We already know that it's true, and we treat him accordingly.
I spent my own childhood participating in a plethora of special pull-out classes and activities for gifted children. Was I gifted? I was intelligent, and creative, and I tested very well. As a result, I got to spend time with poets and artists, graduate students and scientists, doing fabulously stimulating hands-on activities while my "ungifted" classmates — many of whom, I have no doubt, were much more gifted than I — trudged through their previously scheduled Lippincott readers and multiplication drills. It is no surprise that the more of these wonderful gifted classes I attended, the more creative and well-educated I became. Funny how that works.
One afternoon early in my seventh-grade year, my homeroom teacher announced that several of us were to report to the library for a gifted activity. I stood up before she could list names and turned to my table of friends, displaying the kind of insecurity-rooted arrogance at which awkward pre-teens excel, and brushed my fingernails on my shirt, bragging, "Yeah, that would be me."
My teacher failed to see the humor. In fact, she launched into a screaming, book-slamming tirade about how our little clique of gifted kids felt that we were better than everyone, and we treated the rest of the world like peons, and we needed to realize that we weren't better or smarter or worth more than anyone else. In fact, we were spoiled, arrogant brats who didn't deserve the label "gifted," and if it was her choice, we wouldn't go anywhere!
Looking back, I realize my teacher was already teetering on the edge that day. That was her first and only year at our school, maybe her only year as a teacher. Her rant probably had less to do with me and my friends than with what was going on in her life. But it stuck with me. Because she was absolutely right. Every single kid in our class should have had the chance to do that activity. And every kid would have been more gifted when it was over.
My husband never got to participate in any gifted programs when he was in school. His family moved between states a lot, and that, combined with an undiagnosed learning disability, ensured that school was not his strong suit. One year, he did actually get considered for a gifted class, but they needed a girl, which he is not. Tad is highly gifted in a number of disciplines — science, art and writing, just to name a few. Any gifted genes The Boy may have are as much a product of Tad's DNA as they are of mine. But Tad didn't get to wear the label, and as a result he didn't get to reap the benefits.
Listen. I am not a clinician, a diagnostician or even a teacher, anymore. My opinion about gifted testing is only that. But I have been around a lot of gifted children in my lifetime, and I am telling you there is something seriously wrong with the way that we identify and teach them. And I'm speaking here not as the parent of a possibly gifted child or as a former educator, but as a citizen of the world who needs every child out there — mine, yours and everybody else's — to be given a chance to develop their gifts, so that they can make this world a better, brighter and more colorful place for all of us.