Gifted Kids Meet

30 03 2009

In my Why Magnets Matter post, I talked a lot about how important they are for gifted kids’ social and emotional needs. Eventually I’ll get around to a post more in depth about those needs, but first, I’m going to relate a bit of personal experience in this area (and yes, as I’ve said before, I know that an anecdote doesn’t prove anything, but the evidence is already out there. I’m not aiming to prove, but hopefully instead to illuminate and persuade).

Over the last 5 months or so, I’ve seen first hand what it’s like when two very gifted kids meet and become friends. Well, you know how gifted kids (and really, it never goes away) are said to be “more?” Well, it’s absolutely true. So now imagine what that’s like when they find someone who they really think they can call a true friend, especially after being lonely for an awfully long time because they couldn’t (since even in very well off areas, highly gifted (as opposed to very smart) kids aren’t exactly common), and with all the extra melodrama teenagers bring to just about everything.

Essentially, it’s the first time they find someone who they really feel “gets” it. Sometimes very, very strongly, as in, having many of the same bad or painful memories. As in, having a conversation and suddenly realizing that the other isn’t either looking puzzled or worried for their mental health. As in, they can talk to someone as themselves and still not be thought of as weird. For a lot of gifted kids, that’s a new and, really, quite a powerful experience.

And it is “just” friendship. That’s the thing that I think is missed by many people. Friendship, for gifted kids, means a lot more (and is a lot stronger) than for most other people. Intensity isn’t limited to a narrow range of things. It’s part of how gifted people function. A gifted kid may have lots of “friends,” but most (I wouldn’t generalize it to all, but certainly a large portion) do not consider them to be their “true” friends. That means a lot more to everyone, but especially I think to the gifted.

It’s hard to put into words. If you’ve seen it happen, you know what I mean.  I think this sort of thing, though, reveals the essence of giftedness much more than almost anything else. If you ever see it, take note, because you will learn something, and not necessarily what you would expect.


All Hail Our AI Overlords!

25 03 2009

I for one welcome our botnet overlords.

Please enjoy your April Fools’ Day and allow the transition to robot rule to occur peacefully.

The Worst Side of Religion

25 03 2009

Because the insane fringe of the Protestants doesn’t like the Catholics outdoing them, we now have this.

The plane crash in Montana involved children between ages 6 and 10. Because the plane carried 2 of Irving Feldkamp’s children and 5 of his grandchildren, and because he is the owner of a chain of clinics (Family Planning Associates) that does abortions, the evil fringe of the religious right has started up again. Here’s the quote:

In my time working for Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, I helped organize and conduct a weekly campaign where youth activists stood outside of Feldkamp’s mini-mansion in Redlands holding fetal development signs and raising community awareness regarding Feldkamp’s dealings in child murder for profit. Every Thursday afternoon we called upon Bud and his wife Pam to repent, seek God’s blessing and separate themselves from the practice of child killing.

We warned him, for his children’s sake, to wash his hands of the innocent blood he assisted in spilling because, as Scripture warns, if “you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you”. (Ezekiel 35:6)

A news source states that Bud Feldkamp visited the site of the crash with his wife and their two surviving children on Monday. As they stood near the twisted and charred debris talking with investigators, light snow fell on the tarps that covered the remains of their children.

I don’t want to turn this tragic event into some creepy spiritual ‘I told you so’ moment, but I think of the time spent outside of Feldkamp’s – Pam Feldkamp laughing at the fetal development signs, Bud Feldkamp trying not to make eye contact as he got into his car with a small child in tow – and I think of the haunting words, ‘Think of your children.’ I wonder if those words were haunting Feldkamp as well as he stood in the snow among the remains of loved ones, just feet from the ‘Tomb of the Unborn’?

I only hope and pray that in the face of this tragedy, Feldkamp recognizes his need for repentance and reformation. I pray that God will use this unfortunate catastrophe to soften the hearts of Bud and Pam and that they will draw close to the Lord and wash their hands of the blood of thousands of innocent children, each as precious and irreplaceable as their own.

This is beyond sickening. It takes a lot to leave me with no words to describe something, but this manages it. I’ll leave you without further comment while I go throw up.

The problem with organized skepticism

24 03 2009

Before I start, let me say that I know perfectly well why organized skepticism is important as of now, and I agree.

“Organized skepticism” is, broadly speaking, the (largely online) movement to promote critical thinking among the public. It is apolitical and areligious, although it does lean strongly in both areas for various reasons, some related to the whole “critical thinking” thing, some not.

Now, my problem with it: I think that the movement as a whole has missed the point of its own existence. There is a certain mindset that I see in the skeptical movement towards turning inward and preaching to the choir. That is a problem in its own right, but I think it stems from something larger: the skeptical movement has forgotten or not realized that it is a movement whose very goal necessitates that it be a temporary measure.

What I mean by that is this. Skepticism as a movement will, if it succeeds, become irrelevant. If critical thinking becomes widespread, and if it is brought into standard curriculums in schools, the movement is no longer needed, and indeed should begin to fade away. The problem with such movements after they acheive their goals is that they are often counterproductive and, quite frankly, insular because they have lost their purpose. They become a bit embarrsessing to everyone, and in fact create a push the other way.

The problem is that, as expressed by the “preaching to the choir” tendency I’ve noted, many skeptics seem to have every intention of continuing the movement whether its goals are acheived or not. My question, I guess, is “why?”

I’m not saying that we’re anywhere near the point where skepticism has become widespread (we’re not), but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that this is not a movement whose intent should be permenance.

March Madness!

20 03 2009

March Madness, NASA style!

Go vote! Personally, I’m torn between Hubble and the Voyagers.

Why Magnets Matter

18 03 2009

When it occurs at all, by far the most common type of gifted program is separating classes based on ability (whether in pull out classes, accelerated classes, AP classes, radical acceleration, or what have you). These, when done properly, can often very successfully meet even highly gifted children’s educational needs. Well, I hate to shoot down something that does such a good job of that, but so what?

Cultures form in very, very small units. It’s pretty well known that two offices in the same company, doing essentially the same thing, can have very different mentalities and methods outlasting any individual employee. Someone’s experience in one, even with the same work, can be very different from their experience in another.

Well, this holds true in schools too. A school very much has a culture of its own. This affects policy, which is important, but it runs deeper than policy. It affects how teachers and students interact, and how students act. It affects how students perceive each others’ actions, and how they then respond. It affects attitudes and outlooks.

This can extend to the presence or lack of things like bullying, but I’m not talking about that at all. What I’m talking about is much, much deeper than that. It’s how the social unit of the school functions. The tiny, completely unconscious things that make a world of difference. The difference between a school that accepts, and a school that doesn’t reject, in many ways.

Well, extend that to gifted kids. A school made up mostly of fairly average students will have a very different culture from a school that’s very heavy in gifted kids. And I can say this from experience: a collection of gifted kids has a very different feel than a random sampling across the ability spectrum. Giftedness isn’t just intelligence, after all.

Some public schools don’t reject gifted kids. But there’s a difference between lack of rejection (and honestly, even acceptance) and belonging. Even in very well off, far above average schools, gifted kids often do not have that sense of fitting in because they don’t fit in. A magnet school draws gifted kids together, so that you have that concentration of gifted kids.

As I hope most people realize, that sense of fitting in is extremely powerful, especially for kids who aren’t used to it. It can make an enormous difference in a kid’s happiness just to feel like she is with people who really understand.

And it’s not just that. The culture I mentioned earlier is important too. It’s a culture that allows gifted kids to flourish because they can feel free to be gifted kids (strange, bizarre, and awesome creatures that they are). Gifted kids, when given the freedom to act like this, are downright strange. And that’s when they’re happiest, in many cases. But they can’t act that way if no one else does, because even if it wouldn’t actually garner negative attention, doing something that others around you do is hard because you always think it will.

And that too appears at a magnet school because, in many cases (even for very highly gifted kids), you aren’t that much weirder than anyone else, because everyone’s weird. And that matters enormously.

“Challenge” and “rigor” are not the most important things for a gifted kid’s education, although they are important. If the kid’s happy, she will learn a lot on her own, too. Ordinary schools rarely foster happiness for gifted children, though, even with pullout programs. Magnets are expensive, a pain to run, and an organisational nightmare. But they are very, very worth it.

Are you a godless communist?

14 03 2009

Apparently I’m “extremely progressive,” with 305 on their 400 point scale (no surprise there). Where do you fall?

(via The Questionable Authority)