a personal take on k12 education

Due to alleged budget cuts, my kids' school district is cutting its gifted education program… not that there was much to it to begin with, mind you. The superintendent has in mind a replaced enrichment program involving distance education, some school resources, and parent volunteers. This enrichment program would be open to all students.

You know, I don't have a problem with that kind of enrichment. Currently there's nothing for my 2nd grade son, but my 4th grade daughter does Spanish and orchestra before school. They both do various sports in the community and a little volunteer work. I think that's fine.

But here's thing. The reason my kids need a gifted program is because the kind of curriculum that would be suitable for "all students" is not suitable for them. The solution is not to give the more ill-suited curriculum through "enrichment." My kids are already wasting away enough of their days. In my current school district there is no gifted curriculum for 2nd graders. I swear my son has yet to bring home an assignment on which he did not receive 100%. I don't know, but I'm guessing he's not being challenged much. We pay for our daughter to do her math through an online gifted program from Stanford. She does it at home for 20 minutes in the morning most school days. Right now she's learning how to estimate square roots and find the surface area of cones. Meanwhile she recently brought home some math prep for a state test in which she was being asked to identify what a cone looks like.

If the zero state of pedagogy is sitting my kid down in a library with a reading list, I would be happy if public schooling were simply not less effective than that. And yes we have strongly considered the option of homeschooling. And yes I wish I had a spare $30K/yr to spend on private schools and a belief that the school would be worth the money (I don't have either). But really, is it so much to ask that a school just get out of the way of my children learning?

The really crappy thing about this is the kind of response you get when you open this kind of discussion. We have no problem celebrating the prettiest or the most athletic children. We can even recognize the children who are talented in music or art. But don't talk about intelligence. There we have to believe in some kind of magical egalitarianism. Fine, I can go with that. Sit the kids down in the classroom and go at my daughter's speed.

I understand that life and education are about more than academic things. I am not interested in my kids racing through the curriculum to reach some putative achievement. I just want their education to be interesting and challenging.