I found Jeannie Alford Hagy’s piece about her gifted son ["Hidden Genius," Comment, May/June] as frustrating as the concept of thwarted giftedness itself. Why was she not the most vocal and vigilant advocate for her son’s education, which she seemed to highly value? Why did she settle for the indifference and insensitivity of the oafish 5th grade teacher, whose response would most likely have sent any other parent steaming to the principal’s or superintendent’s office?
At any time, did she request extra work be given to her son? If the teachers were not prepared to offer time and attention to her son’s development, was it possible for her to enroll him in another school or supplement his learning and youthful passions through other academic institutions?
Did she encourage his writing and artistic talents through workshops or classes taught in some other educational arena, or explore classes at a local museum or art school? She also could have helped him start a writing group for other children in his age group who love to write. And finally, why did she settle for so much less than her son deserved? Who really shortchanged her son?
The recognition—and actual fact—of brilliance in any child is a remarkable gift, not only to the child but to the world as well. It can certainly be true that a gifted child’s educational journey can be mismanaged, which is all the more reason why a vigilant parent has the responsibility to see that the child is nurtured academically and emotionally and has the rich opportunity to explore his or her particular gifts.
My biggest concern is that she has other children whom the article indicated were also gifted. Who will fight for them?
I share Jeannie Alford Hagy’s frustration from both inside the system and outside it. As a high school teacher for many years, it was difficult for me to craft lessons aimed at gifted students when ability levels in my classroom differed so markedly. Certainly those gifted students had no desire to do outside work that would take them beyond classroom levels.
As the parent of a child who in 8th grade read and reported on the complete works of Hesse and whose SAT verbal score that year placed him in the top echelon of college-bound high school seniors, I watched with disgust as he floundered through pointless and unchallenging exercises in 9th grade. I felt trapped by a Catch-22 when I pointed out that he would be better served doing higher level work and was informed that he would first have to prove himself with the more basic material. He, like Ms. Hagy’s child, just decided not to bother.
San Francisco, California
Vol. 16, Issue 1, Pages 7-12Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as Letters