Monday, 10 June 2013

Stand for Bidet

So, she’s a bit bright, then? No. No, she’s not bright, she’s gifted.

Gifted? Gifted.

What, as in really very bright? No, not ‘bright’…

Is she a genius? Well, that rather depends what you mean by ‘genius’. She hasn’t quite discovered the grand unified theory just yet.

She’s only 8, I guess. Give her time. Is her IQ higher than Einstein’s? What? I’ve no idea, don’t think so. 149 on the Stanford-Binet, if you must know.

Stand for Bidet? I’d rather sit to do that, if it’s all the same. No, Stanford-Binet. It’s a type of IQ test. Others include the Cattell IIIb, the Otis-Lennon, the Miller Analogies and the Wechsler. You have to be a little careful just saying that someone has an IQ of ‘x’, because the different tests measure it in different ways. So, for example, an IQ of 149 on the Stanford-Binet is the equivalent of 146 on Wechsler and 172 on Cattell IIIb.

That’s confusing. Yes it is.

Surely there’s a better way to doing it? Well, there might be. Most of the tests will measure where someone fits on a percentile chart. So, for example, an IQ score of 149 on the Stanford-Binet will put you in the top 99.89% of the population. Put another way, if you were to walk into a room with 911 other people in it, chances are you’d be the most intelligent one there.

So she is quite bright then? For the sake of all that’s Holy….

Alright, alright, keep your wig on. So why are we even having this conversation? I thought you’d never ask. Channel 4 is about to screen a documentary called ‘Child Genius’.

That doesn’t sound at all controversial. In fact it’s already raised hackles, but not necessarily from where’d you’d expect. It’s the parents of other gifted children (or children with a ‘high learning potential’ as leading charity Potential Plus UK would prefer you to refer to them) who have raised the biggest fuss, on the basis that the documentary isn’t going to do much to help them.

Do they need help? Well, raising a child with high learning potential isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Get the children to do it. Oh, very droll.

What’s so difficult about it then? Well, imagine you have a child with an IQ of 149. Imagine that as the child moves through its early milestones, walking, talking, reading, it does them all much, much earlier than its little friends. You’re very proud of that fact so you start to tell your friends and to your horror you find that your friends don’t seem to be particularly happy for you. So you stop telling them, and they stop asking, and quite soon you find that they stop wanting to spend any time with you, or to let their children spend any time with yours.

That’s a bit sad. Yes it is. It’s not everyone of course, but when some friends react that way it comes as a bit of a shock. And imagine that, as the child starts going through school, she really doesn’t do as well as you think she could. So you start looking into why, and you discover that she’s bored because the school want her to do what all the other little boys and girls are doing. So you think you’ll speak to the school, they know what they’re doing, they’ll help, but then you find out that the school don’t want to know. They have lots of other children to teach, and a certain way they need to teach them, and if that doesn’t work on your child, well… she’s clever, she’ll deal with it.

I thought schools had gifted and talented policies, and stuff like that? They did have, once upon a time, but money is tight.

Ah. Quite. Funding for teaching more able children got pulled a while ago, and now it’s up to schools to do what they can in any way they decide. Most don’t bother, and those that do don’t tend to have the experience or the training to do it properly. And let’s not talk about behavioural issues.

OK. I mean, imagine having a really, really clever little girl…

I thought we weren’t going to talk about… who gets easily frustrated, and bored, and who can’t always understand why other people do the things they do, and has trouble empathising. A little girl who finds it very hard to sit still, who has very little patience. Who won’t do something just because she’s told to, but has to be told why she’s being asked to do it.

That must make her popular at school. ‘Challenging,’ according to her teachers. And it doesn’t make it easy for her to make too many friends, either.

So, to recap. She’s really clever, but you end up losing most of your friends and fighting with schools, while she has the patience of a coked-up Tony Montana, says inappropriate things and has empathy issues? Erm…, well, yes. I suppose.

Sounds fun. So why is the documentary not going to help? Reinforces stereotypes. The problem has really always been the perception of others. Genius? Clever child? You must be a pushy parent who hothouses her. You’re a Tiger Parent. She must be a precocious little madam.

I assume none of those is true, then? No, they’re not. How very dare you.

Sorry. All we’ve ever wanted – and for that matter, all most parents of gifted children want – is to ensure that she gets an education that will interest her and prepare her for whatever life it is she wants to lead. Allowing her to spending 14 years getting bored at school doesn’t strike me as fulfilling our parental duties. And for what it’s worth, just so we get this one out of the way, I couldn’t personally give two hoots whether she becomes a particle physicist, artist or McDonald’s chip fryer, so long as she’s happy doing it.

Any last words to the assembled masses? Yes. Normality restored next time. A Q&A with yourself is just a little bit weird.

How dare you…