Gifted Children, Education, and Abuse

I spent a lot of time locked in the library, when I was a kid.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean visiting the library, or absorbed in reading at the library, or gee, I was one of those kids who always begged their parents to take them to the library.

I mean locked in.

As in, dumping me in the school library was my teachers’ solution, when I didn’t fit their curriculum, or was inconvenient.

As in, I still remember a couple of days when I was allowed to come downstairs and watch Letter People with the other kids.

As in, I was six years old and checking for fire escapes, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back out the way I got in, and I wasn’t sure anyone would remember I was there. A lot of times, they didn’t.

I was locked in.

Because I was smart.

And in a weird way, this was presented as a privilege. No one was telling me what to do. And I was the only child in the school who had free access to a computer… books… their time.

I certainly learned more than I would have, if I’d spent the time watching Letterpeople and handing out papers because I was the only one who could read.

And it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone, because it didn’t occur to me that what was happening wasn’t normal.

Of course, I didn’t belong with those other kids.

I wasn’t really a child, after all.

I just finished watching the movie “Gifted,” and I have now been crying on and off for an hour.

I think it was supposed to be a happy ending.

The kid goes home (following a brief stint in you’re smart foster care), and gets to attend university classes AND regular school. And… uhm… the father-figure winds up in a relationship with what I would describe as a semi-abusive grade-school teacher.

Seriously? You’re making that woman a permanent fixture in your kid’s life, and it’s supposed to be a happy ending?

She was vile.

You know the teacher who tries to humiliate a kid in front of the whole class just to make them shut up? Yeah. That’s the one.

And somehow, the fact that the kid is smart, and the abusive teacher failed to humiliate her somehow turns that teacher into a shining exemplar of the educational system, and a suitable romantic interest.

She was so awful, in fact, that later on, when she’s having a conversation with a minor, minor, minor character in the hallway (do NOT blink while the pretty black teacher is on screen) my response was hallelujah, Miss Honey has arrived. She will fix this.

Nope. Thirty seconds, and she’s gone for good.

The film was all full of such snazzy tropes as the kid’s aptitude and interests **just happen** to be exactly the same as mom’s, grandma’s, and even the (blue-collar by choice, but wow, he’s smart) uncle’s, and gee, it’s in the kid’s “Best Interest” to develop whatever they’re talented at, because after all, don’t exceptional intellects really belong to everyone?

Spoiler alert: No, my brain does not belong to everyone.

I don’t really care that what I’m capable of could bring the world more happiness, more money, more understanding of the universe as a whole.

What makes me happy is farting the alphabet while eating breakfast cereal.

There is no noblesse oblige.

Society is not entitled to the fruits of my misery.

It’s not even entitled to the things I enjoy.

Think about it. Somewhere out there–somewhere in a quiet town of a thousand–there’s a mechanic who locks the windows and pulls down the blinds, and works on a Millennium Problem.

For himself.

Because he wants to.

And someday, when he finishes, he’ll throw the papers on the fire, and go to sleep, content in the knowledge that he solved it.

 

One thought on “Gifted Children, Education, and Abuse

  1. Nick Wilford says:

    Yours is a disturbing story, but it’s sadly true that teachers, and even parents, can feel threatened by children that appear to be “too intelligent for their own good”. I know, because my wife was ostracised by her own parents because of it. The best outcome is that the child fights back and becomes even more smarter; the worst is that they crumple and lose what potential they had. And no, I definitely don’t think that locking a child in a library is justifiable under any circumstances!

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