Extracts from an article about a gifted boy, followed by correspondence concerning this article
I have just read an article entitled 'School almost destroyed Daniel's gift' written by Anne Gardiner, in You magazine, a supplement of the Mail on Sunday, dated 30 January 2000. The following are extracts from this article:
... When he was aged three, Daniel's activity books were for six-year olds.
Head teachers refused to entertain the idea of having Daniel, saying that they needed 'to consider the needs of the rest of the school'. One headmaster advised that I should take Daniel 'as far away as possible from state education' ...
I ... had insisted that Daniel should have an opportunity to be happy in an environment where he could be accepted as himself. This meant recognising not only his academic needs but also his social and emotional needs ...
As I searched for help, one consultant paediatrician concluded that the reason for Daniel's disturbed behaviour would be that he was being sexually abused in the home. My husband David never recovered from such a grotesquely false and totally unsubstantiated accusation. Meanwhile, the clinical psychologist proclaimed that 'being happy at school is not particularly relevant'. ...
Daniel would scream at me for hours: 'I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. You sent me to those terrible schools ...
His tutors insisted that he was 'desperate to learn' and functioning 'several years' above his chronological age. ...
...it was decided that Daniel was suffering from trauma-induced dyslexia. ...
...I discovered the Cademuir International School, now in Moniaive, near Dumfries. This independent school, whose principal, Robert Mulvey, is its driving force ... It is the only school in Europe to offer specialist help to high-ability children with special needs ...
Contrary to the misguided opinion of some 'experts', who would have the public believe that specialist provision encourage socially unacceptable youths, incapable of fitting into society, in fact the opposite is true. Recently, Daniel's former tutor confided that, in his opinion, 'Daniel is one of the most well adjusted young people it has ever been my pleasure to know.' ...
Throughout the five-year battle I met professionals who collectively demonstrated that they could not tolerate a parent who would not accept their authority. Resistance to my evidence lasted for years. I was taken seriously only once a legal advisor was committed to Daniel's case. While the official line was that Daniel needed a school for the behaviourally and emotionally disturbed, at a projected cost of £100,000 per annum, they resisted all my attempts to place Daniel in Cademuir, at a cost, then, of £10,500 per annum.
Children will continue to be traumatised, and families destroyed, until this situation is changed. ... The end of our marriage was the ultimate sacrifice to help our boy. Meanwhile, some educators continue to proclaim that academically gifted children 'do not exist'.
Text of a letter prompted by this article about gifted boy
Extracts from an article about a gifted child, still fairly naive and insufficiently cynical, but otherwise it wouldn't have been published, no doubt.
Notice the irresponsibility of the total unawareness of (or pleasure at) the harm that may be done to several people's lives by attacks on a parent, in this child's case accusing his father of abuse, in mine accusing my father of pushing me, which forced him to oppose and frustrate me on behalf of society, and led ultimately to the breakdown of his health.
The advice from a headmaster that the boy should be taken 'as far away as possible from state education' was good, but one wonders about the motivation behind it.
There is the usual fixation on the need for schools; collections of highly able children are a very dubious concept, although in this case there appears to be some protection from the commercial motive, since it is a fee-paying school. John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell, among others, did fine without schools.
I was always horrified when people took it upon themselves to consider my 'social and emotional' needs. I did not expect them to be understood and was quite capable of working them out for myself. In fact, they took the form of needing to establish as rapidly as possible my claim on the sort of career I needed to have, and to get out of the environment in which I was born into the social environment in which I was going to have to live. The fact that the transition to a different social class lay ahead of me, and I did not know how liveable I should find life at Oxford or Cambridge, caused me years of painful insecurity.
Also the belief that if someone's education is ruined, this has destroyed their giftedness. Well, not necessarily. In my own case I got an anomalous degree result after the unnecessarily protracted period of supervised 'preparation' during which my life had been at the mercy of people with, to say the least, not the slightest sympathy with me. But I still had the ability and it had evolved spontaneously, independently of the painfully cramped exercise, which was all it had been permitted to have, in acquiring the absolute minimum of officially acceptable qualifications.
Socially, I was left with only one degree, and that unusable, more of a disqualification than a qualification, but it was still true that it would take me very little running-in time to teach or do research in most academic subjects better than those who were being paid salaries for doing so.
However, my mother toed the party line as usual, and would never admit this. 'You were a genius,' she would say, implying that a second-class degree under social auspices was the total definition of my adult abilities. And when I said, 'But whyever didn't you see that I took as many exams as possible as young as possible?' one of her answers was to sigh, 'We wanted you to keep your brain.' (As if a brain were something like a soft indiarubber, that became smaller with use.)
The article speaks of 'rapid early development' as if it might then have stopped. From my own experience, it continues, although after the very first years it is easier to conceal it by denying it opportunity for socially recognised expression.
One final point - the education system has 'historically' dismissed the needs of children with exceptional intelligence? This dismissal has been developing throughout my life; someone has just written a book asserting that there is no such thing as genius (meaning innate ability); at the time of my education, although less overtly expressed, the syndrome of rejection was well enough developed to destroy my life and those of my parents.
Continuation of correspondence prompted by article on gifted boy
Further quotation from the above article. 'Children will continue to be traumatised and families destroyed, until this situation is changed.' What hope is there of change for the better when the whole trend of society is towards ever greater oppression of individuality? And, strangely enough, the thing most in need of remedy is not mentioned - the terrible predicament of the individual left by an 'education' over which he had no control with no means of livelihood and no way of re-accessing the sort of career to which he is suited.
An agonising childhood and adolescence might be regarded as justified if it led to a tolerable adult life, even if the suffering and ruin of non-combatant parents is unquestionably obscene. But the greatest problem that needs to be addressed is the predicament of the outcast.