Monthly Column

July 2006



Gifted children and Glasgow University’s Department of Educational Studies


A terrible (as usual) article on gifted children was published in the Times Educational Supplement.*


Some people from Glasgow University’s Department of Educational Studies say that “thousands of gifted and able children are failing to achieve their potential” (surprise, surprise) and why is this?  “Because they cannot cope with the pace and pressure of lessons designed to stretch them.”  Well, we know what lessons designed to ‘stretch’ them are for, don’t we?  To drive them up the wall with impossibility by being given something to do that is pointless and irrelevant, boring and tedious, and which they know will give the teachers opportunities for sneering at them.


Children must be “allowed to make mistakes” says one wicked woman (Ms Chris Smith).  “Being able is not a one-off and fixed state of existence”, she told the Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress in Glasgow.  Implying, no doubt, ‘we can smash it up very well, and our success in doing so should be regarded as really meaningful and permanent.’


“Abilities emerge, develop and show themselves in different settings and at different times so that assessment has to be ongoing and flexible” these academics assert.


Of course it is quite easy to make someone’s life so frustrated that they find it almost impossible to function at all, especially at pointless work set by a hostile teacher or tutor.  I know; it was done to me.  And I found it surprising (at first) that nobody took the decline in my functionality as meaning that something was wrong with my circumstances which needed to be put right.


No!  I had just become less clever, and should be frustrated even more.


Another person (Ms Margaret Sutherland) from Glasgow University said that “experiencing failure was a vital part of the learning process and education was geared too much towards always getting it right.  Children need sometimes to be taken to the point of failure so they know it is safe to do so and it is not the end of the world.  They learn from that.”


I thought the whole point was that it was the end of the world.  If you could be forced to fail for long enough, eventually you would be thrown out with no way of making a career (in a university, which was the only sort I could have) and nothing you could do in the bad circumstances of the outer world would ever be taken as justification for re-admitting you to the fold of academics with salary and status.


Yes, well, I knew that the people running my life wanted to make me fail by overlooking my complaints and objections to the unsuitable arrangements being forced upon me.  What did I learn from that?  That they were sadists and destructively jealous of me.  And that I was in a terrible position in having to try to make my way in a hostile society.


Margaret Sutherland, who has jointly carried out research with Ms Smith on teaching gifted children, said the culture of praise in schools was another difficulty in dealing with highly-able children.  “If you tell a gifted child they have done something brilliantly, but they know it took the minimal effort, then they will think ‘if that’s all it takes to get a gold star then that’s all you will get’.  They won’t go the extra mile,” she said.  “If someone is always telling you how great and how clever you are, the chances are you will avoid challenge and difficulty and not achieve your capabilities.”


This is, of course, pernicious rubbish.  It is entirely fictitious psychology being used to provide a rationalised justification for maltreatment.  I did not have high standards for my work in order to get praise, but in order to get something out of my life.  However, when I got praise for doing something in what I felt myself to have been the optimal way, that was a welcome reinforcement. 


Being deprived of the opportunity to do anything in a way that I could myself feel good about (i.e. being prevented from taking as many exams as possible as fast as possible) was made no better and even chillier and gloomier by the fact that I knew there was a policy of never praising me for anything academic but only for non-academic things which I did not care about.


‘What effect was this supposed to have on me?’ I wondered, when the headmistress whom I hated (and regarded as silly and pretentious as well as malicious) made a fuss about my craftwork models or my learning to swim.  Did she really expect her approval to make me any more inclined to do that sort of thing?  If she did, how could she?  And eventually I concluded that the object of it must be to distract me from my work (or from the work I should have been doing) by keeping my mind engaged on speculations about the internal workings of her psychology.


Apparently there is now a TeacherNet website, designed to support all those involved in the education (destruction?) of the gifted and talented.  There are also organisations in this field referred to as ‘widely respected’, such as London Gifted and Talented and the National Association for Able Children in Education.  Clearly techniques for the destruction of the able have been brought to a fine art and are explicitly promoted.


They were really well enough understood when they were used to destroy my prospects in life over half a century ago, although less explicitly advocated.


Conclusion:  I have already suggested that it should be illegal for any state school to accept as a pupil/victim anyone with an IQ of 150 or over.  While it is still legal, state schools should be avoided like the plague by the able and gifted, and institutions designated as ‘Academies for the Gifted and Able’, or anything similar, should be especially shunned.


Also, it should be realised that it is exceedingly probable that anyone with a high IQ who has been to any sort of school, and especially a state school, has been exposed to hostility and provided with unfair and artificial handicaps for their future career.  Anyone who is reasonably satisfied with their own position in life should help them to work towards remedying or at least alleviating their position by contributing towards their support a percentage of their own salary or other income.  When I can get 100 people each to contribute £1000 per annum I shall be able to run my excruciatingly constricted residential college cum publishing company on a slightly more productive and less grimly painful basis.


That is my first target for support from society at large.  At present I have none.


We welcome links to our website from high IQ associations and those for gifted children, from university philosophy departments and from libertarian and free market organisations.  There will be items appearing on our website which should be of interest to members of such associations.


Addendum: I often refer to myself as being ‘absolutely unqualified’ when I was thrown out at the end of my supervised ‘education’.  Every time I say this I should add the rider that, although this left me with no way of earning a living, let alone providing myself with the circumstances of an academic career, it did not mean that I would have been unable to carry out the functions of many academic appointments. 


I knew that applying for them would be useless on account of my dearth of paper qualifications, although this was only by social convention regarded as relevant.  I did not think I would need to take any exams in order to be functional in several areas, but although I was past the age at which taking as many exams as possible as fast as possible had seemed the most suitable and desirable activity, I could still take exams in anything other than maths at short notice with an adequate level of success; however, no one would discuss how I might do this in order to regain a foothold in society.


The practical work in science exams had always been a stumbling block in my life because one had to be at the mercy of an institution in order to do it, and no one had ever been willing to arrange this for me, except by placing my life entirely at the mercy of the Woodford school (and that only to obtain A level practical work, not the degree level practicals that I needed to take external London degrees in physics and chemistry as soon as possible).  However, I thought, if there were any realism, Oxford University should be prepared to accept my lack of practical course work, in the egregious and exceptional circumstances, if I were allowed to take a degree in physics or chemistry at short notice.  Otherwise I would have to try to take a language degree quickly.


* 5 August 2005.




“Schools have been told they must put their brightest and best forward to join an academy for gifted children, and will be expected to make sure their top five per cent of pupils are challenged and given every chance to shine.” (Daily Mail 11 July)


This is a gruesome proposal and should be shunned.  There is a distinct feeling of desperation in the determined hunting down of victims.  Let none escape!  Schools which do not send in names will be punished!


But why is this necessary?  The lives of the gifted and talented are being quite satisfactorily destroyed at it is, without subjecting them to added torments.


We must, it seems, make sure the top five per cent of the population’s children are ‘challenged’ (discouraged and undermined) and ‘given every chance to shine’.  Surely a direct contradiction, at least so far as the top one or two percent of the population is concerned, which would be better off leaving school and taking as many exams as they feel inclined before the standard age with correspondence courses or just with textbooks and CDs at home, with absolutely no monitoring or interference from education authorities, not filling the time being ‘challenged’ with pointless problems designed to keep them at the mercy of teachers.



Further comments on the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, responding to a Professor of Philosophy who tried to get me to agree that that such a place must be good for some gifted and talented young people, even if not for all of them.


How can you possibly imagine I could think it was in anyone’s interests to go to a National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth?  I have said clearly enough on my website that state education should be abolished, and this is only another state school.  State schools should be abolished because they are immoral.  Actually compulsory education is immoral, and should be abolished.  It is imposing your own evaluations of the existential situation on people’s lives, and hence violating a basic moral principle. 


If you have compulsory ‘education’, you are decreeing that everyone, whatever their individual differences, must have full-time ‘education’, i.e. must spend large tracts of their time in ways which society sees fit to regard as ‘educational’, and which might be completely different from what an individual or his parents would spontaneously consider as being the best thing to do at a certain age.


This is quite independent of how wicked and destructive one perceives the motivation of those concerned as being.


Actually I have a better idea.  Lower the school leaving age and instead of setting up a NAGTY, spend an equal amount of money on financing the top 5% of the population to come and work in my independent academic institution from say 14 to 21.  (They could stay on after that if they liked.)  That would enable me to reach a much more productive scale of operation.  Well, actually, a productive scale – as yet we are not really in a position to be productive at all. 


As I have already said, I would really recommend anyone with a child of educable age to leave this country.  Though it is not too clear where they should go, as the modern ideology is so ubiquitous.


If I had not, unfortunately, been the offspring of socially displaced families, hence needing to get into contact with a different stratum of society, I would have done much better to leave school at 13 when I was confronted by that age limit, give up on the idea of going to university, and start immediately on building up my capital by investment until I reached a point at which I could set up an independent university to do such research and publishing as I saw fit.  That would have given me a head start of 7 or 8 years compared with what has actually happened.


I think that the high IQ associations should make available correspondence courses on investment and, of course, draw attention to this Institute as an advantageous place to come and acquire experience of investment and strategies for survival in the modern world, as an alternative to going to university.  But this, of course, they will not do because of their adherence to the ideology which makes them wish to suppress all realistic information about us.


Celia Green