Wednesday, November 16, 2005


It's been a long time since I posted anything here, but I discovered this morning that C.S. Lewis had a position on the No Child Gets Ahead Initiative.

Of course, that's not technically true since:

1) There's no official platform RECOGNIZED as the "no child gets ahead initiative," and

2) C.S. Lewis died in 1963, long before the No Child Left Behind Initiative came to pass.

In response to the first point, I can only say, "Call it what you will." I live in Illinois, a state that responded to the dictates of the No Child Left Behind program by deleting it's gifted education budget. Not reducing. Not reapportioning. Eliminating. There is no longer state funded gifted education in the state of Illinois.

Now, this serves two purposes, though only one is acknowledged. The obvious goal is that the moneys taken from the gifted programs can be re-routed into meeting the NCLB requirements. But there's an invisible benefit that's even more powerful--it slows down those pesky smart kids! And, of course, if you slow down the whole pack, then it's MUCH easier to make sure that no one gets left behind.

Now, before you start kicking and fussing about how the gifted kids will be okay anyway and it's more important that everyone can walk than that some children can run while others crawl, let me tell you a little secret: a lot of gifted kids can't walk. It's run or sit down. Now, this shouldn't be a secret, since there are reams and reams of research proving it, but somehow it seems to have escaped the attention except the parents of those children who are being asked to slow down and do work they already know how to do for six hours a day, 170 days a year, and to REMAIN ENTHUSIASTIC AND ENGAGED while they do so.

Yes, I'm one of those parents, but I'm a lucky one. I work for a national educational corporation and, because of the unique nature of our business, am surrounded by highly gifted teachers from a wide variety of fields. I count among my colleagues doctors from several countries, lawyers, business executives, teachers at all levels of the public and private school system, and one rocket scientist. I don't need the public school system to challenge my daughter. Not every parent has those resources.

I must admit, though, that I've always thought in terms of the needs of the child. C.S. Lewis's posthumous position on the initiative broadened my perspective this morning. Here's what he said, in 1960:

Unfortunately, it is almost equally possible to break your mother's heart by rising above the homely ethos. It can be a domestic counterpart to that nationally suicidal type of education which keeps back the promising child because the idlers and dunces might be "hurt" if it were undemocratically moved into a higher class than themselves.

Idlers and dunces may be harsh, but it was the "nationally suicidal" that caught my eye. If the best and the brightest of our next generation are encouraged to tune out and sit quietly instead of engaging their minds, who will have the initiative and analytical skills and knowledge base to lead us to the one after?