01 May 2007

"Middle-class child neglect"

In an article by India Knight entitled ‘Middle-class child neglect’ the following occurs:

Middle-class mothers ... are likely to raise their children in self-created ghettos of rarefied so-called excellence. (Sunday Times, 29 April 2007, p. 15.)

Maybe she is aware of my usage of the word ‘ghetto’ in calling us ‘the high IQ ghetto’. However I do not mean by that an enclave within which we can use our abilities in highly specialised or very suitable ways. The usage is as in ‘Jewish ghetto’, a place where very able people can struggle for the merest physical survival, surrounded by a hostile society which aims to cut off supplies and support.

We also attempt to work laboriously and tediously towards creating , in the first instance, a more tolerable and adequate environment within which at least a very small use of our abilities may be made.

Knight seems to be among those who are encouraging society to become ever more hostile to the able by instilling guilt in those middle-class mothers (probably themselves with above average IQs) who provide their children with opportunities which are more likely to be needed or enjoyed by those with above-average IQs.

She supports the fallacy that there is an either/or involved. ‘Stimulation’ versus ‘social skills’, as if above average achievement necessarily implied detracting from time spent on social interaction, and with no reference to the possibility of individual differences in IQ or other aptitudes.

When I was five I had already read as much as a fairly bright child might have been expected to get through in the course of its primary education. By ‘fairly bright’ I mean ‘potential university graduate later on’, and at that time that would imply a higher IQ than it does now.

People often suggest that I must have gone short of playing with other children, but in fact I did not. My mother, who was a very experienced teacher, saw to it that I had playmates who were a match for my mental, rather than chronological, age and I have photographs of myself playing with children at the seaside who may have been twice my age and were certainly twice my size.

There was no sense in which I cut down on interactive activities in order to devote myself to my reading matter, but I am sure that I made full use of unoccupied intervals of time. When I was four, I was told, I once travelled from London to Wiltshire on a crowded evacuee train, sitting on a suitcase in the guard’s van with my head in a book the whole way. (My parents were, of course, guilty of having provided me with a ‘stimulating’ book.)