06 January 2008

More 'research' on gifted children

Apparently there is a terrible place called "Research Centre for Able Pupils" (RECAP) at Oxford Brookes University. (See article ‘Is your child a genius’ by Sarah Harris, Daily Mail, 5 January 2008.) We are told that someone called Bernadette Tynan, formerly of RECAP, "has toured schools helping identify talented pupils for a Channel Five series, Make Your Child Brilliant, which starts on Thursday."

Before confiscating even more money from taxpayers for ‘research’ to be done by socially appointed oppressors of humanity, they should have devoted at least the same amount of money to restitution and reparation of those who have been deprived of a career, or even an acceptable means of livelihood, by the oppressive school and university system.

They should close this place now, and give me the money which is being spent on supporting it, so that I can set up at least a minimal institutional environment within which I and my associates can at long last have progressive and productive academic careers.

The same applies to the other appalling place, the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth at Warwick University (now taken over by the education department). If both were closed and the money given to me, I could proceed to make some use of my ability on a more adequate scale.

The money that is being spent on ‘helping’ the present generation of gifted children should first of all be spent on undoing the harm that has already been done to the lives of former gifted children, rather than doing ‘research’ on even more effective methods for destroying the lives of those with high IQs.

Usually discussions of whether or not treating gifted children, or any others, in a certain way is good or bad do not start by arguing about what are the correct assumptions to be made about the motivation of those concerned (this is usually assumed to be unquestionably benevolent). Instead the discussion is solely about whether the outcome of their attentions is to be regarded as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, again with plenty of unexamined assumptions about what is good or bad.

It is certainly possible to discuss the matter on these terms, but I know that nobody is likely to agree with my analysis of the psychological driving forces in the situation. So before doing so, let me first say that on what appears to be the basic moral principle, society should interfere as little as possible with the individual's freedom to evaluate for himself the various factors which affect his existential situation, and to react to it as effectively as his resources permit. On these grounds, compulsory education is immoral, and compulsory state education even more so.

But since we live in an oppressive society which has both compulsory education and state education financed by taxation, one would hope that those concerned in the educational system were trying to provide their victims with what the victims would wish to purchase for themselves, with their own money, if they were able to do so, and not to impose the providers’ own evaluations of the priorities of life, in an attempt to manipulate the outlook and behaviour of the victims. However, it is fairly obvious that the providers are often primarily interested in social engineering and ideological manipulation of all kinds.

There is no reason to assume that because teachers and educational experts have nothing to gain financially by frustrating and oppressing their victims, they will refrain from doing so, or will even, as is usually assumed, be motivated to bring about results that are advantageous to the victims.

There is every reason to think that many of those involved in education have ideological axes to grind; and even if they did not, they are in a position of so much power to influence what goes on in the lives of their victims, that it could hardly be expected that their subconscious motives would not have considerable influence on the outcome. Their motives are not necessarily purely ideological; they may simply prefer or dislike one type of person rather than another. In particular, jealousy of exceptional ability, exceeding their own, is likely to be a very influential force in the situation.

It now appears to be widely accepted that it is ‘bad’ for able children to constantly succeed, and that they need to be ‘challenged’.

On a website called ‘Gifted Exchange’, there is an example of this way of thinking.

Charles Murray [in an article called 'Aztecs vs. Greeks'] calls for the gifted to be given a challenging, classical education. He further states that we need to encourage gifted kids not to become just smart but wise. 'The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one’s own intellectual limits and fallibilities – in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today’s education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, “I can’t do this.” Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them.'

The editor of the site, Laura Vanderkam, agrees with this and says:

If anyone reads Aztecs vs. Greeks and decides to push for education that holds gifted kids’ feet to the fire, intellectually, then I’ll be happy.

This is just an incitement to those who are running the lives of gifted children to humiliate and frustrate them. Such people do not need any incitement.

In the Charles Murray quotation he uses vague words, wisdom and humility, with confidence that these attributes (whatever is to be understood by them) can be produced mechanically by paternalistic manipulation, and by subjecting the victim to certain types of experience. What is really meant is that incipient centralisation* is to be opposed, and decentralisation enforced. The demand for gifted children to be ‘challenged’ is really a demand for any rudimentary centralisation to be destroyed. This is now a far more explicit part of the modern ideology than it was when it was so destructively applied to me.

* A state of psychology involving a sense of self-determination and identification with one's life. For more details, see link.