The Incredibles as a commentary on gifted education

I liked this New York Times article, deconstructing the Incredibles as a commentary on the debate within education on how to handle gifted children. Read it soon before it becomes for pay (or email me because I downloaded a copy). The article also refers to the short story Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, which danah boyd posted last month, in case you’re interested.

Both the article and the story address the eternal question of gifted education – do we separate out the gifted kids at the cost of telling the other kids they are not special, or do we keep everybody together with the risk of holding the gifted kids back from learning at their own pace? I’ve covered some of this territory before, but that’s why it’s an eternal question. I’m not sure I have anything new to say, except to tie it into my post about social rejection and reiterate that things that are available to everyone are not valued.

Education’s a tough thing. I was thinking about this recently (partially in response to reading this article recommending against going to Ivy League schools), and pondering the benefits from the top-notch education that I was fortunate enough to receive. It certainly wasn’t the classwork; I doubt I could remember ten percent of what I learned at MIT at this point. Part of it is confidence; even though I don’t remember the specifics of equations any more, I remember that I was able to figure it out, and if I could handle the firehose, everything else feels easy in comparison.

I think most of the benefit from going to MIT was the exposure to other really smart, talented people. Despite the feelings of inadequacy, it’s good for me to be challenged, to realize I’m not all that, to continue to have grandiose dreams. I’m talented enough that I could skate through this world pretty easily if I chose to; I have already achieved all the material trappings of success that the world demands, from the fancy car to the nice condo to the international travel, which is part of why that post struggles with the question of whether that’s enough.

If I were judging myself by the standards of “society”, it would be. I have everything that people say they want (well, except a wife). But I hold myself to higher standards, partially because I have friends that achieve extraordinary things, partially because I’ve been told all my life that I should be doing those extraordinary things as well. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’ll find that place to stand and I’ll just break the lever. But I’m going to keep trying. Wait til I write up my latest pretentious ideas, developed during a long conversation with Brad and Jill.

Anyway. Gifted kids and education. Hard question. I’ll stop now. Well, this post at least. I have a backlog of stuff to talk about. A big backlog.