Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sociability, leadership, and academic distinction

I'm not sure how much academics factored into the National Honor Society criteria back when I was in school, but I'm pretty sure these criteria included more than a 3.0 grade point average. Today, a 3.0 is all you need, as long as you meet these other criteria (from the National Honor Society website):

Service:
This quality is defined through the voluntary contributions made by a student to the school or community, done without compensation and with a positive, courteous, and enthusiastic spirit. 

Leadership:
Student leaders are those who are resourceful, good problem solvers, promoters of school activities, idea-contributors, dependable, and persons who exemplify positive attitudes about life. Leadership experiences can be drawn from school or community activities while working with or for others. 

Character:
The student of good character upholds principles of morality and ethics, is cooperative, demonstrates high standards of honesty and reliability, shows courtesy, concern, and respect for others, and generally maintains a good and clean lifestyle.
Citizenship:
The student who demonstrates citizenship understands the importance of civic involvement, has a high regard for freedom, justice, and democracy, and demonstrates mature participation and responsibility through involvement with such activities as scouting, community organizations, and school clubs.
Then we have gifted programs. As I discussed in a recent post, these, too, increasingly prioritize non-academic skills.  Here's a specific example, posted by 1crosbycat in response to a related post:
The curricular framework for meeting the wide range of gifted needs and abilities include these essentials:

Affective skills
Leadership skills
Communication skills
Creative thinking skills
Decision making skills
Critical thinking skills
Logical thinking skills
Organization and management skills
Research and independent study skills
Specific content and career exploration
So here's my question. For the many bright introverts, bright children with Asperger's, bright but bored underachievers, and asynchronously developing gifted children out there, is there any form of "academic" distinction that doesn't impose standards of personal character that can only be met by cheerful, charismatic, organized extroverts?

Standardized tests like the SATs come to mind, but, as I note in an earlier post, more and more colleges are de-emphasizing such tests:
A commission convened by some of the country’s most influential college admissions officials is recommending that colleges and universities move away from their reliance on SAT and ACT scores and shift toward admissions exams more closely tied to the high school curriculum and achievement.
But then there are problems even with curriculum-based assessments. The problem with these, as I note in my book and in an earlier post, is that curricula (and even grades) are based less and less on challenging academic standards, and more and more on sociability and positive attitudes.

So I repeat my question. For the many bright introverts, bright children with Asperger's, bright but bored underachievers, and asynchronously developing gifted children, is there any form of "academic" distinction out there that doesn't impose standards of personal character that can only be met by cheerful, charismatic, organized extroverts?

3 comments:

Mike said...

Katharine - 'Twas ever thus, if my memories of high school can still be relied upon.

A left-brained, asocial student can attain academic distinction in contests (math competition, science fairs, essay contests, art competitions), especially if the judging is done by those who do not know the student and are therefore unable to reward Becky Homecoming or Tommy Trojan. Also, that assumes a sufficient motivation on the part of the left-brained student, so some desire for achievement and a willingness to do work outside the classroom is needed.

Anonymous said...

Most math competitions, from elementary school up, are based solely on individual skills. Ditto for chess tournaments and the USACO computer programming competitions. At the high school level, there also are the Biology Olympiad, Chemistry Olympiad, Physics Olympiad, and the computer equivalent.

JC said...

Math contests and science fairs don't require introversion as an entrance requirement. They are open to anyone who qualifies. It isn't fair to require extroversion as an entrance requirement for honors or gifted programs.

The whole point of these programs should be to provide a more challenging curriculum for students who are unchallenged in regular classrooms. The ability to do higher level work should be the only entrance requirement.

I know students who aren't very bright who are in gifted and honors programs. They are being accepted into magnet schools. I would assume these not so bright students are achieving these things based on leadership skills and sociability alone, since academics are not their strong point. Of course, these programs are inevitably being dumbed down to accomodate these social but not so smart students.

So, the question is, what is out there for our highly intelligent students? Even our extroverted, highly intelligent students who can get accepted in these programs are going to go unchallenged due to the dumbing down of gifted and magnet programs.