While I’m ready at the drop of a hat to advocate for the unmet needs of precocious children (albeit mostly blogging about those who are precocious in math, programming, and hard science), I have to admit that I don’t always find myself feeling quite so charitably towards certain of their parents.
I wrote about this earlier after engaging with a very proud dad who goes by the name of Physicist Dave--in what was one of the most maddening e-exchanges I've ever had. As I noted then, what really bugs me about this certain subset of parents is what I perceive as:
(1) a lack of sympathy for the needs of other children: children who may be reasonably intelligent in many ways, but, compared with their own kids, are (at least in certain respects) less precocious and less driven, or simply less privileged.
(2) a lack of appreciation and sympathy for the concerns of these other parents vis a vis these other children.
I aired some more of my grievances in a recent comment thread, which I’ve decided to repost here, elaborated a bit and edited for clarity:
It’s hard for parents who are gifted readers, and/or whose kids are gifted readers, to put themselves in the shoes of average or struggling readers.
It’s hard for people who have never had to worry about their own kid’s reading skills and who haven’t spent time in regular language arts classrooms in today’s public schools or time tutoring typical kids extracurricularly to see just how deficient reading instruction in schools has become and how this plays out in later grades for non-gifted readers.
It’s hard for parents whose kids are natural sponges for information and have plenty of extracurricular opportunities to learn things to appreciate that many reasonably intelligent children are different. It's hard for these parents to recognize that many reasonably intelligent kids, whether from distractibility or self-absorption or narrow obsessions or anxiety, frequently tune things out or lack the levels of curiosity that drive others to know everything about everything--or are simply less privileged and lack extra-curricular opportunities for learning. And it's hard these parents to appreciate how much more the parents of these other kids therefore depend on schools to teach them the vocabulary and core cultural and historical knowledge that becomes increasingly crucial for later reading comprehension. Not having to depend on schools to do this for their own kids, such parents can, in addition, be blissfully unaware of how deficient today’s schools are in teaching this core knowledge in ways that lead to long-term knowledge retention.
It’s hard for people whose kids read copiously on their own to see just much less other kids are reading on their own—even ones whose parents read great books to them every day and take them to the library once a week and keep screen time to a minimum and give them books, rather than video games, at every gift-giving occasion.
And it’s hard for people who haven’t thought deeply about what goes into language comprehension and reading comprehension to appreciate the subtle challenges faced by non-gifted readers, including the many reasonably intelligent kids who have had, for all the above reasons, to depend much more on school-based instruction than their own kids have, as well as the different levels of incomplete comprehension that may slow progress or subtly turn kids off to reading.Is my frustration out of line? Do others share it? Please weigh in.