We’re ALL in denial when it comes to our kids.
You know that book/movie/episode of Sex and the City “He’s Just Not That Into You?”
Your kid is Just Not That Bright.
Ouch. That HURT.
But I felt it was necessary to rip the bandaid off quickly, rather than prolong the agony. Sometimes brutal honesty is better than sugarcoated fantasy (which, although a great porno name, is not going to help you understand my point.)
It doesn’t do you any good for me to feed you the same bullshit the schools have been feeding you all these years.
I know you think your kid is smart. After all, he has a 4.0 GPA in school, doesn’t he? Or a 3.8?
As a matter of fact, she’s a National Honors Society member.
But trust me, this doesn’t mean anything. It may have everything to do with grade inflation; rampant cheating; tenure; weighted averages, grade grubbing – so many factors.
He could be in the top 10 percent of the class and still…not be that bright.
“Dammit, why does she keep SAYING that?!!”
I guess I’m hoping to take the sting out of the words through repetition.
I have found that even the most realistic, evolved parents harbor a little bit of denial when it comes to their offspring.
Take Little Dude, for example. He’s super bright (or is he? I’d like to think he is, but after all, I AM his mom. And by definition, this puts me in the paradoxical situation of writing about a phenomenon that I myself may fall prey to).
Okay, let’s assume he’s bright. Not super gifted genius bright, but above average bright.
However, he has a lot of behavioral flaws. He’s defiant, smart mouthed – a difficult 10-year-old (or 17-year-old). Over the years, I have tried to be realistic about his flaws, but I’m sure I still see him in a better light then some other parents see him.
When he’s hanging with his buds, and smashes another kid over the head with a lightsaber, I’m sure the parents of his friend with the fresh head wound is now going to think of my kid as “that maniac.”
I think he’s … spirited. They think he’s a hyena.
Every parent whose kid has less than stellar academic performance goes dragging their kid off to the pediatric neurologist, looking for answers.
ADD. ADHD. Visual Perceptual deficit. Auditory Processing Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder. Dyspraxia. Dyslexia. Dyscalculia. Dysgraphia.
It’s actually a GOOD thing that kids are no longer seen as just good and bad, smart and dumb.
It’s a positive thing, and a long time coming, that many developmental learning issues have been identified and are now addressed in schools so that every kid has a chance to learn.
The downside to this is,
THERE ARE NO DUMB KIDS ANYMORE.
NONE. NADA. ZIP.
This is what I want to focus this post on.
Where have all the dumb kids gone?
Some of the other issues I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ll discuss in subsequent posts.
When I was growing up (wow, nothing like that phrase to make you sound old), there were smart kids, there were average kids, and there were dumb kids.
It was fairly easy to identify the dumb kids. In middle school, they were the ones sitting in the back of the room, shooting spitballs in Mr. Gleason’s crappy hairpiece.
In high school, they were the ones standing outside, huddled together in leather jackets smoking cigarettes and lighting Mr. Gleason’s car on fire.
To hear parents speak today, there are simply no dumb kids. How can that be? We’ve all come into contact with dumb adults, haven’t we? Possibly you’ve asked them for help while shopping at Best Buy. Occasionally they work airport security, or dance around inside purple dinosaur costumes.
So, weren’t they, more than likely, just not so bright as kids? And isn’t there a possibility that there are some not-so-bright kids roaming around TODAY?
If there are, it NEVER gets blamed on intelligence.
A close friend of mine has a son who’s just not that bright. She constantly refers to him as “intelligent” but “with delays.”
Now maybe it’s easy for me call a spade a spade because my kid doesn’t have intelligence issues, but delays? The kid was dumb.
She ended up having him repeat kindergarten, TWICE. Never mind that he’ll be shaving before he leaves middle school. He’s just “delayed.”
I can already hear the indignant denouncements of the outraged politically correct baby boomers.
How dare I use the word dumb?
I’ll tell you how I dare. For one, it’s nicer than stupid.
The world is just not created equal.
I can already see, at 10, that my son is not a “natural” athlete. He’s better than he USED to be because I run him like a dog (I know – the dad’s job –right? I’m the one in the backyard with a ball and a glove like a dipshit). And yes, he’s improved, and will continue to.
But some kids his age can run a ball on a soccer field like Lionel Messi. The “delayed” son of my friend can run faster than a speeding bullet. Maybe it’s because his brain weighs less than all the other kids.’
And I can and do compare my son’s artistic ability to that of my friend’s kids. My girlfriend’s daughter can already draw, at 9 years old, the kind of artwork I would consider framing and hanging up. I can see that, Little Dude is NO Da Vinci. Here is his latest drawing:
So why am I, and probably other parents, willing to admit when our kids are not naturally athletic, or artistic, or musical – but DON’T WANT to admit that our kids are just not that smart?
Because BEING SMART HELPS WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE.
If you can’t paint, throw a hellish long pass, play the tuba, or win a beauty contest you can still have a very successful life.
But if you’re not smart, you’re kind of screwed.
I recently spoke to a mother, an incredibly bright Ivy League Graduate. Her youngest son has learning “issues.” He has an IEP; an Individualized Education Program, which is a written document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for education.
I inquired as to nature of these issues. The mom, as bright and articulate as she is, could not tell me anything specific. She had just identified early on that her son was having difficulties in school. She asked his teacher if she felt her son was experiencing any kind of learning delays; the teacher did not.
She demanded that the child study team test her son. They did and found nothing diagnosable wrong with him.
She then went to a private doctor, and was given a diagnosis sufficient to garner her son the aforementioned IEP. Her answer, when I asked what specifically was his diagnosis, was that he had “broad spectrum learning disability.”
What IS that?
I tried googling it.
It doesn’t exist.
Is there anything even “wrong” with her son? Who’s to say?
Many experts found nothing they could specifically pin down; the expensive specialist she went to gave her a diagnosis that doesn’t exist on the Internet.
What if her son was just not that bright?
What if she just had enough money to find a doctor who would give her what she was looking for – a reason to explain away her son’s sub-par academic performance? That would certainly make her feel better about having given birth to a “C” student who doesn’t have an iceberg’s chance in hell of attending her college alma mater.
The benefits of having broadened our educational system to accommodate kids with learning disabilities are extolled resoundingly.
The damage this may be doing, on the other hand, is completely hush hush. No one wants to think that people exploit the system so they can do something as unfair as get their kids undeserved extra accommodations. I see it all the time.
Let’s say you’re one of the smart, professional, educated parents with plenty of resources – and you were unwilling to have your child – who may or may not have a learning disability – struggle in school. And you choose to utilize all the support necessary to help your child.
BUT – when does utilization become exploitation?
Because remember – even with all the fancy diagnoses available, some of the kids with these quasi non-specific diagnoses are just not that bright.
Schools must accommodate these kids. Once diagnosed and given an IEP or 504, schools are legally bound to. But even with all those extra accommodations, a student whose parent fought to get them one of these bogus diagnoses is going to flounder.
In high school. In college.
And definitely in life, where IEPs DO NOT exist.
This is the where this debacle REALLY impacts us.
Let me state this, for the record: I would never suggest that some students do not legitimately deserve and benefit from these accommodations. I would never try to minimize the importance of the Special Education system in our country, and how much good it has done to help millions of kids with learning disabilities.
But I wouldn’t have written about this kind of exploitation if I didn’t know a parent, a special education teacher, tell me right out that there was nothing discernably wrong with her child.
Her kid was just a crappy student who did terribly on tests, and she told me she knew how to “work the system” to get her kid extra time on tests.
This is the type of parent I am talking about. Only one of them had the balls to come right out and say it.
But she’s like a cockroach – for every one you spot, there’s a hundred more hidden somewhere.
And this mangled intersection of finance, education and politics is not IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CHILDREN.
What do you think about the accommodations made for kids who really don’t need them, vs kids who do?
Talk to me. I’m listening.