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Moving Bright Kids Forward

The U. S. News Blog reports that schools in some states, including my home state of Florida, are making it possible for Middle School students to take advanced courses that might normally only be available in High School.

My reaction to this is positive. Anything that improves education is a good thing. As I remember my own education at that age I know I was frequently bored and would have enjoyed some advanced placement. The one objection I would see as reasonable is one of balance. Parents need to make sure their children have a balance of activities and that they are not pursuing such advanced placements when they are really not the best thing for them at that point. But that is a matter for involved parents and observant teachers.

On the other hand, those who object to this type of program have another reason: Minority children might be left behind. Quoting the article: “But some education experts are concerned that this trend in Florida and in other states is leaving minority students behind.” ()

Huh? I really question the “educational” expertise of someone who can make such a claim. This is the type of thinking that will permanently prevent minorities–and majorities–from achievement. These are educators who think that because not everyone goes through the door of opportunity, there must be some discrimination going on. Check out the numbers in the article. Certainly, white students are taking more advantage of these programs, but note also that white students are the minority at some of these schools.

Someone certainly should look into whether there are qualified students who are not pursuing such courses (and the numbers suggest there probably are) and why that should be. They should look into how one would get such students to invest their time and effort in the courses that will prepare them for the future. They should NOT look into ways of holding back the children who are taking advantage of them.

Closing the door will absolutely help nobody. There may be an argument that money is being spent to help the bright kids at the expense of the not-so-bright. Apart from disliking the idea of making that sort of judgment except through actual performance, I think that is a bogus argument.

Many of us don’t seem to realize it, but the world is becoming less and less friendly to those with limited education. We may glorify the people of the soil, construction workers, and manufacturing workers as the sort of salt of the earth. Unfortunately, on the other hand, the educated sometimes to look down at such people as ignorant or stupid. That is not the case. They are rather properly trained and educated for the job they perform. But those jobs are becoming less and less possible without a good education. Simply living in the world is going to require more education as time goes on.

If schools don’t move to provide the opportunity to learn anything for any child who is capable of doing so, then everyone, including those who might be rated as “less bright” is going to pay the cost. I can’t even begin to do the work of someone like Dr. Stephen Hawking, but I am immeasurably enriched by what he has done. I’m certainly not diminished because he demonstrates how much smarter he is than I am.

There’s a nasty tendency today to see education and opportunity as a sort of zero-sum game. If one person has more of it, the next person must necessarily have less. But the fact is that those who have some extra spark increase the opportunities available rather than taking opportunity from others.

I’m an advocate of public education, at least in some form. But I must also advocate private schooling and home schooling. I had some of each. I would not have made it to where I am now without the opportunities provided by teachers who didn’t think that pushing one child ahead was dangerous to other children. I benefited greatly from parents who didn’t say, “We’ll just send him to the nearest school and let him do whatever they think he should.”

Keep the existing doors of opportunity open. Open many more. Holding children back isn’t going to help anyone.

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