Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Suffer the children...

I love it that my friend Monica is blogging. Her posts are often thought-provoking and provide me with topics to blog about. Today, it is about GEP testing and her bone with parents who push their kids to get into the programme AND the enrichment centres that prey upon these parents' aspirations and fears.

I have no issue with these centres, it's a free market, and if there are suckers who want to fork out thousands of dollars to them, go ahead. This is cos I have confidence that MOE's GEP selection test is robust enough to sieve out the genuinely able for the programme. The kids who attend these centres and get through, I believe, would have gotten in on their own anyway.

My bone to pick today isn't about that, it's this. Someone (whose son is gifted) in a mummies' forum I frequent posted a topic about identifying giftedness and sure as the sun rises in the east, soon someone comes along and says, gifted? my child's not gifted but it doesn't matter, as long as he's happy. A couple of other mothers would echo this sentiment. Aiyoh, why does it always have to be like that? Just because a child is academically-able, that doesn't mean he can't be well-adjusted and happy right? So many parents cannot believe that some kids are just able to excel academically by themselves, automatically assuming some hothousing must have been at play and hence the child must be downright miserable and deprived.

I'm a 100% believer that kids can't be pushed beyond their innate capabilities. When mothers talk about their kids' abilities, I believe them and don't suspect that the kids must have been worked to the bone. Some kids are just better able to grasp abstract concepts, just as some kids are great at drawing intricate robots, some kids can bend balls like Beckham, some kids build crazy-shit lego machines...I don't have to undermine their abilities by saying, oh my kid sucks at soccer but it doesn't matter, cos he's happy. Why do we assume that kids who play soccer all day, draw all day, play all day, are happier than kids who choose to read or spout mathematical formulas all day?

Who doesn't want their kids to be a soccerstar-stardebater-science&mathwhiz-mostpopularkidinschool? But not everyone can be well-rounded. Yet the people getting schtick and made to feel bad are always the egghead brainiacs' parents. First, that they are pushing their kids. Second, that they're not doing enough to make their kids more well-rounded (so you want us to push our hothoused kids even more?).

On the term Gifted, I'm not all that comfortable using that term, NOT because the word has become taboo and politically-incorrect in the western world, but because I have a different measure of what Giftedness is. Gifted to me are children who are able to perform at a level most adults can't. Eg, my Thai friend's pianist son here, and the math prodigy I spoke about in an earlier post. I know most of my friends who learnt piano will not be able to play like that. And I've seen the math prodigy's work, it's at some crazy level I can't comprehend, and I majored in Statistics. Doing math or english or science a couple of years ahead of your peers is highly-able yes, but gifted? Hmmm.

It's unfortunate that GEP has the word Gifted tagged to it, making it fodder for jealousy in today's we-are-all-equal world; ALL kids are gifted remember? It's actually simply a programme designed to better challenge academically-able children. Let's just take it as that.

And of course there're bragging rights to your child being in GEP, just as any parent would be proud that their son just scored the winning goal for the school team. If your child is in GEP, there should be no shame in it, and while there's no need to hold a placard announcing this fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with parents being rightly proud of their child's achievement. People should not be made to feel bad for what they are, nor for what they're not.

We all know academic success doesn't guarantee success in life, which in any case, is a subjective measure. What one deems as success may be utter failure to someone else. Sure, there may be GEP kids who grow up to become janitors (not that there's anything wrong with that; oh, one even became a world-famous porn star), and there are GEP kids who grow up to be thick-headed asses ruling the civil service, but there are many, many, GEP kids who grow up to be responsible, kind, ethical and useful people.

Replace GEP kids in that last sentence with any of the following, dumb jocks, star soccer players, gothic-kids, emo-kids, IT nerds, and you'll get my drift. Let's not knock our kids when they're so young just to feed our own insecurities.

32 comments:

monlim said...

Lilian, I LOVE this post. I totally agree. Sometimes, when people find out Lesley-Anne is in GEP, I find myself thinking 3 times before I say anything. Like how to say what I think without coming across hau lian.

And it irks me to hear pple say things like "It's better to have friends than be gifted" or "I'd rather be socially intelligent than gifted", like it's a mutually exclusive thing. Giftedness doesn't cause social ineptness, not does it cause you not to have friends. You can have both, if you're brought up by level-headed parents in a well-adjusted home.

I'm tired of feeling apologetic for my child's giftedness. I want to embrace it.

Lilian said...

Thanks Mon, I was beginning to think I struck a wrong chord somewhere when everything turned quiet on the comments section :)

Ahhh, feeling apologetic, that was the phrase I was looking for but which never came!

It all boils down to accepting our kids for what they are; embracing both their strengths and weaknesses, cos if we, their parents, don't do that, who will?

monlim said...

Totally agree. quiet probably cos it's a controversial issue. Would be interesting to see the comments that come up!

bACk in GERMANY said...

Oops... I don't have gifted children, so I can't say what I'd say if I had one.
But Lilian, you know those who said such things... most probably sour grapes lah.

I know for a fact that GEP people are well adjusted... and I also know for a fact that non GEP people can also be successful. Hey... just embrace talents of all kinds, like you said. That's why I do believe in those forums when moms say that their 5 yos can read, write, count, cook and clean... wow... I really do believe them... although I must admit that it all sounds a little freaky to me...
cos when I think read, I think Shakespeare, when I think write, I think Keats, when I think count, I think John Nash, when I think cook, I think Rachael Ray, when I think clean, I think hospital clean... oops sorry... I think I'm the freaky one here... heehee...

Lilian said...

Phwoarrr PP, no wonder you say your kids aren't gifted, your expectations higher than Mount Everest!! hahaha.

Don't talk about nonGEP kids lah; some of my most successful classmates in Malaysia didn't even go to university. HARD WORK,Luck, Timing, Grace (for those religiously-inclined), they all play the biggest part in how our lives turn out.

Alcovelet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lilian said...

Where you rushing off to? You talk like train, so fast I can't catch up.

Re that mums' forum, I too believe they really believe what they say but why is there a need to jump in when the topic is on Gifted kids. Eg, if someone posts a toot2 post about how their girl won a dance scholarship, or their son got into the school basketball team or the much coveted Sports school, everyone will go Wow, congrats, etc etc, which is well and good BUT no one jumps in to say, My daughter can't really dance, BUT I'm just happy she's happy. KWIM? That's what gets my goat and I tend to think it boils down to some deep-seated insecurity.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Why do you think we like to chill out here?

Wait till I get back to Sg... I'd be phwoarrr.... become a demon in whipping my kids to reach my expectations!!! Hahaha

While I'd like for them to have as pleasant a school experience as I had enjoyed, I hope I'm not imposing my own definition of fun, or worse, my unfulfilled dreams on my kids... This is probably easier said than done.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Adeline: I thought you quit your xiong schedules? Yep, I geddit, it's an X!

Lilian: Oi... you know, Sg is not that cold... so people do go out pretty often. ;)

Alcovelet said...

Pant pant, just got back.

Cindy, can be chilled in chilli Singapore lah (orrrrr, so CORNY)! You can choose the schedule, no problem. Although I must say, try to hang with the easy going mums or you'll get infected - I happen to know a bunch who don't even send their kids to school ... hehe.

Lilian, I reread your msg and still don't get it leh! Then BH comes along and says - "some people equate being gifted with being unhappy." Is this it?? Duhhhh, Maybe I'm just hard to insult cos I'm too dense, oh dear!!

Monica, I see what you mean! I'm a bit paiseh to say my son is gifted. Yeah, I wanna embrace that and not feel so apologetic! But people start to slag him off, and I get all these competitive vibes. I really freeze up because I don't know what to say - it's his mental composition what. I sometimes wonder if I over-emphasize on the negatives because I feel so apologetic. That's why I get so tired of the bs and start to think - who cares!! Just get away from negative people! It's worked wonders for us!

Lilian said...

Adeline: Your husband just succinctly condensed in one line and made you understand what I tried unsuccessfully to explain in my long-winded tirade :). Am I the worst communicator or what?

Alcovelet said...

Ongggggrrrrr. Say so lah! No lah! Some bloody lucky people get away unscathed. You never read James Webb, meh? But what's true is there are people who are having it very bad - that sure gave me a new perspective.

monlim said...

I cannot resist it, am going to put up another post on this topic tomorrow. On with the controversy!

Lilian said...

Looking forward to it!

Lilian said...

Adeline, I had to google James Webb to find out which book he wrote! Do you know I've never bought a single book on raising gifted kids?

Instead, what I do have are books like What kids really need most in a MOM; How to really love your child; What do you really want for your children; No more push parenting; a couple of raising boys books which are pretty rubbish...notice my priorities?

Alcovelet said...

Haha!

Talking about that, my list start off with - Difficult Baby (by Dr William Sears, I still remember), Discipline Magic, 123 Discipline, Super Nanny Jo Frost, and then slowly wound back to - Raising Your Spirited Child, Your Strong Willed Child, then I hit on James Webb and a series of gifted books. I have "The Value of Play", or something like that from the Push Parenting guy. I totally agree with him, and oh, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards. But yah, huh, what you read does show your interest and (desperate) needs!

The only two that really work in terms of how to deal with RK are Raising Your Spirited Child and James Webb.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Haha... this so funny... watching the tennis ball goes ding and dong.

Adeline: Next time I'll drop you a hint at your comment column... Better not, in case I get it wrong, I'd have started a war!!!

Monica: Can't wait for your next installment on the saga of controversies.

Lilian: Haha... my parenting books are titled "The Complete Sleep Guide for Contented Babies and Toddlers", "Nighttime parenting", "No-cry sleep solution" etc...
No wonder I top at making my kids sleep... with Kristin, I even achieved 14 hours a day (12 hours night + 2 hours nap) until this summer.

Lilian said...

PP: Are you sure you don't have any books in your house called Dealing with a fussy eater? or Excuse me, are you a (child) model?

Adeline: I think Hsien also read Raising a Spirited Child when she was in London. For my spirited child, I didn't read books, I just wield my trusty u-know-what ;)

Alcovelet said...

I'm serious, Ms Backingermany! You mean you can kao teem Bryan just like that?

bACk in GERMANY said...

I think all problems stem from either being too hungry or too tired... or at least it's true for normal folks like us. :)
We are quite basic in that way... esp when we are not in the hot-housing camp (Disclaimer: Didn't mean to imply any of you have been hothousing your kids hor). That's why I say my kids not genius material, so no need to make them become genius-wannabes... Again, not sourgrape talk here.

But maybe I should learn from Lilian to deposit more into the "love" bank!

monlim said...

You mothers are just killing me. Besides the book on Gifted Children I mentioned in my post (can't even remember who by, was it James Webb?), I own ONE book on parenting. On my bookshelf of a few hundred books. AND I NEVER FINISHED IT!!!!!! So what's my priority??

Lilian said...

Monica: Your priority is your reading, your prolific and your scrabulous lah, what else!

I've never finished any of my parenting books either! But it's funny the different priorities we have as reflected in the books we have :) Mine is LOVE LOVE LOVE! Any wonder my favourite movie is Love Actually? haha, what a wimp!

Alcovelet said...

Yeah, you sum it best LIlian! Love is it. Somehow, I always I recall that baby smell when I equate love with kids.

Lilian said...

I love kids' smell; but once they approach puberty, eeyewww, get away from me!

Baby smell is the best of course. I know some people love smelling baby's feet. But my fetish is baby's armpits! hahaha...but only baby's!, talk about other armpits I will PUKE!

I also love to sniff kids' heads, mmmm. You guys better smell your kids as much as you can, when they get older, can't do that anymore, stinky pooh...

Hsien Lei said...

I know we talked about this before but I want to say again that I believe the whole idea of being "well-rounded" is a myth. We all have our strengths and we'd all be happier of we cultivated it. Not that we shouldn't work on our weaknesses but that we should not think we can be good at everything whether it be academics, sports, or otherwise.

monlim said...

everyone's very quiet on my post, i wonder if they're all staying nervously away, haha!

Lilian said...

hahaha, lighter topic tomorrow then :)

Lilian said...

Hsien: Yes, I remember this came up quite a few times in our 'chats'; it is one of my pet topics to moan about :) Can't help it when well-rounded is what many universities and employers want. Let's not even go that far, it's what Singapore expects of its students, which is where CCA points come in.

Li Min said...

Have you been to this site? A genius right here in Singapore!
http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com

Lilian said...

Yes, yes, this little boy is really a genius, without a doubt, and very cute too. I think he was featured in a UK documentary recently.

Slim said...

In my case, it's the GEPers who are more socially adept, charming and sporty than the non-GEPer- talk about unfairness! I wonder if it's got to do with self-esteem/confidence; knowing they're in the GEP, they're more confident and hence outspoken and this plays out in the sporting arena too. Or maybe that's just their personality.

Lilian said...

HEY SLIM *BIG WAVE* Finally you make your way here in the comments section. You better hang around here more often, don't so action :)

Everyone: Slim is (can I add gorgeous?) mom to 3 brilliant boys (ages 10, 11, 12! she's mad I tell you!). The two younger ones are in Nanyang GEP. She's the most relaxed parent I've ever met in Singapore, honestly. She's evidence that kids can still thrive in Singapore's education system with no tuition (except for Chinese), minimal parental 'help' (she lets them hand in their projects untouched by adult intervention), and sane scheduling (was at her place after school and her kids came home and watched dvds with mine all afternoon).

Maybe she's just darn luckylah, her kids also excel in sports, are well-mannered and sweet...I'll try to convince her to write a guest post one day. She's a little shy.