My eldest grandson, Ben Mathews, just turned four. According to the New York Times, that is a perilous age in that big city. Many four year olds are toiling through exercises designed by their parents and tutoring companies to prepare for kindergarten gifted program entrance tests.
It gets worse. Adults are fighting over the very nature of those exams. Should they, as they do now, measure how much academic preparation preschoolers have had? Or should they assess the magic essence of giftedness, something much talked about but so far poorly understood.
Ben can relax. The public schools where he lives in South Pasadena, Calif., like most schools in the Washington area, don’t have gifted programs for kindergartners to compete for. Fairfax and Montgomery counties have separate elementary and middle school classes for those designated gifted, but like many other districts here they provide similarly imaginative teaching and opportunities for creative work to children who don’t score that high on IQ tests. High schools in the Washington area, as well as South Pasadena High, offer the most challenging college-level courses to anyone, gifted or not, who wants to take them.