I received a letter a few weeks ago from a mother in Prince William County, home to one of the Washington area’s big suburban school systems. It starkly captured the parental frustration at the heart of the national debate over what to do with very gifted students. I ran her letter, with a short response, in my weekly Post column, “Extra Credit,” in which I answer reader mail. That column produced so many letters that I decided to lay out the debate in this column, using the limitless space of the Internet. I have not been very sympathetic with parents of gifted kids. Some of the reaction below echoes things I have said. But I find it difficult to justify forcing Nancy Klimavicz’s son to spend valuable time on busywork. If anyone has any good way out of this impasse, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Dear Extra Credit:
I’ve started this letter many times over the past several months. After my gifted son received rejections from Virginia Tech, James Madison University and William and Mary, I figured it’s time to warn other parents. If you have a very bright student, home-school him.
My son was reading a college-level book in third grade when the gifted education specialist recommended just that. Academically, we figured he’d learn and grow regardless of the environment, but his weakness was social interaction with his peers. We believed childhood should include high school sports teams and clubs, and we remembered being influenced by one or two teachers who were passionate about their subjects. We decided to leave him in public school.