Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hot Housing

Love the title of this Wired article on the questionable benefits of stuff like Baby Eisenstein for babies. When you take the business of enriching your kids very seriously you may even end up having an old supercomputer be the centerpiece of the child's bedroom.

Needless to say, hot-housing kids does not always end well, as
this news story indicates - the gifted kid in question the the author notes effectively ended up in a strange purgatory between childhood and adulthood - and sadly cheated of both. Such is the fate of many a child who is tagged and labeled "gifted". It seems to me that the "gifts" if they truly exist, would become evident in due season of their own free will. But as parents we want to rush the denouement before its time and to help us there are hot-houses.

I see uber-competitive parents all around me and hear about plenty more through friends and acquaintances and they prompt me to second-guess myself- my determination to let J enjoy learning and not want anything more. To add to my woes, J's second grade teacher has instituted an elaborate reward and incentive program for encourage children to accumulate AR test points by way of reading books. The class-room is full of books - many of which are at at the fourth and fifth grade levels. There a plenty of good readers in J's class and they are scrambling to get ahead of the pack on AR points, reading fast and furious.

It is almost impossible for me to keep J interested in good reading for the sheer pleasure of it when she can score kudos, pencils, brownies, home-work passes and more by reading an AR book and testing on it. If the book does not come with a certain number of AR points, J is not excited about reading it. It does not help that the selection of books in the AR listing leaves much to be desired. The kids talk about their AR points all the time but there is no discussion on the books themselves. That alone, I would imagine should be an indication to the teacher of something being wrong with this plan.

I have explained to the teacher how this scheme was being extremely counter-productive for my child and undoing all my efforts to introduce her to good literature. I don't want her to be a reading-comprehension bot. Of course it fell on deaf ears. So what if you don't hot-house your child, there will be an over-achieving teacher who will do it for you.

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