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You may find this hard to believe - Lord knows I do - but I was a "Gifted Child".

I have lost all shame about revealing this, as pretty much all of my friends know already, but I spent much of my infancy taking part in summer camps for supposedly gifted kids and going to weekly clubs organised by the AOT (the Irish Gifted Children's Association, which has since changed its name). But yeah, I was officially "gifted". And the other day I read an article in a magazine to which I am a regular contributor about this place. The thing is, back in the late '80s I was one of the children/teens interviewed by the people who were setting up that centre. And all I can say is, I must be the horrible warning to all these precocious brats.

Because I have mixed feelings about the whole "gifted child" thing. In my experience, gifted children grow up to be pretty average adults. Yeah, I had a reading age of 15 when I was 8, but so what? That means absolutely nothing when you're 30 and a fairly average journalist. It's not like I grew up and discovered the cure for AIDS or anything. Gifted children may get into good colleges and gain decent degrees, but so do lots of kids who didn't spend their infant weekends playing table tennis between talks about semi-precious stones and playing with a real tarantula.

And yet....those camps and clubs give kids who are, by their very nature, slightly geeky aneccentric the chance to be in an environment where everyone is slightly geeky and eccentric. You couldpretty much divide kids into two camps - the ones who were nerds but had some social skills and the ones who....didn't. Luckily, I was in the former camp and did have plenty of friends in the real world, but still, I knew that at AOT clubs I would not be either laughed at or misunderstood by my chums for using the word "exceedingly" (which as a child I once publically used in such nerdish terms that I will not reveal them EVEN HERE). They serve a very useful purpose to many, many children and I'm glad they exist. So many kids are bored at school because it's just too easy - Lord knows I was so bored in primary school that not only did I have to have a special English book ALL OF MY OWN but I perfected the art of reading my own fiction books in class under a carefully positioned text book. Unfortunately, I carried on this habit into secondary school where you had to actually, like, listen in class or you simply didn't know why the Franco-Prussian War started or what the ablative case was, which meant that suddenly, my lofty reading age didn't really matter very much. What mattered was actually listening and doing some work. Something which I never really mastered.

Perhaps if I had gone to a primary school where my, um, skills were utilised fully it would have made a difference and I would have worked in secondary school and college and not have ended up the lazy waster that I am today. Or perhaps - and I fear that this is closer to the truth - I really am just incredibly lazy. I suppose that I am (a) very glad that gifted programmes exist and (b) not convinced that gifted children equal exceptionally gifted adults.

I dunno, I'm probably just thinking aloud here. But I know that some of my readers (INCLUDING MY SISTERS) were also "gifted children". What do you think about the whole thing?

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
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kylegirl
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)
Oh good, someone else who had a negative smart camp experience! I think I was a little young for the camp I went to, or something, and I felt all awkward and weird.

Looking back, I suspect I was really snotty about being smart when I was little. I could see that people were impressed, and as a result I often acted pretty self-satisfied.
glitzfrau
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:04 am (UTC)
I have disjointed thoughts, but strangely the foremost of these is: how on earth is "giftedness' equated with reading level? Any measure of "giftedness" that isn't holistic in some way strikes me as suspect and class-ridden from the beginning. In a non-literate household, for example, would advanced reading age be noticed? I'm not attacking you or your parents, I hope you know - just the Gifted Camp itself.

My parents went the opposite route: they tried very hard not to make me think that I was special in any way because I could read much better than the other children at school and was comparatively quick on the uptake. The word they used for me was "bright" rather than "gifted", and - I think - they tried to make me feel as though this were a useful knack, like being good at dancing, rather than a measure of my worth as a person. This was an intelligent approach, but it did result in me being very, very bored at school, and yes, excluded from my peer group - not to mention being savagely bullied at times. ("Did you eat the dictionary for breakfast AGAIN, Helen?")

I'm not sure whether the answer to being bored and alienated would have been Gifted Camp, though. (I hadn't even heard of it till you told me). Perhaps a better idea is an educational system that is flexible enough to teach children who have different kinds of ability at different ages (rather than catering only for the seven-year-old with the reading ability of a seven-year-old). And in general, I think Irish society needs a more holistic idea of what childhood achievement might be, one that's not bound up with hoop-jumping in arenas like the maths olympics and the feis ceoil. As amphoteric says, yes, encouraging the love of learning for learning's sake, and relating it to creative interaction with the world around us.

Heh, that makes me sound like a radical hippy educationalist, and I'm not - you know I'm quite traditional. But still, yes. My own education is so long ago, though, and I know no-one in full-time school education, so I'm never sure if I'm talking shite about the matter. As you remarked in our conversation about the support for the intellectually impaired that is now available, things have changed a lot since the early nineties.
stellanova
Mar. 15th, 2006 09:45 am (UTC)
how on earth is "giftedness' equated with reading level? Any measure of "giftedness" that isn't holistic in some way strikes me as suspect and class-ridden from the beginning. In a non-literate household, for example, would advanced reading age be noticed? I'm not attacking you or your parents, I hope you know - just the Gifted Camp itself.

Heh, I'm don't really know how you got the impression that giftedness was equated with reading level - I never said it was (it wasn't), I just used that as an signifier of infant brightness that becomes meaningless when you grow up. I think I must have given a very inaccurate idea of the AOT, because they actually did have a relatively well-rounded approach to what constituted giftedness - as well as the particularly noticable kids, like the ones who were studying maths at college when they were twelve. It was also less class-ridden than the average ballet or drama class, as there were a few kids from very working class backgrounds who had been refered to the association by teachers.

Also, it wasn't just a camp - the place I linked to didn't exist when we were kids (well, my sisters and I were part of the research!) - and while there was an annual summer holiday there was also the much loved North-South Weekend every Easter (designed to bring kids from Northern Ireland and the south together) and there were weekly Explorer Clubs which involved lots of different activities. There were also the weekly advanced maths and computer classes held in St Pat's in Drumcondra, also attended by the youthful barsine and my friend J! So it wasn't like there was just this freaky little oasis in the summer and the rest of the time you were left to your own devices. It allowed some people to make the only friends they had, whom they saw regularly. I was never bullied nor felt enormously alienated, but there were kids there who really were.

I think your parents' approach was very sensible but to be honest it wasn't that different from that of the AOT - the implication was that you might be good at and interested in lots of things, and here was the opportunity to do more and meet kids who liked the same thing. It was certainly never implied that this made you a better person than anyone else, and in fact any kid using the word "gifted" seriously would have elicited laughter from her peers - the title of this post comes from an incident in a North South weekend where a bunch of us were hanging out in a common room of St Pat's, where the weekend was being held, and a student came in and asked what we were doing there. And one kid stood up and said, in a very stately voice, "we are GIFTED CHILDREN!" before being silenced by the rest of us, in fits of horrified laughter (I think someone sat on him). There were definitely parents who thought their kids were little geniuses, and they were very annoying, but in general the approach was rather like that of your parents - being bright was just something you were good at, like dancing, and these were your dancing lessons.

I think you're very right about the prize winning approach, whether points or feis trophies, which dominates Irish education and which I don't think is healthy. You're also right about having a more flexible education system, although alas I can't think of how one could be implemented. One thing about the AOT, though, it wasn't focussed on being the best or winning prizes - at the end of the summer holiday there was a prize giving ceremony, but the point of it was that every single kid got a medal, usually for something random or funny that they had done over the past week or two. I remember one year my medal was for drawing complicated Heath-Robinson style funny machines!
stellanova
Mar. 15th, 2006 09:53 am (UTC)
I was never bullied nor felt enormously alienated, but there were kids there who really were.

Um, I should have clarified that I meant alienated or bullied "at school" rather than at the AOT stuff.
glitzfrau
Mar. 15th, 2006 10:20 am (UTC)
Verstehe! Thanks for the clarification - your comment makes the AOT sound rather positive, now. I wonder whether my parents even knew about it? Whether they boycotted it on purpose? It's entirely possible, I suppose. Or perhaps it was just too Northside or too secular for them...
braisedbywolves
Mar. 15th, 2006 10:49 am (UTC)
as well as the particularly noticable kids, like the ones who were studying maths at college when they were twelve.

Er, thirteen :)
barsine
Mar. 15th, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks for outing me! I was going to post anyway, to say that for some reason 'gifted-ness' at maths and physics (which I didn't actually have, compared to other kids on my course) seems (in my opinion) to translate much better to adulthood than any kind of brightness in reading or arts-y subjects. I mean, I'm exceedingly average now, even though I have retained my love of reading, while Eoin's brother, who was an infant physicist, is still an extremely dedicated and talented physicist doing Important Things.
iliketea
Mar. 15th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
Any measure of "giftedness" that isn't holistic in some way strikes me as suspect and class-ridden from the beginning.

... butting in here, but 'giftedness' is rarely a holistic thing - of course it's far broader than reading level, but it's rare to be 'gifted' at both mathematical/sciencey things *and* at arts/humanities things (so say the studies, even though of course plenty of people like that do exist).
distortionghost
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
i used to be considered a pain in the ass i think 'cause by the time i finished second class i'd read through the whole primary school library and was forced to borrow books from the 'big school'. i remember some blazing row that same year because i wrote joined up and we weren't allowed at that age. my parents interved and i was so mortified by the ensuing fuss i stayed studiously under the radar academically for the rest of my years at school.

thankfully i'm so amazingly average i was never made do gifted children stuff. it sounds nice the way you describe it but i think i'd have hated any extra attention at the time and to be honest kinda had a fairly broad range of interests anyway. people to this day go "eh?!?!" when i come out with random facts about past obsessions with rocks and 19th century paris, even though i rarely read these days. which is kind of sad. i empathise with what you're saying but can't really appreciate it fully :)
queencallipygos
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
Gifted child from the US public education system here.

Interestingly, in grade school, up until I was 10, it seemed like they had more of an idea of what to do with me. They put the "smart kids" in different groups in each classroom, but I also had teachers flexible enough to work with letting the brighter kids "do their own thing" to an extent. It wasn't until the later school years that they broke the more gifted kids out into different classes.

I was lucky in that most of the friends I had were gifted kids anyway themselves. Especially in one case -- there was one little girl I met when I was five that was my best friend all through school, up until we were 18; she was also in the gifted program and had really encouraging parents, and she also didn't care a fig for what others thought of her, so she kind of took me under her wing and showed me that sometimes you can go ahead and do things that make the other kids call you "smarty pants" and so what if they do. We both ended up going to the same college, even, but lost touch as we made different friends and what not -- but we were always doing things like writing plays or making movies together and such all through school.

From when I was 11 to about 14, I got a LOT of teasing from kids, though -- the "gifted kids" in the school I went to had a special class just for them to give their brains a little more to do, and that also kind of made it easy for the other kids to single us out. And while that extra class did give us more to do, all the other classes were so blitheringly easy for me I got used to being able to just "phone in" a lot of my work, and I'm still trying to break myself of that habit.

I'm on the whole satisfied-but-working-on-things about my "gifted" past -- while sometimes I do wish I'd been more encouraged in my talents, and had been challenged more often to work towards things, I'm working on changing that on my own - and I absolutely flourished in college, which helped that a LOT. I've also been blessed to find a group of friends that actually values brains and cleverness, AND geekiness. But I also think having the piss taken out of me a little helped me keep things in perspective -- I am a member of MENSA, but the only reason I joined at all is because the thought of me even being eligible just seemed utterly ridiculous. Rather than getting a big head about it, I use it as a means to meet people I wouldn't have otherwise -- and it also makes for a fantastic way to poke a little fun at myself when I do something really stupid in front of people ("and you know what makes this even funnier, everyone?....")
sinsense
Mar. 15th, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
I was in the gifted kid class in elementary school. I hated it just as much as I hated everything else then, because I just wanted to be left alone and not have to talk to everyone. I never did my homework, and my teachers always said "Jessica, look at your reading scores, you have so much potential, why aren't you doing better?" (Imagine a sullen child sucking on the ends of her hair and scowling in response.) Teachers did tend to use it against me, anyway, and that was deeply irritating.

In middle school, I still had gifted kid class, but it was a little more interesting. My English teacher in sixth grade let me skip all of the reading and class projects as long as I brought a difficult book to read during class, which was the BEST THING EVER, and I have not stopped loving her since. I think gifted class would have been a lot better if they just asked us to bring difficult books to read.

I went to a high school that had a required IQ to get in, and there were still stupid people there, and I still didn't like nearly everyone.

Anyway, more to the point: I have to admit that the gifted classes were some of the more interesting and worthwhile learning experiences I had in elementary and middle school (argh, sorry, from ages 5 - 13). I didn't like the kids in them any more than I liked the kids in my other classes, but I thought the material was more interesting, and I liked the way the teachers treated me a LOT more.

I worry that my insecurity and sometimes-crippling lack of self-esteem came from those classes, sometimes, because not fitting in socially and being a bit of a daydreamer made me feel like I didn't belong, and not belonging made me think that I was stupid. Does that make any sense? Probably not. I don't know, there's a weird pressure that comes from being "gifted."
jeejeen
Mar. 15th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
You need to rewsond to this comment so that when I wake up in the rmotnig NOT BEERY and not indian foody, I can writige damn write the REAL RESPONSE!
stellanova
Mar. 15th, 2006 09:55 am (UTC)
HA! There you go!
nineveh_uk
Mar. 15th, 2006 10:21 am (UTC)
When I was a child we did not have a local gifted children label or programme, something about which I am very glad as I enjoyed spending my holidays simply playing. School was for learning, and out of school was for fun, even if that fun was forging library tickets so that I could borrow every single Arthurian legends book in Leeds to compare the versions, though just as often it was hiding from enemy soldiers and their dragons. My general opinion is that with the exception of really extraordinary ability in maths or music (something I wouldn’t tend to wish on a child, as it seems in many cases to lead to adult unhappiness, though that may be the way it’s handled) even very clever children can be taught happily in the mainstream system. Leaving ‘gifted’ children bored at school and making up for this by having them attend Saturday schools and holiday programmes is a poor alternative to appropriate schooling in the first place.
theodicy
Mar. 15th, 2006 10:32 am (UTC)
:cough: Yeah, count me in. Except for the camp part.

Your experience was much like mine otherwise.
leedy
Mar. 15th, 2006 10:50 am (UTC)
In my experience, gifted children grow up to be pretty average adults. Yeah, I had a reading age of 15 when I was 8, but so what? That means absolutely nothing when you're 30 and a fairly average journalist. It's not like I grew up and discovered the cure for AIDS or anything. Gifted children may get into good colleges and gain decent degrees, but so do lots of kids who didn't spend their infant weekends playing table tennis between talks about semi-precious stones and playing with a real tarantula.

This. Yes. Unsurprisingly, my experience was pretty much like stellanova's - same "gifted child" club and holidays while in primary school, same fairly unremarkable secondary school and college career. Same (or possibly EVEN GREATER) incredible laziness, come to think of it....

I definitely experienced the AOT activities as a fun thing to do, rather than some kind of hothousing environment - I think my abiding memories of the weeks away in Glencree during the summer involve trying to dam the stream (and falling in a lot), buying Kilimanjaro ice lollies from the shop and eating them on the swings, having midge-bite counting competitions after the barbecue on the last night, etc., rather than any of the intellectually stimulating activities. As stellanova said, it was a place where you knew people wouldn't take the piss out of you for reading or using big words, and every so often when you were a very bookish nine year old, that was a nice place to be.

Oh, and it also introduced me to Call of Cthulhu....
braisedbywolves
Mar. 15th, 2006 11:01 am (UTC)
Laziness fight!
leedy
Mar. 15th, 2006 11:02 am (UTC)
Oh, I can't be arsed....
snowballjane
Mar. 15th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC)
I was very lucky that my primary school was amazing at handling a wide range of abilities. It was a smallish semi-open plan school, there weren't strict year-group boundaries and there was a lot of working at your own pace with help when you asked for it. For those of us who finished the maths scheme a year or more early the headmaster ran an "engineering and inventing class". It was brilliant, but completely spoiled us for senior school.

Somehow the teachers, and especially the headmaster, really managed to set an ethos where being brainy and geeky was okay and being in the special needs group was okay. I had one very bad year there, but that was all about little-girl friendship politics/bullying and I never thought of it as being because I was brainy.

Senior school was awful, mentally treading water most of the time, and they wouldn't let us zoom ahead with anything (our French teacher wanted to put some of us in for GCSE at the end of third year and wasn't allowed).

All those brains! So carefully nurtured at primary school! Wasted!
yiskah
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC)
They made you handle TARANTULAS?! Eeeeep.

I never really had any concept of "giftedness" until I moved to Australia aged ten - before that, I was in a pretty small primary school, and while I was aware that I generally grasped things quicker than other children, I never really thought that meant anything (I don't ever remember being bored at that school, because the learning schedule was pretty flexible and so I was always able to read or write stories when I'd finished my work early). My parents and both very, very smart, but totally unacademic, so they weren't watching out for signs of "giftedness" or anything.

Then, when I moved to Australia, the second primary school I went to gave me an IQ test (I think this was standard procedure), and I was rather dramatically moved from the class I was in to the Smart Kids' Class, complete with hushed conversations between my parents and the school counsellor (who had tested my IQ) about how they should nurture my "abilities". From then on, I was aware that I was clever, but mostly that just meant that I was put in classes with other smart kids, never enrolled in any special programmes, and so I never really had a sense of myself as "gifted", or any of the baggage (negative and positive) that went along with that. I was well aware that there were some people I was at school with who didn't like me because I was smart and interested in learning, but I was always lucky enough to have enough friends that it didn't bother me much.

The high school I ended up in made a few half-hearted attempts to push me into special gifted programmes - mainly for maths, because there seem to be a lot more programmes set up for that sort of giftedness, but while I was good at maths, I wasn't in the same league as the kids who were doing the maths olympics and stuff, and my interest waned pretty early. That school also set up a fairly short-lived (I think) "gifted and talented group" (which was, I think, the first time I ever encountered the term), as there were an unusual number of very bright girls in my year, but it wasn't particularly well-thought out or well-planned, and I think all of us in the group figured out quite quickly - in that horrible way that adolescents have - that we were all smarter than the woman who was supposedly in charge of the group, so it kind of fizzled out.

So yeah, that was mainly rambling. I suppose I think programmes for gifted kids are good in the same way that I think education should be tailored to any kid's specific needs, whether they be dyslexic or mathematically talented or whatever - but I don't think I missed out by not having access to such programmes, because I had enough friends already and was confident enough in my own abilities to seek out and satisfy my own little interests - and I would have been particularly horrified if any gifted activity had interfered with my precious school holidays, which were all about reading and seeing friends and writing overwrought teenage novels, as far as I was concerned. Also, you are dead right about gifted children often becoming very ordinary adults, and I'm glad that I never had to cope with losing the gifted label once other people started to catch up; instead, I entered adulthood with just enough confidence in my intellectual abilities to be fairly secure in the belief that there was nothing I couldn't do if I set my mind to it, an attitude that has served me pretty well so far.
kulfuldi
Mar. 15th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
On the one hand, I hate the idea of the camp, because it could potentially breed elitism. On the other hand, I went to schools which were completely non-academic, and where I and my sisters (though 'bright' rather than 'gifted' would have described us) found it difficult to impossible to make friends with whom we had anything at all in common. It wasn't until I got to university that I found an environment where there was considered to be nothing actually wrong with being academically able and bookish.

I think the important thing about being differently abled (sounds like a euphemism, but it's what I mean - it can be difference from the average in either direction) is that it can be socially catastrophic, and that's the aspect that my parents completely ignored. They gave us enough books to read outside school, so that boredom in school didn't exactly hold us back, but I think something like your camp would have been useful in showing us that we weren't really that weird. It would have cheered us up no end. Of course, it would have been even better if our parents had put us in a vaguely academically-inclined school, which would have suited us, rather than sending us to the nearest one, which happened to be the school that took kids who didn't get in elsewhere, and where people though we were odd and bullied us. Yes, I'm still bitter.
iliketea
Mar. 15th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
ME TOO ME TOO!

(Hi there. Sorry, I'm very excited because I ventured over this way to see if there was more snarking about Sweet Valley sagas and now I get to babble about giftedness et al. Ahem. Going to take deep calming breaths now.)

I think CTYI is a fantastic place and a necessary one. (Disclaimer: also, they're employing me, so they sort of own my soul, but still. *g*) Because there aren't resources for gifted kids within schools the same way that there are for kids at the other end of the spectrum, even though a) learning disabilities and giftedness can coincide and b) it's still learning differently. Because a lot of the time it isn't a case of X being bright and therefore should be able to do all of this - sometimes X does things differently and isn't necessarily going to automatically get good marks and do brilliantly. The educational system is designed for the kids who are average, who fit within two standard deviations of the mean. You need resources for the people who are outside of that.

Plus, there's such a limited range of subjects available within schools that it's great that there's somewhere that gives kids a chance to try out new 'n' crazy areas of study.

And as you've said, it gives kids a chance to meet fellow eccentrics and develop social skills that way. It also prevents some potentially-arrogant types from becoming quite as obnoxious as they might otherwise be, because they realise that they're not the best at something.

The downside is that being 'gifted' and being labelled as such means that people expect great things, which of course may very well not happen, especially since the Irish secondary school system has nothing to do with potential and everything to do with learning stuff and then regurgitating it in an exam situation. You can be as gifted as you like but you still have to work, and very often when you are gifted or bright or whatever term you want to use, you don't learn those skills when most people are learning them because you don't need to. You can get by without a work ethic up to a certain point, and then you find yourself in a situation where being good at this whole academic thing has actually left you at a disadvantage.

Of course, there's also the fact that so many kids, gifted or otherwise, find themselves fed up with secondary school anyway, or distracted because there are better things to do (for which read: members of the opposite/same sex to lust over. Which is pretty much what the CTYI summer programme is all about anyway, never mind this whole enrichment stuff).

In my experience, gifted children grow up to be pretty average adults. *nods* Yep, pretty much. Arguably being 'gifted' and having been to particular programmes might make you better equipped for college (versus the learn-and-repeat methods of second level) but it could also leave you so fed up that you don't even bother with third level education. I know a quite a few formerly-gifted children doing really well at post-grad level, but I also know people who are just drifting along, both in and out of college. But then again, this is applying different standards to childhood and adulthood - potential for one, and achievement for the other. So there can't be a direct correlation.

Plus it depends on how you view giftedness - being ahead of the pack (in which case people will eventually catch up and/or pass you out) or being separate (in which case, you're always gifted no matter what). I lean towards the latter definition but of course bits of the former apply as well, because that's how many people are recognised as being bright/gifted/special etc. And that's the sort of thing that fades once you get past a certain age and there's no direct matching-up between age and what-you-should-be-doing-at-this-point the way there is when you're under eighteen and should be in a particular class/year based on your age.

So. Hmmm. I am fairly sure I don't have a nifty concluding point to make. But those are my thoughts. Apologies for the rambling. :)
pisica
Mar. 15th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, but you're a journalist, not, I dunno, I hate to say 'scrubbing toilets' because that implies that people who do that are lesser than we but you hopefully get my point. In the context of The Wider World, I'd guess you're at the top end of the pyramid - even if not at the pinnacle.

I've been having issues lately with what I haven't accomplished, but partly that's because, for instance, having won a Fulbright, I don't compare myself to people who haven't won a Fulbright, but people who've won a Rhodes (and published novels and FINISHED THEIR GODDAMNED PHDS) - and thus I feel pretty average and not really smart. Whereas I am. But then I start getting upset that I'm judging myself by accomplishments and lines on the CV.

Maybe being gifted just means being able to analyse oneself to the point of twisting up in knots. :P
geoglyph
Apr. 5th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
Another ex-AOT member
Well, that's a difficult one for me to answer - I feel so confused about the issues involved, but first some background.

My primary school teacher suggested I was tested - I saw a psychologist and the tests I did were to some degree familiar - I'd got Eynsencks' books at home. A while after the test I was told I was "gifted" and joined An Óige Thréitheach at the grand old age of ten or eleven. Meetings were in a house on Herbert Street, literally down the road from the "Pepper Cannister". This would have been in the late seventies or thereabouts, which probably makes me some kind of official old fart! :-)

Anyhow, I went there until I started secondary school - I was referred to the Irish Association of Youth Science Groups and eventually settled on the Junior Astronomical Society of Ireland. (There was no equivalent of AOT for secondary students.)

What do I remember? I remember enjoying it, that it was, above all, fun and much more enjoyable at school. For one thing there were no bullies that I can recall in AOT, unlike school. Then again, everyone there *wanted* to be there so that may be an element.

I was one of a group of kids who started a newsletter called The Young Explorer. I remember two contributions - the first was a short-story that appeared on the front page of the first issue - it was so bad that I'm embarrased to remember it even now. Hopefully everyone has forgotten it!;-)

The other I am proud of - I selected the lettering used for the masthead - it Letraset - the lettering was called "Frankfurter". I still have a love for lettering (both calligraphy and typography) to this day.

Certainly at the time I enjoyed myself and loved it. Over the years, my opinions changed and soured - doubtless there was an element of what psychologists call "displacement" - getting someone elses' kicking would be another name.

Many people my own age were horrified or just plain disliked the idea - even people I thought would be labelled gifted themselves.

I don't know how I would have turned out if AOT or some other organisation had been there for me in secondary school. Maybe I'd have turned out more evely-balanced than I did - maybe I'd have been more insufferable. What I do know is that I found secondary school difficult - I had the problem of being bullied repeatedly, as I had in primary school, though I had a couple of good friends, one of whom I am still in touch with.

Does gifted education help society in general? I don't know.

I've read Marylou Kelly Stresnewskis' 'Gifted Grown-ups' - I suppose I recognise something of myself in it. A burning desire to learn lies deep within me - is it any accident Plato used a torch as a symbol of education? Even though I barely got into the course I did at university, was diagnosed with depression and just managed to get a pass degree I still had the yearning to study mathematics. I eventually started with the Open University and am about to complete my next degree this year. (My Leaving Cert results were below my Inter Cert results -

Although I read about the subject of intelligence I don't know what policies should be pursued about education - I'm wary of Howard Gardners' work - he seems to have so loose a definition of intelligence anything could qualify as one of his multiple intelligences.
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