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?