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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are Stupid Children Really Dumb?

First page of article in 7th October's Bloomberg Businessweek.

The PSLE is leaving too many students behind even though everyone is trying to catch up.

Please read the above text. A man with low IQ scores in primary school went on to serve as the President of the American Psychological Association.

Guess what I found in Bloomberg Businessweek (7th October 2013). You can read the article HERE. Did you know that our PSLE, in its approach to sorting students (bell curve and all), is very similar to the SAT? Anyway, this post is not to talk about the PSLE. The reason I am showcasing the article above is because of the 2 balls and 2 noodles below, that we used for the game of Whacko! yesterday.


We need 2 teams to play Whacko!. Each team has a ball to dribble over to their own goal posts. Each team also has a noodle. You use the noodle to whack the daylights out of the fella in the opposing team who is holding the ball. Once you get noodle-whacked you have to drop your ball.

Yesterday's team had 2 teams of 4. In Team A, there was a GEP child. In Team B, there was no GEP child. GEP = Gifted Education Program.

Team A (without a GEP child) won with a score of 4-0, largely thanks to Little XXX who gathered his friends together and assigned them roles which allowed them to work together seamlessly. Little XXX divided the Whacko! field into thirds. He assigned to each of his friends one third of the field. Child A - 1st third. Child B - 2nd third. Child C - last third. All that each team member needed to do was to make it across his/her own third of the field without getting whacked, and then pass the ball to the next team member who stood ready to receive it.

Team B (with a GEP child) lost 4-0 because at every round, one or another of the children took the ball and ran for his life trying to cross the whole expanse of the largish field all by himself. There was absolutely no organization... and no learning loop. Team B just didn't get the strategy Team A was using even though it played out 4 times right in front of them.

The whole game of Whacko! is over in 15 minutes. That's all the time the children have to play. Necessarily therefore, everything happens in a blur of action and movement unfurling amidst blast after blast of robust yelling. All that the uninitiated bystander sees are children whacking the daylights out of their friends and other kids running wildly with a ball in their arms. The children love this game because they have my permission to whack the daylights out of their friends. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Such odious little things children are!

To create a score of 4-0 in their favor, Team A had to obviously create a pattern in that chaos. If THAT is not creativity and intelligence, I don't know what is. Yet, IQ tests in P3 showed Little XXX to be not very bright. His teachers and his parents didn't expect much of him.

Little XXX's Mother believes from the very bottom of her heart that her son is dumb. Again and again, she told me not to expect too much of her son (because she knows that children who don't perform with their best EFFORT) are asked to leave and find another enrichment centre more tolerant of lazy children (who don't put in effort) and lazy parents (who won't or can't motivate their children to better effort even after being given very clear instructions on HOW TO MOTIVATE). Every time she sees me, Little XXX's Mommy says, "Dr Pet, there is no way he can write like that! He will never write like that!"

"Never" is a strong word.

Now, I can hear the reader thinking that being smart in THAT way may not mean being smart in THIS way. I can hear the reader thinking that Little XXX may be able to win a ball game but he may not be able to write. It's not the same TYPE of intelligence, you might say. Well... I went right ahead and bull-dozed all these silly pre-conceptions of Dumb Little XXX. I went right ahead to believe in this child who hitherto had expended all his effort on outwitting his parents. Judging from the emotional state of his mother, he was very good at this outwitting business too. I learnt in the first 30 minutes of meeting this boy to NOT negotiate with him. It's long. It's tiring and he's too mentally nimble for me. I don't like to lose. If I don't play his negotiations, I can't lose.

I went right ahead to expect a lot more from Little XXX. In the mid-year exams, Little XXX scored the top mark in his class for English composition. So really? He can win a ball game, but he can't write?

Like University of Wyoming's President, Peter Sternberg, in the article above, Little XXX simply lived down to the low expectations of those around him. Let's not expect our children to be dumb just because the IQ tests... the PSLE (which really is an IQ test in disguise)... the SATs (which also are IQ tests in disguise) say they are stupid. Know your child. Believe in him/her. Don't blindly trust one silly test.

Singapore shouldn't depend on the PSLE (IQ test wannabe) to rake geniuses from the rubbish.

By all means, if the test says your child is clever, believe that and feel proud. You have a bona fide GEP child. Believe it and believe in him with all your might. However, if the IQ test puts down your child then please... please... continue to believe in your child anyway.

Watch your thoughts (about your child) for they become words. Watch your words (with your child) for they propel him to actions (or lack thereof). Watch the actions (of your child) for they cultivate his habits. Watch the habits (of your child) for they become his character. Watch his character for it becomes his destiny. What we think... our children become.

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