Failing Our Geniuses
I realize there's a reason behind the bias towards Math and Science since it seems like most of the community here is based to some degree in more technological industries. For all of the griping that mathematics and the various sciences are neglected in the education system, my experience growing up in Canada left me with the feeling that if you didn't excel at math or science, you weren't as smart as your neighbour who could whip off their times tables five times as fast as you. I remember being stuck, struggling with a math project while all the math whizzes got to build a Mr.Muggs spaceship out of cardboard, and the disappointment I felt at being left out of it.
My sister and brother-in-law both teach Grade 3, and they bring up the valid point that kids that finish faster need to be occupied with something, and I agree with that fact. But there's so much emphasis on math and science, art is so completely neglected both in terms of funding and its a big deal if you're gifted in "useful" things like math or science. All we did that was creative in earlier grades was craft based, making giraffe recipe holders, things that have steps and all end up looking the same. Why do you have to good at crunching numbers to be considered gifted? What about developing intuition and critical thinking. Being good at science doesn't necessarily equate to someone who can think through problems in a broader sense, say in a social or interpersonal context. Of course I'm biased myself, I'm a BFA undergrad, so of course I'm going to prioritize what I feel are my own personal strengths. But I've always felt that we could strengthen our education system by trying to introduce critical thinking and teaching children how to live, through an interpersonal context that starts right in the classroom. But of course, we have the blind leading the blind..... I know there are individuals out there who agree with me and do their best to improve the system, starting with their own roles as teachers. I've been taught by a few of them and I wouldn't be the person I am today without them. The system leeches the best bits out of exceptional teachers, I've seen that happen as well.
So, to sum things up as best as I can, tracking kids that are "smart", meaning good at math and science, still neglects other potentially gifted individuals. Universities here have to fight tooth and nail for funding for the arts, here in Alberta science and business get the majority of the government pie. So it's a problem that extends across the whole spectrum of eductation and our culture as a whole. The Arts got us to where we are just as much as science and mathematics have, and our neglect of the Arts will eventually be reflected in our culture. It already is... I mean, Robert Bateman. What greater proof do I need?
I'd be happy to hear arguments against the Arts, I'm sure there's a lot I haven't considered since my own perspective is narrowed by my own particular interests.