The following piece of news made me cringe:
A complaint of age discrimination by the mother of two 10-year-old twin boys has been dismissed. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario complaint was filed by Wendy Foster against the University of Ottawa after her boys were removed by the school from a course on “science and social activism” about a month after they began attending classes in 2006. They had been initially allowed into the class as “special students,” but the school later decided that they could not attend because they did not meet the entry requirements.
It is very disturbing to see parents who rob their children of a childhood because of their own abysmally low self-esteem.
When I was in grad school, there was a woman who kept bringing her 12-year-old daughter to our graduate-level literature classes. Her position was that the girl was a prodigy and would benefit from participating in courses where the average age of students was 30+. The mother wasn’t a student, she just knew some people who pressured the professors into letting her in.
A grad course in Contemporary Latin American literature is a place where adult topics are often discussed. We talked about violence and quoted passages with explicit sex scenes. Imagine how the poor 12-year-old suffered as she sat there with all these adults discussing mature topics on the one hand and her helicopterish Momma on the other. The kid’s misery was palpable, especially when the mother prodded her to make comments. I have no idea whether the girl was a “prodigy” (I don’t even believe that child prodigies exist). What I do know is that she was not properly socialized for her age. Her general behavior was more like the one you can observe in an 8-year-old. This is not surprising with such a hyper-protective parent.
It is true that some kids are intellectually ahead of their peers at school. I spent most of my school years feeling intensely bored in class. However, as I said many times before, school years provide an invaluable and an irreplaceable opportunity to get socialized (not to be confused with becoming sociable) according to one’s age level. A smart kid will have plenty of time to go to the university and become as much of a genius as s/he wants. Childhood and adolescence, however, should be dedicated to taking one’s time to grow. There is absolutely no value whatsoever in pushing a kid into adult situations ahead of time.
There are parents who believe that their child is too smart to “waste time” in playing and hanging out with kids his or her age. However, the time spent playing with teddy-bears and toy trucks is never wasted. These activities develop a child psychologically and provide him or her with life-long coping skills. Parents who push their kids into the role of wunderkinder would be better served finding their own professional and social realization and letting the poor children mature at a normal pace.