I was reading some of FMH's posts on her son, and thinking on some of the curious and unfortunate aspects of the US school system as a whole.*
Since schools must provide services for learning difficulties or disabilities,** but not to the 'academically gifted', the net effect is that the kids who have an easy time are frequently... bored. Really bored.
We can all understand the logic. Everyone should achieve a minimum level. We can all also understand that being that kid is really boring.
I grew up in a wealthy school district that did, in fact, provide services to the bored kids. Though it seems quite unfair in retrospect ("You did great, so here's more work!!) I liked having challenging work. I suppose I enjoyed the working ahead, too, though it had strange effects later; I took college classes at the local college before I could drive.
I very especially remember being set to tutor the kids who were having a hard time. And that? I did resent. I'm not sure I can articulate why, even now. Partly because I was learning no new content. I was learning how to explain things to people who just don't get it, which is indeed a valuable skill, but a ten-year-old doesn't usually appreciate that. I remember feeling it was tedious and exploitative. It was also like playing at mental gymnastics, like a game of Taboo with a group of well-read people. After a few rounds it gets boring again.
From a teacher's point of view, it's naturally very effective. They are making the most efficient use of their resources to help everyone get to the same minimum level. I understand. And yet, I retain the idealistic view that schools exist to help children reach their intellectual potential - not to drill in a minimum set of facts about Japan's history and the life-cycle of a caterpillar and how to add. If you can already add, isn't it time to learn something new?
(I'm not blaming the teachers. Teachers are over-worked, under-paid, and stuck with a class full of little darlings all day. If there were more! better paid! teachers, this would be easier. If schools had more money, they could do more individually-tailored education. And so on.)
I know that our school systems operate very far from the optimum. We will probably never be able to afford private schools. I will do as my mother did and make sure my kids get the education they need. I just wish it didn't have to be so hard for everyone.
* For those of you from other countries- it is in theory run state-by-state and in practice frequently run district-by-district, so each county or city may vary wildly from the next. It's hardly a system at all.
** Not that they always do a good job. And they try to weasel out of it at regular intervals. And there's always more need than money.