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In Australia, some schools hire third party organizations to run programs for gifted children that help them succeed. If you’re not familiar with these sorts of programs, your first thought might be, if they’re so gifted, why do they need extra help to succeed? Shouldn’t the schools focus on programs that help low-performing students succeed? I don’t know. My school had an in-house gifted program and I loved it, because I was a giant nerd, so I’m actually in favor of the programs provided the school is giving all kids the resources necessary to catch up to the “gifted” kids.
But I do have a problem with one particular Australian gifted program, known as WiseOnes, because it’s run by a woman who thinks that gifted kids are particularly susceptible to harm from wifi signals and vaccines due to their thinner skulls and extra “neurological connections vibrating at alien frequency.” Pat Slattery also thinks that she nearly died from radiation poisoning before she moved into a caravan with no electricity and started eating “anti-radiation herbs.” Again, this is the person who runs the gifted program for some Australian schools.
This revelation brings up a number of interesting issues. First among them is how easy it is for complete maniacs to have access and authority over children with little to no vetting or oversight.
It also shows how so much pseudoscience succeeds by flattering the person who is being conned. If you’re told that your child got autism from vaccines because he’s super intelligent, you’re way more likely to buy it.
Finally, this case highlights the problem of how people categorize “gifted” children. Slattery clearly believes that some children are smarter due to innate characteristics, seeing as their skulls are thinner and they have neural connections that vibrate at alien frequency, whatever that means.
That’s obviously batshit, but it’s in line with what many people believe about IQ, which is that it’s fixed at birth and either you’ve got it or you haven’t. But studies haven’t shown that to be true–a few show a very weak correlation between traits like brain size or certain genetic markers and results on IQ tests, but it’s extremely muddy. In fact, other studies show that if you believe that intelligence can be improved, you’re more likely to do well on tests compared to people who believe it’s innate.
Maybe I got into a gifted program because I was born smarter than everyone else, but I think it’s more likely that I got in because my family taught me to read as soon as possible and then read to me constantly. I grew up surrounded by books and unhampered by worries like whether I’d get enough to eat or where I would sleep or whether I’d be shot walking to school.
When we accept that IQ isn’t the be-all end-all of a child’s existence, we can better focus on providing all kids with the opportunity to succeed, instead of just writing them off as low-intelligence.
I hope this case encourages Australia and other countries with similar programs to vet the people who have access to kids.