Let’s put a new spin on this whole “Gifted v. Non-Gifted” debate

[tw: strong, likely offensive language used. However, if you choose not to read it because you have lost all respect for someone who dares use a swear word in an argument, you need to rethink your reasoning. You’re valuing lexicon over content; is that really what you want to do?]

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein

Whether or not you are in Gifted, International Baccalaureate, or just toughing it out in classes deemed fit for you by the state, we all share one thing in common: the way we choose to live our our academic careers is a deeply personal choice, and people should not feel entitled to mock, disparage, or idolize those who choose the more conventionally “difficult” path.

Let me put it in perspective with another extremely personal decision: your sexuality.

Now, a lot of people will say that your sexuality is something you’re born with, not a choice, and I find that just a few shades untrue. For one, if sexuality were 100% a genetic thing, it would simply be impossible to deny or suppress it for very long. While the vast majority of non-heterosexual people choose to be homo-, a-, bi-, pan-, etc-sexual, there are people who also choose to live the heterosexual life of dating only the opposite gender, regardless of sexual attraction.

In this analogy, the Gifted/I.B./accelerated learner is the homosexual. That gay kid that everyone made fun of for being different. They are a small, but significantly visible group within the population of the largely heterosexual/”normal” students.

When someone says, “You guys are so annoying, always complaining about grades and tests scores. You’re so self-absorbed and such a pain in the ass,” that’s the equivalent of saying, “You guys are so annoying, always complaining about how hard it is to live as a lesbian. You’re so self-absorbed; quit complaining about the fact that you can’t get married when my boyfriend just broke up with me.”

We chose to live the way we live. Don’t let that define who we are as people. I am sick and tired of hearing the whole “She’s such a whiny bitch; I got a 57, and she got a 92; how dare she even say that she failed?” I get it. We’re all terrible people with ridiculously distorted views about the way the world works. However, in our experience, the world has been nothing but passive aggressively hostile to us. It’s even permeated into our own culture: Whenever someone in my own peer group says, “Fuck, I got an 89, my parents are going to kill me,” my first reaction is, “If your parents kill you, mine are going to throw me into the deepest pits of hell for my 69, so shut up.”

I am not my test score, and I am not my GPA score, just like I am not my gender, and I am not my sexuality. I have to deal with the same pressures you have to deal with and I have to deal with the same shit the school throws at me. I might regret at times ever coming to Interlake and doing I.B., but I sure as hell don’t regret meeting all the people I’ve met and getting to spend my high school years with them.

I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself. But for the rest of my life, I am going to be with me and I don’t want to spend my life with someone who is always critical. So I am going to stop being my own critic. It’s high time that I accept all the great things about me.

C. Joybell C.

No one ever said that we’re bound to succeed just because we’re good at math or physics or chemistry. We all know that we’re unlikely to succeed in life if we bind ourselves to books and chain ourselves to our laptops. In fact, it’s one of my biggest worries. Being in I.B. doesn’t automatically make me Harvard-bound. In fact, it probably makes me less likely to go to Harvard unless I can make myself into someone like Eesha Khare or Jake Andraka. In fact, I’d be rejected from UW right now because I don’t meet their requirements.

There’s a lot more to the acceptance game than people give credit to. Yes, it’s not all about grades. But no, it’s not all about extra-curriculars.

Just like being unable to put a label on my sexuality doesn’t stop me from baking a cake or building a desk, being in I.B. doesn’t stop me from going on a two-hour hike in my free time or playing video games for fun.

When people call me “nerd”, “dork”, or “geek” and make fun of the classes I take, I might be smiling, but it hurts me. It drives deep into my insecurities and makes me desperately afraid of failing because when you sneer, “HA she’s gifted, she must have a 5.0 GPA”, you’re telling me “This is the pedestal that I put you on to throw tomatoes at you”. It’s like saying “fag”, “dyke”, or “tranny”. “He’s so fabulous; I want him as my fierce gay best friend.”

On the flip side, it does not entitle people to say, “HA I AM GOD’S ULTIMATE BIRTH CONTROL” and to go around calling people “breeders”. It doesn’t give you the privilege to say “Yeah, this is my token ‘normal’ friend. He adds just a little more ‘swag’ to our group.”

Saying that we don’t fit into “jock culture” or “with normal people” is complete and utter nonsense, just like saying that we don’t fit into “nerd culture” or “with genius people” is complete and utter nonsense. The minute people start spouting words like that is the minute the Grand-fucking-Canyon separating us turns into the Grand-fucking-Mariana Trench.

There is no one culture. People of different races and of different backgrounds can all attest to that. We all belong to multiple cultures. That fucking pancake world you live in? Yeah, that’s actually a quiche. You think this is a cake? Nah, it’s a salad bowl. It’s not scrambled eggs. It’s a fucking melting pot.

I would never disparage someone for being a football player with aspirations to join the PAC-12. I might tease you, because our football team rarely wins more than two games a season, but I will never say, “You’re such a dumb jock; you’ll never succeed in life. Football isn’t a viable career.” It’s not my business. I can only say what the facts say, which is “Try not to hurt yourself; football is a dangerous sport,” or, “The unemployment rate for architects right now is 14% and is expected to increase in the next ten years. Choose wisely.”

My choice in lab partners depends solely on how well we work together, not how good your grades are or where you spent your summers.

Do not tell me that it’s not a big deal that I got a B. Because to me, it is a big, huge, gigantic deal. Do not tell me that my grades are perfect, because I won’t believe you. Let me do the math and just bring me tea and cookies and a warm blanket.

You got into a UC? Good for you. Let’s go out and celebrate. In the mean time, please avoid talking to me about how wrong my life choices are. I am as happy as I can possibly hope to be at the moment being a Gifted student on the side, and you’re as happy as you can possibly hope to be at the moment being a heterosexual on the side. You want to talk about math? Don’t tell me not to complain because I’m in math studies and you’re in FM. Maybe you think it’s weird that I’ve been in that class for three years. Okay, granted, I’ll give you that.

I’m not going to say “Yeah, you normal students have it so easy,” because I know the kind of shit you guys have to put up with.  Being in Gifted doesn’t make me, or anyone else, more “special” or “protected”. We all suffer the same kind of abuse, depression, anxiety, and illnesses that everyone else faces. I am not Jesus; don’t treat me like Jesus. I am not a leper; don’t treat me like a leper.

We are all failures–at least, the best of us are.

J.M. Barrie

There are words that we can’t use in front of peers–“PRISM”, “Gifted”, and “IB” being among them–because it alienates the rest of the student body, even when I feel alienated already from everybody I know. I have to watch my language in a way that most people don’t have to because anyone, at any moment, could lash out at me for being “different”. I have experienced classism. I have experienced racism. I have experienced sexism. I have experienced abuse and harm and emotional trauma. I have experienced hate and bigotry and superiority complexes the size of Jupiter and egos the size of the Sun.

Don’t, for one moment, think that being academically “gifted” makes us any different from anyone else. It might protect us a little more from being bullied, but peer pressure isn’t a vacuum. Bullying still happens.

Maybe my self-worth is based on the fact that I’m part of this group of people. That being in PRISM makes me feel better about myself. Fine. I accept that. But my self-worth is not based solely on one group of people. I am so much more than part of an acronym that no one understands. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’ll be that sparkle-thong-wearing, parade-leading man who speaks like a Californian valley girl and drinks pink-colored alcohol with an umbrella straw.

I don’t need people making snap judgments on me and then putting me down for choosing what looks like a harder lifestyle. I don’t need people snidely implying that my hard work is all for naught. I don’t need people assuming that I’m not well-rounded and as a result will never get into college.

Because I can do that, and I do do that on my own. So thanks for offering, but no thanks. I need outside support and people to help me back up after I’ve broken down from an anxiety attack, not outside sneering and people who try to devalue my own struggles because they think theirs is more important.

Dear Someone who didn’t do IB or PRISM and still got into a UC school with “low” SAT score:

I hear your frustration with the whole program.

But.

Thanks for devaluing all the hard work that I and all the other IB/PRISM kids have put into the program. It’s really encouraging to see that someone who managed to do well in school in their own fashion basically come and imply that we’re worthless because we’re not “well-rounded” or skilled enough to be successful because academics seems to be the dominant fixture of our lives. Thanks for making a judgement based on a stereotype and trying to shame us for the way we chose to do our school career. Thanks a lot for insinuating that we’re wasting our time and everyone else’s time.

If you think your method is better than ours, please, write a book. If you think we ought to “complain” less about the things we care about, please, instruct us on how we should restructure our lives so that we can complain about the things you care about. If you think that what we’re doing is wrong, tell us how we should change.

So thanks, again, for your input, stranger. But let’s make an agreement: I won’t pass judgement on your life, and you won’t pass judgement on mine.

P.S. I will give you the data that says grades and scores are a big deal.http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/…/76444-links…

Sincerely,
Someone who really couldn’t give a shit anymore about what other people think about my choices and my lifestyle

A letter to anon

Personally, I don’t understand what’s so difficult to grasp about this concept of equality. I’m just as frustrated about school and life. Just because I’m “smart” or “gifted” or “special” doesn’t give me the privilege to say “Shut the fuck up, I’m more important because I’m disadvantaged in the whole rat race.”

In fact, being “smart” or “gifted” or “special” has only taught me how to roll with the punches and try not to let people see me cry when it gets too tough for me to comfortably handle on my own.

But, being “normal” or in the “It Crowd” or having the majority of people support and back you up also doesn’t entitle you to try to silence the minority. Because that is precisely what every other self-declared privileged majority group has done in the past and look how well it turned out for them.

I’ll never be able to go back in time and fix the choices that I made, so please don’t tell me that I made the wrong choice. It’s not your business how I live my life, nor do you have to come to my wedding or my funeral.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
TL;DR: My choice in education is like my sexuality is like my nose: everyone has one, but I don’t go around shoving it into other people’s business. So please do me a huge favor, and don’t shove your nose into mine. Your judgment is unwarranted and unsubstantiated, and you reek of the insecurities that we all share plus the self-righteous perfume you tried to use to cover it up.
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4 responses to “Let’s put a new spin on this whole “Gifted v. Non-Gifted” debate

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