New Year, New Book Reading Goal

50. Yeah, I am going to try to read 50 books this year. No specific requirements. Nothing too ambitious. Everything from young adult romances to classics or memoirs. Okay, most of the books I read have been introduced to me by NPR. You know, because I like having that voice of reason constantly in the background when I perform the mind-numbing necessities of life. Like dressing myself, cleaning the refrigerator, cooking, managing finances… you get the idea.

Right now I’m reading The Gifted School. It was sold on NPR as a “lite” version of the real life drama around Varsity Blues. I wanted to read it because I’ve always wondered why we spend resources teaching to the bottom (children who are in 5th grade and can barely read) and the very bottom (children who are so profoundly disabled that they’re incapable of acquiring language) of the talent pool, while ignoring the top. Doesn’t seem worth it, in terms of ROI. This book helps me understand why that might be.

If a school teaches only the 1% (top of the talent pool, not the 1% by wealth), and pours resources into doing so, parents of the 99% will be wielding pitchforks. Especially when you consider that if entrance exams to these schools include any objective component of testing that’s correlated with IQ, the school will end up looking like Stuyvesant: mostly white and Asian. Then, because in polite society, we cannot admit the well-established existence of a race-IQ gap, we must conclude that the admissions policy is racist.

The author seems to have an opinion about the sorts of kids who would attend such schools, and what their parents must be like. The white parents are all overbearing, pushy, or over-invested. The kids are either good little models of what their parents wanted, or, in the case of Xander, the “weird genius chess player scientist” trope. Only one character doesn’t have overbearing parents and isn’t a mere trope. Or maybe he is. He’s the one who lives in poverty and helps his mom and grandma clean houses for a living. What’s the message here? There are no normal/likable/sensible rich white people? The only reasonable people are people of color? His grandmother preaches against going to the gifted school because she’s afraid it will make him puffed up with self-importance. This is a strange moral. Isn’t wasted potential a lot worse than becoming a little cocky? Plus, with grandma to keep him in line, is that even a real concern?

I haven’t gotten to the shocking secrets sold in the synopsis, but I’ll write another post if it’s anything worthwhile. For now, I’d say that while this book is an easy read, it’s not great, and I wouldn’t recommend to anyone unless they happen to be interested in the subject matter. Or unless they want a stereotypical representation of “liberal elites” so they can feel morally superior.

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