Monday, September 5, 2011

We Are ... The Mentally Superior, And We Are Coming For You

It was the 1973.  Pennsylvania had yet to deal with Three Mile Island, Budd Dwyer or the Philadelphia police torching a city block to get some black people out of town.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education, perhaps anticipating such disasters, published a booklet titled A Guide for Parents ... Mentally Gifted Children and Youth.  In the mid 1970s my parents received this booklet.  I was the Mentally Gifted Children and Youth.  To be more exact ... I was a mentally gifted child.

The booklet itself seems to take its cue from a lot of what made Nazi Germany so memorable.  That would be a false sense of superiority and a strange version of eugenics.  Patriotism is sprinkled throughout, too, such as in the Foreword.  "In our democracy, we have an obligation to assure that every child has the opportunity to develop to the utmost of his abilities and to encourage him to do so."  (It's always a "him.")

Chapter 1 answers the burning question: Who are the Mentally Gifted?  I was apparently one of the lads whose "outstanding intellectual and/or creative ability" is in the "top 3 percent of the nation's school-age population."  It then proceeds to list two generalizations about us mutant children.  "Mentally gifted children do not follow a uniform pattern in any delineation of their individual nature, interests and needs."  And, "The typical gifted child is likely to be superior in almost all measurable human traits.  (There are exceptions, of course, but we are describing here a statistical majority of those classified as gifted.)"  I am not making this up.  I was apparently superior in all measurable traits.  All I can say is I'm glad this was in a time before every kid was medicated to the point immobility.

The booklet then discusses the needs of the gifted.  According to the PA Department of Education, if I wasn't given the opportunity for exploration and experience, I would become bored and develop anti-social attitudes and behaviors.  Looks like someone was asleep at the wheel in my school.  Luckily, my mental superiority meant that I targeted all the right people with my anti-social behavior.  Just ask the staff of Pocono Mt. Senior High.

One of the things that was hoped to be achieved with us was that we would, by adolescence, be preparing for marriage and family life.  Yeah.  Seriously.  Apparently, adolescence is particularly tough on the gifted because we reached that stage long before we are teens.  "He will probably experience a sense of isolation," it reads.  "He may have a greater problem developing appropriate sex roles and relationships.  He may abandon intellectual activities which are not accepted by the group in favor of more ordinary pursuits.  As an alternative, he may persist in being different and sever the lines of social communication."  Those who know me know are nodding their heads in agreement.  Guess what?  I don't need you people!  I'm Mentally Superior!

The booklet lists many activities that are to be of interest to the gifted child.  All the usual suspects are on there, like the Camera Club.  I imagine that is like the sexting of today ... or not.  It then ends on a special note under the chapter "Due Process: Right to Education for the Gifted."  It lists some regulations and states, "These regulations extend the right to education and the right to due process to all gifted and talented school-age persons..."  No need to bore you anymore than I already have, but let's just say I probably went through more evaluations then were necessary in school.

To say this booklet is creepy is an understatement.  I remember being pulled out of the First or Second grade to answer a bunch of questions.  I recall telling the woman interviewing me all about my theories on the Loch Ness Monster.  The next thing I knew my parents were discussing my education at the dinner table and telling me I was going into a class for the "smart kids."  We had access to computers before the other kids did, and we got to go to special events and museums that other kids weren't privy to.  All of this to ensure I married right and didn't blow up banks.  Did it work?  Yes and no.  The one thing it taught me to do was question authority, which is probably the most beneficial thing anyone can do.  While the other kids blindly listened to teachers in Third and Fourth grade, I was challenging them ... in a respectful way.  Later I became a lot less respectful as the teachers became a lot more authoritarian.

I don't think schools give out indoctrination booklets like this anymore.  They've gotten smarter.  I'm glad my parents kept my copy, though.  It explains a lot of my early schooling.


  1. I don't know how you would find it. I was too lazy to scan the cover, so I did a Google image search for it to no avail. I doubt many parents kept it.