I found myself saying, out loud, “yes” many times while reading an excellent article called Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard). The article, from the New York Times education section, addresses very nicely what I see so frequently in high school. Gifted kids aren’t used to having to work hard to get good grades, so when the work does get hard, they frequently give up, or choose something that is less challenging.
“We’re in a worldwide competition, and we’ve got to retain as many of our students as we can. But we’re not doing kids a favor if we’re not teaching them good life and study skills,” said Notre Dame’s engineering dean Peter Kilpatrick in the article.
I believe we do gifted students a great disservice in school (from elementary school on) when we don’t give them work at their level of ability, because they breeze through, and they are conditioned to think that smart equals easy. They don’t need to develop study skills or time management skills. I can see perfectly well why so many of these STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) university freshmen students get out of these difficult majors when they see how much work is involved. Many are not used to difficult or to having to compete with so many other top students from other schools.
I think challenging classes, like IB or AP courses, can prepare high school students for STEM classes and majors at the university level. The down side with more challenging high school curriculum, of course, is the incredible stress it puts on many of the students at an age when it is hard for many of them to handle. Still, if smart kids are given appropriate level work in the early grades, by the time they reach high school they should be more used to working hard. And, maybe this would mean that their stress levels would be more under control because they’d be used to working hard.
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