Monday, June 18, 2012


I find myself torn this week between two reaction posts and so have decided to combine them under one heading...WAY WRONG.  One has to do with a comment left in an earlier post about "wasted potential" and the other a response to a front page New York Times article, Sunday June 10, 2012 "Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill"  Please let me know what you think in the comments.


In a recent blog post discussing underachievers, I received a comment that:
As one who teaches intellectually gifted kids, these are the students who make me the craziest! So much wasted potential.
While I understand this teacher's frustration, the view that these students are 'wasted' hit a chord with me.  I understand the intent, but would like to argue that instead of looking at these students as 'wasted potential', it is healthier for everyone to regard any underachiever as having "untapped" or "undisciplined" potential. As with most of us, we all have strengths and weaknesses. As a parent and a teacher of intellectually gifted kids, I have found three major sources of gifted underachievers.
  1. These students often have weaknesses that are not always or easily found because the gifted can better mask and overcompensate. It is our job to find their Achilles heels and help them reach their potentials. We can do this by observing them in and out of class, noticing their successes and better accepting and understanding their failures. I truly believe students always initially try; they breakdown with continued failures (both seen and unseen).
  2. Another source of underachieving is ATTENTION. The material is often too slowly presented or the content too shallow and they go off on mind-trips to further stimulate their intellect. It is our responsibility to help them better discipline and refine their attention by helping them better recognize when they take mind trips; helping them regroup when mind trips have been taken; and empowering them with strategies to prevent the mind trips.
  3. A third source is undisciplined work habits. So often content is too easy they never learn how to STUDY or PREPARE content because they have been able to 'wing' it. This inevitably comes back to bite them. They have to be challenged and taught how to break work down and how to best prepare. They, like everyone else must learn how to STUDY, RESEARCH, and RELATE.
And, we as parents and teachers must advocate for their needs. The truth is I see gifted as wasted potential from a totally different perspective.  There are so many GIFTED and TALENTED among us, many of whom are not even noticed.  We are so busy trying to get everyone to meet certain standards, the 'bar' for the talented is lowered or ignored.  It is these kids who go unnoticed and unchallenged who are WASTED POTENTIAL - and a wasted resource. 

2. Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill - A response

Sunday, June 10, 2012 New York Times front page article:  "Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill: Taking stimulants Not for a High, but for a Higher SAT Score by Alan Schwartz

First, a brief synopsis of the article:
He steered into the high school parking lot...Crinkled chip bags...Soda cups... on the passenger seat, a rumpled SAT practice book...Before opening the car door ... he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest... leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it...
Throughout the parking lot...eight of his friends did the same thing...The drug was not cocaine or heroin, but Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that the  boy said he and his friends routinely shared to study...focus during tests and ultimately get the grades...The drug did more than just jolt them gave them a tunnel focus tailor-made for the marathon of tests long known to make or break college applications.
Observed Gary Boggs, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, "We're seeing it all across the United States."
The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall...Vyvanse...Ritalin...Focalin as Class 2 controlled substances - the same as cocaine and morphine - because they rank among the most addictive...they carry high legal risks too...the same as selling it  and can be prosecuted as a felony...abuse...can lead to  depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal.
Paul L. Hokemeyer, a family therapist...said, "Children have prefrontal cortexes that are not fully developed, and we're changing the chemistry of the brain.  That's what these drugs do.  It's one thing if you have a real deficiency - the medicine is really important to those people - but not if your deficiency is not getting into Brown."
"isn't it just like a vitamin?" asked one high school junior from Eastchester, a suburb of New York.
The mother of one high school freshman... said she would open the kitchen cabinet every morning and watch her son take his prescribed dose of Ritalin.  She noticed one day that the capsule was strangely airy and held it up to the light.  It was empty...A number of teenagers interviewed laughed at the ease with which  they got some doctors to write prescriptions...Many youngsters with prescriptions said their doctors merely listened to their stories and took out  their prescription pads.
We allowed athletes to do this for so long, we are now allowing kids to do this unattested.  Awareness and commitment to our kids has to grow. The problem is so overwhelming.  Too much emphasis on SAT's and tests in general, too much labeling, too much leniency in drug prescriptions, and not enough effective means of monitoring. Then of course there is the source of their incredible stress that must also be addressed!

I admire the mom who checks and watches her son take his meds, but parents can't always do this.  We can't easily or effecitively 'drug test' before exams, schools have little way of monitoring either.  We may need to more closely monitor the labeling and prescription giving. Maybe, drugs for minors need to be 'administered' by parents and school personnel only - although I doubt this is practical or even possible.  Part of the solution, however, also lies in relieving the source of their stress.  We somehow have to address this incredible competition for colleges and the roles the 'gatekeepers' play. Maybe we as parents have to realize and relay to our kids that getting into that Ivy League college is not the only solution for success.  There are other excellent institutions and other equally successful options and paths your young adults can follow on their journey to inner growth, intellectual growth, and success.

For anyone interested in links for drug abuse/addition here are some links:

The bottom line is we are hurting our kids' and our nation's future.  Where do we begin?

These were my 'two-cents' - what are yours?  Please leave them in the comments.
In the meantime, thanks for the visit and have a great week.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. About the wasted potential: there seems to be a lot of it. Hopelessness, distractions due to stresses at home or with peers, lack of confidence in one’s own abilities and/or appreciation of what an education can bring are just a few factors. I also think teachers too often fail to engage their students and focus more on memorizing than making learning a grand experience that is a high in itself. Also, exams can seem like an Olympic sport where you only have one shot to win the prize. Too much stress is put on that one final event perhaps rather than testing knowledge throughout.

  3. Very insightful as always, Meryl!

  4. You made some very good points on both issues. There was a time when anyone who had a high school diploma from a certified school in Louisiana could apply to LSU and be fairly certain of acceptance. This, of course, led to LSU not having a high scholastic ranking among colleges. These days, one has to have that SAT score and so on. And one has to compete harder for acceptance because so many students come from out-of-state schools with high GPA scores. LSU is now a Third Tier school. That's the good news. The bad news? Stress and whatever it takes rule. So, I don't know, just don't know.

  5. Thanks Meryl for linking up to Get Connected Tuesday Blog Hop.

  6. My son is nine and is on Ritalin. Thank you for this interesting post - I need to do more research.

  7. Well written and informative. I haven't to had to face any of these issues, my children are still young.

    Following you from the Tuesday Morning hop and am your latest follower. Would appreciate a follow back.
    One Chic Mom

  8. I was one of those gifted and talented students, and you are right about your observations! We can easily mask our struggles, and we often go neglected because teachers know we will pass with good grades. They were more concerned with students on the edge of failing--which they should be. It's a fine line, but all students should be challenged--that's the struggle the classroom teacher faces. Trying to find a way to challenge all her students to grow towards their potential.

    The Adderol story does not surprise me. Kids were taking it for that purpose when I was in high school ten years ago. It is definitely a problem that I believe stems as you said from the intense pressure we place on kids to get into a good college.

    Coming over from the Home School Hop!

    Mary Beth

  9. You should watch the cover story on this past week's CBS Sunday Morning. The story is about boys/men and education, how sitting still and cooperating is more of a "girl" thing (it was less reductivist than that).
    As for the drugs, we have too much of a belief that there's a pill for everything, with no sense of the consequences/side effects.

  10. My philosophy has always been to help children learn to learn - with fun, if possible. Most of my students that I tutor are not "poor" students; rather, they need to learn self-discipline and how to organize not only their lessons, but also their notes. Some are better at this than others. Great post.

    abcw team

  11. Hi Meryl,
    I was hoping for a follow on Google Friends Connect. Is that possible?

  12. Intelligent children always find a way to develop their minds, as long as there are challenging objects around them. They love working in groups. When I taught English, I prepared my lessons thoroughly and worked them out sothat my students almost immediately started to work in groups. Some of these students were teachers themselves. Of course they were all adults, but they were not different from children. They loved working with a goal. They were enthousiastic, inventive and creative.

  13. Oh Meryl, don't get me started! I could write a book. After 40 years a high school teacher and principal and having raised two boys though the eighties in Southern California, I probably should. Just let me refer you to David McCullough's commencement speech at Wellesley College, which I imagine you have heard by now. It's all over the news and You Tube. What our kids need is a healthy dose of REALITY -- not reality TV. Wisdom and selflessness and a "do it with all your heart" attitude is what it's all about. All fine Christian virtues. But "unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it".
    Different programs and methods is merely skimming the surface. Great thought provoking post.

  14. I don't care for the word underachiever either. There is more than one way learning occurs but students are generally all treated the same which works for the majority of kids but leaves the others floundering in the system. You obviously care, but it's not looking like some government entities share your enthusiasm (Wisconsin).

  15. Princess Nagger is in the Gifted Program at her school - and recently during one of our parent/teacher conferences they mentioned they've tested her (successfully) in the 6-8 grade levels (while in 3rd grade). But follow that with she doesn't contribute enough in class, she's often day dreaming during the 'normal' learning classes. When we explained that she has mentioned to us she hates school because it's so boring, it wasn't until then they decided they'd make sure PN got more challenging learning - after all, the kid is reading at an 8th grade level - and *comprehending* that level, so they needed to do something. But to have a gifted teacher say her gifted students are 'wasted potential'? That bugs me. :)

    And the drug use by kids of all ages has really gotten crazy, hasn't it? Since we're fostering (to adoption) a 4 year old who's mother is *still* a drug addict (but apparently not according to her, since she *only* takes what the doctors proscribe - even when they don't apparently keep track, since she'll get her prescriptions by going to the ER 15 times in less than 2 years...) It's crazy.

    Thanks for linking up with RTT Rebel - you always give my brain exercise, and I like it! ;)

    Summer Heat, Christmas in June, Misspelled Fun, and 20 Mules

  16. I agree with you on under achievers... to many times teachers only look at test scores & not anything else. that short changes the child.

    drug use is way out of control for both illegal & legal drugs being shared, swapped or sold. another place that kids need parent intervention & schools be more involved. Wi. does want quality education, the whole recall was over use of abuse by the unions. our systems has tenure involved and guaranteed pensions that no one had to contribute to. I have many friends that are teachers & the tenure programs hurts the teachers that are just starting out & want to reach the kids. Merit pay & advances I think would work better and give everyone a fair chance. I also think most of the abuse was in the higher education schools and K-12. JMHO.

  17. Reading the part on sources of gifted underachievers tell me there have been a few of them I came across with in my life.

  18. Another week of very useful information here in your post. My son is scared to go to school because he think that his sister is smarter than him. We kept telling him that he would do alright. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. Although my contact with the educational system is minimal now. At this stage of our lives even our grandchildren are out of school, I can relate to the gifted underachiever, having had two sons who were definitely in this category, but who have matured into a greater awareness and understanding and who teach me many things. About the use of drugs, I find this terribly discouraging and wonder what it is doing to our continuing development as human beings. Thank you for making us think, Meryl.

  20. Great blog with great info ~ and as a former therapist ~ I found psychiatrists, the medical world, and educational world were all too quick to 'medicate' ~ It is a societal 'thing' to 'pop' a pill, (quick fix) as a form of 'social control too ~ same with 'gifted children' ~ If you don't fall into the so called 'normal curve' ~ then society wants to 'nip in the bud' ~ have you 'fit the mold' ~ how boring is that? ~ We are all similar yet unique ~ I bow to the 'uniqueness' and hope we can learn to channel that 'unique' energy without 'name calling', pill popping ~ then again I tend to be an idealist' LOL ~thanks, namaste, ^_^ ( A Creative Harbor)

  21. Very thought provoking post. Too many kids are over-medicated, I fear.

  22. whoa... I really, truly appreciate this thoughtful and informative and thought provoking post. We are often so busy running after and worrying about those who struggle to achieve that is often easier to let those who are gifted in a certain area to slowly sink like a helium balloon that slowly loses it's air, back down to a more manageable, more easy to corral level... not intentionally for sure, but it does happen nonetheless and it sad that while they are/ when they are ready to soar we are sometimes not ready/ prepared to help them to rise.

    I'm stopping by to visit/ follow from the hop. We are riding the wave of life at and I would love it if you joined us for the ride. I would love it too if you joined us for a simple wordless Wednesday link up. No rules. Just friends. I would love for other beautiful bloggers to discover the good that you do.


  23. Guess taking drugs is the easy option of modern society a quick fix of a problem, that and a one size fits all system.

  24. As usual, there is much food for thought and much wisdom in your post. Having travelled with a couple of music students (over the years) who required supervision when taking meds, this hit home, even though I'm now retired. As for gifted kids, they do shut down if we are not on our toes. Teachers have a lot on their plates, and bored kids sometimes fall through the cracks, but what a difference it makes when a truly aware teacher comes into the picture. That can not only change a young person's future but perhaps, even the world's future.

  25. Oh, my...I couldn't agree with you more on ALL points!
    I have a 20 year old soon to be 21 that has undisciplined potential! For ALL the reasons you listed! These are the most challenging kids to raise, I think because of their level of intellect and how difficult it is to get them to be engaged and stay engaged without yourself falling in to a heap of nothingness each day).
    If only more teachers thought as you do.

  26. Coincidence: Husband and I conversing on the patio a few days ago about how he qualified for several AP classes but only took the math (it was the only thing that interested him).

    Why did he avoid the AP classes?

    "They gave out more work. Why do I want to sign up for more bulls**t busy-work? I had real work to do; I didn't want to spend my nights on homework."

    His nephew is also in AP courses--in another state--and despite not being raised around his uncle, the kid has the same attitude. "Why do they give me MORE work when I 'get it' sooner? They're punishing me for being smart."

    These guys are gifted in seeing through the illusion that all this paperwork means anything in real life. They want to work on something that lasts, something meaningful to THEM, not meaningful to administrators.

  27. prepared a 10 year old student for his quality work to be seen by the DP and his music teacher. He was so pleased when praised by them and the class teacher.

  28. this is really interesting. i hadn't realized students were now taking this to do well on the SAT - i wonder how to fix it. society, parents, and teens themselves put so much pressure on performance and grades - and its important to do well in this competitive world - but there has to be a better way.

    found your from the thursday linkup
    and excited to be your newest follower,

  29. Very interesting...thanks for writing this!

  30. i think if these kids are in the right environment with the right activities and supervisions and food, most don't need medications

    looks like an enjoyable time

    when time races like a bullet

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