It feels elitist to say this, but it’s true: Public education is built for the lowest common denominator. It has to be. One of the beautiful and powerful things about public education is that it’s for everyone. And to be for everyone it has to average out needs and skill-level and that means neglecting what is superfluous or advanced.
This is not a criticism. It’s just a reality. It’s not even limited to public schooling, in a sense all schooling, since it is built for the group and not the individual, has an inherent weakness. It has strengths too, but this weakness is there.
Your goal is not to raise an average kid. Your goal is not to settle for the lowest common denominator. So are you ready, willing, and actively engaged to compensate for this? “No one suffers more at school than the gifted pupil,” the brilliant Stefan Zweig once wrote, “in whom, in the sterility of its methods, the school knows neither how to cultivate nor bring to fruition the inner gift.”
There are many ways for you to cultivate this inner gift, but again it is essential to accept that ultimately this role falls on you. You’re the one who will have to teach them civics, since schools have neglected this. It’s your job to set high expectations for them, to not baby them when it comes to books and to find the right moment to recommend the right ones. You’re going to have to introduce them to the dangerous ideas out there, because again, most of them aren’t safe enough to be given to the whole classroom. You will have to teach them how to figure things out and how to take their education in their own hands.
You will have to take the lead on this. It’s your job.