Enter the essay for English class. We had to choose a topic that had something to do with knowledge or education . . . and I managed to put this together the night before it was due . . . eh heh . . . It's being put up here because I'm in a posting mood tonight and figured what the hell, as nothing else is ready to see the light of day.. It's rather amusing if you've been in the situation. Oh, and by the way: omphaloskepsis - contemplation of one's navel in aid to meditation.

The Gifted Stigma

"See, the way I figure it," postures my friend, while flipping his sandy hair out of his eyes with a jerk of his head that I'm sure will result in concussion, "is that the music we listen to determines our positions in social groups – think about it." We're sitting in French, discussing social theories – not as odd as it appears for our particular group. We have been known essentially all of our educational lives as 'the smart kids', 'those weird kids who read a lot', 'gifted children', or whatever other label seems to fit at the time, be it as supposedly callous as 'reader-head' or simply, 'hey, you, what's the answer?'.

From the time we are first siphoned off into elementary school, tests to determine intelligence, creativity, reading skill, and all other manner of seemingly useless information are thrust at us in the mental equivalent of a barrage of needles poking and prodding, trying to determine what truly lies beneath. Any relative success on these tests results in nearly instant differentiation from the rest of the classmates and permanent designation as 'that smart kid.' The education system itself places upon us this stigma of supposed higher intelligence, what with the P.A.C.E. program, leaving us to lead our lives as essentially marked men.

Once the supposed 'gifted children' enter junior high, we have discovered the fact that the label is stuck fast, and only a purely monumental show of what would be considered normalcy will pry it loose. At this point the reaction of most would be to strive to live up to the label – to become the 'smart kid', the student who knows everything worth knowing and is the pride of every teacher. We take the difficult classes, because that is what 'gifted children' do. When we fail (as we invariably do), the label question becomes one of advantage – namely, the gears begin to turn to convert the situation into one where the least amount of work will provide the most amount of benefit. We discover that we can indeed manage the coveted 'A' with minimal effort at the last minute, a result that the school system despairs of but still thrusts upon us. P.A.C.E. again adds to this illusion of grandeur, although the class is essentially busy work for students who would otherwise be occupied with nothing.

Finally, we enter high school. We have mastered the art of procrastination to a tee, and are still referred to as 'those smart kids', even if we have vehemently denied the name – but we still sign up for the more difficult classes. All of the knowledge we should have crammed into our craniums is little more than a shadow, except in specialized areas we cared to commit to memory – such as particular aspects of literature or science, or strange vocabulary words (omphaloskepsis comes to mind). This knowledge can be called up at a moments notice and is often used to further the illusion of higher intelligence, for by this point, we have discovered the advantages of appearing smarter than we truly are – it's a shield against those whom we have no desire to associate with, as our larger vocabularies bother some people, and a manner of obtaining the quick approval of teachers when we know some obscure answer in class. We've rather come full circle – from knowing nothing and being labeled 'gifted' to knowing as little as possible and being the ones people turn to for the answer to question number seven.

Our educational lives began with the given knowledge that we were different, which led us to pursue those differences, become the 'smart kids', and then use that same knowledge to our own advantages. Being given that stigma by the educational system caused us to become 'gifted' in an attempt to live up to the name – and led us to where we are today. Twelve years of 'hey, you, what's the answer?" have given the people around us the illusory knowledge that we are smarter than they are. So we sit in class, trying to philosophize away the time, while two desks over, girls are comparing dates and nail polish. Maybe we are reader-heads.