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I have to apologize to the literally hundreds of parents, teachers and students who e-mailed me about Seminar — I didn’t get a chance to talk to many of you, and some of you sent me e-mails and didn’t get responses back.
Consider this a major mea culpa. Rest assured that I learned something from every one of you, even if I didn’t quote it in my story. I’ll be posting snippets from some of your e-mails throughout the day to continue our conversation about Seminar, its benefits and its costs. Here are two for starters:
Former school board candidate Miyo Reff compared Seminar to “offering your child a first class seat while everyone else is relegated to the coach section.” She praised the small classes for genuinely challenging her son, a “severely gifted” child who was once relegated to helping the custodian at a Pennsylvania school, and pushing him on to Harvard University. She only wishes that every parent could have the same opportunity.
“The inequity of the system has always bothered me,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Another parent, Wendy Wong, wrote that Seminar was the only reason her two children had maintained interest in school. “Seminar has provided a social setting for these kids that make it socially acceptable and ‘normal’ to have an intellectually curious mind,” she wrote:
Rather than cutting the Seminar program, schools should be learning from its success and mimicking its standards to raise the overall expectation for genuine learning and achievement in our schools. There is no substitute for the smaller class size, where the kids bond in a cohort-like way, and share relationships with their Seminar teachers that give them opportunities to express themselves verbally, argue persuasively for a point of view, and think thoroughly through sound writing.
She added that while she believes every child is gifted in some way, exceptionally gifted kids just have different learning needs:
For instance, at my son’s 16th birthday party, he and his friends talked at length about how hydrogen-powered engines work and algae fuels; and this is just what they talk about in passing, just like they’d talk about music and entertainment. If we want the next generation to be globally competitive, let’s help these kids satisfy their appetite for learning. We would be doing these kids and our nation’s future a grave disservice if we took away their opportunity to learn to their potential.
More tidbits on Seminar to come! Stay tuned.