Hoagies logo
Shop Amazon and support Hoagies' Page. Thanks!

ParentsEducatorsKids Fun!What's New?Gifted 101CommunityConferencesShop Hoagies!PC SecurityAbout
                 ↑Teachers find help here                           ↑ Everyone needs community


Barnes & Noble

Click on Shop Hoagies' Page before you visit your favorite on-line stores including Amazon and many more of your favorite stores.  Thanks for making Hoagies' Gifted community possible!

Your donations help keep Hoagies' Gifted Education Page on-line.

Support Hoagies' Page!

ERIC logo

Asimov's Law and Advocacy

by Toni Goodman
Copyright 1999

Recently, in a discussion between parents of gifted children, someone asserted the following quote of Asimov's Law: "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity."

I was immediately struck by the fact that while this seems an inherently important principle of advocacy, it is also, perhaps one of the most difficult to be mindful of, particularly, when your child is suffering at the hands of that ignorance.

Webster's dictionary defines advocacy as the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending a cause or course of action. Yet to do so constructively means, among other things, to inform, rather than accuse, empower rather than subvert - precepts that are particularly challenging to implement when the person you are advocating for is your child. There is a certain Mama Lion instinct that kicks in when our children's well being is being compromised. Whether or not the damage incurred results from malice or from a lack of knowledge or expertise seems an irrelevant distinction, when your child is suffering. And yet, acknowledging the difference between ignorance and malice is critical if we are to remain effective advocates for our children.

Though we had been attempting to make changes in our 8-year-old son's school experience since the beginning, we were not very successful on the whole. By third grade, things had reached a more critical point. At their worst, I recall leaving my son's classroom one morning and lingering in the hall, reluctant - no, afraid to leave the school. Up until that moment, I had operated from the understanding that, even if I didn't always agree with my children's teachers, I could feel confident that they acted from their own belief of what was best for my children. But this day as I stood in the parking lot, tears welled in my eyes and I felt almost immobilized. I knew that the danger to my child was distinct and very real. That morning he had asked me in a plaintive and small voice, "Mom, have you ever felt like you just can't take it anymore?" And then, my 8 year old went on to express in horrifying detail thoughts that arose from a depth of despair I could have never imagined could exist is someone so young. At once, the risk of academic acceleration, the many doubts expressed by the school staff about our son's abilities and educational needs, their opposition to options we'd proposed - seemed almost devoid of risk, in the face of the very real danger of losing my child. This was my clarion call to action.

After months of circular discussions with school officials, my husband and I drafted a two sentence letter to our principal in which we clearly asserted our intention to skip our son to the next grade. Ironically, when we were willing to assume the "risk" for such an action - many of the obstacles the school had presented seemed to fall by the wayside, and within the next week, the grade skip had been implemented.

During that same time period, because of our son's depression, we took him to be evaluated by a local psychologist with experience in gifted issues. During the course of his visits with our son, the psychologist was able to administer some higher ceiling intelligence testing, only to reveal what a vast difference existed between where the school thought our son was functioning and where he actually was. His intelligence was well into the profoundly gifted range. Furthermore, the psychologist informed us, our son was more comfortable than most children he'd encountered, with what he knew and what he didn't know. How incredibly we had all underestimated the frustrations this child had been struggling with! How could he not have behaved in some of the ways he had, when no one was listening to the ways he clearly knew himself best.

I began to learn everything I could about gifted education. I posted a quote from Mister Rogers on my desk: "The best thing parents can do for children is to listen to them." I let those words become my guide and mantra. It was the beginning of a lot of changes. For the remainder of the year, we continued to push for rate and level of instruction, through pretests, alternate accommodations and any other means available. Now as this school year comes to a close, our son will accelerate to 6th grade in the Fall and attend an 8th grade math class. A big change for an 8 year old who began the year in a contained third grade class.

After months of conflict and struggle, the gifted coordinator began to see in our son for the first time, a child closer to the one we had described. The more opportunities for advancement she presented him with, the more he was able to meet and then rapidly exceed her expectations. The pride and interest that had all but vanished, began to reappear in his projects and schoolwork. School staff began to note the contrast in his behavior during the times when the work is too simple (he's unfocused and all over the place) to the kind of attention he brings to more complex and challenging tasks (persistent, focused effort). The GT coordinator began to see what we had been saying all along. As she grew to know our son, her ability to help him became more informed. Ignorance is such an off-putting term, but in actuality, schools do not have much real experience with these kinds of students. When they operate under the assumptions that work for most of the children they serve, they extrapolate understandings for a part of that population that functions very differently - and in fact, they are not as knowledgeable about.

My husband and I are now seeing our child begin to thrive and flourish once again. This year he has added to his many career goals that of helping other gifted kids in difficulty like himself. This kind of empathy would not have been possible for him as recently as five months ago when he was feeling so desolate, alone and miserable in his own skin.

The school's GT coordinator told us the other day that she had held two meetings recently - one with the school's primary staff and the second with the intermediate teachers. At those meetings, she suggested the need for our school to reevaluate previously held perceptions regarding academic acceleration. She reported to us that a very positive and productive dialogue had ensued. To me this was one of the greatest measurements of how far we've come. It means that in the wake of our family's painful year, we are leaving a roadmap for others to follow. Among the trailblazers will be our younger daughter, who will be double promoted from first to third grade in the Fall.

It is sometimes difficult to see an absence of malice when the result of ignorant practices can be equally devastating to our gifted children. But Asimov's distinction between the two can help us become more effective advocates by reminding us of our need to inform in order to reform.

Barnes & Noble

Recommended best links, also visit Hoagies' Don't Miss! Recommended best products, also visit Hoagies' Shopping Guide: Gifts for the Gifted

Home Up Next

Print Hoagies' Page
business cards...

Hoaiges' Page business card
prints on Avery 8371
or similar cardstock

Visit this page on the Internet at
Hoagies' Gifted, Inc. is a non-profit organization recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
Your contribution is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Contact us by e-mail at Hoagies' Gifted, Inc.
Subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest pages for more interesting links
Copyright 1997-2020 by Hoagies' Gifted, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Click for Privacy Policy