Probably the most memorable year in my 12 years of public education was in the eighth grade (1963-1964). I was among a group of students chosen from three schools to participate in an eighth-grade class of gifted and talented students. This was shortly before the massive integration of schools in our state.
My Aberdeen classmates of eighth graders and I who were chosen to be in the special class were “bussed” to West End to join West End and Eagle Springs eighth graders. I guess you could say we were slightly ahead of our time to be “bussed” to an out-of-district school.
Reflecting back on that year, I am thinking of the absurdity of that class. If my memory serves me correctly, the only criteria for selecting class members was how well we had performed on standardized tests and particularly IQ tests. Personally, I felt slightly behind academically when I returned to Aberdeen High School after the eighth-grade year in West End. All in all, it was a traumatic year with a teacher who seemed to never be concerned about a student’s self-esteem or emotional fragility and then there was the shocking assassination of President Kennedy and its aftermath.
Hopefully, we have moved beyond this limited “pigeon-holing” of an individual’s mental ability by using mainly IQ tests. There still remains room for improvement in assessing mental health factors necessary in helping children in their often arduous journey of becoming independent and fully functioning adults.
Psychologists tell us today there are four mental quotients which contribute to the goal of an independent and balanced life. Besides the most familiar Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which relies heavily on reading ability and the ability to do varying levels of mathematical computations, there is an Emotional Quotient (EQ) which involves the ability to maintain peace with others; a Social Quotient (SQ) which is described as an ability to build a network of friends and maintain friendships through a number of years; and an Adversity Quotient (AQ) which is the ability to get through difficult periods in life.
Since the recent mass shootings in Raleigh, the discussion has sadly risen again as to what contributes to this phenomenon of young white males under the age of 20 committing such horrific acts of violence. Such causes mentioned include the proliferation and obsession with social media, violent video games, bullying, social alienation and isolation, easy access to the massive number of guns in the country, the increasing rarity of two-parent, stable households, etc.
I personally think about our large high schools where kids can so easily get lost in the shuffle … unlike the much smaller high schools many of us of a certain age attended in our youth. Maybe there should be more of a mental health component placed in our schools to compensate for the huge changes in our society.
What about 20 minutes a day with heterogeneous groupings of students with a teacher/leader to discuss particular topics or just whatever the group would like to discuss?
Besides mental health issues, there are concerns about the physical health of our youth. Obesity and health problems are now much more prevalent than in the past. Maybe there should be more emphasis on physical education and nutrition throughout all grades.
But geez, public schools with all its many more challenges are having extreme difficulty in even filling classrooms with qualified and competent teachers.
Helen Cox is a former journalist and educator in Richmond County.