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Education

The Prodigy Puzzle 539

theodp writes "Once neglected, the NY Times reports that America's smartest children have become the beneficiaries of a well-organized effort to recognize their gifts and develop their talent. Programs like those offered by the Davidson Institute, run by Bob and Jan Davidson of Math and Reading Blaster fame, have sprung up to nurture the intellectual development of profoundly intelligent young people. But do we know how to identify the child whose brilliance might change the world? And do we really want to?"
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The Prodigy Puzzle

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  • You better believe it! :)
  • by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:44AM (#14079534)
    When children say things like "This is boring" or "Will I learn anything this year in school?", their needs should be accommodated. It seems criminal, yet all too often such children's pleas simply go ignored.
    • That's because most of the time it really is that they just don't feel like paying attention. The ones who are "so smart the class is not engaging their attention" are the rare exception.
      • No it's not.

        And Bush's "no child left behind" has made it worse.

        In order for everyone to Pass, you have to teach down to the lowest common denominator to the class, meaning that 90% of the students are bored and 30% are bored off their ass and asleep.

        I believe the right approach would be to actually fail people out of grades until you did have 16 year olds sitting in the third grade and simply eject anyone from the school system who can't graduate by their 20th birthday.

        Getting an education requires som

        • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:38AM (#14080632)
          The idea of "No child left behind" is a sensible one. The problem comes when trying to define "Ahead and Behind".

          It's funny, I've read this thread up to this point and every single post thus far speaks in terms of acheivement in education as success in the acedemic subjects. We have posters saying how "gifted" they were at school, gifted at sports? gifted at wood/metal works? I suspect not.

          What the education system needs to do is provide the core skills, basic (and I do mean basic) mathematics and language skills (reading and writing to a level that allows a person to function in modern society), after that, specialisation is required. Trying to teach a future labourer, sportsman or even salesman advance calculus is a waste of everyone's time.

          My personality type is 'problem-solver'. I enjoyed basic to intermediate maths (never really got into the advanced stuff, didnt see it as practical) and of course, IT. If my education had been focused on this then I would be a far better software developer (my choosen career) than I am now. Instead, I wasted hours analysing poems or running in circles around a damn field.

          When we accept that children have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we cater to them, then we can say that no child is being left behind.
          • Education reform is difficult precisely because of this question. "What is education, anyhow?" Good luck answering it on Slashdot. :-)

            However, I just want to point out that while I agree with the gist of your comments, your "solution" of giving each child an "emphasis" is problematic because we don't know who is going to be a laborer or not when they are older, and also because the definition of a specialization itself is a limitation on knowledge. I think most kids are interested in multiple "subjec

          • When we keep people confined to one area then we have failed. Life is growth and learning.

            You want to teach how to make better cogs, we need to focus on giving individuals the tools to become better individuals.

    • Why not encourage the kids to take on extra projects of their choice if school is sooo boring?

      I was in the local gifted program [for one year, they don't have it in high school] and most student chosen projects were REALLY REALLY stupid. If a super smart kid can't figure out a project of their own, how smart are they?

      And really even the brightest kids learn a thing or two [or more] during their "boring classes" they just don't want to admit it for fear of not being so special and important.

      Like everyone se
      • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:10AM (#14079635) Homepage

        If a super smart kid can't figure out a project of their own, how smart are they?

        If that's the logic we're using, why are they in school at all? If they can't develop their own lesson plans, how smart are they?

        The point is: no matter how apt someone is, the ability to succeed at a task is limited by that person's experience. That's why we have teachers who have gone through the education system and then learned how to re-teach what they learned those 12 years. They can draw on that experience, plus direct teaching experience as their career continues.

        To me it's a little like math classes: you never really know what you're doing in a class until you get two or three classes beyond it. Likewise, a child can't be expected to both learn material and piece it into the bigger picture, most of which has not been exposed yet.

        You might think I'm taking your comment too far, and I probably am. My point is just that the child would benefit much more from guidance on those projects. After all, maybe the student projects were "REALLY REALLY stupid" because the students were never given a hint about what makes a good project.

      • by droptone ( 798379 ) <droptone AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:11AM (#14079642)
        It isn't a matter of the kids being unable to find projects to "entertain themselves", because they will surely do that. It is a matter of using the child's interest in learning/education and guiding them. Before you can learn anything in subjects like physics or math you need to know what to learn, because each step builds off of the previous steps. This is where, I feel, the school systems/teachers need to step in. If the child is catching onto basic math quickly, do not tell the child to sit down and wait for the other kids to finish. You are punishing them for being good at something. You don't need to neglect the others kids, if you make sure the exceptional children are mentally stimulated. I don't expect a child to know what he/she needs to learn. Sure, learning on your own is fine for certain subjects (and god knows plenty of people have done just that, e.g. Srinivasa Ramanujan [wikipedia.org]). That does not mean all can do that. You really shouldn't be fatalistic about education, especially if you want any results at all.
      • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:13AM (#14079655)
        You really, really don't understand how different the minds of exceptionally intelligent people work. I'm not talking about the "gifted" people way down there in the 125-140 IQ range, and the article isn't either. First of all people in the 99.9th percentile and better (145+) typically have a range of other mental problems, most famously in the social skills area. Coming up with good ideas for projects and entertaining yourself have very very little to do with intelligence. I have an IQ of 151, and thanks to the public education system, even in the gifted program, I lost all will to learn anything outside of the few topics that are extremely interesting to me, none of which I had any exposure to academically until college since even the gifted programs are aimed to the lowest common denominator, which is the 125-135 people, who aren't too bright. I don't get straight As. The problem in college is, topics that don't interest us still require learning of simple facts, which we are not necessarily motivated to exert the effort to learn.
        Being a genius does not imply being a good student, and vice versa.
        • by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:29AM (#14079727) Homepage Journal
          I have an IQ of 151, and thanks to the public education system, even in the gifted program, I lost all will to learn anything outside of the few topics that are extremely interesting to me,

          Or maybe you're just fishing for excuses, and are a little too attached to the idea of you being an unappreciated genius? Learning requires effort, and sometimes you need to work harder to learn stuff outside your own interest. Even the boring, simple facts. I had to take classes that I hated because it led me towards a goal that I wanted.

          I mean no disrespect, but you can't pin all your problems on someone else. It seems like you like feeling sorry for yourself. I went to PUBLIC school K-12. In PUBLIC high school my IQ was 145. My school was not exceptional. I never got straight-As. People teased me because I was smart. I did fine because I found my own motivation and did other stuff outside school.

          Now I have a wife, kids, home, career and make 6 figures doing something that I mostly enjoy. I quit my old job on my own terms and start a new job next month.

          Yes-- school could have been much better and productive, but I'm happy I went to public school rather then some isolated elitist school for the new Reich. I got REAL experience.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          "which is the 125-135 people, who aren't too bright. I don't get straight As. The problem in college is, topics that don't interest us still require learning of simple facts, which we are not necessarily motivated to exert the effort to learn.
          Being a genius does not imply being a good student, and vice versa."

          Wait, the 125-135 people aren't too bright, but because you don't get straight A's as log as you got that IQ score of 154 you are somehow a genius? IQ is an outdated measure of intelligence, I scored
        • You sound EXACTLY like me in school.
        • Well some of us are smart enough to understand that IQ tests are only good for measuring somebody's ability to take a specific type of test. Throwing around your IQ on Slashdot is pretty funny. So you are good at taking tests. Some of us understand that intelligence is something more complicated than a test score.
        • Oh, man, you sound like a spoilt brat to me...

          We can safely assume that everybody who read Sloshdat are in the 120+ category and that IQs above 140 are common too.

          I tell my son that he needs to learn to do things he doesn't like as well, since a project only pays off once it is completed and all the menial litle details are taken care of.
        • Is this a troll?

          Look, unless you have some other mental deficiencies, your 151 IQ should be nothing but a boon to you. Social skills are something that is just as readily learned as riding a horse. Just because it's not hard science doesn't mean you can't apply your brain to it. And your excuse about "losing the will to learn" and not wanting to memorize facts is just a cop-out. If you're such a genius, figure out a way to make memorization easy. Sure, it's mind-numbing, but if you're a genius you'll realize that a 4.0 GPA has a good chance of getting you a free ride through college and a good job afterward, instead of years of student loans and shitty jobs. The X number of crap hours you put into memorizing shit you don't care about is well worth the increase in the odds that things will pay off.

          I'm sure there's plenty of people out there with IQ's up in your range that have no problem with either social skills or motivation. I may not be a 151, but I have tested as high as 146, can pick up new concepts so quick it scares people, and am still fun at a bar and have no problem getting laid. And shit, I moved around so much until 5th grade I was pretty much a poster-child for maladjusted socially stunted kids everywhere. Take your big-ass brain and apply it to real life, and stop making excuses. Learning how to deal with people is not some magically different subject that's impossible for smart people to figure out. Hearing crap like that is what kept me a socially retarded little fuckhead until halfway through high school.

          Most people would love to have an excuse like yours. "I'm too smart to deal with normal people and normal subjects." Do you have any idea what a dickhead that makes you sound like? Parents love to shove that down your throat because it makes them feel special. Teachers love to shove it down your throat because you're not threatening if you're some idiot savant freak instead of just being way smarter than them and able to see through their bullshit. Some genius who applies their intelligence to social skills and reading people is a teacher's worst nightmare, unless you turn the charm on full blast and make them like you. You know what though? If someone likes you, they'll never think you're a genius, at best they'll think you're really smart.

          Stop with the BS excuses. Even if you do actually have some kind of deficiency, with your IQ you should at least be able to pull off normal. Try it, you'll have more fun.

        • First off, IQ is quite poorly defined above about 125, because the set of 15 or 20 skills that make up the IQ spectrum become increasingly uncorrelated. I won't say what my IQ is, but let's just say that that my score on a test of verbal IQ is way different than on a mathematical test, and way way different than on a test of visual reasoning. So I'm not really buying your distinction (or Mensa's for that matter) between 99th percentile IQs and 99.9th percentile IQs. At any rate, if you quote your IQ as "

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2005 @03:56AM (#14080194)
          Coming up with good ideas for projects and entertaining yourself have very very little to do with intelligence. I have an IQ of 151, and thanks to the public education system, even in the gifted program, I lost all will to learn anything outside of the few topics that are extremely interesting to me, none of which I had any exposure to academically until college since even the gifted programs are aimed to the lowest common denominator, which is the 125-135 people, who aren't too bright.

          Wow, that borders on arrogantly condescending, but as I don't think you meant to be, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. :-)

          Here's a thought, though - consider that perhaps you're not really a genius. My IQ has been measured at 156 and 160, the only two times I've been formally tested (30 minute free tests on the internet don't count). And while I know I'm smart, a natural problem solver, one very clever dude - I know that I'm not a genius.

          As different as I am from most other people, I'm more like than dislike them. To me, true genius is manifested by remarkable originality and insight into something - anything, could be physics or math or music or science or even pseudoscience like psychology :-). I'm not talking about savants, who are profoundly deficient in all other areas.

          I think genius starts a hell of a lot higher than 145. The 99.9th percentile isn't all that special; you're still talking about 1 in 1000, or two at the high school I went to, or millions of people worldwide. You and I are smart, but we're still a couple standard deviations short of the genius bit of the bell curve.

          I don't get straight As. The problem in college is, topics that don't interest us still require learning of simple facts, which we are not necessarily motivated to exert the effort to learn. Being a genius does not imply being a good student, and vice versa.

          Speak for yourself. I hated organic chemistry, most of my "general education" requirements ... and yet I still was able to motivate myself to do well in them, because I was mature enough to realize that I needed a high gpa in order to have a strong application for medical school. And here I am, years later, done with school and happy in every way with my life.

          It's possible to be a lazy, undisciplined genius. You're not even that, though. You're a lazy, undisciplined pretty-smart guy who thinks his relatively high IQ makes him a genius and justifies his laziness. Quit making exuses for your lack of motivation.

          You're not a genius. Get over yourself.
      • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:14AM (#14079659)
        A few comments: learning to come up with ideas is the hardest that people can do. Among physics PhDs (a reasonablly intelligent bunch, on average) it is typically to get 12-14 years of training after high school before you are ready to be a professor (or other PI) and come up with your own research ideas. Even exceptionally bright kids will be hard pressed to come up with a complete project that they can do in their free time. In order to cultivate their talents, they need adults to help guide them. Second, most of their time is spent in classes which they are not permitted to leave or ignore even if they had something to do. Their time outside of classes must be divided between whatever extra projects they might be doing and sports, social activities, and family interaction, all of which are also important.

        I personally found ways to entertain myself throught grade school which mostly involved reading books in class, which landed me in both the behavior modification program and the gifted and talented program (I think the only student in both).

        Finally, while even the smartest kid will learn things in their mundane classes, it is still boring to master they days lesson in 10 minutes and have to sit around doing boring excercises while waiting for the other students to figure it out.
      • I've noticed that really smart kids, instead of complaining, will bring a book or something else to occupy their attention during a "boring class". If it's something that they're required to take, but is not in their area of interest, they'll probably get a B instead of an A due to a lack of paying attention, but they won't really care. About stupid projects getting chosen when "gifted" kids are given a choice: The "gifted program" when I was in school was infested with kids who weren't really gifted, but
      • All I'm saying is if the kids are so fucking smart they should be able to figure out how to entertain themselves.

        Bitter much?

        I never had any trouble entertaining myself in school. The trouble I had was stopping entertaining myself and actually doing what someone else expected of me, especially if it was way below my challenge level.

        I'll never forget the day I had a sub for math in fourth grade, and when I asked to get my workbook (which was 5th grade level) to work from instead of doing the (stupid) work

    • by MarkRose ( 820682 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:53AM (#14079573) Homepage
      I was one of those gifted kids (nothing exceptional, just precocious). I found school itself rather accommodating. For the most part, I was either giving more challenging work or simply challenged myself. The real issues I had were dealing with peers. I simply could not relate to anyone my age as they were all interested in mentally unstimulating things. Of course, I have adjusted in my adult years and now get along with just about anyone, but I wish I had had more like me growing up. Finding things ridiculously easy did have its effects. Until I went on to post secondary education, I had a great deal of hubris. Not having needed any studying skills for the very relaxed pace in high school, I was quickly blown by by those who high school was geared for. Of course, I could have done the work, but didn't. I am not blaming the system, but I think the system could use adjustment. Smart kids are definitely left out.
      • by Kafka_Canada ( 106443 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:11AM (#14079641)
        For the most part, I was either giving more challenging work or simply challenged myself.

        It's a shame those challenges didn't include English grammar. ;)
      • Wow, that is an exact copy of my story. Too bad we didn't go to school together, or we could have had serious fun getting into trouble! :-)

        Anyway, my question is: do we want to do something special to encourage kids like us, or should we let them just "get along"? Think of it as an "extra test": only those kids who take the challenge and actually rise above the rest of us are going to be the "world changers." Not only do they have the smarts, but they recognize their surroundings and personally choos

      • Smart kids are definitely left out.
        I agree with you for sure. In middle school I had some great teachers though who would always give me more challenging work; like me reading National Geographics (and looking at Amazonian boobies of course) instead of Curious George.

        Not having needed any studying skills for the very relaxed pace in high school, I was quickly blown by by those who high school was geared for. Of course, I could have done the work, but didn't. I am not blaming the system, but I think th
      • I never seriously studied until my junior year in college. Well, when I took a couple of courses in computer languages, I had to play with those, but it wasn't studying in the traditional sense. Most of my time was spent translating my programs from one language to another and running into weird quirks of languages (who knew you could bloat an executable in Fortran by defining a large, for example 1000 by 1001 array?) but again, I hardly studied in the traditional sense and quickly decided that Fortran wa
      • by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:39AM (#14079768) Homepage
        The problem is the all-or-none way that "gifted" programs are run. You are declared uber-smart and placed in an uber-smart class, proclaimed average and placed in an average class, or labeled a moron and placed in special ed. Because, of course, there are only 3 tiers of ability, and they apply across the board.

        This leads to both isolation of people at each level from the people at other levels, and boredom some of the time at all levels. Someone may be really good at one topic and awful at another, but the classes are taught at just one of the three levels. Rather than giving you something for further enrichment, teachers seem more likely to give you something "to keep you busy while everyone else catches up."

        Also, including people generally pigeonholed at different ones of these artificial levels tends to be better for all. A "special ed" person who is included in a "normal" class will learn how to be around "normal" people, and the "normal" people will learn the material better by helping the "special ed" person along.

        It seems that how much a person learns in school has been quantified to "how many bucketloads of facts you can remember." People in gifted programs are given bucketloads more, people in special ed bucketloads less. Never mind that this tends to have little bearing later in life. The people in the harder classes just become more adept at spewing smart-sounding BS.

        /Dropped honors for regular english 2 years into H.S., not because it was too hard, but because it included countless hours of random busy work that wasn't worth the time.
        • Also, including people generally pigeonholed at different ones of these artificial levels tends to be better for all. A "special ed" person who is included in a "normal" class will learn how to be around "normal" people, and the "normal" people will learn the material better by helping the "special ed" person along.

          No, that is complete fucking bullshit, and is partly responsible for the decline in public education in the US. That does not happen -- instead, the teacher must go over the same material over an
          • As someone else with teachers in the family, I agree 100%. It's not even the teacher ratio, primary school ratios here are typically ~ 20:1. As long as the entire focus is on the standarized test scores and minimizing at any cost the percantage that fail - you get stuck. You can't teach, all you can do is re-drill the things that will be on the test that 15% of the students still are not getting.

            The 15% are unteachable, not primarily because they are "stupid", but because they have no support structure a
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, but personally I think the whole thing about "gifted kids being underserved" is overblown. Fact is, smart kids will generally do quite well for themselves - that's the advantage of being smart. Those who are also ambitious will do great things - but I don't think ambition is something that any kind of "gifted" program can really inculcate.

      But of course, I'm an unambitious bright guy who hasn't really accomplished anything (but has used his smarts to enable his extraordinary laziness), so what do I k
    • by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:16AM (#14079666) Homepage Journal
      Well, there are several kinds of "This is boring"-types of kids.

      - The dumb slacker or jock, who doesn't bother trying.
      - The timid kid who is scared to try and fail (my sister).
      - The smart kid who is unchallenged by the course.

      It is sometimes very hard to distinquish which kid is which.
      - The unchallegned smart-kid may try to find entertainment in smoking pot, and end up a slacker-- when I was in school it wasn't cool to be smart.
      - Nobody admits to being timid, so they act like a cool slacker instead.
      - Some dumb slackers like to pretend that they are smart slackers and are just too cool to care.

      We need to help all children, certainly. But there comes a time when the kids need to help themselves as well. If you're a 16-year old slacker who doesn't bother trying, I see no reason to give you special treatment because you're old enough to know better. Grow up, or you're going to be pumping gas when you're 30.

      It's Thanksgiving and I'm going to go back to my hometown. I get to go see some slackers and jocks who never tried hard enough-- they'll be pumping the gas.

      If I was bored in school, I simply found other things to do. I did Boy Scouts, track, marching band and concert band. And I read alot.

      We didn't really have this Interweb thing back then, but I probably would have geeked out a fair bit if I had the chance.

      • It's Thanksgiving and I'm going to go back to my hometown. I get to go see some slackers and jocks who never tried hard enough-- they'll be pumping the gas.

        Really? Or is that just a convenient way for you to remember them as you get your revenge.

        I detect a bit too much hubris and I'm sure you must be a big hit with your generation, what with the showing up in Ferraris with supermodels and stuff.

        If everyone was an intellectual rock star like yourself, well, the guy that gave you wedgies way back whe
      • We need to help all children, certainly. But there comes a time when the kids need to help themselves as well. If you're a 16-year old slacker who doesn't bother trying, I see no reason to give you special treatment because you're old enough to know better. Grow up, or you're going to be pumping gas when you're 30.

        I basically never studied in high school, didn't really have to. I can't recall studying anything. So I went to college and then spent 3 years on and off academic probation. The only thing

  • by MsWillow ( 17812 ) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:44AM (#14079537) Homepage Journal
    Back in my youth, every year every kid took the Iowa test. Eventually, my grade school district used those test results to start a program for gifted kids. They took the top-scoring 3 percent of all kids in the district into this class. Both I, and my younger sister, made the cut.

    My IQ tested out about 165-ish, until I got multiple sclerosis. Now it's down to just 148. Frustrating loss.

    Did my intelligence change the world? Nope. I never wanted to change the world. I just wanted to be left alone to tinker with computers and gemstones. I rather suspect many other brilliant kids will share those ambitions. BTW, my brilliant sister is now an RN. No world-changer there, either.
    • by ryg0r ( 699756 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:02AM (#14079604)
      IMO, its not the smart kids. Its the kids that are motivated and put in the effort into doing something.

      Sure, there is a certain amount of smarts required for those nifty inventions, those startling revalations and those 'hot damn why didn't I think of that' moments, but more often then not its about having the motivation. My sister who isn't too bright and barely grasps the concept of shared printers, got a UAI of 99.3, and was working 2 jobs, while studying at Uni. Me on the other hand, prefered to read slashdot and ended up working as telemarketer for a couple of months.

      Motivation is what changes the world. Attitude is central to survival, not always intelligence.

    • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:03AM (#14079613)
      Hear, hear.

      When I was a kid, people asked me if I wanted to become "the next Bill Gates". Most seemed to think that money or power was my end goal in life.

      While there are bright kids that seek that, I'd say the majority of them would rather pursue interests in some field of study that appeals to them. Most of them don't have the disposition that they'd need in the business or political world, because 1: they don't like to screw people over and 2: they aren't willing to compromise their ideals. Knowledge for knowledge's sake, good for goodness' sake.
      • Knowledge for knowledge's sake, good for goodness' sake.

        I think that this comment is an accurate description of the ethos that motivates highly intelligent people.

        I was chatting with a friend of mine awhile back, and he made a comment that all that really matters in terms of a person's achievements in life is knowledge. Intelligent people achieve the thing they value: knowledge. Sometimes this might lead to diseases being cured or physics being revolutionized, or sometimes it might just lead to someon
    • The goal of life isn't to effect the most change. I figure, as long as you do more good than bad, you can be remembered to have contributed to whatever game this is we're all playing in. The game of life. The great struggle to make big bombs. The everlasting battle of penis size and masculinity. Whoever has the most toys, wins.

      Ghandi contributed to the team. So did my grandma. So will many of us.

      We all win. Here's your medals. The post-game party will be held... Well, we don't really know yet. Start your ow
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Your IQ has probably stayed about the same. Children are usually given a version of the Stanford-Binet test which tops out at around 170 with a standard deviation of 16. Adults usually take a version of the WAIS which has an SD of 15 and tops out at 155.

      I've given hundreds of IQ tests and this experience has led me to the conclusion that scores above about 140 are fairly meaningless. I don't think you need to be worried about a 'frusterating loss'.

      Also, IQ tests tend to weigh short and long term memory and
    • my brilliant sister is now an RN. No world-changer there, either.

      Or maybe she understands the things which really are important.

      People say Steve Jobs changed the world, but really he just sells overpriced consumer goods-- most of which is crap we don't really need. We have a whole society who is stuck in a maze of consumer debt, endless materalism and a soul-less culture.

      But we'll always need nurses and doctors.
  • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:47AM (#14079545) Homepage
    We'll know the most brilliant -- and useful -- ones if they *don't* get totally freaked after they find out the 'simulated' games were real and contact the queen.
  • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:53AM (#14079566) Homepage
    "But do we know how to identify the child whose brilliance might change the world? And do we really want to?"

    Do we know how to identify all of them? No. But better to identify the ones we can, and give them every advantage we can, rather than simply running them through a system that, to them, would proceed at a glacial pace.

    • Why must "we" provide them an advantage? They already presumably have one.

      I don't care how smart your kid is they're GOING to learn something in their "boring" classes. Otherwise just get the exams and see how well they do.

      The "boring" classes provide a foundation from which you can grow upon. The idea is that every student has a chance to be at the same level as they enter the next grade, school, world.

      Tom
      • Otherwise just get the exams and see how well they do.

        That's a great idea. Just give them the material, say that if they want out they have a week to learn it, then give them the final. They get a slight curve on it (since it's impossible to learn all of the subject in a week), and if they pass, they can go to the next level.

        Of course they'll learn from those classes. They can just learn it much faster, and the system is failing the student if it keeps him/her there for eight months more than needed.
      • I'll tell you what the smart kids won't leanr in standard classes: Good study habits. As an example of myself: in my high school English class, I was reading my own novels for entertainment, cause it was painful lsitening to other students stumble through reading the assigned story out loud, that I had finished the first night. I never studied for ANY tests. I cut an entire week of school between tests for my Econ class, and got a perfect A on the next test, despite nto having even been present for any
      • I had a high school class where you were supposed to read the book and complete all of the workbook exercises for a semester's credit. I read the book the first week, and completed the workbook the next two. Teacher graded the workbook, gave me an A+, gave me an oral exam just to make sure I hadn't cheated somehow, and transferred me then and there to the advanced class.

        Had she not done so, I would have suffered through the remainder of semester, staring at the ceiling.

        That's the kind of "boring" class

      • by nonlnear ( 893672 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:31AM (#14079735)
        I don't care how smart your kid is they're GOING to learn something in their "boring" classes. Otherwise just get the exams and see how well they do.

        You clearly don't have a clue what you're talking about. True, everybody is going to learn something in the mainstream classes, but what?

        I'm sure I speak for many "above average intelligence" people when I say the only thing I learned in school was that hard work is pointless, my peers are dullards, and I am a freak of nature.

        If you have a clue about socialization processes, you'd realize that smart kids will be more "normal" if you let them interact with as many of their intellectual equals as possible. After all, it's these people with whom social interraction is the most stimulating.

      • by thedave ( 79572 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @02:27AM (#14079932)

        Well, you see class, you click this underlined word that says "NY Times", and your browser will display a page from the New York Times. If you want to go back to Slashdot, and see the flame war, click that arrow button. Not the one that points right, but the one that points left.

        Now, I am going to this with the link that says "http://www.imaluser.com/". Look! The browser now shows us the Luser page.

        Now, let's all try clicking on "SourceForge" and see what happens.

        For tonight's homework, I want you to click on 4000 addresses, and click the back button to go back to your original page. Turn in your browser history at the beginning of class.
        Tomorrow, we're gonna talk about the "Forward" button.


        For most of us we got the idea at the first example. The rest was excruciating.

        That's what arithmetic was to me.

        I had it from the first class. It was just clear to me. I had basic addition on day 1. Carrying and multi-digit math, 1 day. Multiplication and division, after the first example.

        But, we did hundreds of problems under the premise of a solid foundation.

        Long division and multiplication were the worst though. We were expected to show our work, when you could just look at the problem and give the correct answer.

        So, instead I read books. I even read an encyclopedia (because I was right beside it, and I could sneak them out). I got in a lot of trouble in class because I never had any idea what was going on. I always finished my schoolwork in 1/10th the time of my class mates, and basically wasted a 5 out of 6 elementary school years waiting for the slow ones to finish reading, or working math problems, or getting that a-ha look on their face.

        And, the excuse parents, teachers, counselors and psychiatrists always gave was, "The extra repetition and explanation will give you a solid foundation."

        The truth is the extra repetition is just extra repetition if you don't need it.

        Extra repetition and detail is great if you are struggling with the basics, and need to reinforce the pattern of the work in your head. Or, if you get hung up on the basic ideas. Or, if you're still sounding out the words in your head. But, once you get it, and you can do 100 repetitions without error, or read 50 pages an hour and understand the content, more repetition is just torture, and it drives the joy out of learning.

        Perhaps needless, mind-numbing, detail and repetition are good training for board meetings, or political debates. But, they are not good for productivity and above all they are not good for learning.

        I believe that if you can prove proficiency and efficiency in a subject, you should be able to move on.
        • But, we did hundreds of problems under the premise of a solid foundation.

          Long division and multiplication were the worst though. We were expected to show our work...

          Ugh, yes. I can remember a turning point in my life that occurred sometime around third grade. We were assigned lots of problems of multiplication and long division where we had to show our work, just as you've described, and I sat in my room staring at them, a seemingly impossibly huge tremendously boring task that I thought I could never f

    • Advantage? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vhold ( 175219 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:42AM (#14079779)
      I think the major problem with this kind of thinking is that gifted programs generally are mostly just trying to take up more of a kid's time. They basically just seem to give extra homework, and are maybe advanced by a year or so in terms of what they are studying.

      I don't know anybody who's public school 'gifted program' gave them what they really needed, self expression. Smart kids generally will give that to themselves, but gifted programs, in my opinion, actually stifle their ability to do so by trying to fill up all their time with academic busywork, as if somehow rigid structure is going to make them smarter.

      Intelligence is next to nothing without creativity. The benefits of being a couple years ahead of your peers academically diminish greatly as you age. Missing out on the freetime of youth is something very difficult to make up for.
  • Being smart is good and all, but it is not IQ that makes people "productive".

    By far, the most productive people who are either Manic, or Manic/Depressive. It is this hyperactive brain that creates schemes and schema, that create song and prose, and code and invention. It is those that sit outside the norms that find the future.

    It is a good thing we have ritalin to fix them.
    • Re:It is not IQ (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:11AM (#14079643) Homepage Journal
      It is a good thing we have ritalin to fix them.

      I have AD(H)D, and I take Concerta (time-release Ritalin) because it lets me focus on things long enough to actually get them done. It hasn't made me less creative, or less odd, just less flakey.

      I'm an adult, and I never tried it when I was a kid. But I wish I'd had the opportunity to, because I know I would have done a lot better in school. It's what let me focus enough to work with math, finally =).
  • Hey, I understand that the more enlightened children should be groomed or challenged to help them reach their potential but they are still children and should be given time to grow. Also what about helpping out the other 97 percent. I think America would be better off with 97 percent average or above children then 3 percent genius and 97 percent retarted. ... then again .... Michael
  • Neglect? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @12:57AM (#14079591) Homepage

    Once neglected, the NY Times reports that...

    If you ask me, the Times asked for it with all that required registration crap.

  • It's about time. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:01AM (#14079597)

    I'm posting anon so no one can claim I'm bragging. My IQ was pegged at 176 when I was 5. This was enough to get me a scholarship to a private school. By the time I was 8, I'd not done well enough in the private school to keep the scholarship and transferred to publich school, which was no better, despite scoring 188 on another IQ test. Why? Because despite the better curriculum, there was still the cookie-cutter, assembly-line, mass-production mentality of teaching: "All kids are the same, churn them through the machine, no one needs special treatment." And that's not true. Really smart kids need special attention just like kids with learning disabilities or mental handicaps. Later in my school career, I did manage to find some teachers who recognized different kids perform differently, and with some adjustment, I wound up with 100+% scores at year's end.

    With the proper attention paid to these smart kids' needs, we can help their brilliance flourish, and we WILL find ourselves in a better world for it. I knwo my life would have been significantly different had the proper resources been spent on my development. Not every kid grows up with two rich parents who can spend the amount of time/money to tailor an academic curriculum to their kids.

    Hell, in general the US could use a major overhaul of the educational system. It's way too focused on conformity and process than on results.

    • Can you tell us what you now do for a living? It really must have been hard trying to live up to those expectations!
    • by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @02:10AM (#14079887)
      Hell, in general the US could use a major overhaul of the educational system. It's way too focused on conformity and process than on results.

      Well, I hate to break it to you, but conformity and "proper" socialization are primary goals of the public schools. They may even be a higher priority than learning.

      I hope I don't sound like the type wears a tinfoil hat to block and/or magnify my brain waves, but I really do think that is what the schools are set up to do. And for what it's worth, it's not an entirely bad thing to include some of that in your goals as a school. Society will work better if kids who beat up other kids learn they'll be punished, if people are taught to show up on time and be respectful to others (not just those in authority), if they're encouraged to be organized and dress neatly and all that. The problem happens when learning goes out the window in favor of all those other goals.

      • Actually.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak ( 669689 )
        Actually, conformity and socialization are not the primary goals of the education system.

        Things were rejigged back in the early 1900's to produce good factory workers. Hence the bells, report cars, raise your hand, ... blah blah blah

        http://reason.com/0110/fe.dp.schools.shtml [reason.com]

        aylorism -- the management philosophy, named for efficiency expert Frederick Winslow Taylor, that there was One Best Way of doing things that could and should be applied in all circumstances -- didn't spend all its time on the job. It al

  • This is another effort to accommodate kids who have the brains to start college way younger than usual. The program isn't just to open doors, it builds roads as well. Kids who are used to learning everything effortlessly get coaching in what "study habits" are. They also have their own dorm, so they can do same-age socializing with people they can actually relate to.

    It's fundamentally an intense conventional undergrad program, so it's only for the subset of brilliant people who can work in a normal structur
  • Riiight. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chowderbags ( 847952 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:02AM (#14079607)
    How long until every parent asks why little Johnny or little Mary isn't in the "gifted" program. Surely they are the smartest in their class. Why does it seem like we hear about some sort of drive for the gifted every few years, but then it amounts to nothing? I'd bet that it's simply that people are unwilling to tell parents that their kid doesn't know jack, if only because of the lawyers.

    I wish I had been in something that would've challenged me when I was younger, rather than simply being bored to tears after either already knowing things or figuring them out after 30 seconds. Yes, it's a shame that smart kids are still relegated to the same level of classes as the below-average kids, but can you really blame school districts for not wanting to go out on a limb and classify students? How many lawsuits would that bring up?

    Instead we get education that suits neither the brightest nor the dimmest, nor pretty much anyone for that matter. We just get simple, boiled down cookie cutter lessons for everyone. No wonder public education sucks.
  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:03AM (#14079615)
    Is the implication that the next Doctor Evil might be out there among the prodigy? Kill the smart ones first I say!
  • by tsotha ( 720379 )
    But do we know how to identify the child whose brilliance might change the world? And do we really want to?"

    Yes, and yes. We know how to identify gifted children. Will a couple slip through the cracks of any real-world system? Sure. But from an overall, statistical perspective it can certainly be done.

    But the last couple decades haven't been kind to cognitive science. Standardized intelligence tests put a lie to the concept everyone is equal, and that makes people uncomfortable. It's easier on your

  • Me... (Score:3, Informative)

    by friedmud ( 512466 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:12AM (#14079650)
    As a beneficiary of "gifted education" throughout my elementary and junior high years, I can say that these types of programs are wonderful.

    I am not sure that I would have done as well in school if I didn't have a place to go and be challenged... the normal classes were just too slow and I found myself just treading water most of the time. My Gifted classes offered an environment that was both challenging and encouraging while also providing a place for me to be among other people that understood how it felt.

    I don't know if they are still doing "Gifted Ed" out there in public schools (I know that in my home town the program got killed shortly after I left Junior high... due to budget constraints)... anyone know? Anyone have a child that is currently in a public school program built specifically for higher IQ children? I'd be interested in hearing about it.

    Friedmud

    PS - I guess I never really explained what "Gifted Ed" was... basically it was a bunch of kids that were determined to have higher than average IQ's... once a week we met and learned about "other" subjects in "different" ways... I "tested in" when I was in 3rd grade (as did most of my peers)
    • Are you from Ontario by any chance? I was in the same type of program, starting in grade 2, and it was a really great class to be in. This was almost 15 years ago now, but I assume they still have the program. Actually, I was in a similar program for a few months in grade 7, but quit after my friends expressed their view of my "special" class! Looking back on the grade 7 version, we didn't really do a whole lot of learning. The hippy art teacher (think beavis and buthead's), just let us paint a few loc
  • by orson_of_fort_worth ( 871181 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:16AM (#14079668)
    I thought Professor Lucas had once and for all established that measuring midichlorian counts in the child's blood are the only true way to determine if said child is in fact a prodigy. Please see the Jedi archives for further reading on the subject.
  • I know a lot of very smart people. Unfortunately, most of them will not amount to much. I mean, they'll be moderately successful, but they won't make the news or anything like that. Why? They have no ambition and no work ethic. What was that quote? "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
    • I know a lot of very smart people. Unfortunately, most of them will not amount to much. I mean, they'll be moderately successful, but they won't make the news or anything like that. Why? They have no ambition and no work ethic.

      Unless your parents make you do LOTS of chores, the vast majority of your work up until your teens is learning. Your job is to learn, and it is pretty much a full-time job. If you are a really gifted kid, the learning you're typically called on to do is easy. Even trivial.

      Fo

  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:19AM (#14079684)
    But do we know how to identify the child whose brilliance might change the world?

    We've been identifying those we think of as brilliant and world changing for centuries. We've also been laughing at those who think of themselves as brilliant or world changing and telling them to go back to the patent office or selling their lousy paintings and hanging out in Munich's beer halls.

    This implies:

    1) What we see as brilliant or world changing (whether world changing is good or bad) often isn't. What we don't understand and therefore, in our arrogance, can't identify as brilliance often is.

    2) Ever notice how the truly brilliant ones are the ones who faced adversity? The ones who make a real difference seem to do so because they've learned to fight damn hard. The ones we tell are geniuses tend to expect things to be handed to them, are obsessed with their own genius, and rarely seem to really do anything that truly amazing - as opposed to simply being pretty successful and massively bipolar.

    Given the second, perhaps the best thing we can do is not identify those poor kids? Adversity seems to harden the amazing ones; over attention seems to lessen them.
    • True brilliance is (by definition) extraordinarily rare. Thus, it is difficult to exclude the possibility that the majority of brilliant folks we see are those with both brilliance and the ability to overcome adversity, while many other more delicate geniuses wither on the vine. My experience with life has been that whatever adversity doesn't kill me nonetheless makes me weaker. Seems to me that the guy famous for reporting the opposite experience is widely considered to have been mentally ill.

  • by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:19AM (#14079688) Journal
    In a previous story about a brilliant Korean kid, there were a lot of Slashdotters who were like, "Well, most prodigies probobly don't amount to anything", or "How do we know if they'll contribute much to society". I think that is looking at this from the wrong perspective.

    What we should be trying to do isn't trying to get the most out of these kids like we're shareholders in a company, what we should be doing is helping them go where *they* want to go. I am reminded of Dilbert's trash man, who is more brilliant than Dilbert, but works collecting garbage. If he's happy doing that, why should we lament how much "talent he's wasting"? You or I are probably not living up to our potential, either.

    Some people were saying that putting kids in advanced classes were a waste because it doesn't lead to smarter adults in the end. I think that's not the point. Imagine doing 5th-grade level math for a whole year, when you can do much harder math. Even if it's easy, you'd be bored to tears and intellectually starved. It's thins kind of thing which leads a lot of bright kids to underperform or become discipline problems. For their sake, I think we should let them go to classes at their level.
  • It seems to me that it is dependability which really differentiates those who excel and those who don't. I mean, people who have average intelligence but are very dependable and who works well with teams, seem to get much further than those with very high raw intelligence but are either anti-social, or plain unreliable.

    By dependable, I mean - keeps his word, is honest, does not shirk, is conscentious, consistently delivers the same good results, knows to keep his mouth shut, delivers under pressure, does n
  • by DMouse ( 7320 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:33AM (#14079742) Homepage
    That saddens me. Why would you not want to help bright kids acheive their full potential? Are you afraid of change? Do you really prefer this current state? Or do you fear that bright kids will bring about the downfall of civilisation?

    I am truly at a loss to understand that state of mind. Really.
    • Or do you fear that bright kids will bring about the downfall of civilisation?

      *Giggle* Do we really have to explain this one?
      "After all, people in authority will always be inconvenienced by schoolchildren or workers or citizens who are prickly, intelligent individualists -- thus, any social system that depends on authority relationships will tend to helpfully ostracize and therapize and drug such 'abnormal' people until they are properly docile and stupid and 'well-socialized'."
      http://www.catb.org/~e [catb.org]

  • Both of my level whatever boys have gained from participation in their respective gifted programs. One displayed the hubris mentioned earlier, and became quite lazy due to never being challenged. It was a good awakening for him to interact with other talented kids doing more difficult problems. The other spent all of second grade being mostly playfully teased that he was the smartest kid in the class; now that he spends some time with kids who are even smarter than himself, he's feeling much more at home in
  • The genius that will change the world will not be some child prodigy that has never seen the world out of some limited elitist vision of the world.

    The geniuses that will change the world probably understand the system, are in the system, and manipulate the system, social and academic, to their needs. It is they who will change the world.
  • meh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:41AM (#14079776) Homepage
    But do we know how to identify the child whose brilliance might change the world?

    Non-sequitur. Most world-changing is done by loud, charismatic jackasses of only average-plus intelligence. Those few world-changers who make great scientific discoveries aren't generally super-ultra genius material, but rather tend to be the hard-working, driven variety of the more common "lesser" genius. "Super-genius" people tend to not be able to apply themselves at education to build a knowledge base from which to make such discoveries.

  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @01:53AM (#14079821) Homepage
    When I was 13, I had a choice: I could either stay in high school, or I could drop out in order to attend university full-time. I decided to stay in high school -- which is to say that my time was divided roughly equally between high school and university mathematics courses -- and I think this is one of the best decisions I ever made. Over the following four years, I learned far more at high school than I did at university, and while I ended up graduating from university at age 19 instead of age 17, I came out knowing vastly more.

    No, I'm not going to talk about the merits of a well-rounded education, or the benefits of socialization. Over those four years when I split my time between high school and university, I learned far more mathematics at high school than at university. What very few people understand is that smart people learn as much by thinking as they do by being taught. By spending half of my time in a completely unchallenging environment, I was (albeit not by design) allowing myself the time I needed to discover mathematics on my own which went far beyond the undergraduate curriculum.

    If my parents had pushed me into studying full-time at university, I'd have finished at age 17 with a 4.0 GPA, but I wouldn't have become a Putnam fellow, calculated the quadrillionth bit of pi, discovered a new algorithm for polynomial GCDs over number fields, published research concerning floating-point rounding errors in the FFT, or developed any of the ideas which have become central to my ongoing research. Aside from being a few years younger than average, I would have turned into a completely normal mathematics honours student.

    Obviously, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with a 1st class honours degree in mathematics; but in terms of changing the world, a 19 year old doing brilliant research is a far better position than a 17 year old who knows the undergraduate curriculum but has never had to think for himself.
  • by jgrabyan ( 919609 ) on Monday November 21, 2005 @02:50AM (#14080019)
    Preface: The profession for which I am currently receiving training (Ph.D in Neuropsychology; look it up) involves the measurement of cognitive functioning; the assumption that there is some meaning inherent to these sorts of tests is part of my bias. Also, I'll be refering to intelligence as defined by the Western world. Different cultures have different ideas of what constitutes an "intelligent" individual. What many in this discussion fail to realize is that genius and IQ are two very different things. In addition, the way IQ is measured is very important for this discussion. "Genius" is a social construct. Genius is defined as one who has significant acumen in a certain area, while simultaneously being prolific in their participation in that discipline. Einstein is properly labeled as a genius because of the amount of significant work he published in 1905, NOT because his IQ score was 180 or some such arbitrary number. Currently, it would be very inappropriate if a psychometrician were to label someone as a "genius" based solely on their test scores. IQ is a number, supposedly measuring overall intellectual ability. The Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children III (WISC-III) is the most effective measure we have for measuring intelligence in children. HOWEVER, it has been repeatedly shown that the accuracy of this test breaks down past the fourth standard deviation in the upper range; that is, anything past 160. What I'm trying to get across is that genius is a label given by society, while a high IQ is something that is earned by scoring well on a test. Someone who is a genius need not have a high IQ, as IQ measures very specific things, and one can be a genius without excelling in those areas. Likewise, an individual with a very superior IQ need not be a genius; the main character from "Good Will Hunting" spent his time as a janitor in the beginning of the movie (if memory serves), and thus would not be considered a genius at that time. Jon
  • ATP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cycon ( 11899 ) <steve [at] theProfessionalAmateur.com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @04:55AM (#14080326) Homepage

    When I was in grade school (East Coast US) I was put into a program called "ATP" (Academically Talented People). Basically they gave everyone in Kindergarten and later the 1st grade half of an IQ test in the classroom. The kids who did well were called into an interview to complete the test. Kids over a certain threshold were put into the ATP program.

    Once a week we would leave our regular classroom, and board a bus for a spare classroom in another school, along with kids from other schools in the district. We would study things like Dinosaurs, try to work out puzzles and riddles, and do special "creative" projects like breaking into groups and writing, drawing, and filming our own cartoons using drawings or cutouts and a mounted camera. In 5th grade we were asked to do a project on any topic of our choosing, alone or in a group. I think one of the groups learned how to tie-dye shirts and that was their presentation.

    The program also afforded us a second special "class trip" each year, to a museum or something generally educational. I think in the end the jealously from the other kids over this second class trip, plus the physical distinction of dissapearing once a week on the bus balanced favourably against the benefit of the specialized education.

    In later years I was diagnosed with ADD (not ADHD), after trouble with grades and paying attention. The high school I attended put me into the "second track" because of it - mainly with the jocks and average students. The "smart" kids were placed in the first track. I think that too happened a just the right time. I spent most of my high school classes in the back of class reading novels, paying just enough attention to get reasonable grades. The jocks looked at me as one of the "smart" kids but I never acted like I was "above" them and made it through all four years without anyone giving me so much as a hard time - despite being a generally shy person.

    In the ATP program I learned that I was "smart" and was rewarded with more interesting material and an extra class trip. In high school I learned that I wasn't "better" than anyone else and in a way it was "smarter" to get good grades without having to try hard, since in the end colleges didn't have any concept of which "track" I was in - it looked like I was putting in more effort than I really needed to.

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