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10-Year-Old Scholar Takes California College By Storm (huffingtonpost.com)
10 points by lurkage on May 14, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments

"The Myth of Prodigy and Why It Matters" was a presentation done by Malcolm and is a must read. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?...

Gladwell makes the distinction between gifted learners vs. gifted do'ers.

<quote> We think of precociousness as an early form of adult achievement, and, according to Gladwell, that concept is much of the problem. “What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement.” </quote>

For a long time I’ve been meaning to write about the subject, and what was to be a simple comment morphed into this essay.

On YC:


Or directly:


I agree with the commenters who point to the parents. This kind of prodigy is usually the product of an ambitious parent trying to vicariously superachieve. I think that explains why so few go on to great (or even comparable) achievement in later life. It's because they weren't living out their own identity but something that was assigned to them. Sooner or later this is bound to be rejected or otherwise collapse.

The vast majority of children want simply to be like other children and, most of all, to have their parents' love. I believe it is the latter force that drives the typical child prodigy. That is, what drives the achievement is not anything like intellectual passion (which mostly comes later) but a desire for the parent's approval and love. It's sad when that is conditional on mastering calculus at age 8 or what have you.

I don't know. The thing is, I got into the highly gifted magnet program at lausd (the group for kids with IQs>=145) thanks to my parents. But my parents were completely oblivious as to what all of that nonsense from the school principal was and just signed all the papers without really reading anything. They actually thought I caused some trouble at school when they got a call from my teacher who wanted to talk about me..except it was cause I was in the 99th percentile in everything and finished classwork in 5 minutes what would take everyone else an hour (and played games on the Macs we had in class :D).

So I mean, this stuff happens with or without parents. I think it's cause I really enjoyed all these things..my parents sat me down with the Sunday comics to get me to read when I was a baby not because they wanted me to be some genius, but because apparently it looked like I had an interest in the colorful stuff on the paper. (On a sidenote, some parents think they can make their kids into "genius"es and their kids overwork themselves to get into these programs to get their approval and man it ends up being a waste of time!)

I believe Moshe is a very cute kid who has brains. I think that his parents realized that early on and got him to do all these things. My ultimate problem with this situation is that he's too young and inexperienced in every other way..he's only known that life he has now and nothing else, and there's probably no way in hell his parents will backtrack and just leave him alone (probably blame it on him eventually reaching puberty? who knows). I don't know if he'll end up regretting it, or if he'll end up thanking his parents for what they've done. But I think it's a damn shame regardless.

And you do have a really valid point that not a lot of people are realizing. I can count a LOT of people my age and older that I know were just as gifted as this kid..but what did they end up doing? Um, nothing that someone will remember 10 years later, usually. That doesn't mean they're not gifted..they're pretty intelligent. But it's not something that really stands out..it's usually what they want to do and they just do it.

Hey, me too. I was at Carpenter Avenue in the valley. Didn't go all the way to Walter Reed but I did enjoy the HG classes. It was a real "wealth effect" of intelligence. LAUSD seems to be very proactive.

I think they are in the beginning, but at the end (basically, during high school) all that happens is that you get stuffed with AP and honors classes galore. Everything that was good in elementary and junior high just disappears :(

Oh jeez, I know this kid. I have the same piano teacher as he does, and I felt so sorry for him. His lessons were often after mine.

Personally, I think his parents (his dad in particular) ARE pushing him way too much.

Anything specific?

While I think he's a really nice and smart kid (basically, like all of my friends from all those stupid programs), I don't think he's had much experience outside practicing/studying/fine tuning all these things he does at school and at his extracurricular activities.

And really, as much as that article says his parents didn't want to push him, I get the impression that they do, and maybe to extremes...at the least, they imply so.

I want him to be a kid! I've had MANY friends go this route at various ages (but all still earlier than usual), and some of them regret slaving away at classwork only to end up like everyone else except a couple years faster..which ends up meaning almost nothing most of the time. It really depends on the person..but almost all of them follow the same pattern. Study, study, study, do lots of extracurriculars..get into college, go to grad school a bit early, and end up in the same place as half their intellectual peers. Do employers care? Not really. Do schools care? Maybe for the teeny bit of publicity, but not really. In fact, if you do skip that much that early you probably end up running into issues with school administration.

Honestly, is there something bad about taking ones time? I used to take classes at the CC when I was 11-12ish, and I felt insanely out of place in most of them because everyone was several years older than me and while it was easy to get acquainted with others (it can be an interesting introduction), it's just not the same. My parents liked the idea but they would babysit me the whole way through (well, not the classwork) because they weren't comfortable with me beling alone on campus.

Essentially, the behavior of any preteen just won't be the same as anybody over 18.

I think more cases similar to this (ok, maybe not this young, but still) will, or should, happen more in the future. I'm sure there's many opportunities where a kid is actually interested in studies but can't or doesn't go on the "fast track" for various reasons.

One reason, I think, is that kids are expected to play non-productive games all the time. Another is that there's this warped, prevalent perspective that work and play are opposites.

I don't know about that. There are plenty of cases similar to this, and yes, even younger.

I got pushed into a gifted program (the highly gifted magnet schools in LAUSD) by my parents. It was boring, and I wish they didn't - the people I met were fantastic but the program itself was the biggest waste of time. Another kid in my class made the papers like this one cause he finished his HS diploma and went on to college early, and his mom fought EVERYONE along the way to make it happen.

Of course, I dropped out of HS early and went to a community college too (well, I took a whole bunch of classes there starting from 6th grade anyway), and I enjoyed the experience. A lot of my friends went from middle school to college. There are a fair number of programs like that around like at Cal State LA..a few more places..Simon's Rock is another one I can think of now.

I don't think it's really the studying, but the attitude. The only time I liked the gifted program was where we almost had individualized studies (one kid might be doing basic math, another could be doing algebra) but were grouped together into one class (the social factor) and we were free to do whatever we want. I liked community college because I picked what I wanted to do, generally wasn't stuffed with useless busywork (I dropped most of those classes and took the same one with different profs), et cetera. Meanwhile, the equivalent AP classes at the HS were boring, nothing BUT busywork, and we HAD to stick with the schedule studying to the tests we had to take and there was no room for anything more because some people couldn't keep up. The forced-ness was what I hated.

And yeah, that whole work and play are opposites thing is annoying too. I learn a lot from hands-on labs and things, and we didn't get to do a lot of those ever. Maybe it was because it was a cash-strapped public school?

Finally, I think all of this needs to be customized to the student, because that's what makes it so good. The gifted program I was in was great for some, the early college stuff was great for others, and neither really worked for me.

People who go on to discover great things don't learn from the professors. Let's take math as an example. One creates advances in mathematics by sitting with the literature, a pencil, and a pad. Every great idea comes only after thousands of failed starts.

That is also true. But sometimes you need a mentor of sorts to help you when you need it, and some professors can do that well.

At this juncture, a professor stops being a professor and becomes a colleague.

EDIT: What I am trying to say is that a professor/student relationship is one of inequality. When the relationship moves beyond only one side influencing the course of discussion/discovery, then a relationship of equals is established, albeit a relation of equals where one side is more equal than the other (and that relationship may swap over the course of time).

I like that phrasing. And most bright kids never get a "colleague" like that. I just finished reading Lockhart's Lament, and it made me sad that even though I was one of the best students in my IB program in high school, then got a BS in CS, I had to learn from the internet 10 years later that math is a journey of creative discussion.

The first time through a Bachelor's program I made the same mistake. I wanted so much to get out of school and head into the business world. The result was a finance degree and an intense urge to go back to school to pursue math and computer science. Now I am going back to pursue those two at Bowling Green, and I will not make the same mistake again.

At this child's age, it's up to the parents to decide what is best for the child. Sometimes the parents will not make the best decision. Personally I feel that if the child can state the want to study more complex or advanced topics, the child should be allowed to study those topics.

I am a bit biased because I found most of my pre-university studies boring. I also didn't fit in with the other students while I was in middle school and high school.

Except they aren't making the best decisions most of the time, and by the time the kid can study what they want easily on their own (think things like money for buying materials), they're stuffed with bullshit busywork from their normal classes that are intellectually boring and take forever to do, until they get to college (hopefully).

Or at least that's what it was like for me. One of the things I loved to do was to code, and well, that sort of went out the window for the two years I was in high school because I'd be dead tired and in need of sleep every single night after the requisite extracurriculars and homework. My parents wouldn't let me drive to school in the morning because I'd get only a couple of hours of sleep a night sometimes and they didn't want me to fall asleep behind the wheel.

Even on weekends I didn't have time because I had to study for the classes I hated and do lame group projects where at least one member didn't do their fair share of work.

I similarly found pre-university studies rather boring, rarely did the 'busywork' and skirted "on intuition" across most of it. Got me into a fancy named university, but only then to realise my ignorance of what 'work' was. I'm just about half-way through college, and maybe now I begin to appreciate 'work' and unlearn the habits from before. It's surprisingly difficult.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that HS trains (American) kids to work so well. Society runs on people doing (generally) repetitive work consistently. My early rejection of the system meant I got left out in the cold in terms of knowing how to do that. I did get a lot of 'soft' (i.e. cannot learn from books) computer/cs/systems knowledge out of what I did spent my HS years doing, though.

Wow, silencio, I had to check the comment header to make sure this wasn't one of those comments I write in the middle of the night and forget about :). I think you might be my long lost twin.

sweet! I've come across a loot of people who thought the same too..

If he doesn't watch it he'll end up like Michael Jackson, spending his adult life trying to recreate his lost childhood.

Over. Scheduled.

On the flip side I think we should front-load education because kids hardly learn anything from jr. high onward, thanks to the hormone fairy. There are a few exceptions, of course.

I think all high schools could do with starting classes a couple hours later, and to lessen the busywork.

It certainly works for me. I schedule all my college classes after 10am if possible, otherwise I just fall asleep in class no matter how early I go to sleep the night before.

Maybe pg should have been less negative about the abilities of 10 year olds in his essay.

Of course it's hard to know very much by age 10 if your parents lie to you frequently. But that isn't the child's fault.

It doesn't take much insight to see that this kid's life is hyper-scheduled and regulated by his parents. His Dad is "fretting" that his grade in piano will be bad, because he broke his arm in martial arts? Time to get some perspective, Pop....

Point being, this kid doesn't have the experience to know what he's missing by not being a little boy. Who says that his parents are telling him the truth?

I disagree with the comment about the kid not knowing what he was missing. My parents pushed me in the opposite direction of the direction this kid's parents are pushing him. I resent my parents for that.

I was constantly forced to go outside and do something active. Pursuing intelligence was frowned upon. I am not exaggerating either. My grandmother told my mother, "Don't let those boys grow up to be too intelligent. No one will like them." My mother criticized my intellectual pursuits: "Chess is a stupid hobby."; "People don't need computers." My father was simply hands off. He didn't believe in pushing someone in one direction or another.

My point is this: I had the capability to do university studies at an early age, but my parents denied me that opportunity. I knew what I was missing because I've now experienced university life. The University of Florida was exactly what I imagined a university to be--the freedom to pursue whatever occupied my mind.

I think there's a middle ground between your parents and his.

I don't doubt that there is a middle ground. I was simply commenting on the parent post. I was on the opposite side of the spectrum as this kid. I had the ability but not the opportunity. It is a cause of much of my bitterness. It is largely the reason why I don't speak to my mother much.

For those who may think that such bitterness is unwarranted or inappropriate for such a situation, I accept that I am bitter about it and I relish in the fact that I am no longer in such a situation.

I wish I could know the reason why they did all that and if they would say the same about going to college if you were a more "typical" age. Most parents negative reactions to early college is usually along the lines of "it's too early!" and not much more. Some even feel that ridiculous numbers of honors/AP/equivalent classes at the middle/high school are a better substitution.

(personal opinion butting in: college at 12 and college at 16 and college at 19 are totally different experiences..not necessarily intellectually, but in every other way, which is arguably a big part of it).

And I don't think he should be forced to not study, but rather to study what he wants when he wants to without his parents' influence. We all change, how does he know sooo surely that he wants to dedicate that much effort/time to that subject for sure?

My mother believed my university studies at the normal age of eighteen were largely a waste of money as well. It's a good thing I had all of my tuition paid by the state and most of my housing and food paid for by scholarships. She said something to the effect one time: "You're eighteen. My financial support is over." I can't blame her for that as legally she's not entitled to do anything for me anymore as I had reached the age of majority, but it sure says a lot coming from a mother.

Dude can grep wikipedia and has parents that can talk about topics in a deep way, or provide resources to him on topics that interest him. Most parents would do the opposite and restrict internet access for starters, let alone have the ability to assist in his intellectual interests. As far as kid activities his age, I'm sure he would be bored stiff around others. That seems like a blessing to avoid behavior that would no doubt only lead to worse choices later in life.

I don't think so. Resources, yes. But not necessarily parent-talk. And I think if he was this smart (which I do), that he'd be able to do this on his own..not this early, but eventually, somehow.

Also, some parents do the opposite, some don't. Some misunderstand the purpose of the internet, which I think is the real problem. My parents attempted to and eventually stopped trying to filter what I did on the computer after I circumvented everything they tried and turned the tables on them (I was a complete brat :D), but they also spent a fortune of their then-pitiful earnings on books and toys and hardware I wanted. They felt that was more important than indulging their own desires (typical asian parents).

Now I'm paying that back in various ways, and I thank them for all of that. I don't think I would have been the big geek I am now if it wasn't for them putting up with me tearing apart half the electronics they owned.

I wonder what he'll turn out to be like 10 years later.

My instinct is that this kid's parents aren't treating him as an intellectual equal, so much as a lump of raw material to be manipulated.

If it's any consolation, his piano teacher (also mine) actually sat his mom down and pointedly told her that he needs a break from piano because he's overloaded with other extracurriculars (let alone college work). :)

i didn't.

Downey in the hizzle! I'll hire him as an intern at my startup... if he keeps his grades up.

Ouch. Excuse me. I'm just glad to have news stories about Downey that don't involve the house the Carpenters used to live in.

The downmodding is for conflating grades with "deservedness" re: interning at your startup.

First, if someone does the work, they should get the pay/equity, regardless of age.

I say forget grades and jumping through other people's hoops. If he wants to do it, he will do it for its own sake.

Second, I'd let the poor kid hang out at my startup just to get away from his parents and structure. He can play with action figures or something. Of course maybe he's perfectly happy where he is, but if not, it would be nice to have someplace to go where the adults just leave you alone. A lot of us can relate to his situation.

I'm just saying there's not much going on in Downey. There really isn't. Downey makes Burbank look like Mountain View.

I am not in a position to have anyone intern (I run my startup out of my house -- Downey doesn't let you have a business license for an apartment, by the way!) That, and I flunked out of college in my first semester.

My offer is entirely tongue-in-cheek and it came from the same place you're coming from. But I understand you don't know me, so it's cool. Nice to meet you!

PLEASE! I'll even pass on your details next time I see him.

I really think he needs a break from his parents. It might do him some good.

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