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11-year-old college grad: I’m no genius (msn.com)
19 points by newy on June 6, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments



Other than the obvious "child prodigy" angle, nothing particularly interesting about this article. I'm actually more curious about the long term careers of such prodigies, especially such extreme cases. I know of a couple in law - Kiwi Camara graduated from Harvard Law at 20(?) and now runs his own firm. Eugene Volokh graduated from UCLA undergrad at 15 and now is a law professor.

On the same note, I'm also interested in hearing thoughts about hacking education by reducing the number of years we spend in school. I'm a proponent of the belief that we inevitably fill up the amount of time we've allocated to a project, even if it doesn't end up resulting in an improved product (Can't remember, does this come from the 4-day work week?). I don't have the numbers, but I recall seeing the stats somewhere that American students have significantly more vacation time and therefore less school days than their counterparts in Europe and Asia.


I'm actually more curious about the long term careers of such prodigies, especially such extreme cases.

Me too. There does not seem to be much correlation with long-term achievement (relative to other smart people who aren't prodigies). There is usually a vicariously overachieving parent or two in the picture.

I'm interested in the subject because, like a lot of people here, I was a mild case of it myself. Looking back, I'd say it led to early burnout. I don't think it did much good - but then, as an old professor of mine used to say, "Life does not bear counterfactuals."


With these claims about intelligence and long term success, I wonder if part of the issue is whether smart people define success differently.


I'm 14 and in highschool and I believe we spend way too much time on things that have no affect on increasing our knowledge. The textbooks are also surrounded by bureaucracy and they sound like they were written by robots. Every emotion, opinion, or different view of an event is thrown out. Math textbooks just give you a proof and some examples. Most of the time they don't give you why or how you would use it, nor the underlying proofs that were used to come to theorem or proof.


High school is actually a trick question.

They're trying to teach you to take the initiative and do something other than complain (no offense) or not utilize your tools in front of you at 110%.

Don't like high school classes because they're boring or stupid? Then go to where good classes are. When I was in HS I went to the community college part time -- I just wheeled in and asked and they said yes.


The textbooks are also surrounded by bureaucracy and they sound like they were written by robots. Every emotion, opinion, or different view of an event is thrown out.

It's a good thing you've figured this out already, but boy is school going to be painful from now on. Everybody else is probably going to tell you otherwise, but perhaps you should consider a radical change in your education plans, especially if things just get worse. Maybe leaving in a couple of years and doing something more worthwhile, even if that just means going to college early. I know it sounds risky, and others reading this might even think I'm being irresponsible in telling you this. But I'd at least keep your options open.


I know I certainly wish I found a community like Hacker News in high school. Or even earlier in college. It is advice like this which others are afraid to tell you. Even if it is crappy advice, at least it is a unique perspective compared to the brainwashed masses.


You might enjoy the book Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen.


Believe me - nothing is perfect.

No school, no ideology, no government, no schoolbook, no person. Don't spend your time lamenting that fact and using it as an excuse not to do your best.

In your situation right now, this week, this month, you can try to make the best of what you have. Understand the limitations, sometimes improve the system around you.

By complaining and feeling helpless, you will defeat yourself. I have lots of experience at this :)


I had the same problem with highschool textbooks. Unfortunately, many college texts are not much better. I recommend finding out what books are being used at good private colleges (for math/compsci, MIT is a good place to start) or in honors courses at state schools, and try to get them cheap on amazon. Even an older edition of a good book is better than your typical highschool textbook.


I understand how you feel. However, I'll also say this: the books are increasing your knowledge. Get as much information as you can from them. If they contain proofs and examples, then learn those proofs and examples! Try to derive the underlying proofs yourself! Be more proactive. Also, I know you care about emotion, but it's "effect", not "affect". ;)


Parkinson's Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.


Pareto principle: Roughly 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the effort


maybe the other 80% of the effort is experiments and learning so that it can deliver the 80% of the effect with 20% of the effort in your next project? Somehow it seems that if you always do the east 20%, you lose something.


> On the same note, I'm also interested in hearing thoughts about hacking education by reducing the number of years we spend in school

I did this. I attended college at Simon's Rock, a school that accepts students after their second or third year of high school. There are a few other schools with similar programs. In addition, I took the max workload every semester and graduated from college in 3 years, resulting in me starting my PhD at the age of 20.

Still, I feel I could have cut off another 2 years from high school.


if an elementary school dropout like edison changed the world, i'm sure this kid can too

but to be fair, edison was gifted by being deft -- that's why he invented phonograph


>>I recall seeing the stats somewhere that American students have significantly more vacation time and therefore less school days than their counterparts in Europe and Asia.

Yeah, but I think that the European counterparts are getting a significantly better education. The reason I say this is because we have a lot of emphasis on rounding out students with solid liberal arts foundations in our American undergraduate programs, whereas Europeans are able to skip straight to specialization - probably a result of a more formidable intellectual foundation.


Not really. European universities, many of them aren't that hard to get into, but the dropout rate rate is brutal. Streaming is a lot more institutionalised and certified, something the US could stand to emulate. That's a huge part of the difference right there. The top 60% are well served everywhere but the insistence in the US that everyone is potentially college material e.g. in CA the graduation standards are set on the basis of the admission standards for the UC system, set up for the top eighth of the secondary school graduates.


"I feel it's a waste of time playing video games because it's not helping humanity in any way"

Looks like he still has some things to learn


Moshe spawned this essay the first time he appeared on HN; maybe it still has some relevance. I wish him the best. http://daniellefong.com/2008/05/15/advice-to-the-bright-and-...


Great post Danielle, really enjoyed the read. I've been 2 years ahead since grade school, and a lot of your points hit home.


Nice post. I really like your writing style.




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