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Gifted elementary kids in California could go straight to college.
June 20, 2002 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Gifted elementary kids in California could go straight to college. Students of any age, even kindergarten, could demand to take the state's high school proficiency examination under legislation approved recently by the Assembly. Passage of the test -- which measures reading, writing and arithmetic skills -- would qualify young students to enter community colleges as if they had obtained their high school diplomas.

Academically, these kids may be ready for college, but are they mature enough to handle being surrounded by students six to ten years their senior?
posted by DakotaPaul (42 comments total)

 
Don't you mean; are they immature enough?

*hides from the frat jocks*
posted by dagny at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2002


As if they're getting anything out of being surrounded by students their own age who are all academically behind them?
posted by techgnollogic at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2002


lol dagny Mature enough to deal with the immaturity of others, perhaps.

Are people who start a job at 18 "mature" enough to be surrounded by adults sometimes as much as FIFTY years their senior? egad!

This is not a simple issue, partially because chronological age is a poor predictor of what a person is capable of handling successfully. But in general, I feel that people should be allowed to rise to whatever level they can achieve without placing artificial constraints upon them.
posted by rushmc at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2002


I think it is great for a person's career. Take Doogie Howser, for example. He grew up to have a supporting role in the movie Undercover Brother.
posted by adampsyche at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2002


i think it's worth holding back the academic challenge to a prodigy for the experience of going to school with children his or her own age. anyone remember this thread? you just have to make sure the kid's not bored. (easier said than done, i'm sure.)

adam: so true.
posted by moz at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2002


Yeah, I don't know if their livers could handle college. Mine barely could at 18.
posted by jasonshellen at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2002


If you're that bright a kid, I could see taking a few classes at a community college, but if you're looking for a degree, it's probably better to wait a few years and polish up that Harvard application.
posted by oddovid at 11:32 AM on June 20, 2002


Community college is a good idea... big U out of town? Bad idea. They still need their parents.

I like the wake-up call this could give to teachers and administrators, though.
posted by SpecialK at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2002


I think its a good idea. High school is a waste of time for many gifted students and stunts their energy and intellect. We should be doing more for kids then warehousing them and using school as a babysitter.
posted by Budge at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2002


I think I'd try and have them in elementary school for half a day, college courses the other half. No, I wouldn't send my kid off to college. What Special K said. Community.
posted by Modem Ovary at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2002


i think it's worth holding back the academic challenge to a prodigy for the experience of going to school with children his or her own age.

Because they have so much in common with them and generally socialize so well amongst such "peers?"
posted by rushmc at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2002


c'mon, didn't we learn anything from this movie?

i agree, definitely community college. but why aren't there more high school options for gifted children? i understand if you're in a more rural area, but it seems like there would be enough smart kids in towns and cities for an advanced high school. it just seems somewhat limiting to have kids picking a major at 12.
posted by witchstone at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2002


Our education system is perfect as it is. Why change? Anyway, wouldn't this deprive the dumb kids of the important social exercise of beating up the nerds? What we're really talking about is a shift from an age-based to an ability-based grading system. By the twelfth grade, only the dumb ones would be left, resulting in a huge "bubble," if you will, of pent aggression with no readily available venting outlet. Obviously, football would need to be shifted from extra-curricular activity to credit course. However, it's likely that the subsequent recruiting drive from big-ten colleges would be so quick (imagine the potential college career an eighth-grade quarterback could have) that the high schools would soon be empty save for a few catatonics. At that point, moving from a teacher-based to a television-based system would be the way to go.
posted by greensweater at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2002


Our education system is perfect as it is. Why change?

Hehe, thanks for the laugh.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2002


Are we getting to the point where there would be enough prodigies, home-schooled or no, to have an under-18 college? We have prep schools, why not a prep school that has a separate college curriculum?
posted by dhartung at 12:23 PM on June 20, 2002


I faked some documents and went to college a year early. In retrospect I wish that I had just skipped high school and gone straight in. The classes were difficult but not impossibly so. In contrast HIgh School was a near-total waste... some kind of awful group-think excercise having little to do with learning. Going early to college (at a branch campus of Penn State) might have been the best move I ever made, actually -- it was there that I realized I didn't want to be an engineer and figured out what I did want to do, learning all the way.

I say go. If the kids are smart enough to get out of public-school-hell (which is often exactly what it is) more power to them.
posted by n9 at 12:28 PM on June 20, 2002


I believe that all children should have a choice between attending college and getting an education.
posted by jonmc at 12:39 PM on June 20, 2002


For a really gifted kid, such as the one in their example, I think it's a good idea. However, there could be some potential for abuse by pushy parents that want to "fast-track" their above-average kid.

The ability to socialize with other kids is important. The parents need to make sure he still gets to be a kid, and that includes the good as well as the bad - that includes being bored, and maybe even getting picked on, etc.
posted by groundhog at 1:00 PM on June 20, 2002


yeah
posted by lotsofno at 1:02 PM on June 20, 2002


rush:

Because they have so much in common with them and generally socialize so well amongst such "peers?"

why can't they? what -- you can't play baseball if you're smart?
posted by moz at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2002


The ability to socialize with other kids is important.

First of all, what does this mean, and why do kids have to learn it in school? One certainly does not need to learn communication skills exclusively in school, and if by 'socialize' you mean get really drunk or stoned and talk in the local vernacular, well, that's not really important or necessary.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2002


that includes being bored, and maybe even getting picked on, etc.

I don't think people should be sheltered forever by their parents, but the kind of bullshit that goes on in public elementary, middle, and high schools today is just not worth it. Kids will learn that people are total assholes soon enough, we don't need to ruin their childhoods in the process.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:29 PM on June 20, 2002


why can't they? what -- you can't play baseball if you're smart?

When was the last time you played baseball with a group of 9-yr-olds? As a peer, not a coach? Or had a philosophical discussion with them? Or even discussed a movie or book with them at YOUR level, not theirs? I'm not saying they can't interact with others their age, just that often they won't want to because of the limitations in the others' perspectives. If you're reading Kant, you are likely to be less interested in Pikachu than other 9-yr-olds.
posted by rushmc at 1:37 PM on June 20, 2002


When was the last time you played baseball with a group of 9-yr-olds? As a peer, not a coach? Or had a philosophical discussion with them? Or even discussed a movie or book with them at YOUR level, not theirs? I'm not saying they can't interact with others their age, just that often they won't want to because of the limitations in the others' perspectives. If you're reading Kant, you are likely to be less interested in Pikachu than other 9-yr-olds.

why not, rush? there are a lot of assumptions that you've got here. (sheesh. if i were reading Kant at age 9, i'd want a pikachu break.) just because someone is smart does not mean they willingly would like to torture themselves with non-stop Kant, Hegel or Heidegger, rush; nor, i would hope, would they want the same torturous fate for their friends by means of conversation.

i don't think i'm the dimmest light in the ceiling, but i know i don't necessarily care to dissect the emotional nuance of peter parker in spiderman. i could try, but i don't have to. i think that's the situation some prodigies might be in. maybe they could understand the interesting contrast between the dark blue and the alert red in the moon shuttle of 2001: a space odyssey, but they can still think the scenery was just plain cool. as long as a prodigy has an outlet to explore him or herself, i'd hope they'd be ok.
posted by moz at 2:02 PM on June 20, 2002


You're stereotyping smart kids, rush. Not all of them play D&D and read Kant and avoid other kids full-time. I was reading Feynman as a 7-yr old, yes, but many of my friends were from the surfer crowd with whom I had much in common, playing on the beach, eyeing girls, playing pranks, reading comic books. When I wanted to discuss metaphysics, I found an adult.
posted by vacapinta at 2:02 PM on June 20, 2002


Several thoughts. First, the "peer group relations" issue is a red herring. How many years does a person have "peers" who are 11? One year. How many years does a person have "peers" who are adults? His/Her entire adult life.

Second, we are doing humanity a terrible disservice keeping brilliant minds from learning everything they can. What is to say one of these youngsters won't end up teaching Steve Hawking a thing or two by the time they're 25? Why can't they discover a cure for [insert terrible disease here]?

Third, the "9 year old reading Kant" that rush speaks of not only doesn't relate to Pikachu, but will be made fun of (if not beaten up regularly) by other 9 year olds for not relating to Pikachu. At least among the college crowd there will be an older/more mature student or 3 to say "give the little guy a break, dude."

Finally, in light of previous discussions, I am only willing to support the idea of such kids going directly to college if they are living at home with Mom and/or Dad. No dorm. No boarding house. No Aunt Mitzy. I even support, as mentioned in the article, the idea that below a certain age a specified responsible adult must accompany them on campus. Oh, and the criteria have to be rigorous and include the student wanting such an arrangement (willing to say so even when hypothetical pushy stagemother is not around).
posted by ilsa at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2002


California State University, Los Angeles already has an Early Entrance Program which accomodates students from the age of twelve. It's been extraordinarily successful, by all accounts. For such things to work, however, there has to be a tremendous amount of oversight from both administrators and parents. (Disclaimer: daughter of a CSULA professor.)
posted by thomas j wise at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2002


Third, the "9 year old reading Kant" that rush speaks of not only doesn't relate to Pikachu, but will be made fun of (if not beaten up regularly) by other 9 year olds for not relating to Pikachu.

Lots of kids, many not-so-smart, are made fun of. I think we are confusing socialization and intelligence. Often they are correlated but not always and one does not imply the other.

What we are discussing here is whether schools can meet their intellectual needs and, if not, should they be placed in a college. Absolutely, I say but I also think a peer group is important, one that may not share our intellectual development but is composed of social and hormonal peers with which to engage in sports, boy/girl watching and idle kid games.
posted by vacapinta at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2002


insomnyuk, my definition of socialization in this context would be learning to form personal relationships. It's not something we're born with.

I make absolutely NO claims to being a genius, such as the kid in the article, although I did test out with a pretty high iq as a child (I've become much dumber in my old age). I was reading before age 5, and I remember being very bored at school, especially in the early grades. But I still needed to play, hang out, and do kid things. In fact, I usually enjoyed playing with younger kids, as my social skills were less developed.

Being able to relate to your peers, at some level, is something most of us take for granted, but many kids find it difficult. Every kid is unique, and the parents need to make sure there's a balance between intellectual stimulation and "kid stuff".

I agree, public school can be a mess. Our son is starting kindergarten, and although we could swing a private school, we've checked out the school and we're going to give "the system" a try. We won't hesitate to pull him out if it doesn't work out, however.

Also, we're using the example of a 9 year old here, by that age the socialization angle is probably less important than in early childhood. But the need to do kid stuff continues until...well, in my case, it's permanent.
posted by groundhog at 2:28 PM on June 20, 2002


What's so great about being integrated into a peer group? It'd be far healthier for kids to be part of a real society containing human beings of all different ages and experiences. This age-stratification created by mandatory mass schooling has only been around for a century or so and has only been the normal state of affairs for half that. Let's not mistake it for the natural order of the universe.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2002


as one of the kids who definitely would have jumped at the chance to go to college really early, i think it's a bad idea. yes, many, many kids are ready academically, but without virtually any life experience, college could be really terrifying. why not a college-level school for younger kids? they could have friends their own age *and* at their intellectual level.

absolutely no one should be held back in the proverbial quest for knowledge, but it scares me to think of myself as a 12 year old going into college. to me, it's not so much a matter of sheltering kids as it is a matter of allowing them to have a childhood while still learning everything they want to learn.
posted by pikachulolita at 3:14 PM on June 20, 2002


Well, said, Mars.

My comments were not to imply that children should not be encourage to make friends their own age and to socialize with them, but to question the likelihood of this happening in a public school environment, given not only the divide between their interests and their peers' but the well-established bias against intelligent and/or scholarly students by other kids.
posted by rushmc at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2002


yes, many, many kids are ready academically, but without virtually any life experience, college could be really terrifying.

Why? They go to classes, take notes, study, take exams. Then they go home. Same process as in elementary or high schools, just at a higher level. No one is suggesting they participate in the "recess" activities of 18-21 year olds. I would have LOVED to have done this at 12.
posted by rushmc at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2002


why not a college-level school for younger kids? they could have friends their own age *and* at their intellectual level.

That would be a great option...if it existed.
posted by rushmc at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2002


If it existed?

Perhaps 15 years old isn't as young as we're talking about here, but it's better than nothing. In fact, it's a great place, and we certainly could use more like it.
posted by whatnotever at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2002


The high school I went to was definitely more difficult than the college I went to (though not as tough as grad school). Thing is, I'm of the opinion that no one should go to college before age 21. I don't see why people think college is the pinnacle of intellectual achievement - it sure isn't appropriate for young children, no matter how smart, simply because it's such a limited vision.

Heck, the math classes I got to take in high school and in academic camps were nothing like what was available in college or even grad school. I am looking forward to my teaching job at the highest concentration of math freaks, amongst a bunch of high school kids, where we eschew doing anything that looks like it could get you credit in a college or high school class.

My point is that people don't think of other possibilities, and look more for the standard measurements of educational achievement -- I've seen too many parents interested in their kids getting the AP Calc rather than doing a broader study into stuff like fractals, math modeling, or probability. Now something that would give a kid a pass out of the idiotic classes of public school so they get time to do something more useful, would be good, but thinking that simply moving the kid up in the system provides a more full education is rather depressing to me.
posted by meep at 4:10 PM on June 20, 2002


but thinking that simply moving the kid up in the system provides a more full education is rather depressing to me.

It's usually the most readily available option. Where is one to find an opportunity for "doing a broader study into stuff like fractals, math modeling, or probability" in even junior high or high school environments??
posted by rushmc at 4:16 PM on June 20, 2002


Remember, though, that there is some value in knowing (and effortlessly demonstrating) that one is intellectually superior to one's same-age-group peers. It's a motivating, nourishing conceit. A stable, lofty attitude can help sustain intellectual pride and intellectual enthusiasm, even when nothing else will - and often, nothing else will.

So, fine - send the wee ones to college - but watch for (and guard against) ego damage - well, not so much damage as suppression, ie, failure to swell to its deserved plus size.
posted by Opus Dark at 6:38 PM on June 20, 2002


Um...were you looking for the snob thread, Opus? (Kid! I kid you!)
posted by rushmc at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2002


I'm walking Nietzsche's dog...Friedrich won't have anything to with him since he discovered that the big furball is part Pavlovian...

(Did I miss a snobbery thread? Damn.) ;)
posted by Opus Dark at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2002


Gifted kids need the challenge of demanding faculty and the competition of highly ambitious peers. Sending them to a junior college, where most other students were unable to gain admission to a 4-year college, and most faculty lack terminal degrees, or sending them to a school like Cal State LA, with average SATs hovering around 1000, makes no sense whatever.

The sensible solution for gifted kids who don't enjoy sports and other elementary and secondary extracurriculars is an aggressive program of early entrance and grade skipping ... motivated parents of a gifted child can easily get a child into kindergarten a year early, and skipped through second, fourth, and sixth grade. They do the ordinary six years of secondary school, and then apply to college as "ordinary" (albeit 13 going on 14) seniors, and graduate college at 18.
posted by MattD at 9:03 AM on June 21, 2002


MattD: I was just about to bring up the faculty. It's one thing to try to figure out the challenge of your classmates and hormones and the bigger world out there.

And yes, Opus, it feels alright to be the smartest person in your school. (Really really poor and inbred small town people, I'm definitely not bragging.) And you find your friends and stuff. Literature can be beautiful, but an interest in academic persuits can be squandered. I felt like my ambition and my potential were sifting out of my brain throughout high school. I was very frustrated in my high school. The world made so little sense inside those walls; I was powerless and confused. I haven't experienced anythign like it since I left high school.

I understand that there are better schools than mine, where teachers understand their subject matter, and that in those cases there can be interesting age-appropriate discourse. But I think that that should be coupled with some ability to leave high school when it is the right time, as they do in the UK.

High school messed me up and I entered college overly jaded and I think that I could have gotten a lot more out of it had I gone earlier in life.
posted by goneill at 2:49 PM on June 21, 2002


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