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"[11-year-old] Greg Smith loves going online and playing soccer . . .
June 20, 2000 12:16 PM   Subscribe

"[11-year-old] Greg Smith loves going online and playing soccer . . . he spends afternoons reading outdoors, hiking through the mountains and playing basketball with buddies...except that this 11-year-old has just completed his first year as a full-time student at Randolph- Macon College in Virginia..." Why do I have a feeling this kid is going to be writing a painful memoir about his lost childhood by the time he's 19?
posted by Zosia Blue (10 comments total)

 
On the other hand, I was a smart kid (though maybe not as smary as Greg Smith) who was left to flounder in public schools where I clearly didn't belong. I could write a painful memoir of my horrible childhood, in which teachers berated me because I liked to read, draw, write stories while I was supposed to be listening to their painfully boring lectures--stuff that I either already knew of didn't care about (and still don't, like hugely false and oversimplified models of the US Governement). Years later, my parents admitted that they should have sent me to college early--or at least to a very good private school. At the time (in the 70s and early 80s), this option didn't occur to them.
posted by grumblebee at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2000


There was the sad tale a few years ago of a 15-year-old at Oxford who had to leave because of an alcohol-fuelled "incident". He went away, grew up, and came back. Campus life is the problem, not classes: and in Britain, where it's expected that you leave home to go to university, that makes it hard for the talented kids.

But this one has plenty of outside activities, and seems well-adjusted enough. Academic excellence breeds a certain social isolation whether it comes early or late, which can't be helped. The kids who really lose their childhoods are the ones who don't have the opportunities, or don't get noticed, and end up in front of the TV or the Playstation.
posted by holgate at 5:04 PM on June 20, 2000


Uh, why does everyone assume that some 11 year old prodigy is going to turn out to be some sort of freak? Jealousy, perhaps?
posted by Mr. skullhead at 6:44 PM on June 20, 2000


I don't know-- between his world peace rhetoric and his lemon-blond bowl haircut, that kid kinda creeps me out. ;-)

I hear ya, grumblebee. My parents did discuss sending me to a private school where I'd have access to accelerated classes, but there were three problems... all the private schools in the area were Christian (and we weren't); my grades weren't that great from 6th on because I had a pathological hatred for homework; and we couldn't really afford it anyway.

Maybe I'd be more motivated and productive today if I hadn't lazily made my way through school getting Bs and Cs without ever cracking a book. Who knows, but I really detested school. Sitting there like a dumb terminal listening to teachers read out of textbooks, trying not to laugh while the basketball coach grappled with algebra... At least in college the tenured professors feel free to "waste time" in class on silly, unnecessary things like conversation and discussion.
posted by wiremommy at 6:47 PM on June 20, 2000


I doubt the case is jealousy at all. In fact, it's more of an inability to understand, if anything. Childhood and adolescence are difficult enough without having the added pressures of being dubbed a chilhood prodigy and being thrown into a world meant for people twice his age. He could just as well turn out to be a well-adjusted adult with a satisfying life.

I guess I just think of the experiences I'm having now as a college student, and try to even fathom having them at the age of 11. Though there are pros and cons to both sides of the issue, I definitely think there is that certain of essence of "coming of age" that the kid is going to miss out on.

But, then again, I can't quite see it through the eyes of an 11-year-old freshman in college.
posted by Zosia Blue at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2000


Hmm... I don't know, there's something strange about the whole thing. What bothers me -
is that he's able to finish high school,
go on to college,
take on creating world peace
be this great art-eeest ( as shown on his "website" )
he plays soccer
has friends
blond hair
perfect teeth
and his family is probobly pretty well suited.

OK, OK, I may admit to being a bit jelous.
I mean, my parents sure the hell wished I was this prodigy, which brings out some painfull childhood memories. You know, you're a child of an immigrant, you're smarter than everyone else. I didn't even try to keep up, now I look at it. I was at the bottom. You know the kid that never knows the right answer? Never does any homework? Except 6th grade civics, hmm, but then again, I probobly was deeply in love with Ms. Kain. I was always the creepy "most likley to grow up to be a sex offender" kind of a person. I always laughed and smiled, I had no reason to when someone asked. "You know when you try to forget something funny that was earlier in church and can't?"
Computers came along, and I just blended out. Nothing really changed. I look back, and I see this kid. He's going to have a very succesfull life? Why? Does GOD love him better? Does god hate me? Am I a really bad person? I'm not special. I'm dumb and I won't succed. God doesn't exist. I die sitting alone.
posted by tiaka at 7:54 PM on June 20, 2000


One word: Mozart. Shipped around Europe as a kid, put on show like a puppet freak, haemorrhages original music for thirty years of his life, and ends up in a paupers' grave. Did God love him better? If so, it's a fucking tough love.

I'm reminded of the Onion story (not archived, the bastards): "Ritalin Cures Next Picasso".
posted by holgate at 11:05 PM on June 20, 2000


I was "bright enough" to be put ahead from 5th grade to 6th in the L.A. Public Schools in the '60s. I was the smallest kid in class and became bully bait; broke my ankle running away; got a reputation as a crybaby that followed me back to 5th when my parents gave up on the experiment after a few weeks. The next year, my parents put up the money to send me to a "rotten rich kids" private school to get me away from the bullies... I discovered a much higher socio-economic class of bully (one of the bullies was the son of a "TV legend" who later wrote a book about his failures raising his kids). I've had a less-than-healthy relationship with Education-with-a-Capital-E ever since. Some "bright kids" become Doogie Hausers, some don't.
(Well, not really; Doogie was a VERY fictional character)
posted by wendell at 11:29 PM on June 20, 2000


For a *bunch* of first person testimony about being a gifted kid, for good or for bad, here's a thread from Pamie's forum.
posted by anitar at 10:22 AM on June 21, 2000


No, Holgate, but a quick experiment with Google got me Now This, which pointed to the issue in question... but apparently, they've decided to start pulling back issues, since that link is now dead.

Um, someone go beat them over the head with Jakob Nielsen, wouldja?

Luckily, there are copyright violators in the world (see earlier story; maybe this guy's in the vanguard).
posted by baylink at 2:29 PM on June 21, 2000


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