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13-year-old graduates college, Doogie Howser weeps
June 1, 2003 3:46 PM   Subscribe

13-year-old Gregory Robert Smith graduates from Randolph-Macon College this month. He has yet to find the vaccine for the brutal Atomic Wedgie.
posted by LexRockhard (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
There is only one thing to do.

We must kidnap this kid, and take him to our re-education camp for one year, where he will administered massive doses of beer, pot, pornography, junk food, cartoons, bar sports and meaningless kinky sex with cheap women.

Drastic? Perhaps. But if we don't get him now, he may be lost forever.
posted by jonmc at 3:55 PM on June 1, 2003


I am deeply depressed to see that he is religious.
posted by Ryvar at 4:11 PM on June 1, 2003


If my knowledge of child prodigies (derived from movies and tv) is correct, he will burn out before age twenty and accomplish little or nothing of lasting importance. Perhaps he should take a sabbatical during puberty and chill out with Jonmc and the gang before he starts thinking the Russians are bugging his cheerios.

He seems like a terrific young lad and he has the best of intentions, but when his great big brain figures out that nobody will ever let him be president and he can't possibly save the world from itself, he's gonna crash real hard.
posted by Hildago at 4:14 PM on June 1, 2003


Often when I see stories like this I wonder whether it is a story about a "genius" or a sad commentary on our educational system. Unfortunately, I fear the latter.
posted by banished at 4:19 PM on June 1, 2003


The road to maturity is alot more treacherous than the road to wisdom. I won't blame him for being idealistic.
posted by LexRockhard at 4:22 PM on June 1, 2003


I've heard of this kid before. I've also talked to a fair few people who are close to - or inside - the whole 'prodigy lecture circuit'. My take is that much of the time, the prodigies are being pushed too hard by their parents. Rarely is it that the push comes from the kid. I'm told that there was one boy (probably under 12 or so) who was speaking at some huge international conference. The night before, his parents were drilling him on a bank of questions and answers for after the talk (note that the prodigies are almost always male...). Sounds like a fun life.

Then there's the guy I know at Cambridge who started when he was about 14 or 15. Generally Cambridge doesn't approve of letting young kids in, but somehow he got through. Anyway, he turned out to be a true maths whiz, but frankly he is pretty screwed up, has very few friends and laments the fact that he matriculated at such an early age.

I find that most of these kids are being exploited by very cynical adults; it's always good to have a cute kid on the stage proclaiming that hunger and wars are bad things. And there are a lot of people out there who'd love to be mentors to the next Einstein or whatever, to the extent that they hothouse the kids.

That said, I had a long talk with a prodigy and his parents at one conference I went to in California. I have to admit that I had an instant dislike of him (I can't remember how old he was, certainly under 13) but it turned out he was a nice guy, and his parents seemed to have very good intentions and knew what they were doing. So mileages do vary, but for every 13 year old grad who makes it big in the world, there are many more who quickly burn out.
posted by adrianhon at 4:26 PM on June 1, 2003


An adult is always by his side, often a campus security officer.

Too bad, I'd love to give that blonde bowl cut a nice swirlie. Here's his website.
posted by Frank Grimes at 4:32 PM on June 1, 2003


Flipping though some magazine the other day, can't remember which, noticed a pull quote. Something like "No child prodigy ever became a gifted adult, all gifted adults were not child prodigies." Einstein flunked algebra, Bill Gates was a ne'er-do-well Harvard dropout, Michael Jordan was a scrawny short kid, etc. etc.

Not saying prodigies don't do well, they all could have a house on the hill for all I know, but the individuals who have the most notable output as adults are rarely predicted to do so.
posted by raaka at 5:07 PM on June 1, 2003


My uncle went to Harvard at 15 (nothing like this kid, but still) and has always regeted doing it. My grandfather is a professor, and now so is the uncle -- and when people ask them about entering college early they both advise against it. Because the social stuff is (or at least should be) a huge part of it.
posted by puffin at 5:07 PM on June 1, 2003


There are some notable exceptions from the prodigy != gifted adult, though. Mozart and Leibniz spring to mind.
posted by cx at 5:25 PM on June 1, 2003


For anyone here who is looking at moving themselves or their kids ahead - it's not always a bad thing, though there are many discouraging tales out there.

I'm not this kid, or any other, but I've been ahead of the US school system all my life (one year early to kindergarten, skipped 3rd, full-time university classes at 14, and entered MIT at 16), and if I hadn't done it, I'm pretty sure I would've moved on to delinquency out of boredom.

I don't recall having social problems because of my age, ridicule was mainly reserved for the smart, and it wasn't worth it to lay low by playing dumb. Even at the university, other students (and even professors) were surprised that I wasn't of "regular" age - most of them wouldn't have known without my telling them, and the most awkward part of entering university early was still living at home when everyone else was in the dorms! By the time I got to MIT, no one noticed at all, and I think my social life here has been more than I ever could have expected it to be.

Sorry to have posted my academic life story, but I'm sure there are people reading this who are/have been in the same place. When done for the right reasons, moving ahead can be a great opportunity.
posted by whatzit at 5:32 PM on June 1, 2003


Just pull back that mop-top hair and I swear you'll see the numbers '666'
posted by filmgoerjuan at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2003


I knew a lot of people at MIT who were in your position, whatzit. They didn't seem to have any social problems. I think a lot of people would like to think that they did, though.
posted by transona5 at 5:41 PM on June 1, 2003


There are some notable exceptions from the prodigy != gifted adult, though. Mozart and Leibniz spring to mind.

Also Karl Gauss, John Nash, Andre Ampere, and John Stuart Mill, to varying degrees. Mill is also a nice illustration that they're not all "just" math wonks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:51 PM on June 1, 2003


Bill Gates was a ne'er-do-well Harvard dropout

I don't think Billi G ever did bad academically. He dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft.
posted by mfli at 6:37 PM on June 1, 2003


If only Nike would sign him to a contract...
posted by jonson at 6:39 PM on June 1, 2003


I have a co-worker whose son is quite gifted...nothing like this kid, but still very bright. She worries about him, though, because he's such a deep thinker. At age seven, he sits on the backyard swingset solemnly, unmoving. She'll go out and ask if he's OK. He'll sigh heavily and tell her something like he's worried about the world exhausting its natural resources or some such.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:48 PM on June 1, 2003


...not to mention a cure for the dreaded Real Admiral.
posted by LinusMines at 6:49 PM on June 1, 2003


Leibniz wasn't particularly distinguished as a child prodigy.. he entered school a little earlier than most people, but not dramatically so.

John Nash, of course, is famous for work he did while still in college. His decline as an adult is now common knowledge.

Mill was productive both as a child and as an adult, but he also suffered from severe depression and had some mental episodes.

Gauss refused to stop working on a math problem long enough to attend his wife at her deathbed.

Certainly there are child geniuses who grow up to be productive and well-adjusted adults, but man they are few and far between. Seems like the correllation between incandescent brilliance in childhood and burnout as an adult is too strong to be ignored.

Another thing that's weird is that Mozart, Mill, and Ampere (at least) were all educated by their fathers. Seems like most of the child prodigies these days are associated with their mothers. Suppose there is a reason for this? I don't think low education among women is necessarily a factor, given that women were teachers and governesses. I don't know a lot about the subject, though, I guess.
posted by Hildago at 6:51 PM on June 1, 2003


Ummm, Gates did drop out of Harvard. It's hard to get into such places unless you have brains or a daddy who went there. So he may not strictly have been a ne'er-do-well, but he must have had some glimmer of intelligence and a decent essay.

Hildago: Mozart's mom died when he was a kid. Thus, it was not possible for her to have had a large part in his education. Such a shame that his sister, Nannerl, had a great talent eclipsed by her formidable younger brother.
posted by ilsa at 8:35 PM on June 1, 2003


(note that the prodigies are almost always male...).

i went to school with several prodigies and 99% of them were female. the lone male crashed and burned after the age of 17 and to this day lives as a total hermit in his parent's guest cottage. all of the females flourished and are now living full, and in some cases very exciting, lives.

for what it's worth the male was maths and sciences, the females all arts and lit.
posted by t r a c y at 8:37 PM on June 1, 2003


He was ... correcting adults' grammar by 2 -- the same age he decided to become a vegetarian.

Does this mean there's a correlation between the two? I've always suspected...
posted by soyjoy at 9:28 PM on June 1, 2003


Note on his biography page that--despite all of his educational and humanitarian accomplishments--the big font and the globe icon are reserved for Oprah.
posted by samuelad at 10:27 PM on June 1, 2003


Note on his biography page that--despite all of his educational and humanitarian accomplishments--the big font and the globe icon are reserved for Oprah.

Does this mean there's a correlation between the two? I've always suspected...
posted by LexRockhard at 11:17 PM on June 1, 2003


I think it's interesting that when a bunch of twelve-year-olds make a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the reaction is, "Neat!" No handwringing about how their parents must have pushed them, about how none of the films they'll make as adults will be any good, about how they'll "crash real hard" when they don't become the next Spielbergs. Because it's a movie, an action movie, no less, so it's cool.
posted by transona5 at 1:20 AM on June 2, 2003


Maybe because it's well known that many parents push for their kids to overachieve academically, but that they don't push for them to remake blockbuster films?

tracy: You're right about that... I suppose that a lot of the musical prodigies out them are female.
posted by adrianhon at 2:11 AM on June 2, 2003


yeah, if only mozarts sister had done more eh ?
obviously it was some kind of patriarchal conspiracy.
(note to the leaders of the patriarchal movement dedicated to the suppression of womankind - do you think you could get your shit together and get me a better job than my sister presently has?)

anyway, i'm off to play the omen soundtrack.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:53 AM on June 2, 2003


I just hope that he's been encouraged to be a boy as well as a prodigy. Play is essential to social and emotional development, isn't it?
posted by alumshubby at 4:40 AM on June 2, 2003


From the "Greg's Thoughts" page:

I humbly thank our troops and those of the international coalition that so bravely and selflessly defend our country and work to bring democracy to the world.

How many Poly-Sci degrees will he have to get before he figures out that invading another nation (whose longest-range weapon could only travel less than a tenth of the distance between there and here) without provocation != "defending our country"?
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:10 AM on June 2, 2003


wait.. has this kid been nominated for the peace prize?
posted by dabitch at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2003


There's a whole bunch of people who can nominate candidates for the Nobel. The hard part is actually winning.
posted by kickingtheground at 6:55 AM on June 2, 2003


The truth of the matter is, there are some phenomenally bright people (children too) in the world, but unfortunately our educational system is designed to promote the average at the expense of the exceptional. My belief is that many if not most children are capable of learning and advancing faster than the current educational system allows, but only if they get one-on-one attention. Home schooled children are often ahead of their peers. The point I'm trying to make is that child 'prodigies' often appear so exceptional because the vast majority of the population doesn't have their true potential cultivated. Yes, there are truly people who are a step above the rest, but I believe that step only appears so large because it was built that way by the system.
posted by PigAlien at 6:55 AM on June 2, 2003


Yes, but I've also met many home school kids that are behind their peers in social skills. There can be disadvantages too.
posted by agregoli at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2003


I think it's interesting that when a bunch of twelve-year-olds make a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the reaction is, "Neat!" No handwringing about how their parents must have pushed them, about how none of the films they'll make as adults will be any good, about how they'll "crash real hard" when they don't become the next Spielbergs. Because it's a movie, an action movie, no less, so it's cool.

Except their parents didn't push them, and if you read the article again you'll perhaps see that they did it for no other reason than to pay homage to the movie and understand it better by seeing it from the inside. What's endearing about their remake is how naive and genuine it is, not that they are prodigies. No one is saying they are prodigies. I guess what I have to ask is, what the hell do the two threads have to do with each other besides involving young kids?
posted by Hildago at 4:27 PM on June 2, 2003


I am deeply depressed to see that he is religious.

i'm deeply saddened that you would imply you are not religious.
posted by schlaager at 11:18 PM on June 2, 2003


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