stressing the smart kids : LUSENET : Squishy : One Thread

Were you a smart kid on display? Were you a kid who was treated poorly in comparison to the smart kids?

What do you think about parading these children in this manner?

Should twelve-year olds be allowed to go to college?

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000


I was a middle kid. Not in the brainy group, not in the average group. I was in the "she's not applying herself" group which I always knew was true but I just really didn't care.

I only saw the last five minutes of that show and I cringed through every second of it. The vision of that poor 2nd place kid with the eye twitches just got to me. He looks way too stressed out for someone so little. And then the pressure of being the "Smartest Kid in America"-- God, I wouldn't want to deal with that. I'm sure it looks just rosy right now to the kid who won but what are the consequences of this? How is this going to affect his psyche?

This is why, for the large part, I don't think people should be told their IQs. Some can handle it, some can't. Some people tend to take it as a clear-cut statement: "My IQ is this and this is all I can do". I perform intellectual evaluations as part of my job and I try to stress that I PERSONALLY do not believe the IQ test is truly accurate. There's a lot of knowledge that you just don't get from "book learnin'".

If a person ends up with one of those freakishly smart kids who are intellectually (if not psychologically) ready to start college at 12, I say let them. Just do everything possible in your power to ensure that the kid is also a KID. Keeping them in their normal grade won't do anything but make them very bored and the likelihood of behavioral difficulties will increase. Make sure the kid knows he can opt out if college becomes too difficult. Make sure he knows about the animosity he will likely face from the college students.

There's no sense in holding the kid back if it is his wish to attend college but there are many areas to cover if this is what parents decide they want to do. I saw some Dateline episode a few months back about a kid who was 11 or 12 and entering college; when asked what the kid liked to do he replied, "Study. Learn. That's about it." His parents said he didn't really like playing 11 or 12-year-old games and he didn't even really like kids his age. He thought that they were too immature.

I hope they have a psychologist lined up for that boy. He'll need one.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I also think that entering college at that age (or home-schooling) makes it very difficult to get along with your peers. You have no way of identifying with them. You don't learn how to share or deal with teasing, or even find out your personality.

You are what you learn, and that's it.

Environment is a huge part of personality-shaping. I know that much of who I am is because of the places I've been and the people that I've met. Speeding up the process by making a twelve-year old go to college only hurts them in the end.

And those tics. I know those tics. The stress tics. I've seen them and I know what causes them and it just makes me so sad.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Oh God, when I saw the ads for that Quiz Kids show I couldn't believe it was real. The concept so reminded me of the child character in Magnolia, and that heartbreaking scene (I cried through it too Pamie).

I was one of those party trick kids that got trotted out to impress all the grown-ups. As a child I spent more time hanging out with adults than with my peers, mostly because I was a total social outcast and kids my age thought I was a freak.

I hated being smart, and hated being paraded around like a prize calf. I think it is disgusting to put children on display.

Disgusting and damaging.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I was one of those kids. Reading at two. Reading at a university level in grade two.

And then... [insert very sad story, here]

I couldn't even watch that show...every time a promo for it would come on, I would jump up and point at the screen and shout "child abuse!'. My husband is a patient man..he listened to my little rant every time about how knowing the answers isn't always intelligence, and how children need to know that they can fail as well as win, but learning that lesson on national television is very, very bad.

What kind of parents put their children under that much pressure? Geez. It hurt me to think of these poor kids being put into such adult situations.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I fell asleep in front of the TV Tuesday night, before that show came on. My husband says that they played a commercial for the Smartest Kid show, and I murmured in my sleep, "When are they going to LEARN what that does to kids"?! When he asked what I meant, I said something along the lines of "It's bad. It's Magnolia bad."

There is a certain amount of healthy competition that can be encouraged among gifted children, but this is going WAY too far. I said it in the other forum yesterday, but not one of those kids struck me as socially comfortable in the least. What happens to the kid who learns to introduce himself as, "My name is Michael, and my IQ is 270." Well, after he gets beat up on the playground...he'll grow up and be just as socially inept.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Speaking as a high school sophmore, I completely agree that there is entirely too much pressure put on or otherwise. I think that parents have either totally forgotten about when they were a kid or they just don't understand.

I used to be in advanced classes from about the 3rd grade till the 6th and I dropped out b/c there was way too much pressure from my parents and teachers.

I look at my brother and sister and I kind of feel sorry for them b/c of what my mom puts them (and me) through. All she talks about is school this and school that. It's not "Hi how was school did you do anything fun today?" it's "What homework do you have, do you have all of your books?" I think that she's too focused on school and not with what we want/think.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I'm going to disagree here... I didn't watch the show b/c the commercials were way too Magnolia for me, but thinking back I rather liked that kind of thing. I did spelling bee every year in elementary school, and I was pissed if I lost, but on the other hand it was the only chance I got to perform in front of the school. I was certainly one of the shyest children around, and began freaking out with so many people around me in kindergarten, but all that would fly out the window when someone asked me a question. Everyone likes to show that they can do something well. Brain Bowl is more like football for us nerds.

Granted this can be taken too far, and you should never push a child to do something like that if they really don't want to... but I don't think there should be a stigma attached to "being on display" like that. Hell, when I was in fourth grade I woulda jumped at the chance to win money on TV for being smart.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

FOX should be giving the money to smart kids who aren't going to get the scholarships to Harvard and such. I am a smart kid yet I am looking for every cent to go to college. All of those kids aren't going to need the money. Give it to ME.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

when i was a freshman in high school, I was on the academic octathalon team. (which is the same as the one pamie was in except for younger teens and therefore only involves 8 subjects)

well i remember our team had one too many people and we took this massive test to see who would be cut out. the unfortunate cut was a friend of mine who was so emotional about losing that she was still allowed to come to the meetings as an alternate. she cried,literally, to me about it everyday for a couple of weeks. she HAD to be on the team. she HAD to be a winner.

she was making me so uncomfortable that i dropped out and let her take my spot on the a student team. that was the end of my academic competition history. i had been going to math and history competitions since i was 11. All during jr high, I was on an undefeated math team. something in me snapped when I saw how insane my friend was acting about the competition.

I'm very glad that I quit when I did. I was *this* close to being a contestant on the Texaco Academic challenge (that used to come on tv saturday mornings in houston). I'm glad that I didn't.

my boyfriend watched the show and at some point i had to stop watching. i'm not going to get into it, but somehow i felt personally offended. i also wanted to rescue each of those children.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I was in "TaG" (Talented and Gifted) from third grade through middle school, though I was only a B-average student. (I rocked the classes I liked, but got Cs in math, and let's not discuss Chemistry.) I never felt like the school systems put undue pressure on me, or that I was treated like a party trick. But, dealing with my parents often sucked. If I brought home a report card that was all A's except for 1 B, instead of a "great job!" I'd get "so where's the last A?" I guess my parents had been told I was smart and 'above average,' so anything less than perfect wasn't good enough.

As for the Smartest Kid show- this is the first I've even heard of it. (I don't watch network TV.) Nor have I seen "Magnolia." But, it sounds horrible! And so does Pamie's Academic Decathalon. I agree that that seems to put way too much pressure on kids.

I think, that if it's what the kids want, 12 yr olds should be allowed to go to college, but hey shouldn't be under pressure to do so. I don't think anyone should be pressured into going to college if they don't feel ready. Not allowing a kid who wants to go might be just as adverse as forcing a kid to go who doesn't want to. And, if the kid goes and then doesn't feel comfortable or doesn't like it, I don't think s/he should have to feel bad about wanting to leave and wait until later. Heck, I started college at 17 and quickly realized I couldn't handle it.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I think recognizing the intelligence of a particularly gifted child is OK, but I have issues with pitting them against each other. I was highly competitive as a child, and I know losing ANY competition on national television would have crushed me, whether it was Battle of the Child Geniuses or Double Dare or a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. I remember yelling at one of my really good friend during a junior high Academic Pentathalon Super Quiz because she missed what I thought was any easy question - I felt bad later because I had gotten so wrapped up in winning that I'd hurt my friend's feelings. I don't think putting 13 year olds in that kind of environment is healthy for the winners or the losers - they only serve to inflate egos (hand sheepishly going up here) or feed inferiority complexes.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Well, I've never answered a forum question before, but this one I can't pass up. I was one of those smart kids. All the other kids thought I was a freak. And that pressure, the pressure of everyone saying, "You're the smartest kid. You have to get everything right." That's not healthy. But being a smart little brat, I just started losing spelling bees and such on purpose. I still got perfect scores on everything, but I didn't have to undergo public scrutiny. It was funny, because everyone knew that I was smart including of course the teachers, and knew that I was spelling things wrong on purpose in the spelling bees. Ha. I would spell the first word, you know, the really easy one, wrong, grin and sit down. But not all these little kids who are really good at fact recall are good at figuring out my passive-agressive solution. And no kid should ever have that kind of pressure on them. I really think that TV show was a form of child abuse.

As for twelve-year olds in college, I don't know. I was probably capable of handling college homework at about age 13, but I'm glad no one tried to make me go. The gifted program at my school was really good. I think most really smart kids are not equipped emotionally to handle college. But we need some alternative. Maybe there should be a college for really smart kids. Then they could do college classes and still interact with people their own age. That would have been perfect for me.

Anyone want to start a college for kids?

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

i participated in Academic decathlon. At my school even if you were a good student the teacher who sponsered it pretended you didn't exist if you quit the team or said no, i was asked at one point to lower my grades but didn't. I never left school before 9pm at night sometimes after spending an hour hour working on the inflections in the first sentence of my speech.

There's just so much of you're saying 'da Da Da da' and need to say 'da Da da Da' in that line before you just want to give up, crawl under the covers and cry! Oh the horror!

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

i grew up in those "honors" and "gift and talented" classes. it was fun and challenging, and i surrounded myself with a lot of like- minded peers. i was briefly involved with academic decathalon, too.

what is unfair are the labels that are attached to students that aren't in those programs.

one of my sisters struggled through school, was borderline dyslexic, had teachers call her "stupid" and "retarded," and now hates school and everything associated with it. she dropped out of junior college. she was in what the texas school districts call "average" classes --- certainly not the place for special ed students, which is how she was made to feel.

i know there are real exceptions out there in the ways of teaching, but i have major gripes with the public school system. educators put some kids on a pedestal ... and don't even give a crap about the others.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I am *still* a smart kid on display. My mother is getting a Ph.D. in Education this year and every single one of her papers involves her caling me up and asking if she can use my life and my old school work and writing and artwork etc. as research. Uh, sure.

Thing is, I haven't been a gifted child in, oh, 20 years. :)

What complicates it is that I had some unapparent developmental difficulties, so I get to hear all the time what a miracle it was that I learned to walk straight with my congenital hip socket defect and flat arches (the way my hip bones sit in the ball socket just means that I can put the top of my foot under my chin and do other painful-looking things that are far more comfortable to me than sitting indian-style). I tend to swing my legs around when I walk, which is hard to explain and I can't do it on command. It gives me what some boyfriends called a flirtatious sway. Huh. Believe me, it never has held me up and I have more grace than you'd think...I have never broken a bone or gotten a sprained ankle). It took forever for me to master certain gross motor control things while I was doing incredibly intricate artwork and craftwork. You have to look hard to discover these quirks, but they're the flipside of a high IQ.

I was pushed to take dance (sucked, but I don't remember), art classes (liked those), piano lessons (I also took trombone briefly because I was told girls don't play trombone), etc. I was alwasy being pushed to enter contests. I had a lot of merit badges as a Girl Scout and sold the most cookies in Georgia or a multi-county area or something one year. Whatever. I always had a job, no matter how insignificant. I won prizes for baking cakes and making chalk art on sidewalks and for writing. I made logos for universities and businesses liek Dollar Rent-A-Car when I was in high school.

In college, I ran the literary magazine and poetry readings and etc. for three years, with or without a co-editor, and three years was the maximum length of time you could hold the position. Meanwhile I was designing my own major (I am dual-certified and would have had three BAs if I had wanted to stay in college for more than four years--I graduated on time and with only two more credit hours to go to earn a third BA in Communications). I worked three jobs and advanced placement classes and participated in art shows. I didn't have a car so I walked most everywhere I went and I was constantly researching somthing or other in the library because I wanted to, not because I had a paper to write. I was active with the foreign exchange student assocaition and tried to learn several languages from them just for kicks. I took and posed for photographs. I wrote TONS of poetry and short stories. I did a huge stack of cartoons. Some were published. I was a stressed little person, but I don't recall feeling overwhelmed. (Nowadays, one job is more than enough for me and I'm worn out all the time and overwhelmed! How I did it then, I don't know.)

It's hard to live up to my past. I used to have all the time in the world to be creative, plus my lodging and food were supplied. Now I constantly feel guilty because I'm not being creative and productive enough. I have a hideously serious work ethic and feel guilty if I sneak away to send an e-mail. I work 10 hour days (or more) and claim them as eight. I rarely eat lunch, and usually it's at my desk. I get involved in all sorts of activities.

When my mother calls me to ask me what its like being a gifted child, or what it ws like having such and such a developmental difficulty, I don't know what to say. I felt that all the focus was on things I could do nothing about. I couldn't help it that my arches were flat any more than I could help it if I read all my textbooks for the entire school year in two nights because I actually ENJOYED DOING THAT. I don't remember what it was like not to know how to read. I am hard on myself with I typo or mis-speak or make an human error, because I've been told for years that I'm not supposed to make errors. I'm harder on myself than anyone else has ever been.

It wasn't easy. I distinctly remember actually trying to stop existing at the ripe old age of five. Luckily I wasn't as good at killing myself as I was in other areas. I don't mean to sound dramatic, really, but don't let anyone tell you it is a picnic being told what your IQ is and being expected to be GREAT and EXTRA-good at things, to be SOMEONE IMPORTANT, to be BETTER. To somehow, because of some test, to be exempt from making errors normal kids make. It was a lot of stress to deal with, and when doing your best isn't good enough because 'you've got so much potential' or 'you know better than that' or 'I'm disappointed in you, you're to smart to have made such a stupid mistake', it is crazy-making.

The most depressed and self-critical people I know are the smartest ones. If they are also creative smart people, it magnifies the internal crappy feelings that they seem to haul around.

When I'm tired, I am particularly prone to making thoughtless errors. You wouldn't think I was such hot sh*t then, trust me. And I'm tired a lot of the time these days. :)

I do have to admit that I'm pretty easy-going and passive, and if I hadn't been nagged and pushed into a lot of activities, I'd never have done 90% of them. Not sure if that's good or not.

All in all, the curse of being considered smart is that it's a hard thing to live up to all the time. It's a sore spot with me when people treat me like I'm an idiot, even if I've just acted like one by spacing on something obvious. But if I could take it all away, based on the assumption that ignorance truly is bliss, I still wouldn't give it up.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I was the valedictorian of my smallish high school and I can honestly say that one of the best things about college has been the fact that not one person has ever turned around after a test has been graded and handed back and said "What did you get? HA! I BEAT YOU!" to me like they won the Olympics or something. Sheesh I can't be perfect all the time.

Of course, I was a snot on occasion when I knew people were cheating off me and I put wrong answers down and waited until they handed their papers in before changing mine.


-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Well, actually, there is a school out in western Mass called Simon's Rock College of Bard (or something like that) and it's basically for really smart kids that should be in college but don't want to go to Harvard or Yale or something, because they are only fifteen. I knew a girl that went there when she was fifteen.

In high school, I was in Honors classes for English and History and things of that nature. Never math or science, don't even get me started, even thought I took Algebra in eigth grade instead of freshman year, I suck at math and science. Still do. Anyway, that is neiher here nor there. When I was a sophomore, in my Honors English class, the teacher essentially gave the good grades to the students who LOOKED smart. You know how you can tell who gets the good grades in high school, everyone knows who they are... Well, being the little artsy girl that I am, I didn't LOOK like one of "the smart kids". So my teacher gave me C's and wouldn't recommend me for Honors English the next year. So I took a writing course instead, and after the first paper, the teacher called me aside and said, "What are you doing in this class? Why aren't you in Honors Brit Lit?" And I said it was because my teacher last year refused to recommend me. This teacher was pissed, because he thought I was too smart for that class, so he basically let me do whatever I wanted and he put me in Honors the next year. My high school was so whack about that sort of thing. I am now in my sophomore year in college, at a very good school, and because I don't have all the bullshit pressure that I got from my high school (not to mention the competition there was ridiculous), I have a very high GPA, I have finished all my requirements, have almost finished my first major adn am starting to work on a second one, and I will be doing an Honors project my senior year. It's amazing what a kid can do when allowed to branch out and not have pressure on them...

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I did watch the Fox show, and I thought it was great! All of those kids got a free trip to California, and other stuff as well. The finalists did very well financially, plus all of them got to be on television.

It's just entertainment, that's all. Don't read to much into it. At least, the Fox network is trying to have a show that features intelligence, would you rather they do a miniseries on 'Lord of the Flies' as well?

And the best part? Fox is going to do this show AGAIN! I can't wait!

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

This is a topic that I can't resist answering either. I was one of those gifted kids too-- honors classes, Academic Games (not a quiz show like Decathalon-- but still v. competitive & stressy), spelling bees, National Geography Bee, gifted summer camp, Teen Jeopardy!, I could go on. I definitely have mixed feelings about the whole experience.

On one hand it was nice to be recognized for being good at things I enjoyed doing. I was never the shy & retiring type so I got a kick out of the performative nature of being the "smart one". I wasn't obsessed with studying either-- I played sports, worked in crappy jobs, did theatre, played the violin, sang in the chorus, and volunteered too. I was only competitive with myself & felt that learning was more important than GPA (3rd in my class, much to the chagrin of my parents).

On the other hand, I felt really isolated from my peers. I was pretty much what I now call "socially retarded" all the way through high school. I was mocked and made to feel the freak b/c I was good at what I enjoyed. This led me to rebel in unconstructive ways. Eventually I ended up going to a prestigious university where *everyone* had a similar background, so I no longer felt the pressure. I've been slacking ever since...I look back on my overcommitted youth & wonder how I did it all.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Wow, definitely a loaded topic.

I was a "smart kid" too, although I never went to a school that had a quiz team/academic decathalon type of activity, so that wasn't an issue. I think dealing with different ability levels might be the biggest challenge of an educational system. My teachers wanted me to skip a grade at age 7, and if my parents had agreed I might have wound up as one of those kids who start college at 16. Fortunately, they came up with a different solution, which was to put me in a more challening private school. I would have been a social disaster if I'd started skipping grades, I'm sure - although I have a friend who started college at 15 and did just fine socially as well as academically.

On the other hand, if I'd stayed at grade level at the school I was in, I would quickly have been bored out of my mind. Recognizing how lucky I was that my parents could afford that solution, I wish there were more options available to those who can't.

The thing that floored me about your entry, Pamie, is to wonder (as someone who has a job teaching students about teamwork) who on earth got the idea that academic excellence is about competition? In my high school we worked in groups in our math class, which meant those of us who "got it" wound up teaching those who didn't. That was frustrating too at times, but it was how I learned the difference between really understanding something and just getting the right answer - if I could explain it clearly to someone else, I knew I understood. And it taught me teaching skills, and patience, and how to explain my ideas clearly - all pretty important life skills, I'd say.

Some of my current students were involved in a program called "Odyssey of the Mind", which was a different sort of "smart kid academic contest". Each competition involved a different puzzle or problem to solve (build the strongest bridge you can out of a specific list of equipment, and test it by seeing how many books you can stack on it before it falls, for example). The problems were given out ahead of time, and the kids worked on them in teams of 4-8 or so, then took their finished product to a local competition where there was a scoring/prizes system. Seems like a much better alternative to me - working as a group reduces pressure, encourages creative thinking and problem solving rather than right answers, each group has a finished product to take home and be proud of at the end.

In my opinion, leadership and communication skills are much more valuable in almost any field or future than pure knowledge. And the ability to puzzle out possible solutions to problems rather than just memorizing answers is pretty important too. Most real life problems don't have right answers - I'm not sure why our educational system is so stuck on assigning problems that do.

Okay, end of rant :)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

But Sarah,

I did "Odessy of the Mind." And it is a competition. We put in so many hours at each other's houses working on these projects. Hours. Hours of making paper airplanes, trying to get them to stay in the air the required amount of time. Hours working on equations and concepts. For like a month. Then we'd all go to the big competition, which if you win goes to state, nationals and world.

It was very, very stressful. Especially when you're twelve. Then the "spontaneous," where you and your team were given a puzzle and you all had to work together without talking to solve the problem. Stress.

I don't know. I don't see much of a difference between OM and Academic Decathalon. I remember more about studying/stressing/working on OM than Academic Decathalon. I think because we were all so young, and during Academic Decathalon I was also in high school, where I was doing theatre and yearbook and other things that distracted me from Decathalon. (Our perk was our own study room with our own cubby holes, so that we didn't have to have a locker, and we could hide there during pep rallies. That makes it sound like we had to hide. I guess, kinda, we did).

But I remember both years I did OM. And I remember vividly the emotions I felt when we lost after we had done all of that work.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I am still a "child on display". Seventeen, almost a senior, in all AP classes in high school, clarinet section leader in the top-tier band, Adopt-A-Grandparent president, NHS officer, 33 on captain of Scholastic Bowl. Just finished our last season. The issue of pressure on us "child geniuses" is kinda weird, in my opinion....without being as intelligent, I wouldn't be Kate at all. Without having kids call across the room, "She reads fast! I watch her eyes move!" or having someone ask you a question about Catcher in the Rye instead of a teacher, I'd feel weird and not myself. Which is ungood in itself - I don't think sometimes I should feel wrong if I'm not as bright as a teacher. But that's the way we feel sometimes. Plus, this whole pitting us smart ones against each other in Scholastic Bowl and whatnot, while fun for me and I wouldn't give it up, when I step back and look at it seems like it may not be the best way to show off brains. I myself have caught myself getting angry at a teammate because he didn't know that the 13th century novel about Italian peasants fleeing the plague was Boccacio's Decameron. I've been screamed at for saying Shakespeare's children were named John and Mary....but we also have fun. Not many "regular" kids would see the humor in a group so frustrated with dumb questions that we answer "Maid Marion" ruled the tiny triangle of land called the Vexin (actually "Eleanor of Aquitaine"). Or would bend double laughing over nicknameing a girl Katerina Ivanovna (from Crime and Ounishment) and seeing the aptness of it. I don't know. I guess I'm just trying to explain in a very messed-up way that whatever the downside to Scholastic or Academic Bowls are, there are also fun sides. You have to take the bad with the good in these cases. It might be the only outlet some kids have.

(And I'll stop my gibberish now.)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I was a smart kid, too. I was always in the "Advanced" classes and in "Gifted & Talented". I barely worked at all, finished in the top 10 (that's a number, not a percent), went to college, and promptly went on scholastic probation for driving my GPA into the ground. I had no work or study ethic. In high school I barely had to exercise my brain to acheive acceptable results.

Like Pamie, I was also in OM and AD, but my experience was quite different. The creative elements were stressed by our teacher more than winning. In one project we had to design a structure that would sustain a weight placed upon it. It was to be built out of little sticks and glue. We made elaborate spears instead and threw them at each other.

In another project, related to history, we were to do some sort of project about Pompeii. Amongst our choices was to perform a play. We wrote a play where Captain Kirk and the Away Team visited the Temple of Isis. We built a big backdrop. Our teacher suggested we place graffiti on the walls, since that was discovered in Pompeii. We wrote "Joanie Loves Chachie". We never won, but we never expected to win, either.

In junior high I was a nerd. I remained a nerd in high school, but we had theatre. I happened to be good at that, as well as funny, which seemed to put me in a different category. I could still hang out with my nerd friends and be my intellectual self without being insulted, ostracized, or looked down upon.

I was never put on display or have unreasonable expectations placed upon me. I never gave more mental effort than I had to. Consequently I am a reasonably knowledgable and intelligent man with little anxiety or stress.

I think it is horrible to put these kids on display, as Fox did. I thought that when I saw the commercial for the show. I think that they should be allowed to go to college; no point in stiffling their mental development. Our best academic environments are our universities, after all. Still, provisions should be made for their unique needs. The have a social handicap which should be addressed.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Well I was also one of the smart kids. I was in Quiz Bowl and participated in the Duke University thing in7th grade and AP classes. All that stuff. I was also the piano prodigy. "Rhapsody in Blue" in 7th grade.

I was a complete outcast: big nerd what have you. I didn't care about grades but I was too smart to be considered one of the "cool" kids so I ended up hanging out with the study holics. Even though i had pressure performing the piano, I absolutely loved it. It was something that managed to preserve my self esteem in high school. I knew I was going to go out and do great things.

The problem came later when I had doubts about the piano. I mean it had consumed my identity. There's something about labeling someone the smart kid, the prodigy, etc. that's dangerous. It was a struggle to realize that I was more than that. I had other things to offer the world.

Another problem with being labeled the smart kid is that others assume your life is so easy. I got a job at a camp for at-risk youth and when everyone else was told here I went to college. Oh you're one of the SMARt KIDS and it seemed I was held to this high standard. My life was so supposed to be so much simpler than everyone else's because I managed to get the great GPA. The head of the camp kept telling me things like "it's the "C" students that rule the world" and "failure breeds character" Get the chip off your shoulder!!! It's not my problem. Why assume I've never failed at something because I got grades. There are other types of failures. I STILL HATE THAT MAN TO THIS DAY (it's been years!!)

I enjoyed attending summer camps for "gifted students" where I grew up. There wasn't any pressure or grades or anything. It was just fun to sit around and do kid things with people who read the same books you did, etc. So it's a mixed bag.

I'm probably in law school now so I don't have to deal with the "oh you're life is easy" assumption that other people attach to "smart kids."

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I was dux of my primary school in 1986, having been first in the year for the three or four years preceding. If I may say so myself, I was damn smart; I've been told that I could've been advanced a year through primary school, but that I wouldn't have been able to go to high school a year early and would've had to repeat the last year of primary school. The folks thought this sounded pretty useless so I was just kept to my normal schedule. Being smarter than the rest of the kids at school wasn't problematic until I got to high school and suddenly found there were quite a few people who were a lot smarter than me in some areas. Obviously I was talented in some areas, usually languages, but there were times when my averageness or even outright failure in other areas like maths was a problem for me.

However, I was lucky in that no one was particularly forcing me to be super-intelligent, merely to do the best at whatever I could, and no one was forcing me to be super-intelligent on TV either. Since the program everyone's talking about here hasn't penetrated Australia's bounds I obviously haven't seen it, but it sounds pretty poor to me. Another case of parents forcing their children to compensate for their own childhood failure in some area or other, evidently. And I know exactly what you mean about that scene from Magnolia. I didn't cry through it but it was wrenching stuff. I could've killed them all, taken a gun to Jimmy Gator, to that bitch of a floor manager, to those pricks on the "adults" side of the studio, and especially to Stanley's dad. I thought it was genius how Anderson gave the kid the last line of that song, "so just give up". Best moment in the film, probably

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was also one of "THOSE" for about 10 minuets. I saw all of the SH** that the "Brains" would endure, and being smart I figured that this, definitely, was not preferable to going to the playground or "Mickey Ds after school. Now thats smart.

I was one of those who constantly received comments like "Does not work up to potential" comments on my report cards. Unfortunately my divorced, alcoholic parents didn't give a damn about anything I did much less try to "Parade" me in front of others, so I was left to work out my own level. Like getting straight As for half the class then screwing off the rest of the year. Pissed off my teachers but I had a ball.

I learned to do just enough work to gain the advantages the smart kids got (IE. trips, parties, special cubbies), but also knew where to draw the line when there was fun to be had (IE: sneaking out back to partake in a little mind altering recreation and/or kissing girls).

As far as competition was concerned it was fun (sometimes) to humiliate a arrogant, uppity person, who thought they were gods gift to the school then strip off my button down shirt and go off with the stoners for a party. Maybe that was when that person would have to explain to there parent what happened. I am probably still paying carma points for that. Or how exhilarating it was to get into a GP competition in a upper level class with someone who enjoyed the challenge and pushing the curve so high that the other students threatened to kill you, then shaking hands and knowing that this was a real moment that helped forge your psyche.

The down side was that it took me several years longer then most to understand that excellence and hard work in the job market gains more than mediocre work leaves you.

If your goal is to perform for others then the COST of the adulation is stress and loneliness. If your goals evolve to working to be the best you can for you inner self and provide unselfishly four you family then the only one that stress you is yourself, and you can always say to yourself, "SELF, SHUT THE F**K UP" and then you go get a beer and no one is hurt.

Enjoy your intelligence. Its the canvas that you use to paint your experiences on, in vivid colors and then allows you to sit back and enjoy the diversity.


-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was bumped up a year at school when I was 11, and I don't know in retrospect if it was a good thing or not. I didn't fit with my peers before going up, and I didn't fit with my new peers after going up. However, I think that's more about the kind of child I was.

I disagree with pushing children too much. There surely must be a balance between extending a bright child and encouraging them to learn and develop, and completely fucking them up by expecting them to function on the same level as 20 year olds when they're only 12.

I think the parents of this kids should be extending them at home, so they don't have to 'officially' extended at school.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

On my first day of school, I knew that I was both the smartest person in the class and the dumbest person in the class. I could already read, but I didn't know left from right. Later I took classes five years ahead of my grade level and eventually skipped a grade (this was before G&T programs), but I also had to repeat first-year algebra. The pattern has continued: these days I am absolutely brilliant at some grad student tasks - everything except, you know, the thinking part.

I don't know if I could sit through Magnolia.

On the twelve year-old case: From the one article I read, it sounds like this kid may be being pushed, but it's not at all uncommon for kids to exhaust the resources of their schools, especially if they're in small towns and the parents can't afford private school. There was a terrific book written in the '60s, Genius in Residence by the parents of a ten-year old who went to college. From the book, they seemed like pleasant, laid-back people who were genuinely puzzled by how else to do the best for their child until everyone else could catch up with him (the most annoying problem seemed to be the other parents, who were jealous). Wherever that kid ended up, I hope he's all right.

On academic competitions: Competition is the American way. If quiz shows for kids are abolished, Little League should also be replaced by New Games. Which is not a bad idea, come to think of it.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

When I was very young -- 2nd, 3rd grade, my school split classes into A and B groups. A was smart kids, B was slow kids. I was put into all of the B classes because I wasn't social or comfortable around other kids or pretty. This was made clear to me by teachers as well as other students. Smart kids are successful kids, I wasn't successful, so therefor, I wasn't smart. I would sit in these slow classes and finish an entire math workbook, correctly, in a day and then be yelled at for doing it in pen and before the teacher had given me permission -- what if I had gotten something wrong? Well first, I hadn't, and second, so what if I had? Eventually, they put me in the smart groups and the more social kids were even more brutal, and when they weren't being brutal they would be like "oh we'll help you catch up" in the meanest voices when I didn't need it. Books really are the only thing I ever believed in. When I was 7, I read Hiroshima. Anything I could get my hands on about nuclear war, really. It was the 80s. When I was 12, I read The Vampire Lestat and for years, every night before bed I would pray that vampires were real so someone would take me away from here, so that there would be some way of living where it would be okay to be strange and smart and emotional. It seems silly now, but it was everything.

A few years ago, I was really sick (that's a different story) and for days it seems I was delirious as all the water seemed to leave my body by any means it could find. It was like the way people became vampires in those stupid books. After all of that, for the first time, I was okay. But I never wanted other people to matter this little.

That's what happens to smart kids -- other people stop mattering, either because they are too kind or too cruel or too slow or too smart. Everyone becomes a threat when intelligence matters more than character or personality.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

When I was in school, there weren't any programs for smart kids. If you were bored, you got in trouble.

An individual teacher might take an interst in you. They had time to do that, then. With smaller classes and a lighter load of bureaucratic paperwork.

There weren't all that many gifted teachers. There were some, and some who kept it, but the attrition rate was high, and their peers didn't go into the profession to be on the keen cutting edge of what is happening in the culture, intellectually.

I won the spelling bee in the 6th grade.

I dropped out of high school for being thrown out of classes, for shooting my mouth off. Did two hitches in the service. That cured my smart mouth.

When I went to college, I made good grades, so I could win a fellowship, to graduate school. I was in classes with students who were in the honors program.

They had been identified as bright, and were treated as bright, their whole lives, and, while in some ways that made it easier for them, in other ways it made it harder (more was expected of them). It seemed to me they had less undirected time, to explore, to read widely, than I had had, in the service. And made sure I kept, in college.

It was too programmed, for me. Surely some of them rebelled.

I graduated magna cum laude without being in the honors program, and still read what the professors, bright kids writ large, disapproved of.

Now I write as I please, and they accuse me of not knowing my horn. For not playing the licks they so assiduously learned.

In the College of Hard Knocks an expulsion is often a promotion, Scott Nearing says.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

i was a smart kid. my parents were brilliant about it, encouraging me without pushing me; i was taught to read and spell and add before i was 2 purely because i showed an interest in it. at primary school i always did well but wasn't really conscious of being smarter than the other kids; same with the first couple of years of high school. then i changed schools and realised i was too smart to be a cool kid, so decided to concentrate on being a smart kid. i was friends with all the other smart kids, which ended up in massive competition round exam time, and i think helped turn me into the hugely competitive person i am today. i spent most of high school being gutted if i didn't come top of an exam, and smiling through clenched teeth at whichever friend had beaten me. i'm incredibly glad that there were no competitions like those you describe around me at that time, otherwise i would have been compelled to enter and crushed when i lost.

any other australian readers here? i'm sure that most people would agree that the australian (or at least new south wales) school system entails probably the most stressful final exams anywhere, ever. it's not the difficulty of the exams, but the way in which they are graded - all the marks are totalled up, fiddled with, and then *everyone* who is sitting final exams that year is ranked against *everyone else* (in my year, roughly 60 000 people), and given a mark indicating their percentile band (the 10 or so people who are top of the state are given 100, the next few 99.95, then 99.9 and so on). so everyone knows *exactly* how they did in comparison to everyone else they know. which might be ok, if it weren't for the fact that the names and schools of the top 6000 or so are published in one of the major newspapers. i was so terrified about this that i made sure that i was out of the country when the results came out...i still shudder to think about it.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

Whoa.... when I saw this topic I had to contribute. This really touches a nerve, even 11 years after high school and 8 after college! I was also one of the "smart kids", and heavily pushed, mostly by my perfectionist mother who I think was trying to resolve some of her own issues, but that's another story. I can totally identify with those of you whose parents asked "why is there a B, instead of ALL A's?"... as a matter of fact, MY folks (mainly mom) would freak out if it wasn't a HIGH ENOUGH A. That's right... we got numeric scores. To top it all off, my mom was a substitute teacher and since she could actually control junior high kids, she was "in demand"... and AT MY SCHOOL DAMN NEAR EVERY DAY. I also identified with Jon, who says he floated through high school, then went to college and promptly figured out that he didn't know how to study. That's EXACTLY what happened to me, and my parents even threatened to make me come home (mind you, this was for a B/C average, not even probation) until I reminded them how completely un-fun it would be for them if I lived with them the rest of my life. I ended up graduating early and am now a CPA. My younger brother is an attorney, which is smashing, considering my mother actually told me once she was surprised he did so well academically, since "they figured he'd be the *athletic* one and I could be the *gifted* one". WOW. I do have to admit, though, life is much easier as far as teacher relations when you have the *stigma* attached, and although I've painted a terrible picture here, my parents were very loving and nurturing for the most part. I also played tennis, so I wasn't a COMPLETE dork, and actually ended up being very well thought of in school. If there's someone out there dealing with this, here's a surefire way to ease relations with your fellow students: let them cheat off you. Not all the time, and not enough to give them better grades than you, but I remember it was oh-so-cool to drop an answer here and there. Makes you more "real" and "approachable" I guess. And it takes less time than actually TUTORING someone. Anyway, I've ranted enough about this... just really struck a nerve! Needless to say, I didn't watch the show... I've seen enough of my friends over the years reduced to crumpled masses for missing ONE question... didn't need to relive THAT.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000


We are a bunch of smart people with alot to say on this subject. I have to side with most of us on this one as far as the quiz shows on tv. Tooo much pressure. But it is nice to see intelligence on tv, I just wish it wasn't like a freak show. I was in Academic Pentathalon (jr High version of the decathalon). We had Super Quiz on Music. Music. Anything in music. Ugh, lets narrow that down a bit. I was one of the 'C' Kids. The teachers loved me because I was one of those really smart kids who would ace every test but never turn in any homework, so the 'c' average. After that experience and the pressure from our school system to excell in academics by taking the classes they wanted you to take, and taking the tests they wanted you to take for their statistics, I got pissed. I refused to take any tests that were primarily for the schools bragging rights. I refused to take classes that were required for a "honors" graduation certificate. I took what I wanted to take and did what I wanted to do. I still got into college on my SAT scores. Once I was there I did the exact same thing and took philosophy and womens studies. I learned better, I wanted to take classes. I wanted to be smart. It did wonders for me to want to learn for me and not for family or the school. So my advice for smart kids, do what you want, learn what you want, take what you want. It is your life and like we have discussed earlier, what you spend your childhood doing fuels your fire for a career later. Draw! Paint! Play an Instrument! Read! Play on the computer! Play sports! Just do something you love!


-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I, too, am impressed at the number of "smart" people contributing here. I've got two points.

One, I agree with Diana's post above. Academic competition is so very similar to athletic competition in schools. I remember watching the Little League World Series and sobbing at sight of the losing team. They were totally distraught and were bawling with their foreheads on their knees. It reminded you that while they were playing as well as adults, they were just regular little boys with above-average athletic ability. Which brings me to my next point.

You can measure a child's intelligence quotient all you want, but what most adults fail to remember (the ones who push and pressure child geniuses anyway)is that EMOTIONAL QUOTIENTS are just as important, if not more so, than IQs. There was a good book out on this topic a few years ago. Intelligence will only get you so far (okay, it will get you to Harvard, but will you be a well-rounded, emotionally mature person? An eleven year old astrophysicist is just that-- an ELEVEN-year-old. Their brain may have great capacity, but they just don't possess the interactional skills of an adult. So why do adults think they'll be able to handle being on a show like Fox's? Eleven-year-olds are driven by the desires to 1) please their parents and teachers and 2)win! It's just like wanting to win at a video game and it's the same thing that makes kids in class turn around and go, "what'd you get on the test? I beat you!" They don't have the social grace yet to know that it's "unsportsmanlike" and immature to glance at your opponent when your question is read to see if they know the answer (I'm talking to you, kid that won the Fox show.) And they *shouldn't have* the social grace yet. That is what puberty is for. It's a time to learn about interpersonal relationships: What's acceptable behavior and what's not.

I was really struck by the opening of the "World's Smartest Kid" show. When the kids were introducing themselves, several of them mentioned they could speak five languages by the time they were seven. Too bad the languages didn't include English! These kids could barely spit out a sentence!: Evidence of the fact that they were scared silly. It's so irresponsible to put a child on display like that. Spelling bees and academic competitions are somehow different-- kids there are generally not on national television and people don't tune in to gawk at the "freakshow." It's so disturbing. I think it's great that these kids were blessed with the brains they were, and I feel good knowing they're the innovators of tomorrow, but God, I'm afraid for their judgement. Wait, wasn't that the plot of every Doogie Howser, M.D. episode?

On a different note, did anyone else notice how few girls there were on the show? Or how poorly these kids did on history questions? What does that say? You could read it a couple ways.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was skipped past kindergarten, and the whole time I was in elementary school my parents would occasionally discuss skipping me another grade, but they never did. I'm glad they didn't.

The thing about me, though, is that I'm a really lazy smart person. I did Gifted-&-Talented classes basically ever since I can remember, I went to a whole slew of different schools (since my father was in the Navy and we moved a few times, though I was only in one high school) and I was always in the top classes, but my parents have been great, and they've never made me do anything that I really didn't want to do. And like a lot of people, I would always ace any class I liked and just zonk out and then wake up and pull a C in a science or math class that I didn't care about. I put up with a lot of teachers going, "Well, she's smart, but she doesn't work to potential," to which I'd reply, "but I don't have to." I'm not sure that's a good thing, but I definitely am no perfectionist.

Sometimes I wish I was really stupid, though, so people wouldn't expect me to know things.

Wow, I really am lazy. I make me sick.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I think the parents of those kids should be reported to Social Services. IQ is only a tiny part of what and who you are.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

P.S. I thought the decameron was 14th century....the plague hit in 1348. See I'm 44 and I still do it. And to my kids,too.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

throughout my lower education i was a mixed bag of learning ability i suppose you could say...great at math and science in the remedial reading courses since kindergarden until they ended in 5th grade. going into my junior year in college i am only now able to sit down and read despite a real desire to do so for about 3 years now. i was always somewhat of a social outcast both for my social ineptness and lack of sporting interest, i tried to fit in by dressing alike but that didnt do anyhting for me except make me more confused and hurt. my parents never pushed me to get into things i didnt want to (mostly my mother, my father is what you could call an emotionaly unatatched person). if i had been pressured as a child i never would have been able to make it past first semester in college, i was never forced to have specified study time or anything and feel i am better for it...i can remember kids saying things liek "aw man am i glad i pulled straight a's this semester" and i never really understood where they were coming from. kids need to form their personality on their own and not under the pressure of thier parents or anyone else...their peers included. thats the only way anything is ever going to change, until then the world will still be run by the few A kids over all the others, it is my hope that mine along with others independance can someday put an end to this.

i think i got fairly off the subject here...sorry...ive wanted to say some of this stuff for a while now.

kids in college are a very difficult subject which i cant really even state an opinion on but if the kid feels he can do it he should at least try.

and the "world smartest kid" needless to say is disgusting...i wanted to hit that one kids parents who lost in the final. he looked like his heart was about to explode he was under so much pressure.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was one of those kids. Paraded around...picture in the newspaper 80 million times, you name it. I did the academic competition thing, too, with my high school, and we'd have won if we hadn't been screwed...but that's another story for another time.

My problem is now that I'm realizing what went on, and that it feels like my parents were (and still are) living through me vicariously, that my academic standards that I used to carry for myself--near perfection if at all possible and only the best that I could do would suffice--have all but disappeared, and I'm now in the "not applying himself properly" category. I'm a comp sci major, and I'm so totally burnt out on the idea of school that I have essentially stopped doing anything but that which requires the least possible effort.

I still hope to graduate next May, but I'm not going to count on it due to general slackiness on my part and the dipping grades resulting from that. Oh well...some people understand, and some people probably never will, but that's my story. =)

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

This is kind of a touchy subject for me. I was considered "gifted" around the age of 8.

I'm still fighting those "great expectations" today.

I don't believe in allowing a 12 year old to go to college. There are immense maturity and personal development issues involved in that.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was a straight A+ student until this year. No one really pressured me to do well but myself, and I expected it. In grade 10, my parents sent me to private school because I was bored out of my mind in public school and wanting to learn how to study. I was getting lazy. And still acing everything.

So here I am, I maintained my good marks for the first year I was here. I was involved in 2 bands, a choir, debating, yearbook, rowing, swimming and field hockey. I took the courses they told me to. I did their work. This year, grade 11 I wasn't quite the same prize student. My grades dipped enormously. Mind you, the year is coming to an end and I still managed to write 2 AP exams, neither of which I took a course for, be in 2 choirs, row and participate in Reach for the Top. I am just not interested in what they told me to do. Next year I am taking psychology and philosophy, independantly. I don't plan to take any sciences.

Reach for the Top is the smart kid quiz show. We call it Nerd Squad, Nerdapalooza, various other derogatory terms like that. It's by invitation, there aren't any real "nerds" on it, and we never practice. So we make interesting competition for the other schools. THe kids in the prep school uniforms have neon dyed hair, spend the breaks for discussing strategy making plans for that evening or making fun of their opponents. And then we kill them. We're good! We're fast, and we have a lot of the answers.

I love Reach for the Top. I don't think it's a travesty at all. I get incredibly nervous. My boyfriend laughs at me and reassures me because I shake the entire way through it. I may stutter. I tremble, I'm tense. I may say something completely off the wall. But that's okay. The adrenaline rush, the people, the competition all make it worthwhile. So while I'm panicking like anything, maybe like those kids on TV, I'm enjoying every minute of it. We joke around, we're good, close friends. We know it's okay to come back to the school having lost, or placed, but barely. Don't be too hard on this kind of program, it can be so much fun!

Parents and schools shouldn't push kids to do what they don't want to do. Kids should be given a supportive environment that may lead them to push themselves to do the very best they can at whatever appeals to them. 12 year olds should probably not be allowed to go to college. I don't think I'm ready to deal with it and it is only a year away.

This is a difficult question. I hope I'm not contradicting myself too much.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I was always the freakishly intelligent child from the beginning, and I guess I kind of still am, as I'm still in high school, but it's not quite as severe now, the disparity between the way I was treated and the way the "normal" kids were treated. I resented it for a long time, because it isolated me to an extent (although I won't blame my educators solely for my isolation; I recognize that most of it was my own doing), but my "smartness" is such an integral part of what I am and I take a certain level of pride in it, and I use it to define myself still. Did you ever read Flowers for Algernon? The way Charlie lost all his intelligence once again in the end? I read that book in seventh grade and I think subconsciously since then I've feared that would happen to me, in some way.

When I see twelve year old kids who speak ten languages and know chemistry better than my dad it just makes me feel stupid. When I was twelve years old I was drawing unicorns in my notebook and writing calligraphy and reading Roald Dahl still. I'm sure they're all nice kids, though. I know too many twelve year old idiots.

Speaking of which, another thing I feel pretty bad about is my two younger sisters, who are both very bright girls who I don't think will ever really tap all their potential, because of the competition with me. I can see they've already gone and convinced themselves that they're no good at math, defective at languages, stupid at science. (Actually, I feel pretty stupid at science too, but nobody can understand why.) They play instruments and sports, instead, two things which I am no good and defective at. So hopefully it'll even out.

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2000

Emma I'm like that, I hear about these kids and it makes me feel stupid. Even reading a lot of the entries here about all you reading at age 2, etc, makes me feel kind of dumb. How ridiculous is that? I think I was reading @ age 4, always in the "Gifted" stuff, straight A's through elem, middle, and high school and my first semester of college (just finished my second semester, we'll see how it pans out, I think I made all A's except for one B). My parents have never pressured me, I put more pressure on me than anyone. I did some academic competitions, Quiz Bowl, Geography Bees, I really liked them, otherwise I wouldn't have done them.

As far as 12-year-olds in college and the like, I'd say most kids wouldn't be emotionally prepared for it, though a few could handle it. Like I remember seeing this kid a couple years ago going to college at age 10 or something. He was brilliant but still had age- appropriate interests and seemed very well-adjusted.

So, um, yeah. No coherent conclusion here, sorry ;)

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2000

Jessica, when did you do the HSC? I did mine back in 1992 so I'm just interested to know if things have changed any in the years since. I personally thought the mid-year trial exams were a lot harder than the real thing, though the real ones were hard enough. The real problem with it is the perception many people have, and which the media encourages, about it being the be all and end all of your school career, and if you fuck this up then your future is down the drain. That's what makes it stressful. The kids start to believe this along with everyone else and the result for some is personally disastrous.

Obviously the score you wind up with at the end has some power to determine where you go after high school, at least if you want to get into university, but it's not the end of everything. All mine really did for me was get me a good enough score to get into the uni course I wanted, and once I was there I did a complete about-face from what I'd been doing at school. Otherwise all the stressing-out I did in Year 12 hasn't really amounted to anything much

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

james, i did the HSC in 1995 - i don't know how much it's changed but i remember in the few years preceding me doing it, it seemed to be being honed to the point of maximum evil. i've never been as stressed by anything since, which is gutting considering how, ultimately, it's so pointless (though i suppose i might not think of it that way had i not done well enough to get where i wanted to be). i remember talking with my friends about it at the time, and we all were under the impression that it was single most vital thing that we would ever do in our lives - what a load of shit; i realised a few months after it was all over how meaningless it all was, but all attempts to try and explain this to younger friends were always met with that "you have no idea what i'm going through" stare.

it does have some relevance on what and where you end up studying (if you're planning to study in australia at least - i went to uni in the UK so i'm not sure how much relevance my HSC had compared to interviews and aptitude tests that i had to do), but fundamentally, if you don't get into the course you want, there are always other ways of getting to where you want to be. it also had the effect of priveliging certain courses (law and medicine related stuff), so that 6 of my friends who i knew had no interest in law whatsoever ended up studying it, purely because it was thought to be a 'waste' of their marks if they 'just' did arts. needless to say, some of them have dropped by the wayside and spent years trying to figure out what they really want to do.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

I was always one of the 'smart' kids. I hated it. When I was in 6th grade they made the mistake of telling me that my IQ was higher than any of my teachers. So I gave up. I didn't do homework at all. I passed by my test scores. I did what I had to do to pass and then I read. I always had a book with me. I'd finish classwork in 10 minutes, so I would pull out my book and disappear into it. In high school I was in AP classes. I absolutely abhorred them. The other kids in my classes were the boring, goody two shoes. I wanted to be my own person. I dressed differently, I partied (smart kids didn't do that). I ended up taking the regular classes just so I could be with my friends. I wasn't interested in spending my evenings and weekends on school work or academic team competitions. I wanted to party. I was also heavily involved in the drama club. I did everything from acting to scenery to makeup. That was the best part of high school.

I ended up quitting school for a year, because of all the pressure to "live up to my potential". I did go back and graduated a year late.

The pressures put on the smart kids is wrong. I saw to many friends that ended up rebelling and ruining their lives because of it.

One of my very good friends went to college at 14. She called me at least twice a week crying. She hated being away from home, hated her roommate, hated her classes. She felt like a freak. She ended up drinking herself into a stupor one night, called me and while on the phone with me passed out. When her roommated came home, she picked up the phone and I begged her to call an ambulance. She did, but by then it was to late, Andrea was in an coma. She had severe brain damage and now has the mentality of a 6 year old. She's 25 now, lives with her parents, can barely tie her own shoes. How's that for a life?

I will never, never pressure my children like that. Everytime I see someone doing that to a child, I want to scream. I want to show them how Andrea's life turned out. I want to make them see how her life is ruined.

Damnit. It's just not right.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

Perhaps I shouldn't be responding to this. I don't know any of the people on here, and I don't know the background either - I'm from England, and the way our system treats the "gifted" (a term rarely used here) is very different. Hopefully I can give an interesting perspective though.

I nearly put academic system, but a lot of the talk here (forgive me for not reading it all, I can relate to the people, but don't always understand the events) is about the media. That's very different here. A kid getting to college or Uni here (college is past school, university is what you would call college) would probably be just a local interest story. If it made national news it would be that happy item they put at the end of an upsetting news day to cheer people up.

There are no "smart kid" shows on tv. None. We don't have the Spelling Bee, we only introduced SATs (meaning any kind of national, grade as a large number test) three or four years back. Hmm, moving to academia... I do remember a maths challenge quiz in my school (it was national, but I've never found anyone else who took it). I was entered a year early, and got the highest type of grade, and got my picture taken for the local newspaper. I stood at the front - because I was the shortest.

So you don't get treated as a freak here for being smart - and that's good. Or you don't by the *system*, anyway - obviously you still get bullied, favoured by some teachers, disliked by others... But just imagining what I might have gone through if my bullies had been encourage by seeing me on tv - it's not a nice idea : )

The downside - the academic system lets down smart kids. Skipping years is unusual, I don't know anyone who ever got a scholarship for being smart - I don't even know of any such scholarship programs, smart kids have generally far less attention on them, because they don't need help in classes, etc. However, don't think I think our system of education is bad - quite the opposite. My parents couldn't afford to send me to a private school though, and our free system doesn't have much provision for those much above average - I would normally get A's in all subjects except sports and art, and the lowest possible effort grade for all of them. As someone else said, I'd respond with, "I don't need to try". And my arguments were more convincing than my parents. As I found out at Uni however, they were quite wrong. I now don't know how to organise, or work.

At university level, I think, American and English systems are more similar, in that anyone can enter in theory, and the vast majority of people will have to work very hard to get the best pass possible, many just can't get the top level of degree, no matter how hard they work. I don't know how you differentiate between the quality of a degree pass though, or what kind of people tend to get each grade, so I'm not sure. Somebody email me and explain? I've wanted to know for quite a while, but never asked.

So yes, I think 12 year olds should be allowed to enter whatever level of education they can cope with - if they want to. But most kids simply aren't going to be able to cope with that socially - either in a real university, or private tuition of the same level. Perhaps a special kid college set up just for smart kids? That might be the only way to provide good education, and people their own age that they can relate to. That might work over here - the pressure to get your kids to succeed in joining wouldn't be that high - university is still quite cheap - though not free as it used to be about ten years ago.

Huh, I ended up rambling. It was a very interesting topic for me to read - I wanted to show some of the differences in culture that made it so.

Basically, over there, there's tremendous media pressure to succeed (from the greedy parents perhaps, but some of the kids must like it to), and great financial reasons, I think, as I have the impression that education is far more expensive. Maybe more people are messed up by it, but more people achieve their potential, too. (I have just noticed the post describing the Australian system, missed it the first time, sorry for lumping everyone together as American)

Here, less people are damaged by being pushed too hard, but more people miss out on what they could become. I am very aware of how much more I could have achieved, and I'm not even that smart.

I hope I didn't violate any unwritten (or even written, it's my first post here, and I haven't explored) rules, and yes, I know I suck for not reading it all. I'm normally thorough, I promise : )

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

Mm-hm. Math team, Scholars' Bowl (another name for the same game), independent studies classes and gifted programs since I was 6. Problem was, I was in public school in Alabama. Thinking back, it's was more like the Leg-Up program ("I start fires"). They even took us out of class at the same time as the kids in the LD classes ("learning disabled"- yep that'll give 'em confidence); no one could tell if we were smart or retarded since we all dressed about the same. My most vivid memory was a presentation for the parents where we were supposed to show off what we had learned, and since I had done a report on sharks and their anatomy, they gave me a shark to dissect. Problem was, I'd never dissected a shark before. They didn't even tell me I was going to until the day before; the teacher thought it would impress the parents. So there I was in my karate outfit (I don't quite remember why I wore that) sawing away at the cartilage with a dull scalpel promising to show the brain and feeling like the world's worst sushi chef.

Like many of you (Don, I know where you're coming from) I quickly learned that being labeled as smart set up expectations that I didn't want to live up to. In 7th grade I decided to rebel and started wearing a denim jacket, spiked my hair, and listened to a walk-man all the time. I was so Eric from Head of the Class. I would walk into the smart class every morning (we called it the nerd herd), announce "I hate you nerds", put my head down and go to sleep. I prided myself on getting A's yet maintaining a C average in effort. I would make up book reports because I knew the teacher hadn't read the book either. I wrote research papers on pop music and made up sources like Keith Moon as a writer for the National Review (which the teacher didn't catch- sigh). I once challenged a friend to see who could get the worst score at a math tournament- we tied at -200. Teachers would let me sleep in class out of fear that I would interrupt AP Government to read the constitution of my own subversive government. Basically, I was a smart ass.

I was reacting to the way I had been treated: ostracized by kids and teachers alike, punished for being creative, and put on display to show how wonderful my environment must have been to have produced such a smart, talented young man. I continued to thumb my nose and skate along through college. It's now, when I find myself challenged at work for the first time in God knows how long (and after I've killed a good many brain cells) that I wish I had made the most of my school years.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

as a "gifted kid" in a pull-out setting in elementary school and an accelerated middle/high school program i've been surrounded by people of my own intellectual level for almost my entire life. i skipped second grade at age 7 and since then i feel ive adapted to being a year younger...however the prospect of moving from suburban south florida to nyc for college at age 17 is daunting. it certainly has it's perks but the alienation i feel from "typical" people my age is upsetting. this isnt to say that i consider myself above average across the board [actually nothing could be further from the truth]; also my practical/emotional intelligence level is really low. basically everyone has their stengths.

also putting these kids on display as the "smartest kids in the world" is absolutely ridiculous...rote memorization is the lowest form of intelligence, and it certainly cant be considered a skill. sigh...

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

This forum moves way too fast - disappear for only a day and you have pages and pages to catch up on.

Pamie, in response to your "much earlier" post about Odyssey of the Mind - my post was based on stories from one of my students who loved it, but I'm perfectly willing to believe that it wasn't such a positive experience for everyone. I could pretty easily be convinced that it is, like you said, no better than the Academic Decathalon.

So the next question is, what would be a good project for "smart kids" to work on? I do think that there's some value to having an exterior goal to work on - as opposed to working on something that no one but our parents and teachers will ever see. And I think the social aspect of meeting kids from other schools sounds like a nice addition. There must be some way to challenge smart kids without stressing them out. If New Games are the ideal replacement for Little League, what's the ideal replacement for academic competitions?

Now that you've all got me thinking, I'm pretty intrigued by the idea. Anyone out there have any good ideas? Or a real life forum to try them out in?

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

Yeah, I was one of the "smart kids" put on display and made to feel like a miserable failure when I wasn't "the samrtest kid."

Sixth grade: Won second place in the county school system spelling bee, which means I beat all the kids in my class, my school, all the schools in the city and all the schools in the county except for one person. To this day, my mother tells total strangers that I "lost" the competition.

I was in the so-called "gifted" program in Virginia in fourth and fifth grade. If it was supposed to make me feel more confident and boost my self-esteem, they failed miserably. They might as well have called it "Get ready for being a geek for the rest of your life, because it's always going to be like this." Frankly, I thought it sucked.

And what good it did do? I, too, went through the rebellious "I don't give a care" period, and stopped making the A's because I didn't want to be a thought of as a brainy nerd through high school and (shudder) college as well. I sealed my accomplishments with D's in Physics and Analysis, senior year, and went on to a couple of D's in World History at the university. Woo hoo!

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

OK, I swear I really did win second place in that spelling bee, even if I can't spell "smartest." (See above.)

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

When i was in fifth grade, my school district implemented a new gifted program that skipped kids two years ahead in English and Math, while leaving them in the same actual grade. So I took 7th grade- level math, with other fifth-graders, then went back to Social Studies and homeroom with the other kids my age. It worked like that all the way to high school, where they integrated us with the older kids for those subjects. I thought it worked out quite well. Even though I finished out my required English and Math courses in 10th grade, I got to take advantage of a lot of elective AP courses, like Rhetoric and Humanities, etc.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Yeah, one of the smart kids, blah blah blah.

I think the thing that made my experience livable was the way my parents treated me. They were like, "Yeah, you're smart, and we'll do what we can to support you, but we're not going to pressure you." My mom wouldn't let them skip me a grade because I have a late birthday anyway, so I would've been really behind my peers emotionally and physically. I remember one summer I got into this special program at Johns Hopkins and after all the fuss about taking the SATs in 6th grade and getting in, I decided I didn't want to do it because I was scared. I'd never been away from my parents before. I was 10 years old. My mom said that was fine, and we turned it down. Did I miss out on a great opportunity? Probably. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

I also did all the academic competitions, including OM. There was not nearly as much pressure as Pamie describes. My school even went to the World Competitions one year, and we goofed off most of the time we were there, while all the other teams were practicing. I guess it probably had to do with our adult advisors being low-key, but I had a lot of fun. I had friends at other schools who described a much more competitive atmosphere, but they had much bigger schools.

I remember watching Little Man Tate and getting into an argument with my best friend and her mom because I thought the little kid should live with his mom, not the psychologist, even if it meant that he might miss out on some opportunities. Kids feel like freaks most of the time anyway, so why exacerbate it? I mean, most of the gifted kids I know are still smart and funny, but they just have regular jobs like everyone else. None of them are splitting the atom or anything. So I don't see how having one more accelerated class would have changed their lives. Let kids be kids.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Okay, I've got all the other spelling geeks beat, because I think I'm the only National Spelling Bee contestant in the forum so far. Woo hoo.

I was one of those "good at reading but crappy at math" kids, so I didn't get the full-on smart kid treatment. Interestingly, I was always kind of intrigued by Academic Decathlon, but the entire time I was in school all the kids on the team were boys. Yeah, right--I was really going to join that. This was the '80s, by the way, not prehistory or anything. It sort of irks me when I look back on it.

Or then again (after reading all this), maybe not.

Anyway...the Spelling Bee. Since I won a lot of other bees to get there, I was on the front page of the paper, and I won a whole set of Encyclopedia Britannica which is still in my parents' family room. It was fun getting all the attention, but my parents totally didn't pressure me, and I bless them for that. When we got to DC I met all the Crazed Spelling Kids who'd been studying for months, and it was damn creepy. Yeah, their parents would set them up with books of "frequently used spelling bee words" and put 'em to work. Augh. It amazed me...they were all so INTO it.

Me, I went out on my second word. (It was "bursar.") And I was, amazingly, totally philosophical about it. I got my free trip; I was still happy. I have to give a lot of credit to my parents for being proud of me but somehow giving me the ability to be chill about that. I did, however, intentionally spell a word wrong the year after that in my school bee. I just didn't want to try to do the whole thing over again.

By the way, the words they give you as the Bee goes on are absolutely satanic. I remember a girl I'd made friends with going out on "minnebush." Yes, the spelling was "minnebush." The definition? "A small bush."

That's just MEAN.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Oh, I did the National Spelling Bee too, in 1976. It gave me the chance to take my mother and brother to Washington, DC, which they wouldn't have seen otherwise. Thank you, Knight-Ridder newspapers (or was it Scripps-Howard?). We rode the new Metro and saw President Ford and Liberty in the White House rose garden.

I had some lucky guesses and managed to stay in the competition until the last ten minutes. My losing word was k|mmel. Pronounced "kimmel," spelled "kummel" according to Webster's Third International or whatever the standard was. It's a German liqueur. Very tasty. I just had some for the first time.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

I wasn't going to write anything - but reading the other entries brought back some stuff. When I was in 4th grade my ITBS scores were such that they decided to test me to see if I could be a part of the 'Gifted and Talented' program at our school. I didn't qualify, and I remember them talking to my mother about it, saying that I had a "learning disability" - (my memory wasn't good enough, or something). Ever since that day, I have felt underqualified in school in general. My grades after that were always very average, unless it was a subject that I loved like art, or writing. I was one of those students whose report cards always said "doesn't apply herself" or "could do much better". I didn't go to college until I was much older, and by then, I was able to see the importance of "applying myself". My grades improved greatly, but it took that maturity to get past the feelings instilled in me in 4th grade. I think it was a bad idea to single me out like that and make me feel special, only to shoot me down. I'm not sure what would be a better way to handle it, but I know it definately affected my learning thereafter.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

I too was in Gifted in elementary and high school (not 'Special', that was the other end of the spectrum). Most of the other kids were not particularly genius, they were simply the richest kids with the pushiest parents. I know that group of people will end up being greatly successful, because they have all the advantages. And since they were never forced to interact with anyone outside their intellectual and monetary bracket, they will have no sympathy for the rest of society. It makes me sad.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

My name is Erika and I am a smart kid (though I do really dumb things sometimes). Though in Norway we don4t have many gifted classes and special programmes and competitions, so it might be that I just look good in comparison to some people.

I went to an international school from the age of four to thirteen, and spoke English fluently, since I4ve always picked up languages fairly quickly. When I started at a Norwegian school at fourteen, there was no alternative but to take the standard English classes. We talked occasionally about letting me do some other stuff - I could have just sat somewhere and written or read a book or something, anything except go over I am-you are-he-she-it is again - but somehow my teacher never got around to it.

I4m not saying I4m a rocket scientist, though. Although I like maths and science and stuff like that on a completely aesthetic level, as in thinking that infinite numbers are beautiful and getting a little kick out of seeing an equation work out perfectly, I have to really apply myself to do well at it. The one thing I do at school that people comment on, beyond the conscientous- and-interested stuff, is writing.

My parents, despite what they may believe, only ever encouraged me and helped me, and they deserve all the credit for my love of reading. My classmates have been mostly nice to me, though of course some of them haven4t. I4ve been lucky enough to have many decent teachers and a few great ones. (One made me complete a Norwegian essay under supervision when I was six because she thought my parents were doing my homework for me, but that4s another story.) The only person who4s ever given me any real crap is me.

I4m too lazy to give myself an aneurism over studying, and I wouldn4t participate in a high-pressure Smartest Kid in the World contests (frankly, who needs the humiliation?), but I hate hate hate it when I don4t win because I didn4t try hard enough. And I hate hate hate it when I don4t exceed people4s expectations. I hate hate hate it when I get an "average" or a "satisfactory" in anything, because I want to be excellent. I will sacrifice a perfect result if it means preserving my social life, health or sanity, but I won4t necessarily think it4s a fair trade-off.

I don4t mind sucking at things I suck at, like gym. But I want to be wonderful at the things I do well.

The preceding paragraphs may not make any sense at all - in fact, I may well have written out "Jabberwocky" five or six times without noticing - but it4s really late and I4ve been up since five thirty. Thank you for your understanding.

-- Anonymous, June 24, 2000

I was a "gifted" kid. Read at the 10th grade level in 3rd grade. Top two percentile in the country. Odyssey of the Mind, played violin, glasses-wearing geek. I flunked high school (I still need to get my GED), got D's and F's in practically every subject, made last chair in orchestra before I was finally kicked out because (seriously) someone kept swiping my equipment. My tuner, my rosin, my shoulder rest and finally my bow were all stolen and subsequently replaced, and my violin mysteriously acquired a huge chip in the side. I couldn't afford to replace it all at once, so the instructor kicked me out for failing to show up with my equipment. I hated high school and was picked on for all 13 years of my public-grade-school career, not many friends and no distinct "place" in the system. I was smart as a whip, antisocial and bizarre, but very very straightlaced, so I never even had the semi-glamor of drugs and alcohol. I was just the weird kid. I still haven't gone on an official date (or anything that could be remotely considered one), and my sole Y-chromosome "friend" (if you can call a six-year lust "friendship") is a nice little Catholic boy with no interest whatsoever in me. In short, being "gifted" sure as hell isn't what you'd think it is. You think of "gifted" as in those 9-year old little chess champions, with glasses perched on their noses and FullBright scholarships to CalTech or whatever. Gifted doesn't help you acheive crap. I did the education bit, it doesn't help. I'm gonna have to work my butt off in whatever job I take, but I'm happier working. I hated the school environment, if anything it contributed to my depression and general pessimism. It was only when I finally got the hell outta there this year that I started enjoying my life. I wish I had gotten more out of that damn school that they took from me, but it's over now, and there's nothing I can do. People talk about education, but they don't really care about the students. If they did I wouldn't have come across as many truly nasty, cruel people as I did.

-- Anonymous, June 25, 2000

Oh, yes! I think twelve-year olds should go to college. Although I am in high school, I did watch "Child Geniuses" in November 2000. There was this one girl from Greensburg, PA who had an IQ of 197. Although she didn't qualify, she was still a Greensburg, PA celebrity, like PGA TOUR star Rocco Mediate. Don't these "smartest kids in America" really get the cold, hard cash after they make it to the final four on TV? Or is it in the form of a "trust fund" that matures when they turn 18? That's enough trash talk for me. :-)

-- Anonymous, January 06, 2001

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