Boy genius will graduate college at age 9

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/14/boy-genius-will-graduate-colle.html

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I’m not clear on exactly how these things happen. There’s no shortage of classrooms out there where the teacher will (probably quite reasonably) say, “Good job acing the math test, but you need to finish your portion of coloring the class mural today.” I might suspect enormous pressure from the parents and/or educators.

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That’s nothing… I got a phd at 40… Wait… fuck!

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I don’t know how you keep that kid from being seriously messed up later on. Prodigies learning quantum physics are rarely also learning to negotiate well with peers.

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I would rather have you as a prof than the one child math prodigy I had.
He honestly could not grok that the rest of may have issues with understanding what is being taught and if you asked about it he just was gobsmacked that we didn’t just know it already.

I actually changed classes the second time I got him and was glad of it as I found out that he ended up flunking all the undergrads in that class.

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Neil Patrick Harris is unimpressed.
412opk5n9YL

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I wish I had his memory – but not the experience of going into college that young. I was interested to read that

unlike most nine-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

OT, but I had happily forgotten this horrible cartoon teeth style:
image
I hope it’s dead.

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I started law school at 50. I should finish in time to work for some predatory law firm for 5 years, get rich, and then retire to a life of pro bono. (Semi-sarcastic…I do need to make some money, but I’ll try to avoid the bad stuff. I like to be able to sleep at night.)

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He will basically be completely without normal channels of peer socialization.

This is without even stating the obvious of learning the opposite sex in normal College timing.

On top of all that the only thing I’ve learned about having above-average intelligence is that socialization in life in general becomes more difficult and Society will mock you for being smart, at least in my country, as that seems to be the underlying thread.

I hope this kid has a happy life

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Good luck!

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Just remember: money is addictive. Be careful with that stuff.

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Pressure from (hopefully always well-intentioned) adults is a distinct possibility, although I’d think that access is another factor – that is – ready access to tools and knowledge early and in one’s formative years; these can spark a child’s interests (and strong desires) and naturally reveal strengths that otherwise wouldn’t manifest themselves until much later (if at all). For instance, Frank Isaac Robinson (aka Sugar Chile Robinson) was exposed to the piano very early on, to be supplanted later (at 18 years old) with his desire to learn things unrelated to music (history and psychology). Who knows how much further (as if all the aforementioned were not enough) he would have gone if he had been born into an environment ‘friendlier’ and more accessible to 1930’s/40’s/50’s/etc African-Americans.


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If he was really that smart, he could have taught calculus to a hamster.

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But look how he turned out!

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I keep hearing stuff like this, but I’m not sure how true it is and how much is just sour grapes. Being a child prodigy, or even being pushed into academia early on, doesn’t mean for sure that he’ll be messed up for life. He could wind up being a perfectly normal human being, for all we know.

However, he does need to learn how to be a well-rounded individual, and not just a brain in a meat suit. Stuff like this worries me:


Why would he necessarily prefer to learn the opposite sex? What if he’s gay, or asexual?

Regardless, he could still be socially normal if he has a life outside of his career.

Then again, so could we all. Like I’m one to talk :confused:

Not really. There are jerks everywhere, but I’ve found there will always be accepting people if one looks hard enough. Besides, I’ve never given much if any thought to how smart or dumb my friends are. If they’re my friends, and if I care about them as people, I don’t pay attention to stuff like that.

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We were lucky, then. In my senior year at BTHS, we had Mr. Alper (skinny, nebbish in appearance, and bespectacled) for math, with 100% focus on Probability. Every single class, and always at the very start, he’d chalk up numerous SOLVED probabilities problems on the board at the front of the class, then on the board that ran the width of one wall, then, finally, on the boards that also served as the doors to the wall-wide coat closet at the back of the classroom. (No mysteries. No evil, “damn-these-kids-who’ll-end-up-making-more-than-me” teacher one-upmanship. No unnecessary curveballs to trip us up at exam time.) While doing all this at the boards, he’d exhort us in various ways: “No one ever fails my class.” “I expect you to note everything you see on the boards.” “If you can get through my class without these… then more power to you.” Just guessing, but I don’t see how anyone could have gotten less than an A-minus in that class.

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So… I was a couple of years younger than my peers. The bullying was horrible when they came through puberty and I didn’t because normal development. It was bad before, but after it became abuse and derailed into assault.

I liked to talk with adults but I was a very lonely child. The other children disliked talking to me because I spoke “difficult words”, was “crazy” or “weird”. I had no interest in playing the same stuff that the other girls would play daily (dressing dolls, playing house, imaginary food - it was boring, always the same script). I couldn’t TALK with other kids because they had no interest in what I liked and I had no interest in what they liked.

I’m not saying that every child prodigy or gifted child will have problems, but hell, you have to actively work daily with socialization and find peers with who this very perceptive child can talk and BE a child, albeit a very intelligent one - and all bets are off when they become teens. No best laid plans survive first contact with adolescence.

God knows the Internet is absolutely crowded with asshole guys that are supposedly in the same IQ range than me -138/140 (I don’ believe them) and those guys absolutely SUCK at empathy. They are entitled and creepy (also usually very boring). How do you prevent this and create well rounded individuals? Hell if I know. Teaching empathy is hard work.

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Oh there were better professors. Just not that guy. I took modern math (aka forget everything and we start over with a new way of thinking about math) twice as the first time was with the boy genius the second with another prof who was very good at lecturing and making sure we knew all the tricks and tools to do the work and actually learn.

When I changed classes that was the first of many times I ended up dropping 300 level linear algebra where you do all theory and proofs. We had a crappy text and the TAs would just regurgitate that at me when I asked for clarification. Like dude if the book was clear I wouldn’t be asking you for help. Finally they got one of the profs to teach it and we suddenly got a new text that was much much better and way cheaper too boot. I passed with better than a C even.

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I’m not going to assume I know this kid’s history, let alone his future. And having a weird childhood can turn out to be good as well as bad.

HOWEVER, the way these stories are always reported – as if going to college at 9 somehow just happens naturally – is obnoxious, and will just feed the harmful mentality that leads a certain type of parent to demand that their child skip grades etc., like the point of school is to “finish” it in the shortest time possible. Failing to understand the concept of school is not an impressive achievement.

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My mom had gone through that herself, and refused to let the school skip me ahead a couple of grades. I still had problems, but not like I would have had if I’d been around kids two years older. Kids who are “too smart” are rarely given the kinds of social support they need.

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