November 4, 2012

"Natasha graduated with top honors from high school at 14 and was offered a full scholarship by Mannes College the New School for Music in New York."

"Her mother worried about a deficit of soul in New York."
“There is no time for vision! People are just struggling to survive, like in Moscow,” Natalie said — to which her daughter replied, “Vision is how I survive.” In those early New York days, Natasha and her mother spoke by phone constantly. Nonetheless, Natalie said, “that was my present to her: I gave her her own life.”
One paragraph from an article about child prodigies.

And here's a quote from further down: "If Beethoven were sent to nursery school today, they would medicate him, and he would be a postal clerk." And:
Half the prodigies I studied seemed to be under pressure to be even more astonishing than they naturally were, and the other half, to be more ordinary than their talents. Studying their families, I gradually recognized that all parenting is guesswork, and that difference of any kind, positive or negative, makes the guessing harder.

27 comments:

Baron Zemo said...

All well and good but why is she so nasty to the stupid moose and squirrel?

MadisonMan said...

The best parent listens to the kid, and doesn't try to live (or worse, re-live) their life through the kid.

edutcher said...

Because she works for Fearless Leader!

As for prodigies, I fear the medication part is right.

One of The Blonde's nephews and her oldest great-nephew are both very bright, but something of a handful in school.

And, yes, they did want to medicate the nephew.

rcommal said...

Studying their families, I gradually recognized that all parenting is guesswork, and that difference of any kind, positive or negative, makes the guessing harder.

A-men.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Her mother worried about a deficit of soul in New York."

Regardless of the prodigy issue, I worry about this. I worry that we'll have this flourishing educational experience going on at home, but that the kids will then go to college, and it will be about small things (making money, jumping through arbitrary hoops, looking good to authorities, etc.) That makes me sad.

DEEBEE said...

Stipulated that parenting is mostly guessing. The thing of it is, that it is imperative on the parent to put the effort in continual guessing -- and that is hard work.

ricpic said...

Natasha's Mamere: They're struggling to survive in New York, in Moskva, there is no time for to have a...a...vision.

Natasha: Yes, dear sweet Mama, I agree and therefore I have decided to marry a banker and move to Larchmont.

Natasha's Mommacita: Larchmont! But where is the struggle that leads to a vision in such a phooey pheh bourgeois backwater as Larchmont?

Natasha: Fuckit, I'll join the Hells Angels.

Michael K said...

I noticed that the first comment was about the writer's ex-husband being a prodigy. He was, at least, smart enough to leave her.

Freeman Hunt said...

"In America, every kid has to be well rounded,” Chloe said. “They have 10 different activities, and they never excel at any of them. Americans want everyone to have the same life; it’s a cult of the average."

Geoff Matthews said...

Half of the kids want to be normal, and half of the kids want to be extraordinary. Sounds like most of the kids I've known.

David said...

“Can I just stay home so I can learn something?”

This is not a problem just for prodigies.

In fact, for most prodigies, it's not a problem at all. They find a way.

It's a big problem for most of the other kids in New York.

FedkaTheConvict said...

Regardless of the prodigy issue, I worry about this. I worry that we'll have this flourishing educational experience going on at home, but that the kids will then go to college, and it will be about small things (making money, jumping through arbitrary hoops, looking good to authorities, etc.) That makes me sad.

yeah, because none of the stuff you listed is important to your children's development.

YoungHegelian said...

Hell, if Niccolo Paganini was a kid today, they'd haul his dad off to the pokey for felony child abuse.

Folks today just don't see the use of things like denying your kid food if junior doesn't do his violin scales perfectly.

And let's not even get started on clopping off little Luigi's 'nads in the hopes that he'll keep that lovely soprano voice and keep the family rolling in dough as a much-sought after castrato.

Conserve Liberty said...

The 0.01% really aren't that much different than everyone else.

My common sensical, Vermont-Yankee mother-in-law told me, when our first (non-prodigy but P.D.S.) child was born, to "RELAX," she said. "People have been making babies into adults for an awfully long time and they've been pretty successful at it."

"The good thing," she said, "is if you make it more interesting and fun to be at home with you than to be at the Mall with n'er's-do-well they're more likely to turn out well."

"The bad news," she said, "is it takes 25 or so years to know whether it worked. By that time its too late to do anything about it."

So far it worked. And there is a borderline prodigy in the bunch.

Emmster said...

The NYT has published a few articles on gifted children lately and I have found them very interesting. My youngest son is gifted, although not at the prodigy level described in the article.
We are incredibly lucky to live not too far from a private school for gifted children and even more lucky for being able to afford it. There are a few other kids in his class who show the same aptitudes and he's not weird there. He has made many friends. Outside of school, however, we notice that he doesn't fit in as well. Other kids often comment on how smart he is. For a variety of reasons, we hesitated to send him to this school when he was 4. I'm glad we did eventually make this choice. He was bored out of his mind in preschool where they were introducing the concept of letters and he was reading everything on the walls in English and Spanish. So now, instead of crying because he has to go to school, he runs to the door and can't wait for school to start. The biggest punishment is to threaten him with "no school". It's been a tremendous blessing.
I'm obviously very happy to see that there is some attention being paid to this. As parents, we can feel very alone with gifted kids. We're proud of them, we want to do right by them, but we can't really talk to many people about it simply because it sounds like bragging and others don't understand the difficulties that can come with parenting such children. It can be tough on the "normal" siblings as well.

Freeman Hunt said...

yeah, because none of the stuff you listed is important to your children's development.

None of it should be the focus of college, and none of it requires a college education.

Freeman Hunt said...

If you want to learn how to make money, jump through hoops, and make authorities happy, you get a job. Not only will a job teach you all of that, but your employer will pay you to learn it. You hardly need to get those things in college and pay $30,000 a year for the privilege.

rcommal said...

Hey, Freeman:

I want to quibble just a tad, and I do so respectfully (I will also do it briefly, and thus both in broad-brush and not in depth).

While I agree with you in so many ways and areas that those things *shouldn't* inherently or, in many cases, necessarily require a college education, unfortunately we do live and have been living in an age in which the possession of a college education has been a too-easy-way[-out] of sorting folks into categories of qualified and not-qualified to do a whole array of jobs. It's an easy way out, IMO, but still it's a pretty established thing. Until employers, and individuals charged with hiring people for those employers (whether owners, lazy managers, HR employees, employment agencies, whatever) stop buying into inappropriate reliance on college-degree credentialing qua credentialing, the situation will not change. And so long as that situation does not change, people will want to get that credential, and parents (even those who agree with your basic premise) will want their kids to get that credential, and colleges will market that credential and notion and give their consumers and other constituencies what they want.

That's in part why the issue is so thorny and the situation so entrapping.

Just something to think about... .

R,

L

rcommal said...

Not only will a job teach you all of that, but your employer will pay you to learn it.

Not necessarily, most particularly in the case of the second part of your statement. Again, with respect, that second part is such a broad statement as to render it almost meaningless. I wouldn't make a blanket statement like that to my own kid, because I think it would give him a false sense of how things are likely to be and how they've been for a long while now (as opposed to the times within my memory when things were different). There is no such guarantee, even if you get hired.

rcommal said...

And you don't have to pay $30,000 a year for a college education, and there are all sorts of ways to get some--in some cases, many!--credits ahead of time so that four years full-time aren't necessary. This, however, does not address the other issue of employers, through laziness, ignorance or whatever, relying too heavily on pieces of paper--which has contributed an awful lot to the problem of an over-reliance on college and even grad degrees, to begin with. Again, just something to consider... .

rcommal said...

"Lack of imagination" probably belongs in that list of reasons, before "whatever"... .

Also, in the case of some fields, regulation really, absolutely comes into play. Try talking to even some daycare business in some states, and ask them what their state licensing agencies require in terms of varying levels of college credits with regard to various positions, and even with regard to overall percentages of staffing. Then ask them if they can afford to pay for those credits, especially given the high-turnover nature of the field.

sleepless nights said...

God, that last bit about parenting and differences is certainly true.

College ed: it's absurd that you now need an MBA to be on the consideration list for a job marketing a mid-line cereal in a nice location, but you do. Or journalism, another profession that should never have become the province of universities. It breeds practitioners with a narrow POV.

That's the value of having a more open system, rather than a centralized one in which risk must be reduced whenever possible. It's also the value of having a population with less education in general as the value of a degree trends towards zero. Still, if you don't get the degree, there's some one in India with a PhD.

Charlie Martin said...

Interesting. I was a prodigy (first college classes at 8) and I got both pressures, one from mother and one from father.

rcommal said...

Charlie: That IS interesting (overall), if not surprising (in terms of both pressures). Would you be willing to say more about those experiences?

Zach said...

There are surprisingly few prodigies in theoretical physics. I only know one -- he went to Oxford at 14 or so, which is advanced but not unheard of.

I don't think there's much advantage to learning physics earlier than everybody else. Eventually you have to start producing things on your own, and that's where emotional maturity and contemplation start to play a role. If you start doing research too early, you can stunt your growth.

Freeman Hunt said...

rcommal, I should have expressed myself more clearly. I am not against getting a college degree for modern, practical reasons; I am against what college has become. It seems like college has mostly become white collar vo-tech school.

I wouldn't make a blanket statement like that to my own kid,

Heh. While I am terse here, (Probably sometimes to the point of incomprehensibility.) I am not terse at all with my children. I make no blanket statements to them. (Hey! That was a blanket statement!)

What I meant about an employer paying you to learn wasn't that the employer would pay for courses. I meant that by having a job, you would learn how to please authorities, make money, and jump through hoops because those things are part of the work world.

Freeman Hunt said...

It seems like one of the main challenges parents of prodigies face is that there is so little information for them because they are such a tiny population. There are some helpful consulting and networking services now, like the Davidson Young Scholar program and others, but I think it's still tough. Most books and articles about prodigies are of the "How interesting!" variety with very little applicable information. These parents are left mainly to learn from each other as they guess along, and, if they're lucky, find adults who were prodigies in the same areas as their children and get information from them.