Anti-Elitism Toward Gifted Kids Needs To Stop, Says Professor
    By News Staff | January 13th 2009 01:00 AM | 45 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    A lot of time and money is spent thinking about special needs children, says Florida State University professor Steven I. Pfeiffer, while there is an assumption that no educational resources need to be provided for 'gifted' kids to help them thrive in school.

    "There is a view occasionally expressed by those outside of the gifted field that we don't need programs devoted specifically to gifted students," Pfeiffer, member of the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, said. "'Oh, they're smart, they'll do fine on their own' is what we often hear. And because of this anti-elitist attitude, it's often difficult to get funding for programs and services that help us to develop some of our brightest, most advanced kids -- America's most valuable resource."

    A key problem in working with gifted children is one of definition. What exactly does it mean to be 'gifted'?

    Part of Pfeiffer's research has been finding ways to best identify those children. To that end, he led a group that developed a diagnostic test which complements the widely used intelligence test in identifying children who might be gifted. Pfeiffer's test is now being used in more than 600 school districts across the nation and has been translated for use in a number of other countries. (For more information on the Gifted Rating Scales, visit

    "For almost a hundred years, schools used one measure, the IQ test," stated Pfeiffer. "Our own research indicates that the IQ test, although it works fairly well, is not without limitations in identifying giftedness. We launched a project to develop a test that would be a companion to the IQ test in helping educators better identify those children who have potential but perhaps are missed on IQ tests."

    But once that is accomplished, how do we help them best?  Harder classes isn't necessarily productive.

    Pfeiffer discusses the issue of defining giftedness, how to best nurture it and many of the emotional and social challenges facing gifted children in a new paper, "The Gifted: Clinical Challenges and Practice Opportunities for Child Psychiatry," published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child&Adolescent Psychiatry.

    "Even within the gifted field, there is considerable controversy regarding definitional, conceptual and diagnostic issues," Pfeiffer said. "However, as a generally agreed-upon definition, gifted children are those who are in the upper 3 percent to 5 percent compared to their peers in one or more of the following domains: general intellectual ability, specific academic competence, the visual or performing arts, leadership and creativity."

    In other work involving gifted students, the state of Florida recently asked Pfeiffer and his team to lead an effort to help Florida's best and brightest high school students reach their potential so they can help the state reach its. The result was the establishment of the Florida Governor's School for Space Science and Technology, which was created by the Legislature in 2007. (Visit to read more.)

    "The Florida State University -- in partnership with the Florida Institute of Technology and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University -- was fortunate to be asked to develop a plan to design a state-of-the-art residential academy for Florida's most capable high school students," Pfeiffer said. "Essentially, the Florida Legislature was interested in providing resources for Florida's brightest students in high schools, particularly in terms of a curriculum which would emphasize science, math, engineering and technology."

    Pfeiffer is working with the national organization SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) to develop a certification system so that professionals working with gifted children -- educators, mental health providers, pediatricians and others -- will be able to receive an official designation citing their expertise in this area.


    Wow, this is very interesting. I grew up in the gifted programs up until high school. I did bad one semester (growing pains), and I fell off the radar of the gifted programs. The director of the programs didn't see me again until my senior year (I did bad first semester of sophomore year), when I joined the academic decathlon team on request from the coach. Also, there was a lot of tension in me, because being from a poor neighborhood, anti-elitism was often pointed at me when I was doing too good in school (friends would ask me why I sounded like a dictionary). I pretty much balanced this out with a healthy dose of self-destructive and property-destructive behavior, along with a big contempt for authority. This is definitely an issue we have to deal with as a society; the dumb rich kids get all the advantages and end up running the world, while the brightest from poor neighborhoods lead gangs (if they didn't make it into college, it's actually good money).

    My life has mirrored anonymous. Now I see the cult of exclusion passing on to my children. I was told in junior high to quit school and get a job, wrong. My son was given no help by his high school "counselors" despite outstanding grades. He ended up getting a degree, finishing with no debt because he sought out and tracked down his own academic scholarships.

    My youngest succumbed and believed the system more thoroughly, of course things became more evident as "no child left behind" exhibited its ugly mug. Sleazy administrators now find ways to expel and degrade children more thoroughly. They keep their records pure by using expulsion is a major cleansing tool. Select students, the artistic, the bombastic, many times obnoxious, are tagged and held to a near probationary standard until they can be done away with. The school-ocracy has produced a class of kids who are convinced that they are not going to make it, can't hack it, aren't up to George Bush's standards.

    Those who succeed in this system, keep their hands folded and take the repeated pretests to boost test scores, so they can upgrade the schools and the careers of the administrators. Mommys and (sometimes) daddys do the homework, cover for failures and eventually give us a voting populace that chooses to elect a rich kid C grade (really?) student who was padded through the system and eventually ended up in the highest office in the land. What is taught?

    Remember "students" keep quiet, game the system, suck up and you can exhibit you skills on Wall Street one day. Remember oh great designators of class. Gates, Jobs and hundreds of thousands had to jump out of the education system early to get going, hell Wozniac was going to get charged twenty thousand dollars by his "place of higher learning" because he snuck in the lab and used the facilities, Einstein failed math.

    Find children's gifts (and they all have them) and nurture. I worked with mildly (it was called at the time) retarded young men in a halfway house to integrate them into society. Each of them, with the minimal amount of time invested in observing and interacting showed talents in one area or another, it was a thrilling experience.

    Let us tread lightly into the realm of elitism and stun ourselves by developing the individual gifts of each.

    I agree with most of your points, but just for accuracy's sake, Einstein never failed math.

    No, but Heisenberg got a C on his PhD dissertation, and would have gotten an F if one of the experimental physics professors had his way - because he couldn't properly explain how a storage battery works.

    So the basic point, the right person held to the wrong standard will still be a failure, is a valid one.     We'd be without an uncertainty principle if expert knowledge of a battery made a difference in theoretical physics.
    To say something nice about Einstein this time, a quote from Ralph Baierlein's book Newton to Einstein:
    That Einstein cut classes  wholesale is proverbial.  A few courses held his interest intensely, but he often found that the lectures were not on the portions of physics that fascinated him – and he stopped going to class.  What is less often realized is the Einstein spent his time in the lab. And in reading the primary literature, the research literature of physics.  Einstein’s route was not the easy way out.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Coming from a country that has no "gifted" programs and that consistently scores well when education results are compared, I can't help but think that maybe the whole recognition and special treatment of "gifted" isn't necessary and could in fact cause more harm than good.

    Until you see the abomination that is the American public school system you won't understand just how necessary it really is.

    Which country, please? It can't be Dear Old Blighty!
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    "harder classes isn't necessarily productive." ok, so the author is obviously not gifted in grammar. this article barely scratches the surface. there is tangible antipathy toward smarter kids, to the point where people now object to them taking classes together, as if they were resources such as food or fuel which must be distributed equitably among (forgive me) dumber kids. here's a protip: in order to make the train go faster and more effectively down the track toward its destination, you don't distribute the coal equally among all the cars, you put it in the locomotive where it can be shoveled into the firebox.

    Just a note..."harder classes isn't necessarily productive" is not necessarily grammatically incorrect. Many grammar "errors" produced in real-time speech and writing are due not to carelessness on part of the speaker/writer; instead, they are the grammatical realization of the speaker's perception of some part of the sentence (in this case, the subject). For the writer, "harder classes" is not a plural subject, but a singular noun anaphorically pointing to something like "the solution of putting gift kids into harder classes" -- to me, this is pretty clear given the context. It may be more accurate to say "harder classes" is an example of synecdoche.

    (on a personal note: This is what happens when a poor kid gets a PhD, despite school systems without gifted classes until junior high.)

    Yes, we should definitely promote elitism. Further, we should snuff out anti-elitism wherever we find it! Power to the few!

    I'm a gifted kid, freshman in college, high school was too boring to pay attention too, so i didn't. Graduated with a 2.7, got into college because of a 34 on my ACT, and am only now learning how to work to get good grades. It would have been nice to have been challenged in one single class in high school. But if you always understand things the first time they're taught, and the teacher only gets through half the stuff you need to know because she's busy repeating stuff, its annoying. After awhile i just stopped going to class at all. It would have been nice not to be in the same classes as the stupid kids. Even in the smart classes the students who were pushed into them by their parents slowed everything down to a standstill. The only way i could stand to learn was to just read it out of the textbook, or look things up online. High school was pretty frustrating. But, college isn't much better. I'll probably end up working for someone who's stupid too, at least in the beginning. I'm gonna go join MENSA or something, maybe that'd be cool.

    MENSA is BS. Stay in school, find something you love, work hard, shoot for opportunities like internships and research positions, and collect more stuff than a single test score to show for your ability - grades, work and leadership experience, a reputation in your field, etc.

    I believe that was sarcasm... But, in all honesty, the smarter the kids the more important they are... Stupid kids can keep on keeping on, but if the kid shows the potential to become the next Einstein, I think that kid should be given all the opportunity we can muster up. I think it's important for the good of mankind, so I'm not really concerned with the stupid kid's feelings.

    One of the tragic things about gifted kids in the current school system is that they're not pushed hard enough to make them engage.
    I spent years showing up to class, goofing off, and getting 100% scores on any test handed to me. At around the age of 16, we started getting work which wasn't exactly difficult, but which required a small amount of practice to sit right in my brain. Having never needed to practice *anything* relating to schoolwork, I didn't do any practice and so my grades fell off a cliff. This obviously did wonders for my self-esteem.

    Combine this with the earlier realisation that the only point in putting me in school with my alleged peers was to hold me back from doing anything useful in my life until I had jumped though a sufficient number of The Man's hoops, and every day of school became a cruel and twisted joke...

    The idea that putting gifted kids into mainstream schooling gives them a "social education" is bogus, for the simple reason that most of my classmates were evil, stupid and jealous of my ability. Not that *everyone* was like that. The other intelligent kids being similarly hobbled by the education system were pretty decent company, for the most part, even if we did sort of drag each other down into a common pit of intellectual suffering.

    Reading that back makes it look like I'm resorting to hyperbole. Really, I'm not. A lack of challenge and a lack of usefulness during my school years literally twisted my mind, and I'm still trying to recover from it many years on.

    I'm sure that some study will eventually find a correlation between "IQ" (for want of a more acceptable term) and academic achievement, which will probably show a strong match at lower levels, then a sudden peak at a sweet spot where the level of challenge is sufficient to tax moderately intelligent pupils and drive them to greater success, and following that a number of kids who looked "gifted" on paper but who "didn't live up to expectations".

    Oh, I know that there are plenty of gifted kids who made it through the school system okay, but I'd put that down to brilliant parenting, or a life goal which they were lucky enough to set themselves early. For every one of those guys, there's plenty more of us who slipped through the cracks.

    I agree... being unchallenged in school, coasting by on test scores, I never developed the skills needed to combat boredom and focus on the tasks at hand until I was in my late 20s... and some could argue with little effort that I still have not acquired that focus.

    Posted from Work...

    The idea that putting gifted kids into mainstream schooling gives them a "social education" is bogus
    With age I have come to recognize that 'social education' at every level is an organized campaign by the education industry.    Kids have to be in a public school with 1000 kids or else they won't adjust properly and learn social skills?    Since we got into that mentality, adjusted scores for kids are far below what they two generations ago.     I'd rather have more Einstein's and fewer American Idol viewers.

     ... though I'd rather my daughter be watching American Idol  than get mixed up with another Einstein.

    And Schrödinger's cat certainly spent a lot of time on the tiles.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    There is another aspect to that, Hank. After 4th grade, I was always almost two grades ahead of all of the other kids in my class, which made me a social outcast throughout elementary school, high school and half of undergraduate school. The only exception to that was grade 7 when I was put in an "accelerated class" with other gifted kids. Why they didn't have an accelerated class in 8th grade at my school, is beyond me.

    8th grade was particular painful, because I was only 12 years old, while the others students were 13  and most were 14 years of age and had already entered puberty. That was perhaps the most painful year of elementary school for me. High school was an absolute and total nightmare.

    So as far as socialization goes, it taught me to hate other people around me, and I do not use that word lightly. It's only because of some very outstanding professors in my junior year of college who took me under their wing that I did not become a total misfit and even antisocial in the clinical sense of the term. I still don't like other people much. And I think most people are complete idiots. And at age 54, I doubt very much that's ever going to change.

    So, so much for "social education"! But then we have a bunch of sub-human morons running the educational system in our nation anyway, so I guess this is to be expected.
    Agree totally. The social education argument is complete BS: how can one be sociable with children who are not one's peers? The social education I got was that I had to help teach the morons because there was nothing left in the syllabus to do. I can say that it did not foster a feeling of appreciation for one's fellow human beings, but rather that they were too lazy or stupid or both and that I would have been better staying at home. Indeed I would often feign illness so I could stay at home and read a book without being interrupted.

    I was saved from turning into a Unabomber by changing school. The new school didn't have better teachers, didn't have better labs or facilities, but it did have the attitude that it was cool to be smart.

    I have since taught gifted kids and when they are together, with their intellectual peers, they are a joy to teach and they are perfectly sociable. Unfortunately, at least in the UK, there is still an anti-elitist culture that stops all the talented kids being educated together. And it doesn't come just from Labour, even the Tories have in the past done nothing for gifted children. Why do we not have the same socialist system in sport? Go figure! All the political crap about having a vibrant hitech economy is also complete shite when we do nothing for those brightest students to shine.
    Thank you, Richard. I appreciate your thoughts. : )
    I was fortunate enough to move to a really small town where there were no efforts at outcome-based education, social engineering, new math or anything else that afflicted my age group during the period - they lacked the budget to do anything except teach and the smarter you were the more they taught.

    I went to college at 17 to a fairly decent-sized city and knew practically nothing the cooler urban kids knew about music, drugs, alcohol and whatever else.  And I was not rich, I was there on a scholarship so I was not even the cool uber-smart we all are now, I was just a dork younger than everyone else.

    It turned out okay.  So I am not saying we need to spend a lot of money on gifted kids, we just need to not penalize them.  We're not all the same, some of us are smarter than others; celebrate diversity, education people!
    Dear Hank, Eric and Rycharde,

    I agree with all of you that there ought to be some well-elaborate system to educate and foster talented kids and prodigies which should be quite different from what is widely available for average children. Any anti-elitist "juice" contributes to ruining the personalities and, finally, even lives of such kids ...

    Still, I would like to turn your attention to another extremity which was taking place in the former USSR.

    For example, in my early childhood I was participating in a notable school experiment the psychologists in my native city's university have worked out and applied to our school class. Their motto was "Einstein has called us up to sight the world with child's eyes - so let us try to teach children how to sight the world with Einstein's eyes". In practice, we were given abstract maths, physics, chemistry, foreign languages etc. already from the first grade on ... By the way, something similar has been done with Grigori Perelman, in particular - Masha Gessen describes this in her book in much detail.

    As far as I can understand this now, the main aim was to educate "racing rats/cockroaches" who'd act "ad majorem USSR gloriam", without taking actual care about them as personalities, as KIDS, the last, but not the least ! In fact, this was a definite abuse.

    ... By and large, there ought to be some mechanism which prevents the above-mentioned kind of abusing talented kids to capitalize on them in political or other ways ...

    ... Bearing all this in mind, if you would like to know, 2008 I have taken part in my schoolmate reunion due to the 30-th anniversary of our school graduation, which took place ... in New York. Well, 90% of my classmates have left the former USSR - and all those emigrants are quite successful in the USA, Canada, GB, Germany and Israel ...

    Respectfully yours,

    Evgeni Starikov
    As always, Evgeni, your feedback is most gratifying. : )

    Respectfully Yours,

    Eric F. Diaz
    I think we would all agree that government dictates to promote social and educational betterment end up bad even if they mean well.   As I said in Like Freedom? Thank A Scientist - How Science Made America Possible (though Timothy Ferris said it much better and at greater length in his book) totalitarian approaches do not work, even if the intent is a good one, like better education or preventing smoking or getting people to pollute less.     Liberty remains an essential ingredient in raising scientists, both professional and of the citizen kind.

    If students have freedom they will "ask the awkward questions" that are important to the scientific method and society in general.
    I whole-heartily agree, Hank.
    ... Agree absolutely, dear Hank !

    In effect, the point with the Soviet educational elitism was that the "intellectual freedom islands" were artificially organized and maintained, where talented kids could be selflessly diving into the World of Knowledge and master their skills to the plus-infinity. This is exactly what Masha Gessen writes in her book. At the same time, the surrounding totalitarian system was carefully monitoring the educational process just to digest its fruits ...

    I am not sure about the modern USA educational landscape, but what I see in Germany is anyway a kind of "elitism abuse", but of quite different kind than that in the former USSR. They in Germany use to create "elite universities" in dozens, but "create" means here nothing else but just administering a sum of money to this or that university.

    I remember the very day of proclaiming the Karlsruhe University an "elite" one. Just on that Happy Day I was visiting Chalmers Technical University, Göteborg, Sweden. The Swedish colleagues have turned my attention to this interesting event (there was much ado about this in German mass media, but, still, the exact "X-day" remained somehow unknown until the last moment). In a couple of days I came back to Karlsruhe and asked the chief of our lab about the possible funding for our research. "Forget it", was the answer, "the money has already been digested several months ago" ...

    ... There are many ways of how to abuse the elitism, but the way of how to make the real use of it seems to be unique ...
    Gotta agree with you here. Once I found the public library I started reading every book I could get my hands on. School bored me to no end, and I ended up with a 3.0 avg out of HS - I scored 1310 on the SAT (back in the mid-80's). I took math up to partial differential equations (all my local college provided), and then quit when they told me I had to take philosophy, govt, etc.

    I'm in my 40's now (ugh), and I realize that I could have gone much further if I had swallowed my individualist streak and just conformed (get a degree). I don't envy the kids of today - they see even more pressure, and have even more traps to fall into. I worry about my kids, and hope that my experience can be of benefit to them.

    I couldn't agree more. It's time for it to be considered "cool" to be smart and not "cool" to receive failing grades.

    this is a great point withing this article. My son is in a Christian school, which is great. The only problem is that it is not designed to challenge the excelling kids. He makes just about all 100's without stressing out a bit, and even doing next grade work. Also, his goal is to be an inventor (science and technology is what he really likes) but the school does not harness that in any way...if you walked into the computer lab you would understand. Now his mom and I are on the task of finding a school that will propel his education, challenge him, and embrace his goals and passion...the hard part is finding a school that incorporates Christian values within it as well, because that is what he "would like"...i think we found one, but we will see.

    For the gifted kid thinking that joining Mensa will help---don't count on it. You're more likely to find intellectual peers that you would want to socialize with by getting deeply involved in research that interests you. Selection just by score on an IQ test doesn't work all that well for finding interesting adults.

    It isn't clear what the main article here is proposing be done. While I agree that gifted programs that do anything meaningful are rare in the US, what is the way forward?

    Gerhard Adam

    I'm not convinced that "gifted" programs are the problem.  Instead I would suggest that, in the U.S. specifically, there is a marked disregard for education.  While many cultures value an education (which is presumably why they do better), the primary focus here seems to be sports and entertainment.

    As a result, all one has to do is see how "intelligent" people are portrayed on television and movies, and it isn't too difficult to see where the problem lies.

    While "gifted" programs may provide more challenges and be useful, they aren't the solution if the society doesn't respect intelligence or education.  Students will always feel that they are having to vie for social acceptance (i.e. not simply be geeks), or to be isolated from their peers by excelling.  In my personal experience, it wasn't until well into adulthood that it became acceptable to be smart.  Even now, there is resistance (from others) to being intelligent or knowledgeable because if you're not careful then the perception is that you're intimidating to others or holding them to too high a standard.

    I suspect many reading these posts may get a sense of discomfort from some of the comments because we've been so conditioned to the idea that even mentioning personal intelligence is a form of bragging that we shouldn't express.

    I think it's safe to say that for the majority of people they don't mind helping someone less fortuanate (i.e. "special needs") because it preserves their relative sense of "superiority" and so is not a challenge.  However, when confronted by someone smarter than themselves, most people feel resentful because it may cause them to face their own inadequacies or insecurities.  It isn't uncommon to see that in any social gathering, the individual that is engaged in more "intellectual" discussions (not to the point of being boorish) will invariably be standing alone unless there are peers in attendance that share those interests.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    what is the way forward?  I think that's largely in the hands of the parents. When governments in all developed countries are obsesses with tax cuts, you cannot expect a public education system tp provide for these types of needs. From what I read of the US, you don't even have a public health system, so there's no hope for public education.
    In sweden they have for years now this same type of system 'no kids left behind'. Well there way out was to abolish grades, just 'passed' (or 'did not pass' witch can be over turned if you bitch and bring your parents to school or are a minority). so now you cant tell what you have. it hides the problem, makes everybody the same when we are not. we need grades from the first day in school. then they (the socialist) well lets see what else we can do... let the students grade the teaches instead, now its a popularity competition. 3 years on they still think it's the best system in the world... yes it is on paper - everybody passed!!! we are so heading for real Idiocracy.

    Nicholas Horton
    The number of my fellow grad-students in our mathematics program that (like me) got horrible grades all the way through school (including in our undergrads) is staggering.  All of us had to learn how to be good students during college, and even then, our success was limited.  Grades are bad indicators of what someone knows (generally) and we have all known this since we were young, and somewhere along the way stopped caring. 

    I was bored as hell growing up with what the teachers were talking about.  Consequently, I didn't bother to do anything they wanted me to.  Instead I found other ways to entertain myself:  drawing, playing music, inventing new role-playing games, creating algebra problems to solve, and lifting weights.  To this day, I only work hard at things I find interesting.  Thankfully, I find a lot of things interesting.

    Gerard brought up a related point that I'd like to expand on: basically, the idea that our culture doesn't value intelligence (and maybe more importantly the work it takes to maximize ones intelligence).
    I think we live in a culture of apathy.  (I grew up in a world that is eerily reminiscent of the one from the TV show "My Name is Earl."  I realize that for more middle-class kids, the overall look of their world may be different, but the underlying culture isn't.)  One of the key cultural realities in modern America is that kids are apathetic in nearly every way possible.   With a massive apathy vibe all around you, it is very hard to get excited about something to the point of working hard, and enduring the opportunity costs, to pursue it.  Why bother.

    We do value athletes, in principle, but most kids aren't willing to endure the pain of constant workouts anymore than they are the pain of regular study (Note that most of America's greatest NFL and NBA players come from destitute circumstances, and worked hard to "get out" from them).  I'm a weightlifting coach in my "off" time, and I see it constantly.  Kids, and adults, are lazy as hell.  We are not a culture of "pull ourselves up by the bootstraps" Clint Eastwood's.  We're all Cheech's and Chong's.

    It isn't the school system, it's us.
    I think apathy is more a by-product of the skeptical nature of Americans.   We're taught, much differently than other cultures, to be dismissive of academic expertise.    I certainly have been guilty of it in the corporate world, where I instinctively felt like I wanted to hire a PhD who was right out of school.    Otherwise, the university work habits were 'bad' in a corporate setting.

    Scientists have done themselves no favor wading into the cultural/political arena.  It has made people regard the real fringe element as having an agenda.    Like scientists who work for Big Tobacco or Big Oil, the perception is that scientists endorsing political causes are not being objective.

    Athletes get more admiration because it's one of the few meritocracies remaining.    No one suggests quotas for minorities (well, not yet), disabled access, political correctness on the field or anything except performance in the sports arena.    Their expertise is not subjective and it's not based on political infighting or favoritism or tenure.   

    Ummm, how did you get into grad school with bad grades?
    Gerhard Adam

    I would have to disagree, Hank.  While much of what you say is essentially true, I would argue that most Americans aren't that specific in their assessment.

    Maybe I'm being too cynical, but the single most significant thing I can identify is the amount of money someone earns.  Academic expertise isn't valued, because most don't earn enough money to impress the ordinary citizen.  This is why we have such a fascination with entertainers, sports figures, CEOs of large corporations, etc..   This is also why most people don't have a problem with academic achievement, but rather they simply associate it with being doctors or lawyers.

    I also think people are skeptical about anyone expressing political opinions when they don't agree with the individual's personal view.  I've seen too many programs that were critical of the opinions expressed by entertainers, unless there were entertainers that agreed with the program's political leanings.  But why would we even care .... because the perception is that they are rich, and that wealth buys influence which is what people ultimately care about.

    In my opinion, if being a physicist was considered a "good job", then students would be lining up to enroll and parents would be encouraging it. 

    I would also agree with Nicholas in the assertion that the majority of people aren't motivated enough to engage in committing to an education or physical endeavor unless there's a relatively short-term "pay off" associated with the effort.  Far too many people in this country think they should be rewarded just for showing up.

    Mundus vult decipi
    What about the really gifted kids? :Those that are more than three sigma above average IQ.
    For such children elementary school is a total waste of time.

    I was one of them, and I was in gifted programs all though school. They bored me to tears.
    They were teaching me algebra in seventh grade--and I was teaching myself advanced calculus, by reading the
    Goursat books from Dover publications. They were teaching me Plane Geometry and I was reading
    Differential Geometry. They were teaching me to play jingle bells on the recorder in fifth grade, and I was teaching myself to play Chopin on the piano.

    Thank god for Dover publications. Today, there are all kinds of things on the internet, such as the MIT open courseware.

    The worst thing about gifted classes is that they are most often taught by teachers with two sigma IQ--who have no clue about the thought processes of the really gifted:

    Draw a radio wave. ( I didn't have ten dimensional graph paper!). "What planet is closest to the Earth ?" "No, not the Earth." I didn't have an ephemeris. He meant: "What non-earth planet has the closest orbit to the orbit of the earth?"
    At home, I was doing star spectroscopy ( thank god for Edmund Scientific).

    One teacher tortured me in seventh grade because
    I didn't have a notebook. " If you don't learn to have a notebook--no matter how smart you are, you will never get through high school, let alone college." ( What use is a notebook for someone with almost perfect eidetic memory?)
    This even though, I had perfect test scores.

    I sent him a letter when I was member of the "Institute for Advanced Study" saying: " I still don't have a notebook."

    School below university level should be an "opt-out", if you are really gifted--it is a waste of your time. I spent that time
    in school staring out of the window. Until 15--when I was allowed to go to university.

    Undergraduate school is also a waste--so gifted kids should go right to grad school ( which in math and science is on the right level) at ten years old or so.

    Really gifted kids in "gifted classes" : Like ordinary bright kids in classes for dull average kids.
    Really gifted kids in " ordinary classes": Like ordinary bright kids in classes for the mentally retarded.

    Someone will say that school is needed to teach kids to socialize with "normal " kids. Baloney. The really gifted will NEVER socialize with normals--because that would be like a normal kid socializing with the retarded. They will seek
    out other really gifted kids ( even if they need to use the web), because that is their natural peer group. Otherwise, they will grow up insane.

    As adults they will never socialize with normals. They will never work with them either. They will become scientists and university profs etc., and will insulate themselves from interaction with normals as much as possible. Or they will find ways to be self -employed inventors etc ( like my dad). In the workplace, they may have to suffer from a Dean or
    Chairman who is only somewhat gifted--because life is imperfect. Their solution will be: Do more research, and get enough grants and prestige to be left more alone by idiots.

    Some more thoughts:

    I don't think most really gifted people CARE about being fawned on by the general population. After all, these people can't understand your work. Here is an Einstein Story:

    Einstein was on a boat with his friend Charles Chaplin, and they arrived at the dock, where a crowd of screaming reporters were hailing Einstein ( after Eddington's Eclipse Experiment). He said--in sutto voice--to Charlie ( who was the expert on "fame"): "What does this mean, Charlie?" Chaplin's answer was : " Nothing, Albert, Nothing."

    Similarly, Peter Lax was famous for saying: " I don't work for general fame, I work for the grudging admiration of a few
    close colleagues."

    So given that, who cares if film stars and athletes and CEOs get fame?

    However, it would be nice if the employed really gifted earned enough money to not have to waste emotional energy and time on money fears ; This energy would better spent on such things as research--and that would benefit society.,

    The reason to accept awards ( Macarthur, Nobel etc.) is to get the resources they will provide to do MORE research etc.

    Along these lines, If a kid is a proto-scientist, and highly gifted she will not need to be lured into science by public
    acclaim of famous scientists. In fact, that crap was pushed in my childhood--when scientists WERE public heroes--and it took me a lifetime to get the negative psychological effects OUT of my mind. Science is about Science.
    Ding in Sich.

    Science is not driven by the need for fame. It is driven by curiosity, and to some extent by competition with your research peers--ala Peter Lax.

    Similarly, I don't care if society is "anti-intellectual", ( except as it affects my salary as a prof), because I ignore "society".
    As long as their are good resources for the gifted on the net, at libraries etc., it is on NO IMPORTANCE to get praise from
    society--aka from the general public. They don't understand the work anyway.

    If people want to fawn over Hip-Hop, and I can still get classical sheet music --why do I care?
    If people want to fawn over football, and can still get the Chess column ( on the net usually)--why do I care?
    If people want to watch "Dr. House" and I watch "Gotterdamerung" on You Tube--that's ok with me.

    Now that we have the web, things are much better.

    I ignore popular culture--I opt out--I ignore it in the same way that I ignore dumb people.

    p.s. I know of "Dr House" because it was playing at a Pizza Joint that I ate at. That's how I find out about such things.
    Why people need blaring TV to eat by, is beyond me. I ate fast and got out.

    We don't need kids who enroll in physics because "Physics is a good job". We need kids who enroll in physics because they are fascinated by understanding the universe.

    There are plenty of such kids, and their has been a surplus of physicists ( and mathematicians) for the last 35 years--so that many Phd graduates can't find tenured jobs at research universities.

    Why are people constantly trying to increase enrollment in physics? We should be raising standards and DECREASING

    This holds for all the other sciences as well. We have a long standing surplus of scientists. We don't NEED to get
    people interested in this career--we need to raise standards and decrease the supply. Then those who really love the field, and who are good enough at it ,
    will have a chance at decent paying and stable career at it.

    ok, my spelling and grammar are degenerating, it's very late here. So I am going to bed.

    I hope I have said useful stuff.


    Céad Mile Fáilte

    Penny, it's nice to see you back on the block / blog.

    You and many others have raised some important points here.  I expect, though, that by the time I have got my own thoughts on the subject sorted the topic will have gone cold.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Dear Robert (Olley),
    I have missed you too, kindred spirit!!

    Steve Davis
    Penny, you must be feeling a whole lot better now! Don't worry, I enjoyed reading your comments.