Through The Cracks

I don’t remember when or where, but the other day – no more than six months ago, and no less than two weeks – I came across an article saying that the US was very bad in comparison to other countries in educating and promoting people of exceptional IQ.

There is a lot to be said for that, in comparison to the sort of daft worship of high IQ that other countries do.  Being a genius doesn’t make you good at anything in particularly (in fact, most geniuses will tend to drift aimlessly through life because they never learn study habits.)  It doesn’t give you empathy for other people or make you socially adept.  In fact, what it does is make you automatically an “odd.”

I know this because I’m raising one (and by some measures two) of them.  The smarter one sometimes needs a cue card to remember how to tie his shoes and becomes obsessed with things till he learns them, which means giving him an interesting puzzle is a bad idea, no matter how much he loves puzzles, because he’ll spend the next two weeks in his room, in his underwear, unable to think of or do anything else.  (It’s particularly inadvisable during the school year, but we sometimes like to see him during Spring break or summer too.)

We could go into what causes the obsessive periods, which are apparently normal in highly gifted people.

There is also saltational learning – which makes gifted children such a pain in class – it basically means that most gifted kids aren’t good at most tasks they’ve never encountered.  Instead, because they develop their skills in highly targeted bursts, they might be lacking some skills normal kids have.

Say that the task in kindergarten is to color inside the lines.  Most kids at three or four can do this (I couldn’t, but that’s a different reason.  Having been born severely premature, I had issues with fine motor until much later.) They can do this because they’ve spent hours – days perhaps – playing, let’s face it, very weird games like pick up sticks, or whatever which refined motor control.

But let’s take your supergenius (super genius to the rescue!)  He found this “play” boring beyond belief.  So he taught himself to read at three, and has been reading his way through Roman history and (in younger son’s case) “How things work” series of engineering books.

Put him in a kindergarten class and tell him to color inside the lines,

He’s never practiced that fine motor skill, and he won’t know how to.

Let alone the fact that these kids tend to be blunt to the point of rudeness and are likely to tell you “this is boring, may I translate the Iliad from the Greek, instead?”   My kids wouldn’t (well, younger one is STILL teaching himself Greek, but that’s something else) because by the time they went to class they had a modicum of social grace.  But even when they applied themselves wholeheartedly to coloring, they were very bad at it.

So, what does your average genius do?  He or she hates coming in last (younger son didn’t care, and until the competitive gene kicked in at puberty was the hardest person in the world to motivate) so then they spend the next two weeks learning coloring, until they can do it with shading, directional light and depth.

Of course, in the meantime, in your average kindergarten, they failed the rubrics on learning your own address and sorting by colors, but by gum, they’re better at coloring than all their peers and many artists.

That is how geniuses learn and their interaction with the school system if a problem and one that points to the larger point of this article.

In the meanwhile I just want to point out that the lack of sense of proportion, obsessive behavior and cluelessness about things other people don’t even remember learning is why what many countries do, promoting their geniuses immediately to positions of power over others is wrong.

The entire science fiction myth of “you’re a genius, you’ll be the best governor/king/president ever” give me hives (as some people who read my books can probably guess.) because you’re more likely to make a very bad ruler.  The closer you are to your people, the better you understand them and how they see you, and how what you do affects them.

So when the article said something about the US wasting its geniuses, it didn’t worry me a lot.  I mean it worries me in the personal sense.  I think we’re eating our seed corn.  I think that we should have the ability to educate our geniuses in ways that make them better balanced, happier, and more useful members of society.  (At least I hope there’s a way.  I’m trying to make sure younger son doesn’t end up locked in a trash-filled room, muttering to himself.)

But in the macro sense, wasting our geniuses is perhaps smarter than putting our geniuses in charge.

Yes, extraordinarily gifted people can become very good at something, but it takes them a lot of work to “tune” to the level where they interact successfully with other people.

However, the US is wasting ALL its odds.  Our school system is designed, metaphorically, to turn out square pegs.  It’s bad enough to pound cylinders into square pegs, but our system is worse than that: it also pounds star shapes into square pegs.  It flattens circles into square pegs.  And if it can’t do either, then it shatters them.

When my kids were going to school my best friend was the mother of a profoundly mentally disabled child.  Why?  Because the school was failing us both in the same way.

We won’t go into the insanity that’s “mainstreaming” which is pretending that your not-normal child is normal and making everyone feel better, but not teaching the child the things he needs to know and which are within his reach.  So you have a child with an IQ of 48 in a normal 5th grade class.  His “aide” is doing, oh, sorry, helping him with his homework in fractions, and he “passes”.  BUT HE WON’T be taught to button his shirt, or tie his shoes, or sit quietly or… any of the things that WILL help his caretakers in the future.  This is even worse with kids who are healthy enough they might be able to live independently and who aren’t taught the basics of life and maybe a basic job (counting things, or sweeping, or sorting stuff, or things that people who are impaired still can do and get paid for and feel they’re supporting themselves) because instead the system is so busy pretending they’re “normal.”

They don’t even try with gifted kids.  They tell you that the gifted child will be “all right, anyway” because “he’s so smart.” And so there’s no money to even try to help them.  Which is fine.  They’d probably assign them aides to pretend they’re normal.  Sometimes – and this will tell you the crazy conflation in their heads – they’ll tell you of some special school for gifted children.  (In Marshall’s case, at his level, middle school and higher, the school they found was in CT, boarding, and cost more than we made per year.  They threw that at us as though “Well, if your kid is so smart you must be rich, why do you insist on inflicting him on us.”  Crazy.  As though IQ were bought with money.)

It’s not true that gifted children are okay “anyway.”  I know several Mensans and they’re more likely to work awful, mindless, low pay, and often dangerous jobs than they are to be “captains of industry” or even – and this is the true waste – quietly competent technicians or mathematicians.  The Dilbert comics pegged it exactly when the janitor is the Mensan. More importantly, most Mensans I know are walking wounded, who have trouble forming relationships and always feel marginalized.  (It might be the inevitable result of being odd, but…)

Given this it probably shocks no one that the system is even worse with children who are mentally ill, or handicapped.

I’m fortunate in that neither of the kids are mentally ill.  But for at least a year we feared the younger one was.  We feared it because he has sensory oddities.  (I’ve heard this disparaged as not existing.  Bad news, I probably had the same issues Marshall had.  It’s hard to remember clearly, of course, but I remember complaining that clothes that bothered no one else were ‘prickly” and hearing REALLY low sounds perfectly.  And like him, I had trouble with my eyes working together enough to write on the line, so my handwriting was atrocious AND I wrote really slowly till I was about 10.)  It’s not even unusual.  Something in your brain doesn’t allow the eyes/ears/etc to work together.  In conjunction with this, you might have odd sensory effects.

We knew nothing about this, though as I’ve said above, once they described it I went “oh” – and I know that everyone in the family writes really slowly till the end of high school.  But the system we went through had more “give.”  My teacher in the village might think I was dawdling, but she also knew I knew the subjects and she might complain to my mother about my odd ways, but she wouldn’t send me to detention.

Marshall had always acted “odd” – I had him tested for mid range hearing loss (which I have.) because I noticed that if there was the slightest background noise, he had no idea what you’d said.  He didn’t write or draw until he was much older than his brother who was winning contests at 4. And there was the thing in which he swore to me cotton sweaters were scratchy.  Other minor things, like if you rubbed your fingernails against the car upholstery, he used to get really upset and scream to stop it, because it hurt his ears.  We though he was “eccentric.”

Elementary school his teacher though he was odd but she liked him.  Then he hit the regimentation of Middle School.  Beyond the fact he got heinously bullied by a group of girls in sixth grade, Middle School is when they try to standardize you and give you “standard behaviors.”  The unwritten curriculum is to make the kid behave like every other kid.

We started getting odd reports like that he’d thrown a fit because the girls in front of him were breathing so loudly he couldn’t hear the teacher.  Sounds loony, right?  The teachers thought so.  They wanted to medicate him.

Honestly, if it hadn’t come with the bullying and if he hadn’t got clinically depressed, we might have gone along with it.  We thought he was nuts, too.  And his grades were trawling the depts., and it seemed to us like he wasn’t even trying.

But he was depressed, and well… we took him to a psychologist, who said “uh” and gave us a recommendation to a hearing center that deals with kids like him, and then to a vision center, and then…

He was so horribly disabled (for instance he heard all sounds at the same level) that they couldn’t believe he’d made it through sixth grade with good grades, could read and write and could generally “pass”.  Then they tested his IQ and went “oh” – because he’d been using his IQ to cover his issues.  (And it explained something in kindergarten where his teacher thought he didn’t understand spoken language at all – or at least she didn’t understand why she gave instructions and then he looked at what his classmates were doing to know what to do.)

We started working with him on physical therapy for the senses and now, if he’s not normal he’s so close as makes no difference.  (We need to take him for what we hope will be his final appointment at the hearing center.)

But if we hadn’t had reason to be suspicious of the school, we might have gone along with medication.  I wonder how many parents do.

And then comes “what if your child is really mentally ill?”  My friend Pat Richardson wrote about his family’s issues with this over at PJM.

In the comments people started blaming him and his wife for their child’s problem.

Let me say right away MAYBE some parents are responsible for their kids’ neurosis.  BUT it’s physically impossible for parents to make a child seriously mentally ill.  You might manage an approach to it if you lock him in the closet and feed him through the lock, but the facile Freudian nonsense which is ruining your education, which (mostly through movies and popular entertainment) projects the idea that if you thwart your child’s interest in eating his socks at two he’ll become Jack the Ripper at 30 is nonsense.  I hope all of you knew that, because it’s pernicious nonsense.

As I said, my child was never mentally ill – but he did have problems we didn’t understand, and which made him act very oddly.  The school’s response to it was to treat it as though it were a moral failing on his part and ours.

Society does it one better.  It couples that with treating them as though they’re “perfectly normal.”  It’s mainstreaming all over again.  Pat’s child might do fine in an institution which medicates him regularly.  He’s not going to get that, because while mentally ill he refuses it, and they pretend he’s a fully responsible adult.

Could the school have trained him to take his meds.  Maybe.  My guess is the attempt was never made to explain why or train him.  And now he’s an adult and our laws don’t allow us to do anything.

Peter Grant talked about what we DO do with the mentally ill – we jail them, by and large.  Which is another pounding of pegs into shapes they aren’t.

Do I want a place where society can say “you are crazy” and lock you up?  Not particularly. The problem is that medical illness is not QUANTIFIABLE and things like sensory issues can masquerade as mental illness.  Then, you get the same effect you get in the school where if you’re a little odd, they proclaim you learning disabled or a “problem”.  Or you get the Soviet medicalization of dissent.  (We might get that anyway.)

BUT at the same time there should be an objective “caused arm to self and others” standard that just gets you sent to a quiet place and medicated for the rest of your life.

Perhaps the answer is a delivery system like depo-provera.  Under the skin capsules that dispense your dosage over six months, and if you don’t come in for your shot, they check to see how you’re doing and whether you still do need it. (Do these even exist?  Or is contraception a higher priority than sanity?)

Or perhaps there is no easy answer.  There probably is no easy answer.

No one ever asks you to choose between 100 lashes and a bowl of chocolate ice cream.  Usually the best choice you have is the “best of a broken world”

But what we’re doing, starting with school, is pretending the odd don’t exist, and not only letting them drop, but actively shoving them down through the cracks, so we can have our tidy and “rational” world.

The standardization of human beings is a bad policy.  One designed for an industrialized, one size fits all world, which by and large never came to pass.

And we should be able to do better.

I won’t say the measure of a civilized society is how it deals with its odd members — who knows how to measure civilization, when we only have our race to go off of?

But I’ll say we’re wasting good people and causing suffering that could be avoided, by pretending that all the pegs should be square.

UPDATE: New chapter up at Mad Genius Club

296 responses to “Through The Cracks

  1. I was ill (and thus at home), they were odd (very). The only choice was to homeschool. I did. After all, I had that bright shiny PhD sitting around, unused.

    Cross your fingers – the last one is almost out of school – and she WILL master what she wants.

    Then I can go sit quietly in the corner and write.

  2. There’s almost no personality quirk which cannot be cured or at least addressed by a parent. There’s almost no good outcome of a parent leaving it to a public (and in some cases, private) school to cure or address.

    We had all sorts of issues with our three kids, and we more or less took care of them by personal, individualized attention, over a period of several years. If you think that any school, with its cookie-cutter approach, could have taken care of them, you would be delusional. There is NO substitute for parental care, love and attention.

    As I said in another blog’s comment: no matter how badly you may think you’re managing your children’s upbringing and education, you cannot come close to the damage that a public school WILL do to them.

    • I completely agree with this, but let’s face it institutionalized learning will not go away for MOST kids, so perhaps we should make it a “first do no harm” situation. (And we addressed both kids on their own at home. I only sent them to school because I was afraid they’d become ODDER with just us. I was probably wrong. I was young. Let it pass.)

      • We didn’t care if they came out odder. Strange thing: they didn’t. They’re all functioning members of society, socialize with others, and are getting on with their lives, with varying degrees of success. Kinda like life itself.

        Our problem, as a society, is that as individuals we over-emphasize the outliers of the bell curve (which almost by definition are too far up the time/cost/quality curve to be addressed). Then our institutions (schools, colleges) over-emphasize the center of the bell curve (public school curriculm, medicating children’s moods into conformity, GPA-mania, “mainstreaming” etc).

        I have the answer (as, I suspect, do most of us), but it’s too long for this forum, and I refuse to distill it into a bumper-sticker aphorism.

  3. Sarah, I have to tell you you are wrong when you said parents cannot make a child mentally ill. I work in child protective. I sit next to the unit that places child who have mental health needs for a variety of reasons. I also work with the caseworkers that visit the child and are supposed to work with the parents while the child is in foster care. We are often told to “fix” said child. The parents do not understand or ignore the fact they still have to parent while the child is in care. There are no socioeconomic factors here. Often the worse parental offenders are the ones with the money. It is heart breaking to see some of these children as young as 5, going into these institutions. But it comes back to the fact the parents are not parenting and watching for their children. We recently placed a 6 year old who had sexually molested a number of younger children. The mother’s response to all of it was, well it happened to me and look how well I turned out. Quite honestly, this was a family very well known to the system for sex abuse. She has turned out very well for that family. She was employed and not on any assistance. Did the parent cause the child’s mental health issue? Absolutely. Just as much as if she had beaten the child and s/he could not separate punishment from love. I tend to see the worst of what the world has to offer our children. In my world, much of the children’s mental health issues are caused by the parent.
    You and Daniel are stellar parents. You would never have let the problem go to the point the authorities would have to step in. You and Daniel are the kind of parent we rarely see in the system. Your kids are blessed to have you. And I bet they know this now they have started college. But mental health issues can and do run in families. If a child grows up watching a mentally ill parent, that is how s/he will act. One has to have a great deal of strength to overcome a childhood full of that kind of behaviors.

    • I meant mental health issues — not neurosis or even bad behavioral patterns. I know parents can cause that. But making a child say a mass murderer by having him, oh, hear voices that tell him to do that, is usually not the parents’ fault (except through heredity.) The abuse it would take to cause that is WELL beyond merely failing to discipline.
      Also, the case you’re describing, the mother didn’t cause it, UNLESS she sexually abused the child or let another adult do it. At least in my experience children that young who molest are mimicking what was done to them. And still that’s not “mental health” as such. It’s trauma and it might behave indistinguishably from someone who hears voices telling him to molest. But it’s not an organic in-the-brain issue.

      • I suggest this is a topic which cannot be profitably pursued. The simple fact is that we do not know enough to rule on the topic. As recently as thirty years ago, when I took the University’s Basic Psychology course they were still teaching about “schizophrenogenic mothers” — parents whose conflicting demands inevitably produced a schizophrenic child.

        Thoroughly debunked now, the concept represented the scientific consensus for almost four decades.

        Further, a large part of the issue hinges on how you define mental health and I doubt our understanding or how human mind and body interact is sufficient to definitively answer the question.

        I suggest we leave it at agreement that parents can exacerbate or alleviate issues stemming from organic differentials in a child’s brain.

        • As recently as thirty years ago, when I took the University’s Basic Psychology course they were still teaching about “schizophrenogenic mothers” — parents whose conflicting demands inevitably produced a schizophrenic child.

          Dear God, if massively conflicting demands inevitably resulted in a schizophrenic child almost everyone would be schizo; “conflicting demands” from the POV of a child is EVERYTHING.
          I was about to write “that isn’t as simple as “don’t kill,” but that’s not absolute, either– there’s times when you need to use probably lethal force, too.

          • I was going to say that instead of “don’t kill” you could substitute “don’t murder” as an absolute, but then you get into sticky definitions. Is Justifiable Homicide murder?

            • Yep.

              LIFE is a balancing act– and, the same impulse that makes me say that makes me add that the statement doesn’t mean that “oh, this is midway, it must be right” is true!

            • No. All murder is homicide, not all homicide is murder.

              • I agree, but I’ve heard reasoned* arguments for the other side. Usually of the not all murder is bad, but all homicide is murder type.

                *The don’t ever, under no circumstances, kill, are NOT reasoned arguments.

      • The abuse it would take to cause that is WELL beyond merely failing to discipline.

        This is true, but what of it? Abuse of that magnitude is depressingly common. The truth is, I think, that you are using the term ‘mental health issues’ in far too narrow a sense. Codependency, PTSD, and the whole range of dysfunctional coping mechanisms, as well as some of the mood disorders, can all occur, and frequently do occur, in response to a persistently abusive environment — especially in childhood. These are all definitely mental health issues, even though they are not what you call ‘organic in-the-brain issues’. Mental health is not just about the physiology and chemistry of the brain; it’s also about the habits of thought and feeling that have been deeply ingrained in the neural pathways by repetition and reinforcement.

      • There is a huge problem in our society with mental health issues, and one of the biggest is which things could have been prevented (nurture) and couldn’t (nature). Of course there are many things that play into it, but my own experience is the neglect and abuse of children cause them to develop abnormally. And it’s true that these children would probably not have survived in pre-industrial cultures. So what do we do now?

        My daughter is 19, we adopted her when her mother (my sister) died in a car crash caused by her boyfriend–who was abusing my daughter. The years of neglect and sub-standard parenting before that only contributed to her problems. So she now has an alphabet soup of diagnoses, but it all boils down to this: she is recklessly impulsive, and has little understanding of cause and effect. Combined with her knee-jerk hostility to authority, I wonder if she will ever have what I consider a normal life. And it is becoming less and less my concern, despite how much my family (especially my wife) has sacrificed for her. We have been told we were good parents to her; it was not enough to undo the bad parenting that came before. She is mentally ill, but only parts of it are hereditary (the propensity to addiction). The rest is all upbringing. We’ve been told by mental health professionals that were it not for my wife and I, my daughter would have been institutionalized years ago. We gave her a chance to at least somewhat function independently.

        • “recklessly impulsive, and has little understanding of cause and effect. Combined with her knee-jerk hostility to authority”

          Sounds like the boy my sister and her husband adopted. Sadly, he went as far as some EXTREMELY inappropriate behavior towards their daughters, so they couldn’t keep him in the home.

          Which just makes it harder for him, in the end.

          • We worked really hard to keep my daughter in our home, despite some of the things she did. And then in July, she decided that our restrictions (which were not just ours, but the courts’, too) were just too much for her, and she started sneaking out. That happened twice, we said, “Please don’t come home if you can’t abide by the rules,” and she didn’t. She’s going to have it hard for some time, but she may figure it out eventually. I just don’t know what the cost is going to be for her.

            • Have some hope, I probably did most if not all the things your daughter is doing at her age (and probably some she isn’t) and I grew up and at least I think I turned out all right. YMMV

              I understood cause and effect, I just either thought I could beat it, or didn’t give a d#@n. It took some hard knocks but I finally learned.

      • For one example of parents causing bad behavior, see the NY Times article that Glenn Reynolds linked today. The woman appears to have no clue how many of her problems are self-created (e.g., her daughter’s sense of entitlement.) I could write much more on the subject, but it would be preaching to the choir, so I’ll let you read the article for yourselves. Talk about bad parenting…!

    • Linda, of course parents can make a child mentally ill. What’s important is to understand how infrequently that actually happens (especially when compared to historical societal trends). As a society’s wealth and standards / quality of life improve, that lifts ALL the family fortunes. The difference between modern times and societies of yore is that now we are more sensitive to mental issues, so we hear about them more often.

      Also in days of yore, the appalling mortality rates and lower life expectancies did a Darwin on both mentally unstable parents and their offspring; nowadays, not so much, which also accounts for the apparent growth of the problem. When you study late-agrarian societies and early-Industrial Age societies (which I have), you come to realize that for all our apparent modern-day problems, we live in a comparative Paradise.

      I know that big-picture analysis often seems cold and unfeeling, but unfortunately, that’s the best way to formulate public policy.

    • Lind, I don’t think Sarah is talking about pathology, which is what CPS deals with. Schools do not deal well with mental illness, sexual abuse and the effects of drug use on children, they also don’t deal well with kids in foster care. Unfortunately, they seem to lump in “differently learning” with “abused/broken/mentally ill” and try to control it the same way.

    • I’ve worked on the inside, also, Linda. My wife and I were therapeutic foster parents for the Youth Behavior Program in Evergreen, CO. We were basically doing some “cutting edge” intervention with emotionally troubled children. It takes a LOT of training to succeed with those kinds of children, and yes, the parents of a lot of them caused the problems. Most states don’t provide the level of training necessary, and restrict what the parents can do so stringently that there are fewer “success stories”. There are also children that just cannot “succeed”, no matter what you try to do, or how you do it. There’s something either missing or broken, and they can’t reach the level of physical, social, or moral development that will allow them to function on their own. Governments don’t wish to acknowledge this, so every year we have more and more “broken” adults clogging up the system. My wife and I have a 39-year-old son (one we adopted through the Evergreen program) that’s one of those ‘broken’ adults. It took us 25 years to find a place where he could live a life as close to normal as possible. Between the abuse he suffered as an infant, and the self-abuse he experienced as an “adult”, he’s just barely able to function. The kind of facility he’s living in is absolutely essential for people like him, but our government seems he$$-bent on destroying them. It does make one just a TAD bit angry and resentful. The fact that Timothy has many of the same problems doesn’t amuse us.

  4. Clayton Cramer, your occasional colleague at PJmedia writes on the topic of mental illness and how our nation’s choice not to compel treatment has resulted in so much incarceration. He self-published his book.

  5. But there is plenty of money for football.

    • Football generally generates income in excess to its cost. It also features outcomes which are susceptible to easy metrics. Moreover, it is irrelevant to this discussion as the problem is not the allocation of funding, it is the pedagogy employed in the classroom. More funding for classroom activities might easily exacerbate the problems of inappropriate instructional methods and goals.

      • Depends where. Here football is passe. They now pump money into Lacrosse.

      • Not at my high school.

        They decided to reclassify “knowledge bowl” (team jeopardy) as a “sport”– including requiring us to get physicals– so that we could be charged the sports fee to subsidize football’s expenses.

        We also took an entire school day off to “volinteer” to do jobs for “donations” to fund “sports”– which all went into the football program, too.

        I, well known jerk that I am, refused. They assigned us essays.

      • The problem is that the importance of football downplays the importance of academia. Which allows such things as teachers warehousing children on the grounds they will be “just fine” when they are entitled to an education.

        • Given the general attitudes on display at school board meetings and pretty much every PTA and Parent/Teacher conference I have ever attended, I am pretty sure they would downplay the importance of academia anyway. If they allow academia to be important they have to reliably produce positive results, and if they have to reliably produce positive results …

          On a minor note: they are not “entitled” to an education (and they are getting one regardless, if only in the stupidity and incompetence engendered by bureaucratic fiefdoms.) The institutions are being paid to provide an education, but as anyone who has visited the types of places inclined to charge a two-drink minimum, what you pay for and what you get are often very different things.

          I could discuss what you are actually “entitled” to in this world but it is not a guest blog post Sarah needs me to write, and certainly not as a comment.

    • That’s because there is plenty of money in football. American universities love their football programs because athletic boosterism is a great way of motivating apparently sane people to fork over their dough without complaint.

      Compare that with tuition fees, which are forked over with constant howls of manufactured outrage, or government grants, which are forked over with any number of daft conditions attached (such as pretending that the primary job of an English professor is to publish impenetrable works of Postmodernist dada under the name of ‘research’).

      Here in Canada, there is very little money for football, because virtually all the universities are state-owned and tax-supported, and much less reliant on wheedling money out of their alumni. Football only pleases the public, and it isn’t the public who pay the bills; it’s the bureaucrats, who have taken the money from the public by other means and distribute it with their own agendas in mind.

      • Tom, there’s no relation between state funding and over-funding sports. Some (most?) of the biggest college football programs in the US are state schools.

        Not that our private schools are much better. My alma mater didn’t have football, but their attitude towards basketball was such that they preferred letting me out of my housing contract than punishing the jocks who threatened to shoot my roommate, my girlfriend, and me.

        • There is, however, a relationship between universal state ownership and not over-funding sports. You just don’t see that in the U.S., because you don’t have a situation in which all the universities are government-owned and operated. It does make a substantial difference when an institution can expect to cover nearly all of its budget by sucking at the public teat.

      • As we all know, the primary job of English professors is to make sure their students are properly indoctrinated in race/sex/class and gender analysis as well as a solid understanding of queer theory and literature. At least, judging by the English department professor bios I’ve seen on university websites.

      • ChicagoRefugee

        Whereas we know that the actual job of English professors is to indoctrinate their students into the mysteries of race/sex/class & gender analysis, give them a grounding in queer theory & literature, and confront them with their own privilege.

        At least according to the course catalogues and English Department professor bios I’ve seen on university websites, that’s their job.

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    My mother is bipolar, and a few years ago things got very scary with her. It was a long time before she was properly diagnosed and when I was younger, I thought she was being awful towards our family on purpose. Eventually she had medications, but went off of them without telling anyone and ended up in trouble. You literally wouldn’t believe some of the things that happened. But it was almost impossible to get her the help she needed. I finally had to go before a judge and got her committed. Now she’s in assisted living, and getting her medication regularly.

  7. Sensory issues can be very hard to diagnose in small children, as they have no standard against which to measure what they sense.

    When the Daughtorial Unit was still in nappies she was wont to complain mightily about one particular aisle in the local grocery. Finally Beloved Spouse & I realized that it was the aisle with the fish counter at its far end; we were noticing the smell about two-thirds of the way down the aisle but the D.U. was smelling the fish on entering the aisle. (If only we’d had sense to get her instructed as a perfume mixer or wine blender!)

    The D.U. was also discovered to have extremely poor visual acuity in one eye when the pediatrician’s daughter was allowed to administer the eye chart. Not being practiced in the routine the daughter covered the Right eye first instead of the customary Left eye — and we learned that the D.U. had been seeing the chart with her good eye and memorizing it (to be fair, nobody told her not to.) The other eye could have been blind and still the D.U. would have tested 20-20.

    • I have poor (but correctable) vision (can’t see the big E) and it wasn’t caught until I was 10 years old. I had no idea, of course. I was the youngest kid in the class and, while I knew my classmates had these mysterious ways of knowing who was approaching that didn’t work for me, I just thought I’d find out how they did it when i got older. I got really good at identifying people by how their visual blobs moved and the color of their hair. Didn’t need to see blackboards to ace the classes. I’d’ve memorized the eye chart, too, if I’d ever had an eye exam, but wouldn’t have been able to see it well enough with either eye.

      I have, as a result, zero tolerance for parents who don’t run typical sensory checks on their kids, esp. for vision. My brother, seven years older, had similar issues and when they found out for him, they didn’t bother to check me.

      On the plus side, I was so old by the time I got glasses that I can consciously remember some of the things we forget how we learned. I can remember the thrill of realizing that you could tell when someone was looking at you by where their eyes were looking (now that I could see them), and the first time I actually saw someone whistle.

      • Well, Marsh had glasses from age 3. Back then the “your eyes don’t work together” test was not given by normal optometrists (it involves hitting dots projected on wall.) It might still not be. And the idea had NEVER occurred to us. And I had him tested for mid range hearing loss and was told “No, his hearing is actually better than normal” because test doesn’t catch “he hears EVERYTHING at the same level, so he can’t distinguish conversations right near him and across the room.” Sigh. It’s complex. I’m glad we caught it in 6th grade. Fixed his speech issues too. Apparently his messed up speech was because you need to hear speech at different ranges, too. He had a very specialized (read expensive) and tiny apparatus for a while. Which he kept losing, of course.

        • it’s been recently suggested that my younger son take the test for his eyes not working together. I have to schedule it soon. Of course, I am also supposed to schedule a CT scan for his sinus a forehead area to see if they can find out what’s causing his headaches. *sigh* More days off work…

          • If you can get him to do it, I found making Marsh do COPIES of text ad nauseum worked as well as the therapy which neither of us liked. AND he has great spelling. (My dad did the same to me, and it was what finally sped up my writing.)

            • Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Largely my fault, because I didn’t insist on things more when the boys were younger, but he’s also a really hard-headed cuss who also is one of those who thinks I have never had any experiences like his, so I can’t understand.

      • My dad was about that age before he found out he was blind (100%) in one eye. The optic nerves aren’t hooked up, and haven’t been from birth. Since he had always seen only out of one eye he never noticed anything until they were sitting at the dinner table and some of his brothers were playing around covering one eye and looking at stuff. He said, “when I cover my right eye I can’t see anything.” And my grandma thought he was joking. He had had eye tests previously in school, apparently he had cheated on them.

      • My vision isn’t as bad as Karen’s but I’m still pretty nearsighted. I still remember getting my glasses in grade four, and the amazement at realizing that those lines in the middle of the road weren’t actually solid, they were dashed. And it WAS possible to see individual leaves on trees without being right beside the trees.
        People who don’t need them don’t realize just how amazing an invention glasses are.

        • I got my glasses at the end of first grade. I was far-sighted (with astigmatism), so I wasn’t caught by the in-school screening. So I had no trouble reading the chalk-board, but the book right in front of me, I had trouble seeing.

          IIRC, the reason my mom took me in to have my eyes checked was because my dad had an appointment, and was out of town, so they would have had to pay for the appointment anyway.

          I was far behind in reading at the end of the school year (the teacher had told my mother that she didn’t think that I was smart enough to be a reader), caught up over the summer, and got ahead the next year. Mom is still glad they caught it then, another year and I might never have caught up.

          I really have no patience with people who complain about having to get glasses, and saying that it makes them feel old.

          • I had glasses growing up, hated them and wore contacts. Hated THEM enough that at nineteen I saved up my money and went to Canada and had my eyes lasered (at that time it was a rare procedure in the US). I was very nearsighted, and they always tell you not to expect perfect vision from the surgery, but I was lucky enough to come out with 20/20 vision, and still lucky enough that it hasn’t changed in the fifteen years since.

            • I’ve been very hesitant about laser eye surgery not because of any fear of tech but for the same reason you see world-famous cinematographers wearing glasses- chromatic aberrations and other minor problems that don’t bother most people but are hard to work around in graphics fields.

            • I had laser surgery in Panama City, Panama in 1995 (thereabouts). I was this close too being declared blind. My eyes are too sensitive to use contacts (they rip up my eyes) and my glasses were extremely thick. So yea, I still had astigmatism but I had never had such good eyesight ever (had my first pair of glasses when I was seven). My close sight has degraded some (seems it is normal) so I have to have reading glasses now. They do help with close work and I can do cross-stitch again.

  8. And like him, I had trouble with my eyes working together enough to write on the line, so my handwriting was atrocious AND I wrote really slowly till I was about 10.) It’s not even unusual. Something in your brain doesn’t allow the eyes/ears/etc to work together. In conjunction with this, you might have odd sensory effects.

    We’re going through that with Timmy right now. The school he’s in insists on mainstreaming him, and it’s just not working. He has SEVERE dyslexia, which is complicated by traumatic brain injury to the speech/language portion of his brain. That’s complicated by damage to the optic nerve, and to the muscles controlling eye movement. We’re also getting a constant litany of complaints about actually GOING to school (this is a kid that loved going to school in kindergarten, that now has to be dragged out the door kicking and screaming), to the point where we’re seriously considering moving him, or home-schooling him. The problem with home-schooling him is that both Jean and I are old, and in poor physical health, and we’re afraid we’re not UP to home-schooling him.

  9. Consider the conflicting dynamic between protecting individual rights and the public interest that was recently demonstrated at the DC Navy Yard. The goal of non-discrimination against an undiagnosed mental illness was in opposition to the public safety of employees. Unhappily, there is no easy formula for balancing those conflicting purposes.

    • It occurs to me that the public interest would be better served by not disarming the military personnel in a military establishment. The primary function of the military is to defend the res publica against violent attack: rather a hopeless task, if the military cannot even defend itself against violent attack. There need not have been any question of discriminating against the mentally ill, if the Navy Yard shooter had not been so richly surrounded by undefended human targets. But I suppose that is a rant for another time.

      • Uh, yeah — in this venue it is a topic of mostly assumed agreement, so that becomes preaching to the choir. The idea that group safety is enhanced by denying responsible adults the ability to defend themselves is, shall we say, foreign to most Americans.

        • I wish that idea were foreign to your so-called Defense Department. Given their growing unwillingness even to defend their own servicemen, that name is becoming positively Orwellian.

          • Wasn’t their choice, as I recall. It was a presidential order.

            Why it hasn’t been undone since, however…

            • Unless you’re actually on the frontlines somewhere, it’s not actually normal for army or air force military guys (especially non-officers, or people not officially on duty as sentries or security, to have guns with them. Same thing in the US Navy.

              You know this. You’ve watched Classic Trek. When aliens beam onto the ship or sneak onto the ship, only the security guys initially have phasers. Then Kirk or some officer in charge orders the armory to start breaking out the phasers and the phaser rifles, and they issue them to everybody, and then they get down to a little armed fighting in the corridors. But they don’t have phasers on everybody all the time. Similarly, when they have a landing party, the landing party has to be issued phasers. They don’t have them already.

              In the mirror universe, of course, everybody does go armed onboard all the time. (Albeit with uniform daggers.)

              • Yeah, having a bored, tired roving watch all alone at 2 am with a 9mm in the nuclear power plant is a recipe for a Really Bad Day. But there’s a difference between that and allowing someone who normally carries concealed to do so at work. Especially when that work is in an office environment.

                Maybe if we didn’t make weapons unfamiliar badges of duty.

                • Let me point out that if I have somebody who I won’t trust bored around a nuclear power plant with a 9mm, I WON’T TRUST THEM BORED AROUND A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WITHOUT A 9MM!!!!!

                  • Eh. While it’s possible to break a nuclear power plant without a gun, it’s rather a lot of work, and if there’s any quality in common with watchstanders at 2 am, it’s laziness.

              • It use to be normal for folks that usually have guns to be able to have them in their car, though.

                Along with bulldozing tons of on-base housing, Clinton destroyed that advantage.

            • Flashback: US Military Bases are ‘Gun Free Zones’ Because Democrats Decreed Them To Be
              BRYAN PRESTON
              After Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded more than 30 in November 2009, John R. Lott wrote about one of the craziest policies to come out of the Clinton era: making military bases “gun free zones.”

              Yes, that’s correct. In 1993, President Bill Clinton decreed that US military personnel were to surrender the Second Amendment rights that they swear an oath to support and defend. Lott, writing in 2009, called for that policy to be ended. …

          • Once upon a time there was a department of war and one of navy. then they merged them. Interservice rivalry advised a new name.

  10. “quietly competent technicians or mathematicians.”
    Hey!! I resemble that remark, when I was young black kid a teacher took me to a Mensa event here in Chicago, found the people to be all white and odd, I had enough problems being odd black kid with all the answer.

  11. Yes. We began home schooling our Odd at 5th grade. He did 2 1/2 years of curriculum that school year. He was ready for calculus at age 13. Confirmation is sweet. We were as clueless as it sounds like you feel … years later, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome … ahhh, that and the IQ explains everything. Slow painful writing … check. Bizarrely out-of-sync social skills … check. Disproportionate anxiety … check. Weird aversions to certain foods and types of clothing … check. He was relieved to have a label for himself other than “loser.” We do not expect him to rule the world; we just hope he’ll learn skills for living as a normal and making a living using his freakish math genius — maybe engineering, maybe academic science, depends on how he manages with college.

    • Marsh has a lot of those, but NO social issues — he’s actually our social butterfly. We asked about aspergers because a friend has it and the doctor told us “No, he’s socially engaged and empathetic.” So, it was weirder.

      • Yeah, that’s the Aspie thing, the social issues.

      • Timmy’s initially shy, but relaxes and then tries to take over the conversation. He’s really a nice kid, has good manners, and WANTS to learn — he just has a massive problem between him and the subject matter. We’re looking more and more at a combination of home-schooling and tutoring. He really needs bucketfuls of therapy in a dozen different directions, and it all can’t be done “after school”.

        • Timmy’s initially shy, but relaxes and then tries to take over the conversation.

          I remember that kind of shock…. “Good lord, it’s safe to talk? I can really say things here? BOOM!!!!” *runs over everyone*

    • This points to one of the major problems with a school system developed on the model of 19th Century industrialization. Children develop unevenly — look at the physical differences in any given classroom — psychologically as well as physically. With genius Odd Kids this is even more pronounced — some things come to them so easily that they neglect those things that don’t come readily.

      Rather than focusing on getting all kids to the same concluding point (graduation) our schools tend to focus on moving their “product” through at uniform rates. Kids unable to cover half a year of grade level math and kids capable of covering two years’ worth in a single year are forced to mosey on information starvation. Each kid is ill-served in the name of equal treatment in a system which thinks equal treatment consists of feeding a 225-lb boy the same number of daily calories as an 85-lb girl.

      In a time when we are truly achieving the ability to treat each student as a unique individual we are doing the exact opposite.

      Walter Russell Mead recently highlighted an interesting pedagogical experiment in his blog:
      School Not Working? Flip It/A>
      We might have been doing school wrong all these years. The Atlantic profiles “the flipped classroom,” a new educational model in which students listen to lectures at home via digital technology and do their “homework” in the classroom. The benefits of this model may seem obvious—when you most need a teacher’s or professor’s help is when you’re working through that tough problem set—but it’s good to see a new study bear this intuition out:

      • RES, that’s the first teaching method I’ve seen which actually works the way education is supposed to work: study, absorb, apply and test for retention. It’s so logical that there’s no way it’ll ever be adopted by the educational system.

        • Large checks from politically influential captains of industry say you’re wrong (keep fingers crossed)

          Keep an eye out regarding Khan Academy, a big proponent of flipping the classroom.

        • and test for retention

          This is about the only thing that we still work on, with Summer break– because that makes kids do poorly on tests, we are… going to get rid of summer break.

          If the test shows we lack in retention, remove the need to retain before testing!

          • Bloody hell. They were talking about that crap back when *I* was is high school. Back then a teacher said that studies have shown that most of the loss in retention happens in the first two weeks, so if that’s the case (nothing is quite as worthless as 16-year old social science) then having four one-month breaks throughout the year would make things worse.

            Of course, it’s a stupid solution to a stupid problem, so that means bureaucrats love it.

      • Read Tolstoy’s essays on education. It’s amazing how the issues he grappled with at the end on the nineteenth century are still with us, with no solutions except ones that no one wants to hear, like returning education to the city, neighborhood, or family, and stop trying to make every kid just like every other kid, and every school just like every other school.

      • RES — in college, we had a spot in the library “staked out” for our class of electrical engineers. A few of the professors would actually come to US to see if we needed help. Sounds like we had something similar to the flipped classroom.

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you saying that children must be educated as individuals, not faceless members of a homogeneous cohort? This requires the complete rethinking of public education, of course. Start with the concept of dividing children by age: Young kids are immensely variable in their development, and so you end up with a class of kids all over the place in capability. It all evens out somewhere after puberty, but we condition kids by that point to think of themselves as damaged, or special, or some other descriptor that has nothing to do with how kids really are. But if you do away with dividing kids by age, your typical American school cannot even function. I’m not sure what the solution is, but what we’re doing is horrendous. We’ve gone from a 90-98% literacy rate at the time of the American Revolution to an effective literacy rate in the 60-70% range.

    • Actually, one of the easiest solutions to the literacy problem, and a lot more to boot, is to RETURN to the one-room schoolhouse. Actually, a three- or four-room schoolhouse would be better, but the idea is essentially the same — let children progress at their own rate. The high-IQ learners will be supported up through the system quickly, the average will plod along in the middle, and the weak will be allowed to develop as they can. Of course, that would require much better-prepared teachers, which would send the “Educational Establishment” (“Education” programs in college, teachers’ unions, and school administrators) into apoplexy. Separating kids by age is a relatively new phenomena, and a century of “experimentation” has proven it’s mostly a failure.

      • The one school I attended that got consistently good results, or at least better results than the run of the public-education mill, was a junior high (grades 7–9 here in Alberta) that assigned kids to homeroom classes of all three grades mixed together, and let them enrol in subject classes according to their academic ability. At no point were they segregated merely by date of birth. Of course the experiment was scrapped after a few years; it took a fairly large enrolment to make the system work well, and the school board fiddled with the boundaries of the catchment area until there were too few children of junior-high age allowed to attend that school. Sic transit and all that.

      • Yes. We had a one room school house with two “forms” and my teacher made accommodations for my weirdness without — seemingly — noticing it.

    • Yep. I know from homeschooling for a year that if I had done it from the beginning my kids would likely have entered college in their early teens. And I’ve said before “if I have the educating of another child, he/she won’t see the inside of a school till college.” (except maybe for specialized, individual private classes.) The problem is that I’m not up on math — truth — and Dan is very bad at TEACHING it, because what’s intuitively obvious to him isn’t to anyone else. So I was afraid my kids would miss that. We do have a lack of local, pay-per-hour “we teach only this” classrooms. Private, of course. Some kids wander off in televised/computerized classes. Marsh can take interactive computer classes, but NOT pre-recorded ones. He gets bored if he can’t ask questions. There is a great need for this. The tutoring centers are way too expensive. (Or were, when we were young and broke.)

      • Math at the theorem-proving level, like geometry, is a very difficult subject to teach. I used to coach my high-school classmates, which is when I discovered that a lot of it, in some real sense, can’t really be taught. Inductive reasoning requires some leaps of intuition that are mysterious to me (though I can do it) and not readily teachable. (How to approach constructing a proof).

        I myself topped out in abstract algebra (I went to college in advanced math and hit the junior level watershed class my freshman year. There I was, 17, and I wasn’t going to be Einstein after all. Sigh…) Math at that level was either trivial, or impossible, depending on the student.

        I retooled and went on to classical Greek and lots of dead languages.

        • My college math prof urged me to take calculus because I did so well in Trig. I hated to tell him that the only reason I did well in trig was because it was applied math (I did vectors for a living and I don’t like having my bridges fall down from uneven force distribution). Calculus would have killed me. My brain isn’t wired that way.

          • I was advanced enough in math to be going to the high school for math classes while still in middle school. I made it to calculus as either a sophomore or junior in high school (don’t remember) took a semester of it and said, “this is stupid, I’m never going to use this in the real world.” and dropped it in favor of an extra period of metal shop. 🙂

            • They let me double up in math classes from 7th to 9th grades, then they ran out of classes and sent me to the local college for a bit more until I gradated. I was grateful. Would have majored in it at college but fell out of the watershed class for the major (125 go in, 25 come out) freshman year instead of junior year like everyone else.

              Quite a shock. My first intimation that I wouldn’t necessarily have everything my way. 🙂 I did get a better education as a result, though.

          • I can do calculus, but I prefer applied math.

            • As a mathematician, I’m kindof annoyed at all of this “I prefer calculus over applied math” stuff! Calculus *is* applied math! It was born to serve Newton in describing how the heavens move, and it’s one of the chief tools of engineers and physicists alike to make sure that everything works the way they are supposed to.

              But then, the one math class that almost killed me was “Differential Equations”, because it had about two weeks of theory, and then seemed to focus on story problems after that. I didn’t pick up my stride again until I hit “Linear Algebra”, “Advanced (aka Theoretical) Calculus”, and “Abstract Algebra” (which I find really weird, but fun, once I got the hang of it) and a healthy dose of experiment-based “Physics for Scientists and Engineers”.

              Indeed, I had a room-mate who complained that the non-calculus Physics class was harder, because they weren’t willing to resort to calculus–yet calculus arose because it simplified the types of calculations they were doing!

              Often, a pure proof-based math class proves to be potential show-stoppers for people who think they want to be pure mathematicians, because they like this calculation-intense algebra and calculus stuff, but they can’t handle the abstractness of proving things. The mathematics community hasn’t figured out how to deal with this issue. (I also tend to suspect that a lot of otherwise fine future mathematicians get put off of math because of the early emphasis on calculation, too.)

              • Am I the only person in the world who likes word problems? My kids hate them with a passion, even the fun ones in physics. And everyone I talk to is like “Bleah, word problems.” I used to steal my brother’s college exercise books and solve all the word problems first week of his classes, because.
                Of course, I was smarter than younger son who ALMOST got killed by solving all the problems in his brother’s 10th grade math book in ink, on the book. I remember Marshall locked in the closet screaming “No, I’m not coming out so you can kill me.” And Robert pounding on the door yelling “How do I explain this to my teacher.”
                I talked Robert down by pointing out that the kid could have been drawing obscene stuff on his math book instead. As he was well capable of. This was the time he put Robert’s elephant collection in obscene positions… Another near-death experience.
                Ah, the sweet memories of the kids when they were younger. 😉

                • To be fair, I don’t mind story problems in moderation. I think the issues I was having with Diff Eq was a combination of craving more theory, a desire to push the boundaries of (my) knowledge, and of a natural need for variety. After a while, all those Diff Eq problems started looking the same to me.

                  That, and it probably would have helped if I had the advice of my Physics professor for the class: figure out what variable you are solving for first, solve for that variable in the equation, and *then* plug in numbers. For some reason, (I’ve noticed this in both Diff Eq and in High School Physics) if I do the natural thing of plugging in numbers first, it takes me three or four times to get the right answer…

                  As much as I sometimes enjoy calculations, and the occasional story problem, I am definitely more of a proof-oriented person. If I hadn’t discovered this aspect of mathematics (a bit of a story involving English class and Jurassic Park) I probably wouldn’t have become a mathematician…

                  And I’m amused that Marshall almost died doing mathematics. It’s a good way to almost die! (I’m not quite sure if it’s a good way to die…as much as I enjoy the subject…)

                • I was talking to older son about this the other day. The main problem we see with word problems is that they are so contrived and worded in such an obscure fashion that most people, especially students, cannot work out how to convert them to formulae (dammit, it is SO a word, spell check!).

                  For myself, I have no problem with word problems. If I did, I would never have wanted to go into Physics, because I would not want to translate the things experienced there into math.

                • No, I like word problems also. I remember in high school and shortly after I had a friend (a girl) and we used to make up story problems for each other to solve to amuse ourselves and pass time. This caused everyone else to think we were weird, and when my neighbor and one of my best friends starting dating her it used to drive him absolutely nuts. Of course he flunked math, and anyone doing it voluntarily for fun needed to be put in a padded room where they wouldn’t hurt theirselves, as far as he was concerned.

                • GOOD word problems are OK.

                  Most of the word problems you actually get aren’t phrased either the way people would actually describe the situation nor in the way the math problem would be set up– I think it’s because they write out the math problem, say “oh, it’ll be trains and speed,” then try to mix it up so it’s not “obvious.”

                  This is utterly backwards.

                  • I can’t recall liking word problems, particularly, but I had a great love for those logic puzzles of the form:

                    Mr. & Mrs. White play Bridge every week, forming two tables with Mr. & Mrs. Blue, Mr. & Mrs. Red and Mr. & Mrs. Green. Only the Whites play as partners, each of the other couples takes the spouse of a different couple for a partner. Mrs. Blue and Mrs. Green partner and Mr. Green sits at a different table. Mr. White is allergic to peanuts so no nuts are allowed on the table he sits at. Etc.

                    I don’t deem my experience as normative, but do think they could be teaching logic to kids in grade school and society would be the better for it.

                    • I hated those puzzles as a kid.

                      After I got out of the Navy, I took a basic logic class.

                      … I now want to home school largely to give my kids exposure to that. It made SO MANY THINGS MAKE SENSE!

                    • I took a logic class taught by an English professor. It made things worse. *sigh I don’t think a feminist who doesn’t understand logic should teach logic.

                    • I loved those logic puzzles as a kid, and I credit them with making me a better computer programmer. Because the same elements of basic logic that they trained me on, and much of the puzzle-solving techniques they taught my brain, are the same as (or very, very close to) the techniques needed to solve problems in computer science.

                    • Elementary logic should be required for graduating high school. Also statistics, which people need far more than they need algebra or geometry.

                  • Yes, the main reason why I don’t like word problems. When you have to decipher add or subtract… why not say the words? What’s wrong with saying that Farmer John had eight chickens and each chicken had four eggs. He gathered half of the eggs and then gave you the eggs. How many eggs did you get? I can figure this one out. 😉 Realistic word problems are great… unrealistic play with my mind word problems are NOT–

        • Inductive reasoning requires some leaps of intuition that are mysterious to me (though I can do it) and not readily teachable. (How to approach constructing a proof).

          Maybe that’s what’s “wrong” with me…
          I can understand traditional logic in some forms, but not others.
          In my logic class, I read though the chapter, aced almost all of the tests, but the format that was math-style I got them at dead average.

    • Start with the concept of dividing children by age: Young kids are immensely variable in their development, and so you end up with a class of kids all over the place in capability.

      Personal pet method:

      Few or no “by age” groups, and sort stuff by ability. You pass a class– and you can “challenge”/”test out of” a class– and you get moved up to the next level.

      Will also socialize kids much, much better. I HATE how kids are unable to interact with those who aren’t exactly like themselves!

  13. I can totally related to your son (and you) regarding the sensory issues. Sound is the most problematic for me. My mom said I used to freak out when the bus would come to pick me up and she’d have to stand behind me with her hands over my ears just so I wouldn’t bolt from the bus stop. Nowadays I take a sleeping pill because I find it impossible to tune out ambient noise when I try to go to bed.

    I also tell everyone I suffer from “Princess and the Pea” syndrome. If there’s even a crease in my sheets I can’t tolerate the feeling on my skin. My daughter is like me and has extremely sensitive skin. I’d love to have a cuter wardrobe but clothes are, by and large, so uncomfortable most of the time that I end up in sweats.

    Is this related to IQ? I have no idea. I tested high in elementary school but my mom didn’t want to bump me up a grade (my brother had been held back due to health issues and we would have been in the same grade) so I spent a disinterested 12 years in various public schools. But I ended up okay. Good marriage, kids, nice home– no complaints. It took me a long time to figure out how to socialize in a normal way (I suspect I may be a little Aspberger-ish) but I have learned that those skills *can* be taught and should be a priority for kids who were like me.

    • Is this related to IQ? I have no idea.

      Perhaps tangentially: I don’t think there’s causation, but there may be correlation. I have some of the same issues, as well as a hair-trigger response to certain kinds of (mostly unpleasant) social cues, which corresponds very roughly to what most people think of as empathy.

      I found some clues to what may be going on in my brain in the work of Brian Gilmartin, who maintains that these kinds of hypersensitivity often arise from atypical development of the ascending reticular formation. This is the part of the brainstem responsible, among other things, for tuning out irrelevant or repetitive sensory signals so that they don’t unnecessarily tax the higher brain functions. Inability to tolerate loud noises is certainly one of the symptoms Gilmartin identifies as characteristic of this pattern of development.

      On the other hand, people with ascending reticular formations of this type are likely to be have a much keener aesthetic sense than average, and to respond with more interest and liveliness to lower levels of stimulation. If you can appreciate the interplay of harmonies in a double string quartet, but clap your hands over your ears at the roar of a heavy metal band, chances are that you have your reticular formation to thank (or blame) for it.

      • This reminds me of this test of color perception.

        • Fascinating link. (I’d have done better, I think, if I didn’t have a laptop monitor with 6-bit colour depth. Because my computer’s OS uses dithering to interpolate between the limited colours that the screen can actually display, none of the colour chips looked quite like solid colours to me; they were all ‘dirty’ mixtures of different-coloured dots. It probably didn’t help that I had the brightness turned down, either. Must try it on my desktop monitor and see if I can do better than a 19.)

        • Oh wow. I was not expecting to score a perfect 0 (that is, no mistakes) on that test. I guess my approach (sort roughly by major differences, then start scanning left-to-right and watching the color change gradually, and if a square feels “out of place” while scanning, swap it with its neighbor) was a good one. Had I seen those colors in isolation I wouldn’t have been able to tell most of them apart, but apparently I can spot an out-of-place color in a gradient.

          • I scored a zero also, I would have said several of the colors were the same, but if I put them out of order I could see the difference.

          • 33… not bad.

            Bet i’d do better on a 30-bit display

          • I got a zero, but that test made me nervous—I work for a photography studio, and color-correction is part of my *job.*

            • I’m beginning to wonder if the age of my monitor affected my score. Also, hasn’t been calibrated recently. I should go back and retry the test on the Z1

                • well, my monitor was a ‘good’ monitor… in 2007 when it came out (Dell 2007 WFP) but i haven’t calibrated it recently

                  • You can calibrate monitors? How do you do that? My monitor is a gimme monitor, after my old monitor (one from my former employer, given to me when they replaced them with new ones) gave up the ghost my cousin gave me the monitor that went with his old desktop that had gone the way of my monitor. Not sure of the brand but it says ViewSonic E70 on the front… and apparently has fairly good color. 😉 It does jitter in jagged lines occasionally, however.

        • I took that test a few months ago and got a 12. But I’d got very bored in the middle of it and was hurrying to finish. When my best friend linked it to me two or three days ago, I scored a 0.

          I think that part of my success is from familiarity with virtually the same sort of test. I worked for a website that had pixel items and I learned to recolor them. Everyone else did the recoloring the “easy” way by doing some sort of automatic palette swap. Me? I learned how to do it the hard way, by taking two different palettes and manually changing the different colors in the palette. Since often the original palette would save “out of order” of the gradient, it was very much the same as the test.

        • I scored an 11 without spending too much time shifting the colors around. Pretty cool.

      • Well, there’s a correlation between IQ and introversion. And introversion manifests first of all as sensitivity. You can figure out the extroverts in infancy by the way they react less, if at all, to stimuli.

    • LOL — yep, I have princess and the pea syndrome and call it the same. Seems to be getting “better” with age, as senses dull a bit, but many is the time I’ve wakened my husband because I MUST make the bed fresh, or I can’t sleep. I’m lucky he’s patient.

      • I have the same kind of problems with sensitivity. If there’s so much as a wrinkle in the sheets beneath me, I can’t sleep. For years I wouldn’t wear any clothing that so much as brushed against my throat, and I still don’t much care for most fabrics against certain areas. I wear sunglasses a lot, because really bright sunlight = OW! MY EYES! and headache. Though I’m seriously myopic, I have really good vision SENSE. I can sense-see things before I can physically see them. I also get instant night vision when the lights go out, without that pesky 30-second adjustment period that some others have. Loud noise bothers me, and in a crowd or in the midst of others walking in a closed-in stairwell, I can’t pick out any one sound. I’m overwhelmed to the point of feeling angry. I can hear very high-pitched sounds that most others I know can’t hear, and can pinpoint a light bulb that is about to go out. I can hear it screaming. :/ But the worst of all is scents. I was antisocial as a kid, partially because I couldn’t stand the scent of people. Animal scents never bothered me, but other people, especially children–ick. Even now, perfume, cigarettes, body odors, and other stinky scents can knock me out and give me killer headaches. My sense of smell is probably not far behind that of my cats! The upside of my great sense of smell is that I can sniff out chocolates and other goodies that someone thinks they’re hiding from me. Mom could never hide candy from me. 😛

        It all does seem to go hand in hand with high IQ, which I’ve not found to be very useful in real life. I do well on tests because I’m good at taking tests. I figured out early in life that answering all the questions correctly got me status, and it was easy to figure out what kind of babble would get an answer marked as correct. But I still hated school, and felt I was being punished for being different. High school was useless and boring; I missed about 56 days every year, and still managed to make straight A’s. Teachers called me a bad influence and tried to get my friends to not hang out with me any more. They pushed me into an even odder state of oddness than I had started out in, and I still feel uncomfortable with most people in face-to-face situations. I make a lot of them uncomfortable, too. I’m thankful for the internet, as it has allowed me to meet other Odds who don’t so much as blink at any of my oddities, who often share some of them, and who consider me a friend, even family. I don’t feel quite so isolated and out of place any more. ❤

        • Yep, I skipped a lot of high school also, I knew I had to show up for bodybuilding and metal shop. (I liked those classes anyways) the rest of my classes… well if the teachers noticed I wasn’t there, they soon learned it was better to ignore my absences as long as my work was turned in than to have me in class when I didn’t want to be. And if I was in class and reading a book instead of paying attention, it was definitely best to leave me to my reading a) they couldn’t catch me unaware of the subject they were supposedly teaching us, or b) I could sling enough BS, fast enough, it sounded like I was aware and c) if they forced me to put my book away and ‘pay attention’ they probably wouldn’t like the results. (I would keep myself occupied, if reading wasn’t an option I usually resorted to either correcting the teacher, or arguing with them, or if I couldn’t find anything they said wrong or anything to argue with them about, I would resort to snide comments and heckling). Most quickly figured out it was better to ignore the fact that I only showed up once every week or so, I could spend an entire class period busy doing a weeks work and not causing any headaches. While I didn’t get straight A’s my entire goal was to do just enough work to keep a 3.0 GPA, that kept me on the honor roll and being on the honor roll lowered my car insurance rates. If I found something interesting, like science lab work, I would work hard at it, but most high school work was busy work that in my teenaged opinion was stupid.

          • Imagine the havoc we could have wrought, had we been students at the same school, at the same time. 😛

            • Y’all would have been like my Physics IIH class, where we did things like check to see if the lab laser could burn letters into the paint in the math classroom on the other side of the commons yard (no. Too many layers of glass and the laser was too weak), or if pool cleaner and petroleum jelly really will explode (yes. Proper mixing ratios are critical.)

              • Our school had no physics classes, or else I’m sure I’d have been put in juvenile detention for the duration of my youth. 😀

                • Nor did ours, but pool cleaner and gasoline can be impressive. Never tried it with petroleum jelly, but a friend of mine was somewhat of a military nut as a kid and amongst his other stuff was several SF manuals on things like improvised weapons and improvised explosives, his parents had a pool*, so…

                  *At least until they left the window of the pool room open and the dairy bull got out, got thirsty, crawled through the window, and fell in the pool getting a drink. He sliced the pool liner up with his hooves trying to get back out and those are fairly expensive, so it was a few years before they got it fixed.

        • Oh, yeah, on fabrics against neck!

          • Neither my daughter or I can tolerate anything close to the neck. My mom used to buy me turtlenecks and I hated them with a passion!

          • Yep, the only sweatshirt I own I took a pocketknife and split the neck on. I always hated sweatshirts for this reason, and the fleece shirts I own all have zip up necks. The rest of my shirts (other than t-shirts, and they can’t be to tight on the neck) are either button up or zip up, so they can be left open on top. Some of my longjohn tops I have even split with a pocketknife because they were to tight on the neck and drove me nuts.

        • Scents are the worst! There are some stores I won’t go into because I can’t stand the smell (anyplace frequented by hipsters burning incense is a no-go)– drives my husband nuts sometimes but he’s used to it.

          I did okay in school B-average usually. I could have absolutely done better but we moved- a lot. I went to 11 different schools in 12 years and after awhile I stopped caring about grades. Four kids in my family- two dropped out of high school and I’m the only one who bothered with college. I did much better when I went to college and knew that I wasn’t going to have to move anymore.

    • My mom said I used to freak out when the bus would come to pick me up and she’d have to stand behind me with her hands over my ears just so I wouldn’t bolt from the bus stop.

      Well, forewarned is forearmed… my daughter throws an utterly out-of-proportion fit about planes flying below a set point, where I can’t hear any difference.

    • When I was younger, I would hardly ever wear jeans, because they were too stiff and scratchy. I am obsessive about keeping the seam straight across the toes of my socks, or it drives me crazy. My boys pull their socks on with no regard to how their are oriented, and just seeing that makes me cringe. I’m also overly sensitive to touching things that are hot or cold – the rest of my family take showers that would make me feel like I was being boiled alive.

      • Okay, I am somewhat obsessive on the seams in my socks also, and note my comment above about shirt necks, but the only pants that I will wear other than jeans are my winter pants or tin pants. (I really need to try a pair of those firehose pants) Jeans are the most comfortable pants to wear IMO, and I despise pants that are made of thin and or soft material that allows stuff to poke through into your legs.

        • Oh, I understand that, and it made it very frustrating – I spent the summers at the YMCA camp where my father worked, and spent a lot of time pushing through brush and weeds. My mother compromised with me by buying the softest jeans we could find. Now, it wouldn’t bother me, if I bought jeans, but all I can afford to keep for myself are my “work” pants, which are typically Cargo pants or some similar cut, since I work in an “office casual” environment.

  14. A lot of little kids have skin sensory issues, although it normally localizes most on the scalp and neck. And it’s logical; a lot of skin nerves are clustered closer together in a little kid.

    So yeah, never use a skin lotion with capsaicin in it on a little kid. Vaseline Intensive Care’s old formula used to be agony to me, my brothers, and most of the little kids in the neighborhood, but the adults couldn’t be made to understand because they felt it only as a pleasant warmth.

    • I had a point…. The thing is, for whatever reason, our society is blind to certain aspects of childhood development of the senses, so they’re even less equipped to deal with kids that need more development than usual; and sometimes nobody even notices that anything’s wrong, even when something is very obviously wrong. Reagan was in second or third grade before his parents realized there was a reason he was bored on Sunday drives and had trouble in school — because he couldn’t see much further than the end of his nose without glasses.

  15. “More importantly, most Mensans I know are walking wounded, who have trouble forming relationships and always feel marginalized.”

    Remembering my time in Mensa, I agree – and include myself… except perhaps for some definitions of ‘marginalized’. I was smart enough in grade school that I never learned the skills I needed for studying – and thus Jr high and high school were a miserable time academically.

    My adult life hasn’t been much better – I seem to be able to learn what I need to learn as I need it, but subjects that require depth tend to bore me, and though it’s fun to figure out how to take care of problems, repeatedly taking care of them is tiresome.

    When personal computers came around I was able to learn enough to surf the bleeding edge for enough years to become an ‘expert’ – and I was fortunate enough to marry a wonderful woman who’s served as an anchor and steadied me down.

    I remember being told when I was around 11 that I had a high IQ based on earlier tests. This would have been in the mid ’60s, and I didn’t remember the tests so… (There was this one thing I remember going to called ‘CDL’, which I think may have stood for Child Development Laboratory’.) I do remember taking ‘allergy’ pills on a daily basis until I was about 11… and then my mom stopped giving them to me. I was insatiably curious about what I was curious about – and loved science fiction and didn’t give a fig about sports or cars.

    I’ve often wondered what those pills were actually for… both Mother and Father are gone, so I’ll never know, and the one time I asked, when she was in her late 80s she didn’t even remember them. I wonder if they weren’t an early ADD medication..,

    The Smart and Crunchy Son’s done well so far, he’s got good study skills (worked into him over the years in private school) and is doing much better than I did academically. He’s got friends, they play D&D (kinda) at lunch. I don’t think he’s a full-blown odd – but then, how would I recognize it if he was? 😉

    • He sounds like me, with the D & D (sorta. I invented it. I think) at school break. I was always extremely social, but there were things I could only share with my odd kids. And my father made sure I had study skills.

    • I heard a story about a Mensa seminar that was supposed to be on developing relationships. The Mensans all came into the room, where the chairs were arranged in a circle, and instinctively, all the men clustered on one side and all the women on the other.

      “Well THERE’S your problem!” – Adam Savage.

      • Yes, I think that seminar is held at every Annual Gathering.

        At the AG, I had to be careful of the ones who go all the way around the far side of socially akward and join the hugging SIG. Their leaders have to remind them that it’s not OK to just hug everybody.

  16. Interesting. When I was in grade school, a therapist took me out of class for several weeks in the first grade and I did remedial jumping and other gross motor skills (catching a rolled ball, walking along a line on the gym floor). My fine motor skills were pretty good, but when I had to more more than just one hand . . . Oddly enough, some years later, I was talking with a school counselor about my knack with languages and she asked if I’d had to do any remedial physical stuff as a young child. Makes you wonder what the link is, or if there is one.

    FWIW, I tested very high on reading and average on math in grade school. This was back in the day when, if you got done early, you were welcome to sit and read, or play with puzzles on the puzzle table at the back of the room as long as you didn’t disturb anyone.

    • Weird. I don’t think I have a knack for languages. I had to work very hard to acquire them (while you could drop my brother in the middle of Papua New Guinea and he would emerge a month later speaking ten tribal languages without an accent.) BUT I have severe issues with large motor still. Like, I can’t jump rope or ride a bike.

      • You should see me flail away in front of my Xbox with the Kinect on the ‘Your Shape: Fitness’ thing.

        On second thought – you shouldn’t. Coordinated, I ain’t – but I’ve got pretty good fine motor skills as long as I don’t have to chew gum and walk at the same time…

        • Can’t catch a ball. Can’t throw a ball. Never learned to ride a bike. I can jump rope, but I’m not good at it, and I never learned the trick of jumping rope when two other girls were swinging it, only when I did hold it myself. But I do have an observed balance disorder, I think it’s called benign positional vertigo, I do get occasional dizzy spells, and some movements can throw my balance off for a while afterwards. Which meant I had to give up jujutsu before I even finished the basic course – after one session of training the rolling ukemis I couldn’t walk straight for a week.

          • And yes, it’s very nice that the police here use only the breath analyzer, or I might have been in trouble more than once since walking a completely straight line steadily can be bit of a challenge at times. It rarely bothers me so much I’d notice when I’m sitting, like when driving a car, but walking is something else.

            • Yep– I can’t walk a straight line either… and when I watch the show COPs, I tell the hubby that I would fail all of the sober tests. *sigh

              • I could probably do the ‘touch your nose’ ones, even when I’m dizzy, but yep, walking, not. Well, I don’t know what the doctors over there would think about that positional vertigo thing when it comes to one’s ability to drive a car, here I have still been judged okay enough to keep my truck license, even with it (have needed to get checked every five years since I turned 40 because I have that truck license, if I was licensed only for smaller cars my first medical would still be some years into the future). I would not be able to drive professionally with it any more, though, not without some extra tests, including a more thorough medical which I would probably not pass.

                • Never had to get a physical for it… although I am better on a boat than on the ground. 😉 The waves move right. But, I used to run (not now) and didn’t trip so I guess it didn’t come up.

              • I long ago decided:
                if pulled over and asked to do a sobriety test, I’ll just sigh and say: “Sir, I can’t walk a straight line, touch my nose alternatively or say the alphabet backwards with hours of practice; I request a blood test, please and thank you.”

                • The alphabet backwards? WHICH ONE? Like with praying and numbers, I say the alphabet in Portuguese, and it’s missing (as was in my time) the letters K Y and W. Beyond that, I could never say it backward. Unless I write it down. I THINK I can touch my nose?
                  My kids never learned the alphabet, since they taught themselves to read. In fact, I found out Marsh was reading mystery books, because he was shoving them in just anywhere on alphabetized shelves.

                  • Evidence of American Exceptionalism: We pronounce “Z” so that it fits into The Most Useful Song Ever.

                  • I had a friend in high school who was pulled over by a cop and they KNEW he was drunk, but he could walk a line, touch his nose, etc. The cops asked him to say the alphabet backwards. He turned around and said, “A, B, C…” He said he got about to E before they snapped the cuffs on him.

                    • If your friend had a good lawyer, I can easily see that particular arrest being thrown out for lack of probable cause (the kid was just being a smart-ass, the argument would go, he didn’t actually fail the sobriety test), and all evidence generated subsequent to the arrest (such as, say, the result of blood tests done during the booking process) thrown out under the “fruit of the poisoned tree” rule.

                      Now IANAL, and the actual laws of your state might vary anyway, so it’s entirely possible the arrest would hold up. E.g., if the police officer’s suspicion that the person he’s talking to is drunk is considered reasonable cause for an arrest in your state, then that line of argument wouldn’t work. But in states where the officer has to have something besides his intuition to constitute probable cause, that particular arrest would be far too easy for a good lawyer to argue away, it seems to me.

                  • Free advice: when the police pull you over for that one, NEVER ask which one. I got this from people who had. . . .

  17. Reading about your struggles with your school I would have home schooled instead. I sent my kids to private school. That avoided many problems, but even then I still bore the primary responsibility for creating an environment where they could both win.

    Yaknow there are things that happened when you’re a kid that you forget all about. I forgot that I used to get irrationally angry and irritated at particular noises/sounds my siblings would make. It went away just after I noticed myself losing it and I asked myself, “why am I becoming so angry?” Lacking an adequate answer, I quit it. This must have been one of those “sensory issues” you’re talking about.

    I wonder what kind of perceptual variances are experienced by those afflicted with autism or schizophrenia?

    • I did homeschool for a year and the kid did two years. He wanted to go back to school, or I’d not have sent him back. we had two issues homeschooling, though: I couldn’t do hardly anything else, because I had to learn to keep up with him. And there was no decent math program I could put him in and the way I studied math didn’t cross over. Now, you’re going to say “math is universal.” Well, no. Portuguese notations are very different and some of the methods of doing things are almost exactly backwards. I couldn’t understand American notations, and I had trouble learning fast enough to get to where he was, let alone ahead. We had Great Courses, but he’d let his mind wander during lectures. It’s the only thing he fell behind in during that year, and it’s a shame, because his aptitude is MOSTLY math. So… So, I let him go back to school. Before that, we honestly didn’t realize how bad the situation was. Our oldest wouldn’t tell us, and we’d changed school systems since HE had issues. And the younger didn’t tell us EITHER until it blew up in our faces.
      I did teach them at home after school — except math 😛 — never expected the school to do it for me.

  18. Considering that too big an IQ gap means people who probably don’t understand each other, maybe at all, yes, putting the higher end ones as rulers of the normal and low end ones does sound like a recipe for disaster.

    Heh. One problem I had in school – besides it being easy enough that I never developed good work habits – was getting a severe case of disrespect for authority, due to the fact that I was never particularly impressed by any of my teachers.

    • Considering that too big an IQ gap means people who probably don’t understand each other, maybe at all,

      I had a bit of an epiphany a little while back, when I set out to analyse the ‘social skills’ that school was supposed to have taught me (but never actually did teach; that part of the curriculum seems to have been designed by the Underpants Gnomes), and found that they could be divided neatly into two categories:

      1. Understanding that other people really are people like yourself.
      2. Understanding that other people are individuals different from yourself.

      The kids who were praised as having good social skills generally had a fluent understanding of #1, but often no understanding at all of #2 (which meant that they often had no compunctions about bullying or ostracizing ‘Odds’). We ‘Odds’, on the other hand, had a much easier time grasping #2, but a knowledge of #1 was not nearly as helpful to us as to most people, because damned few people were really much like us. In almost every case, we had to adjust our #1-type reactions to allow for the fact that ‘normal’ people had significantly different reactions from ours, and that meant a lot of #2-type learning to figure out how they differed.

      tl;dr: It takes a lot more social skill for an ‘Odd’ to fit in with a bunch of ‘Evens’ than for the ‘Evens’ to fit in among their own kind. If you judge solely by results, the ‘Odds’ will seem inferior, even though they may actually possess objectively superior levels of skill.

      • Oh, I understood #1 and #2 perfectly. Didn’t do me a damn bit of good, but I eventually learned:

        #3: Most people are idiots.
        #4: Most people are also assholes

        #3 and #4 led me to generally avoiding people, even while in public.

        • And frankly, since simple crowds are not a problem to me, until they get really close, I can have “alone time” in a place like Wal-Mart, when there’s a couple hundred people there.

          • My problem with Wal-Mart (and shopping malls, don’t even get me started on those) is the vast array of people who occupy space through which I want to pass. Even with bad knees and feet I walk faster than the vast milling herd of people who seem incapable of comprehending that the aisles are two carts wide for a reason and parking your cart in aisle center (or canted across the aisle) constitutes establishing a road block.

            • or, speaking as someone whose knee pain from walking around the store is exacerbated by standing still, one person stopping to look at something on one side, and someone else yammering on their phone on the other side of the aisle….. or the gaggle of family moving slowly down a long aisle taking up the entire aisle moving… sooo… slowly… (6 ft 2 in natural stride length was *almost* correct for the Army…)

              • This is why I leave my phone in the car when shopping, also why I go grocery shopping about every two months. I have hit the 24 hour grocery store several times at around 4 am and it is really nice, there is usually like one other person besides the people stocking shelves in the entire store. But since I hate to make a special trip just to grocery shop, and nothing else in town is open at that hour I usually get stuck in the traffic jammed aisles.

            • Oh yes. The people who think that others just mill about them whereas they are entitled to SPACE.

              • Please clarify. By “The people who think … they are entitled to SPACE” are you referring to those who obstruct traffic flow or those who find such obstruction annoying?

                • Pretty sure she means the “I’m the only person on earth” blockers. Ever notice their reaction if you have to squeek past their cart in the middle of the isle?

        • #5: Most anyone I find an a-hole probably finds me to be one, too.
          #6: It is likely we are both right in our assessments.

  19. Interesting to read the refrains on poor study/work habits from odds/gifteds. My brick wall experience on this was when I started college – I had never built the self-structured study habits that everyone else had, as I had never really been challenged in high school, so I slammed full blast into it. It took me about two semesters before I got my act together.

    Re the mythos around rule by the “intelligent” by IQ – I’m pretty sure the best rulers would be the folks who barely made it through or even crashed out of formal education, then succeeded in something non-structured, like business. This directly clashes with the current practice of lionizing academics, who by definition have never had to deal with anything outside the structure they’ve learned to game to get ahead.

    Advisers and department heads (think National Security Adviser, Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense) are a different story unless they like to slip off their leash and make off the cuff remarks ([cough] Kerry [cough]) because they are convinced they are so smart, but put a solid B- business school grad with experience in the real world in charge.

    • I’m not sure I ever developed organized study habits, and I think it’s biting me in the *ss now and is responsible for my “bursts of writing” and then nothing. I’m trying to get myself organized NOW and at fifty that’s a sad commentary. If you’d asked me even three months ago I’d have said “I learned to study in ninth grade” but apparently study does NOT mean “read the material closely, so you remember it for the next twenty years.” My kids say that’s not what it means. It’s what I did (before that I didn’t have to read anything out of school. I did homework when I had to, but the rest of the time was free.) Keep in mind my college was languages and literature, though, so I’m not some kind of supergenius.
      BUT anyway… so “steady application of effort”? “Incremental work?” WASSTHAT?
      Fifty and I have to learn this. Maybe RAH was right and some of us are teens till 50?

      • Never developed organized study habits also, is possible to develop them now, “can you teach an old dog new tricks”?

        • Apropos of which, just what are these organized study habits? Nobody ever really bothered to explain that to me.

          • Steady effort, I would think. Not doing things in bursts, and at the last minute, which was how I went through school. Did my homework mostly during the recess, just before the class (we had fifteen minutes then), studied for tests, well, maybe half an hour or so the previous evening, but occasionally that also meant just the recess before the test.

            I did know a couple of girls who started to work with their homework just after they got it, and studied daily. Did pretty well too, better than I did even if one of them was noticeably, er, slower than I was when it came to understanding something. My grades used to be just good average ones, nothing which would have drawn any attention from anybody. The only person who seemed to notice I was underachieving was my mother.

            • Ah, but steady effort at doing what?

              • Beats me. Suggestions?

                • If you actually want to remember something for a really long time, the steady effort is memorizing each new concept and creating notes from notes that over time form the gestalt of the course. Unfortunately outside of math it is often a waste of time to retain the things taught at lower levels. I still remember how furious I was when I learned that electron shell theory is actually a lie and *was known to be false* at the time it was being taught in high school chemistry.

                  • It’s not a lie, it’s just that reality is a bit more complicated and the complexity doesn’t help you understand what’s going on in chemistry.

                    • It seems like you sympathize with the challenges of teaching complexity and are assuming that the construct of electron shell theory was presented correctly a representation of what was going on. It was not which meant that everything else taught by that teacher also had to be re-examined to identify what else wasn’t actually true. It was a pain. It was also a surprise and something of a betrayal. I worked very hard in school and expected my instructors to at least do no harm. My expectations were too high.

                    • That’s a bit like complaining that Newtonian physics is a lie. Can you use Relativity to calculate ballistic trajectories? Yes. Is it more accurate? Yes. Is the improved accuracy worth the increased computational difficulty? Hell no. Does any of this help the student to understand what is going on? ^%(&* no!

                      You don’t have to re-examine everything the teacher taught you, you just need to realize they were teaching an approximation to understand why element A reacts with element B but not element C. Do you really think understanding basic chemistry would be improved by discussing the differences between s, p, d, f, and g orbitals, why they’re not all spheres, and how those orbitals are filled? Once you get to advanced chemistry those ideas are necessary, because they’re the reason the periodic table is structured the way it is and why molecules are the shape they are. But if you start throwing that around in a high school chemistry class you’ll simply engage MEGO-lock in 99.999% of the students, who will then think they can’t understand chemistry.

                      Lies are a necessary and valuable pedagogic tool.

                    • Another place where learning “lies” is important is in electronics theory and repair. Every few years the electronic theory changes (positive to negative or negative to positive electron flow, or no movement at all), but when you are taught that it works a certain way, you can also troubleshoot and fix electronic equipment. We haven’t gotten the full knowledge yet, but enough to do amazing things.

                    • Did you mean that electron shell theory did not correctly represent the actual interactions of atoms (or how their shells were formed), or did you mean that your teacher did not present it correctly?

                      If the former, then what Jeff said is the correct point here, but if the latter, then why are you down on the theory, rather than the teacher?

                      In college physics, we learned all sorts of properties of objects and how they interact, but later we learned that all that stuff was a case of, “In a perfect world”, and how real materials had more complex behavior. The point is that the “perfect world” behavior was necessary to teach before getting to the complex behavior, because most people need to understand that solidly before they can move on to the more difficult stuff.

                    • The really good teachers would preface what you were being taught with, “Look, this is a rule of thumb and it’s useful, but it’s just an approximation,” or “Light’s really a wave and a particle, but let’s picture it like this for a minute.” Or if they were evil, they would make you look up the latest developments and present a report. 🙂

                    • Nuclear Power School has something called the “I Believe” button. Since they only have six months to go from “Congratulations, you can correctly identify a hammer 5 times out of 8” to “Here’s a nuclear power plant, go operate” they can’t get into deep detail about why things are the way they are, so when questions arise I’m, ahem, the student is told to push the “I Believe” button. I told them I had taken mine apart and couldn’t put it back together again.

                    • My junior year in college, I took Thermo. The professor stood up before the class the first day and said that heat was not, in fact, a liquid, but the average kinetic energy of the molecules involved. We then pitched that out the window and spent the rest of the semester treating it as a liquid.

                  • Sigh. Do you know when I learned that? When I was talking to my 9th grader. I hadn’t read on physics in years. They think I’m mostly science illiterate. I’m just out of touch.

                  • Yeah, for over a half-century I’ve been hearing breathless announcements to the effect that We Have Discovered the Ultimate Secret of Life, the Universe and Everything. Eventually I switched from Wow! to Uh huh.

                    Science and technology are like an inverse nested matryoshka doll. The stuff you learn turns out to be a subset/special case of more inclusive models.

                    Too bleepin’ many people babble about thinking outside the box, without knowing what’s inside the box—or even what a box is.

                    Ignoring conventional wisdom is for geniuses and fools.

            • I never learned study habits either, other than as Sarah stated, reading carefully so I understood the subject. I also never, not once did homework. I could do 99.9% of my work in either the time the teacher was blathering on explaining it, or if they gave it out at the end of class, I could usually manage to scribble it down in the 5 minute passing period between classes the next day, before I had to turn it in. I used to get docked for penmanship (and for hand written when it was supposed to be typed, although I often got around this by explaining I didn’t have a computer at home, and rode the bus to and from school so I couldn’t stay after and use the computers, at least until I was old enough to have a drivers license, at which point I was arrogant enough to tell the teachers I wasn’t doing schoolwork outside of school hours) but I could write an entire English essay 3-4 minutes. Anything that absolutely couldn’t be done during class time just plain didn’t get done, because I refused to waste any of my own time on school work.

              I never went to college, but suspect I would have hit the wall there just as so many others have described, because I never learned to study or do homework while in school.

              • I read from a LOT of blank pages when called on to read a homework essay in class. In third year (college) English, the teacher walked behind me as I was “reading”. I just continued “reading”. She shook her head gently, went up front, let me finish. Gave me an A. NEVER said anything.

              • I did my homework. It was quicker than dealing with the consequences of getting caught not doing it. Still it was so easy it didn’t exactly teach me good study habits. I remember the day I had forgotten our “look up five words in the supplemental vocab list” and knocked it off in the minute before class, remembering definitions.

          • When you are trying to memorize a subject so that you can ultimately understand it, you have to remember that you are dealing with two types of memory– short term and long term. The first time you read something, it goes into short term. You need to read and understand a concept over a period of time (like ten minutes for a few days at the same time) before it goes into long term memory. Using tags (visual cues) makes something easier to memorize.

            Once you have something in long term, you need to remember it often to keep it fresh. — this works with studying, with memories, or anything else you need to keep in your brain.

            I found that when I was put on chemo for my disease that the meds broke many of my connections to my memories and abilities. It took years to remember certain things and my abilities as an electronics tech has been greatly impaired. I used to be able to remember every book I read, every movie I had seen, and every thing in my house. Now, not so much. Though I am better now than when I was ten years ago.

            Being able to extract information from your brain quickly and easily is probably why you are considered high IQ. Learning to study, can make that ability sharper. Once your memory is sharp, then you can take two concepts and come up with correlations. Some of the best scientists studied more than one area of science and were able to make correlation between the two sciences.

            That is how I work when I want to remember something. I first read it. Then I will try to remember it fifteen minutes later. I will re-read to make sure I get it right. Then I will go back the next day (if it is for a class) and go over the information again. That is how I did well in biology when it wasn’t my area of expertise.

          • I’ve seen “organized study habits” as 1) making a list of what is due and when, 2) prioritizing the list correctly, 3) setting aside time/making a schedule for studying, 4) sitting down and working through the list [review for chemistry quiz tomorrow, then read two chapters of English book due tomorrow afternoon, review vocabulary for Spanish quiz day after tomorrow, start thinking about topics for history research paper due next week, and so on], 5) checking off tasks as you finish. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed until end-of-semester, then start over next semester.

        • I’m trying with the pomodoro lab. I UNDERSTAND you can train your brain to a greater extent than we though, including into old age.

    • It has been my observation that people are prone to value most highly those skills which their own professions require. Thus academics, lawyers and advertising moguls place a premium on verbal dexterity and articulateness. They are also prone to prefer an ability to extensively describe the complexities of a problem over actual problem solving,

      Newscasters, whose career success benefits from a talent for quickly absorbing and accurately regurgitating information, frequently praised that ability in President Clinton even though it has little correlation to comprehensively understanding a problem, much less resolving it.

      What is most often overlooked is the greater importance of wisdom than intelligence to “managing” an economy.

  20. About the Plato’s Republic-esque Geniuses should rule the world with unquestioned absolute authority assumption – it fails on several levels. (Maybe preaching to the choir here.)

    1. Intelligent technically focused people don’t want to rule the world. They have so many better things to do with their time than involve themselves in the viper’s nest of politics. In a free society, they’ll be off in the wilderness or a lab somewhere and as far away from the capitol as they can get. In an oligarchy, you’ll have endless hordes of mandarins jockeying for the status of being thought of as intelligent and fit to rule, while actual geniuses are shot/committed/shipped off to camps, or at best find obscurity by being buried under some vast bureaucracy. There are people who are obsessed with their interests or understanding of and power over nature, and then there are people who are obsessed with other people (and in the case of politics, power over other people.)

    The second problem is the assumption that *someone* needs to run everyone else’s lives for them. Intelligence may indicate ability, but in my mind ability has nothing to do with the idea that someone has the right to force other people’s lives into accordance with his goals. Having an intelligent tyrant just makes him that much more dangerous an enemy of your own free will with regards to your own life.

    Being capable doesn’t make you “better”, and therefore give you the right to rule me! (I still have to do mental gymnastics to even parse that, but it’s apparently a fairly common assumption – this idea that there is a heirarchy of “inherent goodness” to men, and that the “higher” men have the right to dictate to the “lower” men. Some sort of feudal idea lurking in people’s minds that I keep running into in the oddest places.)

    • In an oligarchy, you’ll have endless hordes of mandarins jockeying for the status of being thought of as intelligent

      First, this sounds like Academia, excluding the technical side where it runs something like “I discovered something cool, then spun off this startup and made a bazillion dollars by licensing the patents.”

      Second, I’ll note that it’s my understanding that the only assessment in the original Mandarin system was the One Big Test that predetermined ones station in society, after which those who landed in the top deciles fought it out with each other, moving ahead via their close-quarters bureaucratic skills.

      • Perhaps it is inspired by certain academics. It may be that everyone laments that they aren’t in charge, but academics write about it and convince students of it wrt themselves.

        (Now I’m thinking of counterexamples to my post above:
        You can have military geniuses like Alexander. People like him were extremely good at winning battles, and gravitated to military strategy. It was the game they played. But then again, Alexander wasn’t exactly interested in politics beyond the model train-set “build a greek-architecture-inspired Alexandria every few hundred miles”. That was him playing Sim-City (and badly, at that – no one stuck around in several of his cities), not the sort of all-consuming need to dominate other people that I see in the people preaching utopia ruled by an intelligent elite.

        • (PS – I’m not talking about anyone I work with personally. They’re all great guys who aspire to professional excellence, not world domination. 😛 At least, not if it doesn’t involve high energy electric devices or other fun toys. 😛 )

        • Glad to see somebody picked up on this and addressed a fundamental point I didn’t get around to earlier: the idea that the world would be better if run by a genius (or geniuses.)

          Heinlein addressed this as a minor sub-plot in Sixth Column, with Dr Ledbetter’s assertion of preeminence amongst the revolutionaries. Thomas Sowell also addresses the underlying fallacy in his recent book Intellectuals and Society. As noted above, the main fallacy is that the world needs or wants to be (or even can be) managed. As the MadRock notes, a truly intelligent person would grasp the impossibility of managing society and avoid such a job like the Plague.

    • Most people who hold to the rule-by-genius myth are shallow readers who see the Republic as a prescription rather than as a warning.

  21. I remember being the odd one out, even when I went to a school full of odds. I just didn’t *care* enough about the academic stuff and I got good enough grades that nobody could tell, even in college. I was also pretty misanthropic, to the point of writing a few very rude letters to the reunion committee when they called my mother to get me to come to the 10 year reunion. My husbands grandmother, as much as I disliked her, saw some of the same tendencies in my kid and hired a tutor to teach him how to be social. Now, he’s a ringleader and is teaching all the kids in his class to be odd. Although, he has competition for the top spot this year and it’s irritating him. I can’t imagine him being in a public school classroom. His teachers at the private school he’s at have actually been trained to deal with gifted students, but I don’t think the one he’ll have next year has. It makes me worry, because I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to teach him math if we homeschool. It’s part of why I’m looking into an online school.

    • A lot of homeschoolers use Saxon Math. Taking as an assumption that the goal of education is creating an autodidact, the inability of a “teacher” to understand a subject is less critical than the students’ learning to solve problems on their own.

      • I used Saxon Math in school, too. Actually, most of my classes were based on the ability to do research. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised my math class was, too, to an extent.

  22. This hits really close to home. I have one brother who is severely dyslexic. We didn’t realize it until he was an adult (around 30s or so). Everyone around him assumed he was just lazy. I know now that he was frustrated. He found out later that he remembers everything he hears. Plus he tests well if he is doing it in front of a board and not as a test– cause he still says the letters jump all over, making it impossible to read.

    All of my four brothers test in the high IQ range– I have cousins who have been dx’d as bi-polar and eventually the dx changed to a form of schizophrenia (and I suspect my mother might have some problems in the bipolar area– she is volatile and had rages until I left home). We have auto-immune diseases, asthma, but not diabetes for some reason. The reason so many of my family have looked normal is because they learned early that being Odd or having mental issues would get you in trouble.

    So yea– I think nature has a lot to do with the problems I have seen in my close family. Nurture probably helped them to pass.

  23. Obsession with a particular interesting thing is one of the things that can come with ADD. I definitely had ADD as a youngster, and I don’t remember exactly what was going on when they tried medication, but my parents immediately took me off of them after seeing the effects. But amid the distractability are occasional periods of hyperfocus, and man, I wish I could harness that.

    But with regard to genius and solving puzzles. What do you call a genius who decides to solve the puzzle of getting regular people to do what he wants? A Sociopath.

    We’re probably better off with out Odds being Odd.

    • I know that there’s a lot about ADD/ADHD being overdiagnosed out there, but my younger son is doing a lot better in school after having gotten medication, so that he can focus his attention on the task at hand better.

      • That’s the real truth of an accurate diagnosis—if the diagnosis is accurate, the medications truly help. I know a number of ADHD adults on meds and they universally say the meds *allow* them to focus, where they just were incapable of that before.

      • I was raised by parents who do not believe there is such a thing as ADD/ADHD, unlike them I do believe there is such a thing. But like them I believe that the vast majority of those diagnosed with it are just normal, healthy, rambunctious kids; whose parents either a) don’t want to deal with them when they get home from work and want to relax for a little while before going to bed b) want an excuse for their kids bad behavior rather than admitting it is poor parenting/lack of discipline/normal for kids to get in trouble.

  24. Mile and a half walked, edits for the last story for the collection approved. Mischief managed.

  25. Oh, and one thing I hope to never hear again, only I will because it’s Officially Accepted Social Truth ™ is about how sweet and wonderful the mentally disabled are – Especially those with Downs Syndrome. Sometimes the speaker sounds like he’s saying the world would be a better place if we all had it or something. Lately the Radio plays PSAs for some program that places them in menial jobs, with all the office workers talking about how their interoffice mail delivery guy brightens everybody’s day just by being there.

    Well, no, they’re human beings just like the rest of us, and have a full range of emotions open to them, but they often have poorer and broken methods of dealing with those emotions. For a while I had a job where I maintained furniture displays at office stores, and they also had one of these guys from a program whose job was to clean up. Well, he resented that I was doing “his” job and would follow around after me with his can of Pledge and a filthy rag (unbeknownst to me) and “clean” everything, and then I’d get crap for all the glass desks being filmy and greasy until I figured out what he was doing. (BTW, never use furniture polish on ANY of that particle-board stuff, the “Finish” is not wood, and will not take it in.)

    Just because someone is “the R-word” doesn’t mean they are not capable of anger or even Rage, and indeed, their world can be so frustrating that it’s even more likely. Although we’re probably more in danger from the ones who are close to functional than the ones who are virtually helpless to express it.

    • Umm– they are sweet and stubborn and can have rages — Since I do have a Downs sister, I am fully aware of the full range of emotion from the children with this disorder. But, mostly sweet– Sounds like the Downs adult/child you met was able to work and resent– mine sister isn’t able to work in that type of capacity although she can now do the basic things– dress, get a drink of water, etc..

  26. Back in the old days (the 1960s) in New York state, the elementary schools had a policy known as “tracking.” This radical policy put the top 25 kids in one class, the next 25 in one class, etc. The least intelligent group were in the special education class. Tracking wasn’t perfect, but it had important features: 1. Each teacher only had to teach to one ability group. The idiocy of teaching to kids with IQs varying from 75 to 150 was gone. 2. The fast learners didn’t get bored because they were with other fast learners. 3. The slower learners didn’t get lost because they were with their peers. 4. Educational goals varied by class. Expectations were highest for those in the top class. The lowest class had expectations that met the minimum requirements.

    I was in a mediocre school system in one of the poorest counties in NYS. Many teachers were mediocre; a few caused negative learning. Despite that, those of us in the top group did OK. The top of the top became a professor at MIT; I’m a physician (the first from my town).

    Tracking has a good track record, but it has disappeared. The pseudoeducators saw that there were few African-Americans in top classes and a high proportion of African-Americans in lower classes. Thus, tracking was deemed racist and had to be ended. And it was.

    • Another issue found in tracking type education is that in the absence of the best and brightest the middle and tail of the curve do not perform as well as when challenged by having those best and brightest in their midst.

      I stake no claim to one or the other as a superior solution, but I do think the results create interesting questions.

    • It should be noted that in some parts of the US a student’s epidermal melanin content proved a fairly good indicator of what track that student was in because a number of systems … gamed … the tracking to produce expected results in much the same way correlations have been found between student names and academic performance.

      Typically, these flaws were used to discredit tracking when the problem was abuse of tracking. (Similar to Chesterton’s observation that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”)

    • In seventh grade I got tracked, even though it was illegal. they did it by picking the best students in each form and throwing us into four forms. That lasted through 9th grade and it was the BEST experience I ever had. Difficult. I mean, I couldn’t coast. But … well, we attracted the best teachers (we destroyed teachers who weren’t very smart) and they loved us and we studied way ahead of material.

  27. unlurk

    I read that article by Patrick Richardson on PJMedia with interest as our child also has mental health issues. From what I’ve learned, his boy got all the wrong medicines… But there’s no point in telling him that, now.

    There is at least one sort of long term mental med, you get a shot a month, called Invega. We’ve not needed it, but some support group members have children on it. They love it because the kids don’t have to remember to take their meds daily. One common theme in the support group is that the doctors often know less than they think, and don’t want to listen to the parents. We fired several ourselves for not listening.

    i am fascinated by the sensory issue showing up in this discussion. Our child is a super taster, super sniffer, and very sensitive to how clothing feels. Also has one eye exceedingly nearsighted, and the other far sighted. And doesn’t handle noisy environments well. I’d now idea how common that constellation of issues was.

    There are some in the mental health field who are trying to get better diagnostics and definitions of issues. There’s one outfit that for twenty years has been taking eegs of people who come to pyschiatrists for help, and correlating those readings with what medicine works for patients. And within the past year (probably related to the release of the latest edition of the DSM) there were articles about other places, possibly even NIMH, deciding to work on similar efforts rather than continue to follow self-reported symptomatic treatment, such as the DSM supports. When the DSM definitions were tested in the field (by the few who actually did the testing) none of the doctors agreed on diagnosis of a given individual. IOW, psychiatry is not yet a science.

    • Exactly what I was going to point out. There are psych meds (primarily for schizophrenia) that can be injected once a month, and they seem to work very well for people who have problems with medication schedules or just aren’t compliant with treatment.

  28. I well remember my own school experiences and will readily attest that current educational doctrine is ill-prepared to deal with outliers. I fear it has only gotten worse since I graduated, with the current trend to standardized testing weakening true education.

    The doctrine that holds that the mean in population analysis is a real and attainable goal that all students should fall on tends to forget the human element in student populations. At best we should be analyzing the mode and aiming to shift that statistic toward our mean goal. I don’t believe that is what’s happening, at least not at the sharp end of the pencil. More and more we appear to be working to form a homogeneous population, which is futile and ill-thought.

    • “More and more we appear to be working to form a homogeneous population, which is futile and ill-thought.”

      Unless you’re trying to design a society that can be controlled. It might still be futile, but it’s well thought out.

  29. I felt pretty good about being able to color in the lines until this. 😀

  30. It’s not the Smart kids one has to worry about — it’s the Clever ones. The ones who figure out “I’m going to get promoted to the next grade anyway; so I’ll only do the absolute minimum of work required to slide by”, or “This system has a flaw I can exploit to my advantage”. These are the ones who will cause rulebooks to be 800 pages of Flyspeck-3 type.

    As to “child abuse” : Can we include “kids whose parents Just Don’t Give A Fuck”? Like, say, the parents who know: “The kid turns into a mental basket-case in the presence of Large, Ill-Tempered Fish”; “the science teacher teaches an entire quarter featuring nothing *but* Large, Ill-Tempered Fish”; “we’re going to send him in there anyway’ — then have the unmitigated fucking *gall* to act surprised when the school calls and say “the kid hasn’t done any work in any class all quarter; is totally unresponsive to teachers and administrators; and only interacts with other students to curse at them or hit them”. (if you ever *really* want to touch off a brawl at a con panel on Abused Children — and why the *fuck* a SF con has a panel on this is beyond me –, just respond to someone’s history of abuse with “Hey, at least an adult was paying attention to you — it’s more than *I* ever got.”)

    • I would happily vote to convict of child abuse those upstate NY parents who have threatened the guy whose house their kids busted into and had a wild party, doing $20K worth of damage while tweeting their havoc and posting online pictures of them engaged in the destruction.

      I would convict the parents of neglecting their kids’ education if only for being so stupid as to post the evidence of their crime in a public space.

      • Sounds as if they deserve all they can get, both parents and the kids. Criminal is one thing, criminally stupid another. The criminally stupid may be easier to catch, but I think I might rather have a few smart criminals than lots of the criminally stupid.

        • ” The criminally stupid may be easier to catch, but I think I might rather have a few smart criminals than lots of the criminally stupid.”

          Yes, but instead they go into politics.

          • That’s the problem with the world. Crime really doesn’t pay, so we don’t have any supervillains.

            That’s why I created my own world. *grin*

            • There have been. Think Stalin, or others like him who lived well and died in their beds (well, he died in his bed while perhaps hoping somebody would come in and help… >:D).

              • Okay, I think I want to amend my comment. Smart criminals, fine, but not supervillains, not of Stalin’s caliber, they are too hard to get rid of. So preferably just people like the Real Pink Panthers gang. They don’t do too much damage as they mostly stick to stealing from people who have good insurance, and they are entertaining.

  31. unlurk

    I read that article by Patrick Richardson on PJMedia with interest as our child also has mental health issues. From what I’ve learned, his boy got all the wrong medicines… But there’s no point in telling him that, now.

    There is at least one sort of long term mental med, you get a shot a month, called Invega. We’ve not needed it, but some support group members have children on it. They love it because the kids don’t have to remember to take their meds daily. One common theme in the support group is that the doctors often know less than they think, and don’t want to listen to the parents. We fired several ourselves for not listening.

    i am fascinated by the sensory issue showing up in this discussion. Our child is a super taster, super sniffer, and very sensitive to how clothing feels. Also has one eye exceedingly nearsighted, and the other far sighted. And doesn’t handle noisy environments well. I’d now idea how common that constellation of issues was.

    There are some in the mental health field who are trying to get better diagnostics and definitions of issues. There’s one outfit that for twenty years has been taking eegs of people who come to pyschiatrists for help, and correlating those readings with what medicine works for patients. And within the past year (probably related to the release of the latest edition of the DSM) there were articles about other places, possibly even NIMH, deciding to work on similar efforts rather than continue to follow self-reported symptomatic treatment, such as the DSM supports. When the DSM definitions were tested in the field (by the few who actually did the testing) none of the doctors agreed on diagnosis of a given individual. IOW, psychiatry is not yet a science.

  32. I don’t know how other people did on depo-provera but it completely messed my body chemistry up. I went on it because I’m terrible about remembering to do things like take pills regularly and it’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. I’ll stop my whine before I get started, tho. :p

    • I second this. I’m still dealing with the damage 5+ years after stopping. There’s got to be a better way than that.

      • ALL hormonal treatments, including the one I know I need have weird side-effects on me. So, when it got to the point the side effect was worse than the illness, I quit.

        • I don’t get weird side effects, they just don’t work quite right. The one I have to have keeps me from doing an impression of a narcoleptic but I’m still tired a lot and increasing the dosage makes me do an impression of a rabid squirrel. Yay modern medicine!

  33. More importantly, most Mensans I know are walking wounded, who have trouble forming relationships and always feel marginalized. (It might be the inevitable result of being odd, but…)

    Late to the game, but:
    I don’t think this is inevitable.
    I think that Odds can be taught to be functional, even if we do end up– as my mom said a few months back– always seeming a little sad and outside of the norm.
    I’m happily married, love my kids and get along with both our families and a selection of folks; in large part, I think that’s because my mom was a geek, and her dad was an incredibly successful Odd. She just knew to always keep teaching us kids, so the damage the school did was removed. Dad’s mom was also probably Odd, and he just adapted around us like the way we are is normal– so, it was. Rather than pretending we fit in the normal slot, he treated how we are as normal and guided it towards acceptable behavior.

    • The ones who are born to those families are lucky. My parents were both rather normal, no geek tendencies, and never spend that much time with me apart from my first year in school when mother needed to tutor me home for several months since I had problems learning to read. Sometimes they seemed to be a bit baffled with me, but I was generally speaking an easy kid, quiet, read a lot, no problems in school if one didn’t notice the underachieving part, but since I did well enough only my mother seemed to get some of that. If either one of them was over the norm it was probably her, but I have no idea how much if she was. As said, she acted quite normal, and was not much of a reader nor showed much of a curiosity about anything much, one of the traits I tend to associate with the higher IQ individuals, but I suppose it could have been taught out of her considering when and where she grew up. My father could be pretty clever with hands on stuff, but otherwise he has always seemed a touch dense to me.

  34. I wish I’d commented on this yesterday when I saw it.
    In 7th grade I was shuffled off into “Special Ed.” Was it because of some disability?
    It was because I was reading above and beyond what the school cared for while my other subjects (aside from the Sciences, which were also higher) were right at grade level…and I had a bit of a stutter sometimes.
    I’ve also got rather good high-end hearing; even as an aircraft mechanic nearing 31, I can hear those high pitches they use to get teens to leave an area—Did you know that CRTs give off a high-pitched whine? One that’s about as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard?

    My keepers in my ‘special ed’ classroom thought I was making it up one day when the noise was distracting to the point of madness, and I was just being a silly disabled child by begging them to just allow me to get up and walk over to the computer at the back of the room that no one was using and turn off the screen–which they repeatedly told me wasn’t on. (Of course, I was an obedient kid; A few years later, I’d just stand up and do it.) After the period was over and I was freed to escape to a normal class again, I immediately walked to the computer, pointed it out to them, and shut it off.
    I think it made them angry.
    I don’t remember. Don’t really care that much how they felt either.

    As for the stutter? They sent me to speech therapy for one session, where I absolutely crushed what they set in front of me and left the therapist wondering why I was there in the first place. In hindsight? It’s because my mind moves so damn fast my mouth can’t keep up and I’m one of those crazy External Processing people, so you’re getting stream of consciousness at damn near realtime–its no wonder my mouth was tripping over the words, since it can’t make the sounds as fast as my mind was shifting tracks!

    Needless to say, if I ever have children, unless I’m lucky enough to be able to homeschool ’em, I’m going to watch whatever school they end up in like a hawk, and trust them about as far as any other government entity.

    • Oh geez– that is how I troubleshot electronics equipment. I could hear the pitches better than anyone else. I could find a problem before it became a problem. I also have certain sounds that make me want to go mad– Even at 50 I hear the sounds that drive teenagers crazy.

    • They make an iPhone app that generates pure tones (well, as pure as the speaker can make it) at a frequency that you input (I don’t have an iPhone, but a friend showed it to me when I mentioned reading an article that said some teenagers were setting a 17.5 khz fingtone so adults couldn’t hear them). You could use that to see how high it goes. I don’t remember what the highest note I could hear was, but it was over 15 khz.

      Also, back in college, there was a cleaning cart that gave off a really high-pitched squeal, that only one other guy who hung out in the lounge in the Physics department could hear. We had been both being told separately that we were crazy, but one day it happened to go by when we were both there, and we both cringed at the same time, which helped us defend against the naysayers.

    • I knew a highly gifted individual who stuttered that way, like a running back juking and shifting as he read the defense. Once when he had just resolved a difficult issue, the stutter went away: a running back breaking into the clear.

    • 80s fluorescent bulbs also sometimes made a whine in the low ultrasonic before they blew. Thats how I found out i could hear into that range…

      • Yep. The funny thing is that my hearing is REALLY going, but in the mid range. So, if it’s the bell ringing or something, and I’m upstairs, I hear NOTHING, but I still hear “too much” (My mom’s description of it) in the high and low ranges.

        • Oh, I’ve lost a lot of the high frequencies and some of the lows… 20 years of industrial music in clubs does that.

      • The stupid twisty fluorescent in my bathroom has been making an annoying whine for a couple of years*, and no one else can hear it.

        *and no, don’t ask why I haven’t replaced it, I keep expecting it to go out.

  35. ” most geniuses will tend to drift aimlessly through life because they never learn study habits.”

    That’s because they are never given anything that would challenge them enough to require study habits while their habits are being formed. That’s the problem.

    • Yep. They used the “challenge them” approach in my Junior High gifted program, with fair success (we did things like college level Maslov’s Hierarchy of Need in 7th grade), but in high school they gave up on that and just used the gifted program money to fund Advanced Placement Test prep classes. AP English was the one thing I had to actually work on in high school, and as a result I scored high enough on the AP English Test to challenge out of all my college lower division English, so in the end at least it saved me some tuition expense.

      • For some bizarre reason, everyone at my college had to take English 101 with one tiny exception: the twenty students in the Honors Program. The course description included “learn to construct sentences and paragraphs.”

        After I got my top score in AP English Language (with no class—I took it to prove I could do that), I had a very strong incentive to try for the Honors Program. Homicide would not have been a good way to start off my degree.

        • I find that interesting, since I was in Honors English (well not my senior year, because I hated the teacher) in middle and high school, and “learn to construct sentences and paragraphs” was not taught in it, although I believe it was taught in basic English. I have basically self taught myself what I know about sentence and paragraph construction, as well as punctuation. Because none of that was taught in Honors English.

          • Geez– I learned how to construct sentences and paragraphs in fourth grade and was writing short essays in sixth grade. So what are they teaching in school? When I finished my first grade I was reading at a sixth grade level and the slowest of the class was reading on a third grade level (in 1967). I am totally amazed that you weren’t taught the basics–

            • You’re thinking of the wrong basics. These days the basics are things like:
              Diversity is strength.
              Abortion on demand is a fundamental right.
              Guns are B~A~D even (especially) when owned by responsible people.
              Democrats are the party of The People, which is why it is okay for them to raise funds from Hollywood billionaires.
              Property is theft.
              White Folk The White Race is the source of all EVIL in the world.
              Government provided Welfare is a right.
              Four legs good, two lags bad.

              Old-fashioned “basics” like math and grammar and spelling and logic are unnecessary in today’s modern society.

  36. Sarah- Your description of the problems your son had in middle school was jarring. My wife and I have been dealing with very similar issues with our 12-year-old son. We’ve had his hearing tested and he’s close to off the scale (he can hear people thinking about making an annoying noise, I swear!)
    You mention having success with “physical therapy for the senses”. Can you elaborate on that or provide a link to resources for me to follow up on?

    • Are you in Colorado? Look up Able Kids Foundation. those are the people we used for the hearing stuff. Your ophthalmologist should be able — right now — to tell you if his eyes track together. If they don’t he should be able to prescribe therapy — though as I said, I got the same results by just making Marshall copy endless pages of material (Oh, the crying and gnashing of teeth!) Which is how my dad dealt with my writing/reading/tracking issues. I’d also recommend an IQ test, simply because this, like aspergers and autism tracks with very high IQ and psychologists might be able to help you figure out the really annoying things your kid is doing that are absolutely normal for high IQ. Mensa, for all its faults, also has publications and pages on how to educate gifted children that seem to work.

  37. No, we’re in South Georgia. I’ll look into the Able Kids and MENSA angles.
    His vision isn’t a problem, just serious annoyance and anger over what seem to be (to me) small sounds. We haven’t had his IQ tested but I’m sure he’s well above normal. His science teacher says that he’s the brightest student he’s ever had in class. He tends to jump from one area of interest to another, and can become downright obsessive over small details.
    Our initial diagnoses here with a psychologist was Misophonia. Thanks for the leads.

    • There are three centers, and if you call the foundation in CO, I’m sure they’ll recommend the one nearest you.

    • The test is relatively inexpensive and they have an hearing apparatus that fixes it. Sort of. It will be expensive, though, because it’s small and you end up having to buy more than one when it gets lost. Our son lost two or three of them.
      Well, might not be it, but it improved Marshall’s school performance and his general social performance too.

  38. I appreciate it.

    • Mind you, ten to twelve year old boys are near unbearable, anyway. (I think girls are earlier or later — but I never raised one.) At one point, on vacation (yeah, Denver, we’re dorky) kids and us get in the elevator, and Marshall is lecturing us on everything we did wrong that morning and generally griping at everything (to make it worse, he’s not a morning person.) Couple in the elevator start snickering. “He’s thirteen, isn’t he? He sounds just like our son. They don’t realize they might as well be screaming “I’m thirteen, I’m thirteen.”” They got the glower of death, but after that he was careful of that type of tirade in public. 😛

  39. My son (who just turned 5, and who you “met” at a convention when he was two months old) is on the autism spectrum, but in such a minor way that he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 3. After the intensive testing, we looked at the thirty-page diagnostic breakdown, and my husband pretty much said, yep, that’s me (aside from a few minor items.) We had suspected he was actually autistic, not ADHD, but this was sort of a backwards proof. (NB: Autism is basically broken sensory filters, so its expression is going to be highly individual. Social issues are only one possibility.)

    I had thought I was going to homeschool him, because I knew there was no way he’d work in a standard classroom, but it turns out they have quite a few experts in ASD in my local school district, so he’s in public school for now while they work out those issues. If they ever decide he doesn’t need an IEP, and they don’t stick him in a gifted track at the same time, I’m going to have to homeschool. (He’s reading at some incredibly high level, knows his geography… and yeah, that fine motor control? Oy. No good on the coloring business. We’re not even talking inside the lines, we’re talking at all.)

    Anyway. My area has had some good gifted programs in the past, but who knows if they’ll get cut again. (Every time they talk about class sizes going up, I’m astonished—because my classes in the 80s were larger than the panic sizes they’re talking about. They MUST have gone down at some point…)

  40. As I read this particular post, I became convinced that perhaps I really am a genius. When I was in school, I always disliked being called a bright kid, a genius, because I always did my homework, and was obedient, and never interrupted class or acted out; I knew several people that seemed smarter than me, but I also figured that anyone could be like me, they just had to do the work!

    Perhaps I’m sort-of right, but at the same time, but even now I find it difficult to sit down and memorize things, and because of that, I didn’t *always* get good grades. (Even in graduate school, I only “memorized” for two, maybe three, of my prelims!) I like reading things, and absorbing them, and if something catches my interest, I like to delve right into it. (Helicopters and amateur radio are two examples–indeed, I do enough to didn’t get my radio merit badge, but I got my amateur radio license, and I tried to solder together my own FM radio from spare parts.) But I wasn’t all that competitive: in 2nd Grade, I couldn’t get past 2’s and 3’s in addition (even earning a full ice cream sundae wasn’t motivation enough–I only got two scoops of ice cream). And I can get terribly, horribly bored once I get to the point where I consider the work I’m doing to be a “solved problem”. I need variety, to be exposed to new problems, to thrive.

    Weirdly enough, despite the obedience that I naturally have, that has allowed me to get all the way through to get a PhD in mathematics, I have a strong anti-authoritarian streak as well. I always appreciated odd people in high school, and even though I liked going to school, I sensed certain things that were wrong with public school even then–I planned early on to homeschool my children. I think it’s because I didn’t trust tests, or even grades, to be good indicators of what classes a person should or shouldn’t be allowed to take, and that any person should take whatever class, whenever they wanted.

    Currently I work as a software developer, but I sorely wish I could do something mathematical. Perhaps I need to learn how to tap the quirks that qualify me to be a genius, to do interesting things…

    Now, with regards to how we should treat our geniuses: I remember seeing an article asking “What’s the best way to teach a genius?” and my reaction was “You teach them just like you teach anyone else: you home school them!” Then again, in the last few years, I have become convinced that public schools are at odds with both individuality and freedom. School assumes that we have to be obedient to arbitrary rules and schedules, and that every person is the same…yet, putting aside the different-shaped pegs for a moment, even circular pegs come in different diameters!

    While I would agree that home-schooling isn’t yet for everyone, I think as more resources are developed, and more communities established (both in-person and online), and more people have experience, it will be within reach for more and more people. And as that happens, we will no longer be wasting our geniuses! (For the record, I consider putting geniuses–or anyone, for that matter–to work as bureaucrats and politicians to be an even greater waste than finding work for them as garbage collectors…which, incidentally, is a greater waste than finding interesting things for them to do.)

    • Sounds like you want to read some John Taylor Gatto (author, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling) on the ways in which our modern school system is designed to make kids into cogs suitable for use in late-19th- / early 20th-Century industrial plants.

      “What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
      * * *
      “Self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.”
      * * *
      “I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution “schools” very well, but it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.”

      • Although I haven’t read “Dumbing Us Down”, I have read some of Gatto’s writings; indeed, while I concluded early on that I should homeschool my children, I didn’t conclude that homeschooling (however we define it) should be universal, until I read some of his essays, and a portion of “The Underground History of Education”.

        I also recognize that the primary reason that homeschooling isn’t “for everyone” is because our society isn’t set up for it. It’s hard to homeschool when you are bed-bound, for example, but all your neighbors also homeschool, it wouldn’t be too difficult to get help in teaching your children. Similarly, if Sarah (as she described in a previous comment) is uncomfortable teaching math, it wouldn’t be difficult to find neighbors who can do a better job of teaching math than you could. But it takes time for these networking effects to build up! In both my readings and my involvement with the local homeschooling community, I have the impression that even just ten or fifteen years ago, anyone who chose to homeschool also pretty much had to “go it alone”.

        Having said that, I always cringe when I hear a story of failure to teach math to someone as a reason that we still need public education, if for no other reason than the fact that the failures of public education to do the same thing are implicitly ignored. While we shouldn’t be blind to the potential failure modes of home schooling, we would do very well to remember that the public school system has its own failure modes as well.

  41. New chapter up at Mad Genius Club

    Just got caught up beyond Chapter 1. The story holds my attention though Chapter 5 came as a shock. After those unexpected developments, Chapter 6 will be important. Looking forward to it.