On Gifts and Returns

So, Tuesday I mentioned in passing that I think Talent is a myth, and of course I got the usual answers “no, I met someone very talented at x or y.”

Which brings us to this post and why I hate the “classification” that schools do in “gifted.” And this is not just because in schools gifted normally means “does what I tell her to do, no matter how stupid, promptly and without complaint.” I mean, that is part of the problem. I had the hardest time convincing them that the sons were underperforming because they were bored, not because they weren’t capable. (There is something profoundly insulting to teachers who think that whatever they assign the first grader, even if it’s putting round pegs in round holes, is the most fascinating thing that kid can learn to do. Ditto for third grade teachers who only have picture books in their classroom and who think your child isn’t reading them because he is “learning disabled” not because he reads Roman history in his spare time at home. [Granted in middle school aimed books, because I, personally, preferred not to be responsible for his learning the less savory stuff Romans did. I kept that stuff in the locked bookcase. Yes, of course he read them too, though I only found out his bookcase opening trick years later.] And right now you’re going: see, your kid was “gifted.” Hold on to that thought.)

I hate the classification of “gifted” even when accurate because of the meaning behind it. This is something you were given, something you were born with. You’ll always be gifted, even if you choose to be a total dumb*ss, and they treat it like it’s important and relevant and makes you soooo special. (And for those ready to say this is envy: I was in those classes too. Mostly because normal class teachers wanted me out of their purview ASAP due to a nasty tendency to argue every point into the ground. [And it was nasty. Had I had to teach myself, I’d have hit the little pest in the head with a heavy dictionary first day.])

I don’t object to stratifying classes by ability. In fact, I think the places and times that did it made life easier for both the child and the teacher, provided they have some means of deciding who goes into the pool that isn’t based on “She dresses so nicely and does everything I tell her.”

In my time and place, because it was illegal, (revolution abolished such things) they did it only for extreme cases and in self defense. So in my second year in high school (which starts in seventh grade) I found myself in a form that collected every single best student of their forms the year before, save for those who went into our rival form. (And you know, these many years after, I remember we were N and locked in mortal combat with form M. Grades are posted publically, and it was a horrible humiliation if they had more As than we did.)

Certainly extreme ability should be stratified out, as should extreme disability. There are things that no amount of integration are going to equalize and you can’t teach “genius” and morons at the same time with the same material. If you try you get the mess our schools are today. That said, and see as before, I don’t trust the schools ability to decide who are genius and who are morons. (Younger son is certified genius [certifiable too] and I had to fight more than once to keep him from remedial h*ll, because he had a speech impediment, an odd sense of humor and was bored spitless.)

And now you’re saying “But Sarah, you just admitted there are geniuses.” Drat. Will you wait. All shall be explained.

So, anyway, I hate the word “gifted” to apply to those who are smarter than the average bear, because it implies they were handed this “packet” of genius, and there’s nothing else they need to do to succeed and do well in life. In fact, one teacher, explaining why the school spent so little time and money on the smart kids told me “your kids are gifted, they’re going to do well in life no matter what.”

Oh, boy. I know several high IQ people. Genuine high IQ – say, top 2% of the population – and though many of them have multiple degrees, the “average” job is retail clerk somewhere. The others are in perfectly average jobs. The ones who are in exceptional high-authority/high-pay jobs are probably the same proportion as from normal-smart people.

Intelligence doesn’t equal focus, doesn’t equal aim, doesn’t equal understanding of the world as is, and it almost correlates inversely to the ability to get along with people.

And this is why I hate the term “gifted” and the whole idea of genius.

The idea of genius runs through western civilization, and we’re soaked with it, to the point we don’t think very clearly when the words “genius” or “prodigy” come up.

We think “genius” and we think Leonardo DaVinci. We think polyvalent and able to do everything well. And most of us don’t know enough about his biography to know that it too was pretty much like that of the geniuses I know. He succeeded despite a string of unfinished works and dropped commitments, as a wild hare hit him and he went off to do something else.

His achievements while impressive, are a fraction of what you’d expect from his “genius.” And even with his genius, he was apprenticed and learned his trade.

What I despise about the myth of genius and the myth of talent is the lack of acknowledgement these people are born with the tools to learn (some things) optimally. They are not born with all the tools they need to complete their task. Genius is usually focused and saltational (as to specific abilities, not meaning that geniuses focus well. Trust me, I don’t mean that.) By which I mean that you’ll be a genius in one area: say your verbal processing. And by saltational I mean that often, for whatever reason, even in the area of their greatest ability the geniuses start below normal level (another reason it’s hard for schools to identify) and focus on it until they excel to prodigious amount. It’s just that the process of getting there is weird. It’s like a car who does zero to 60 in 2 minutes, but spends the first minute and a half idling then gets to 60 in half a minute, and then gets to 600 in the next half minute. (I.e., saltational = it jumps.)

Now for some relatively simple tasks, say running you might have the ability and have acquired the skill while doing normal every day things, so the first time you try to run a marathon, you present as a “natural.” This is mostly true for physical skills but not always. Younger son has always been able to do calculations in his head. Well, since he deigned talk to us. I think it’s the visualization talent, plus a natural knack for numbers.

But take a more complex “talent” one of those we associate genius with. “A genius for business”, or “a genius for art” or “a genius for music” or writing…

I’ll focus on writing, because I know the most about that, but I’ll say in passing that I think the myth of genius has destroyed modern art. If you’re a genius your untutored scrawls are gold seems to be the idea. And thus it all becomes about interpretation and spin and, in the end, makes art into a game of “the critic goes naked.”

In writing, where I know the road because I walked it at least twice, barefoot, in snow, both ways, talent might actually stand in your way of making a career out of this. The best natural writers I know, whose first works were perfect and clear and detailed are neither of them professionals.

I tell beginning writers that we each get a talent for free. This is not necessarily true. I’ve met some people wanting to be writers who really don’t seem to have a talent. But maybe it is because their words are so bad I never get to their exquisite plotting. (I’m not being snarky. Some of the best plotters I’ve read make me cringe over their word choices, so it’s possible.)

I got lucky and got two. One was a gift of words. Still have it, though I try to reign it in, because otherwise I send people to the dictionary and that tends to break the spell of the story. The other was a gift for characters. With rare exceptions, my characters show up fully formed, with their own history and their own voices. (This is good and bad. Some of the people I get stuck with! And you should see the ones I outright turn away.)

This is good, right? Well, it’s helping me, particularly in terms of saving time when the writing is going. And now, I’m experienced enough I know how to match the other elements of the story (sort of) to those two.

But when I started out, those gifts could have counted as hinderances. Because I had a word-gift, words were all I saw, and I tended to obsess about them and never finish anything, or else beat the life out of it by polishing every minor word. And once I got over that (if you like my work, bless Dean Wesley Smith, who told me my words were fine, stop obsessing on them and that was an order) my character definition was so much better than my ability to plot which was “early workman” that people tended to tell me my plotting was horrible. It wasn’t, it was normal for beginner pro, (though I had clue zero about foreshadowing until Dave Freer applied a Gibbs Slap) but in comparison with fully formed, actuated characters it looked shoddy and all patches.

In fact, to the extent that my “gifts” did anything, and while I appreciate them now, when they allow me to coast a little, they hindered my becoming a professional, because I had no clue how to acquire the skills I lacked. I mean, I’d never worked to get the ones I had.

(Well, I’d never worked on them consciously. And here, we must get to environment. Yes, there was capacity there, but my dad’s fascination with words and poems, even in another language didn’t hurt, nor did my tendency to read everything that stood still long enough. As for characters, I was as most of us here are somewhat clumsy with people, which is deadly in a village where at any time there are a hundred feuds running through and a wrong word to the wrong person will destroy your reputation or your family’s business. So I had to learn to “read” people and because it was difficult, I devoted a lot of time to it. Also, let’s not forget the inestimable contribution of mom’s and grandma’s favorite hobby: gossip. And not just gossip but gossip with family history. They or their cronies would start on “Bob never can keep a job.” And then go down the list of reasons his grandfather had also been a ne’er do well. Most of these women were sharp (and bored) so while eating breakfast I was likely to overhear three masterful character sketches.)

Which bring us back again to “gifted.” In some old traditions, including medieval court etiquette, if you got a gift, you had to give something back of equal or greater value.

If you have a “gifted” child, treat them that tradition. So they got something for free, yay. But now they have to put in equal work on everything they intend to do, to supplement what they got for free. They have to give back equal or greater value in talent, in concentration and in effort.

The myth of the ‘fully formed’ genius is just that, a myth.

Being “gifted” means your challenges are different, not that there are no challenges.

So, if you were born with gifts, give equal value back.

385 responses to “On Gifts and Returns

  1. This reminds me of Robert Johnson. Because of how poorly documented his early life was, and because he was so damn good a lot of people think he sold his soul to the devil for “talent” but I had a buddy who had a different take on the old crossroads myth. He pointed out that if you did happen to spend your nights at the crossroads waiting for old nick to show up with a contract, you were likely to get mighty bored. And if you happened to have a guitar or a mouth harp with you, you might just end up playing them all night while you waited. And that if you just so happened to spend every night down at the crossroads waiting on Mr Scratch, you might just get a whole hell of a lot of practice in. Maybe even enough that people might think you were so good that the only explanation could be that you sold your soul to the devil.

    Now I can’t personally attest that this theory is true, but it sure does sound a bit more credible than deals with the devil, at least to me.

  2. I had the hardest time convincing them that the sons were underperforming because they were bored, not because they weren’t capable.

    Good news/bad news– good news is, a lot of people are listening, and have caught on to the way that lowest common denominator teaching bores a lot to tears. The bad news is, the same kind of parents who got social promotion and thus LCD-aimed teaching and bored kids being trapped in a class because of their age are now justifying their ill-behaved brats disrupting basic human interactions by claiming they’re just not being “challenged.”

    I was a brat, but given the slightest chance I wasn’t disruptive. (“chance” included “not being prevented from reading ahead in the textbook”)
    These snowflakes won’t behave unless they get exactly what they want, and a rather important observation is getting dragged through the dirt.

    If I could find a school that advanced you through classes based on performance, let the kids challenge a course or otherwise test out of classes, I’d actually consider it.

    • My kids were never disruptive. They’d just do things like do 1+0=1, 2+0=2 and by 5+0 wrote across the bottom “this is boring. 0 doesn’t add anything” and refuse to do the rest to 12.

      • Yeah, big difference between jumping in all elbows because you don’t want to do a thing, and just pushing back in a way that demonstrates you KNOW the point.

      • I didn’t write the notes at the bottom, I just stopped doing the equations.
        Was just thinking again how glad I am not to be schooling now, they’d demand I be drugged out of my mind and who knows what, or if I’d learn.
        Schools and culture are making a massive group of unlearned folk who turn their capacity to things we probably don’t want them to be doing (see any poor black kids who are like your sons or me, but stuck in the now overly typical inner city schooling mindset.) Trayvon was not unintelligent, he made his own drugs, but he, like many today, have all the quirks of the higher intelligence, and none of the benefits.

        • If I hadn’t fought for my kids, in a middle class school, they’d be there too. And I see this happening to way too many middle-class boys.

          • yes. Was seeing in in my former neighbor’s kid. He didn’t need the drugs, he needed an asswhipping for attitude alignment, and an outlet for his mind.

          • A friend of mine is now a chemistry professor at a Tier 1 school. When his IQ was tested at age 6 (back in Europe) it came out average, and based on “behavioral” issues (basically, what we would now call a mild form of Asperger’s) he was held out of grade school for a year. Six years later he was retested: 99th percentile for numerical and visuospatial, while he actually aced the verbal test. Luckily for him, some teachers recognized he was basically bored out of his mind and encouraged him to do all sorts of ad hoc supplementary stuff. Ironically, he was so self-conscious about entering college a year late that he made sure to finish his Ph.D. a year ahead of schedule 🙂
            I shudder at the thought of what would have happened in the present US school environment.

            • Heh. That happened to me, though the IQ test was what saved me: the school was convinced I was “retarded” (their language) and were well on their way toward convinceing my poor mom (Grass widow w/3 kids. And my brain is wired wrong.). Fortunately one teacher convinced her to do an end run around the system and get me independently tested.

              Low and behold, the kid who would sneak out of the classroom w/out getting caught and hide in the school library, was actually fairly bright. So I have a soft spot for IQ tests.

              • And this is what happened with our older son. With the added flip that the teacher picked a “mixed race” kid every year to make his/her life miserable. That year was a twofer and Robert’s third grade crush, Cherokee/Black/Irish got the same treatment he did. I.e. teacher informed us the kid going in to kindergarten reading at middle school level was “learning disabled” in third grade, and “would never be normal” then had him tested with a set that ended at 107 (which he got) without our consent and told us we needed a staffing meeting because he was “retarded.” (Not only her word, but inaccurate, since 107 is normal.) She also insisted he had a speech impediment (he did. He never shut up from the age of one and a half. still hasn’t.)
                We scheduled the meeting till after Spring Break and Spring Break spent money we didn’t have to have the kid tested. After testing him the first time, the psychologist gave us half off if he got to try some new/experimental tests on Robert. (Which is how we know he is musically gifted, and has “musical reasoning” though frankly the fact he taught himself to play piano at six also sort of gave that away.) We went back at the end of the break, with our scores from a respected local psychologist.
                The teacher retired at the end of the year to become a nun in a contemplative order.

                • I think i’ve told the story here about the psychologist flipping to the last page of the blocks test just to see if i could do it and admitting he’d never seen it done before

                  • younger son has CERTIFIED IQ at 148, but estimated somewhere in the 180s. Why the discrepancy? Well, they disqualified his verbal tests because they were convinced he somehow cheated. I’m not sure how they thought he cheated, but by that point the PSYCHOLOGIST (specializing in gifted children) was behaving pretty irrationally, so we let it go since 148 was good enough for our purposes. Apparently he had also hit his head on the “pattern matching” test they gave him, which was not part of the formal assessment as it was scored for adults, and he was only 11. Since no one, including adults, had ever hit their head on the ceiling of that test, the psychologist became convinced he’d done the tests before and was coasting on pre-knowledge. (He hadn’t.) She said if we counted that, she estimated him in the one eighties, but that at that point measurements are meaningless because you can’t really quantify it. She said “assume a standard deviation or more over his brother, if he didn’t cheat.” So… We assume it.
                    To this day kid rolls his eyes at the implication he cheated. “I had a stunt brain in my pocket,” he says. “And pulled it out while they weren’t looking.”
                    However, kindly note this is NOT my straight A student. Yes, he’s in a very challenging program, but still. So, yeah, IQ is not the whole picture.

                    • I’ve tested 145 to 190+ (that test’s highest level) and one they withheld the results for some reason (“quite high” was all they’d say) all depending on the test. All IQ tests are not equal. All my testing was school mandated (the higher ones mostly) or just messing around after … The lowest came from that.

                    • Straight As merely documents willingness and ability to jump through hoops. It relates to the problems encountered trying to measure the intelligence of dogs and cats. The former will try to please the examiner, the latter will ignore the examiner.

        • I didn’t write notes, or stop doing the equations. I knew my folks would tan my hide, nail it to the wall, and use it as an object lesson for the next runt they raised as what backtalk and sass would get them! *chuckle*

          In all seriousness, I wasn’t that smart a kid, but the curriculum was really that *dumb.* Granted, it was less monotonous than snapping beans, less mind-numbing than weeding the same tobacco patch for the nine-hundred-and-eleventy-second time, and less dangerous than getting caught *not* appearing to do the work.

          Challenge came in (finally) when the new teachers tried teaching things the “new” way, which involved, as far as I can tell, teaching how to do something by teaching it the wongest way possible. We had “elective” honors classes, where you could take the accelerated course purely if you wanted to, no G.P.A. requirement at all. Then we had tests (state mandated) on material not covered in class- that somehow related to our final grade, as I dimly recall.

          Had I to do it all over again, I’d have skipped college, taken night courses, and enrolled in the tech school next town over. They at least graded on results, not ideology.

      • The standard problem set in math runs about twenty questions: 5 to review principles from prior lessons, 15 to teach principles introduced in current lesson, 5 to nail down those principles.

        The typical “gifted” student will need half that: 2 questions to review, 6 to establish new principles, 2 to lock that down.

        The typical solution to the boredom of the “gifted” has been to assign 30 … Thirty! … T-H-effing I-R-T-Y!!!!!!! problems to keep the little monsters bastards darlings from having idle time and getting into mischief.

        Years ago (must be at least 20) I read about a development in SAT testing that sat the student at a terminal where a computer generated a middling-difficulty question. A right answer moved the difficulty level up a tick, a wrong answer moved it down a tick. After a very short while the answers cluster tended to accurately establish the student’s working level. Can’t understand (except when I set my cynicism dial above 3) how that never caught on.

        • I would have liked that kind of testing, even though I’m one who enjoys tests to begin with. I tend to zoom through the easy questions and make stupid mistakes, so if I am given ones that I have to actually work to complete, I’ll be more careful.

          • I’m suspecting that we may be on the verge of blowing up this entire education boondoggle, anyway. With the teaching following a similar path (computer-aided, or even computer-led, adjusting difficulty based on quickness of learning previous points, on a continuously-adjusting scale, rather than a set one), homeschooling will leave public schooling in the dust even more than it does now. Of course, at some point, the government will want to take over the setting of the curriculum, so we’ll have to keep watch and prevent that from happening.

            • Already happening, in multiple states. There’s also a trend to refusing to accredit private schools and colleges that aren’t Marxist. I give it 5 years (less if Hilary wins) before there’s a flat out refusal to count degrees from non-standard schools as meeting the degree requirements for things like Federal contracting. That effectively means any employment because most companies can’t afford two workforces.

        • Takes a lot to figure out what the “difficulty” is–to be really effective, they’d have to get the computer to do what a really good teacher does, looking for patterns in the problems that are “too hard,” or in HOW the answer is wrong. (say, a third of the time the problem or answer involves a 6 or a 9, which was treated as the opposite– and that’s a simple problem)

          It would still work just fine as a supplement, but we all know how bad they are about using tools as if they’re the entire work shop.

        • I suspect that on investigation one would find that such testing had been opposed by the Teachers’ Unions on assorted specious grounds. The Teachers’ Unions have been fighting a rearguard action for decades, against the observable fact that the vast majority of their members are witless drones, unfit to manage a drive through window at McDonalds.

        • Birthday girl

          Yes, this is exactly why I never sought out the public school gifted program for my kids. Chose to home school instead. I saw my nieces and nephews in the so-called gifted program and all it was was just more of the same boring work. Maybe advanced a year or two in scope/difficulty. What my kids needed was an order of magnitude different … so we wung it (winged it?) (wang it?) … oops, maybe don’t wanna go there …

      • How about 1 = 2, for sufficiently large values of 1 ?

  3. Saltational. Thank you for letting me know the word exists, that describes my learning style. And my son. (My daughter doesn’t work that way. Slow and steady, or rather quick and continuous.)

    The description of how your sons learned sound so very familiar somehow. My 1st grade teacher thought I was retarded at the beginning of the year, then recommended I skip 2nd grade at the end of the year. My 3rd grade teacher despaired of ever getting me to memorize my multiplication facts.

    I guess the difference is between memorizing and grokking.

    • I was told that I skipped 2nd grade. I don’t think so, because I can’t make the math work. Perhaps I was told that my parents received an offer to let me skip 2nd grade, and my memory of 50+ years ago is off.

      We used to have those SRI cards in elementary school, and I got pretty frustrated because they kept taking away the cards I was reading (usually two or more grade levels ahead) and limiting me to the ones the rest of the class was working with.

      And, yes, memorizing versus grokking. I’m usually reasonably good at memorizing, but at work, I often feel as though I’m floundering around on the projects I work on, until I reach some critical point at which I reach an “apostrophe” (ob. Smee).

    • I was in the slow group because I wasn’t learning to read. One day it suddenly made sense and I was way ahead of the class. Took my teacher months to catch on. My mom brought a book to advanced for my year and had me read it to the teacher at a conference. The teacher just decided I was a bad boy who had been pretending not to read. ARGH!

      • Birthday girl

        My son had that kind of instant-on with reading. He knew _how_ to read at age 4, by phonics and could read three-letter words, but there was no joy in it for him, for some reason. Then he refused to read, or wasn’t getting it, until one day _shazam_ he could read, and a couple years ahead of “grade level.” It appeared that something just clicked for him. Then he went on to read The Lord of the Rings at age 9 and understand it (I quizzed him on that one!).

  4. This is a little off the topic but don’t feel you should apologize for sending me to the dictionary! One of the things that I read this for is your ability to use words that stretch my vocabulary. It is also one of the reasons I may never read a paper book again if there is an ebook option.

    • And English is, what, her 5th language? I stand in awe, madam.

      • third. In order of learning.

        • What are your others, if I may ask?

          • Eh. At this point all but two others (the ones I learned first) are mostly academic, as for instance, my German is WHOLLY gone.
            In order, Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian, Swedish, Greek. (I understand/can figure written Spanish, and for a time I had the same ability to figure out Dutch. But it’s been way too long. I can read Italian, to my shock, but mostly because it’s so much like Portuguese and I vaguely remember stuff [I have the equivalent of a BA in Italian from the university of Milan, [remote study via consulate] but if you don’t keep it up, you lose it.] Otherwise, everything but the first three is largely gone, and I can’t spell/write in either French or Portuguese anymore. I could however get either of them back with two weeks in the country.)

            • I get Portuguese/Spanish/French/Italian (“all vulgar Latin anyhow”, one of my professors would have said), and perhaps the English/German combo, but SWEDISH?! That leaves me in awe. I am fluent in both Dutch and German but can’t understand a blessed word of spoken Swedish. (The written language I can half-understand.)

              • Portuguese textile industry imported Swedish machines. Dad worked for the textile industry. Some of my first work was translating the consarned instructions for assembling industrial machines. 😉

              • Swedish is still related to those, if with more drift. Maybe easier for me to see because mine isn’t in that language group at all. 🙂

                • Only related to those under “indo European.”

                • Yes, of course I realize that Swedish is a relative of German and Dutch — come to think of it, it probably has way more “Germanic” vocabulary than English — as is evident by the fact that I can sort-of understand signs etc. in Swedish. it’s the SPOKEN language that completely bedevils me. Same with Danish and Norwegian. Finnish and Estonian, as far as I understand, are more closely related to Hungarian than anything else? (The “Finno-Ugric language group”.)

                  • Oh, I thought she meant that it was related to the Latin languages. Never mind. I have novel brain.

                  • Yes. More or less. And to me the difference between something like German and Swedish doesn’t sound all that huge, but as said, I guess it is because Finnish has hardly anything in common with either so I can probably notice the similarities more easily than somebody whose mother language is related and who then notices the differences first. For me, well, Finnish and Estonian aren’t THAT far from each other, but while I can understand a bit when I look at written Estonian the spoken language sounds mostly like gibberish.

                  • And btw, there is bit of a difference between the Swedish spoken in Finland, and the Swedish used in Sweden. The Finnish Swedish dialect is supposedly older, and that is what I am more used to, so perhaps it is even a bit closer to something like German.

        • As with drinking wine, the order of acquisition nor number of languages learned matters less than quantity consumed. You, Lady Sarah, have drained Melchiors of English.

          Admittedly it was often cheap, acidic, insufficiently aired and somewhat raw low quality English, you sot.

    • If it happens too often, it can be annoying, but I’ll take seeing a few new words in a book any time. Of course, I may wait until I’m done with the book before heading to he dictionary, because I’m hard-headed and will be convinced I can figure it out by context at some point.

  5. Gee, could you hop in the time machine and go Gibbs slap me with this when I was fourteen?

    • They took my time machine away!

      • William O. B'Livion

        To when?

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Maybe Future Sarah took the time machine away from Past Sarah.

      • We ALL have a time machine, Sarah. Unfortunately we don’t have an accelerator or reverse gear.

        • Speak for yourself — I have an accelerator that allows me to zip through up to eight hours nightly as if they were nothing. I typically only use it for five or six, however, because a peculiarity of its design prevent me from reading while engaging the device.

          • Time machine = low blueshirt for rack.

            Time travelling = low blueshirt for sleeping.

      • And you know very well why, young lady!

        No matter how often we tell you you just never seem to grasp that when an idea’s time has come anything you do to try to stop it simply makes matters worse. Go back and shoot Moritz and the idea implants in Marx and Hegel. Just look what happened when you tried killing the inventor(s) of astrology! Some of those stains will never come out.

        • I was this close to shooting Mohammed, RES. THIS close.

          • Yeah, well, Alfred Bester told you what happens to people who try that little trick.

          • Well, since the German researchers have pretty much concluded that he never existed, you may have been lucky. Imagine what would have happened to Europe if the Mongols hadn’t been diverted south to beat up on Baghdad?

            (_Christmas in the Koran_ focuses on the language problem and is a real slog. The essays in _Early Islam_ by Ohlig [editor] are better for the educated but not masochistic reader. Ohlig’s earlier book is also very good.)

            • ” German researchers have pretty much concluded that he never existed,”

              Yeah — and their standard of evidence reminded me of those Victorians who concluded that everything was a sun myth, including Napoleon Bonaparte.

              • No, not anymore. This is hard core history, archaeology, linguistics, coin and inscription studies, trying to find absolutely anything that can locate any reference to an individual named Mohammed (or even close to it) prior to the early to mid 700s. I’m seriously becoming convinced that they are on to something (not that it makes an enormous difference to the state of the world at this moment, but it’s reassuring to find anyone willing to do serious work on the origins of Islam, and some of their arguments answer questions I’ve had that no one else seems to ask.)

                • Is this along the same research thread that started from people trying to figure out why a “huge trade center” like Mecca wasn’t in any records until much after it was supposed to be established?

                  I don’t know much about it, just know my husband got very excited about what he’s been able to find.

                  • Yes. Patricia Crone was the one who discovered/rediscovered that Mecca’s trade . . . wasn’t. She’s really toned down her research since then (two guesses where her university’s funding comes from?) but yes, she started it in some ways, and others have run with it.

            • The Other Sean

              What really happened is Sarah went back in time and killed him, but not soon enough. Instead, one of his henchmen used him as a figurehead. For decades, they hauled around his body and pretended he was still alive, as part of an Arabian Weekend at Bernie’s that fooled the credulous chroniclers.

          • ….Dying the normal way still resulted in two factions working on winning the Most Crazy prize; you WANT more?!?

        • Randy Wilde

          Just look what happened when you tried killing the inventor(s) of astrology! Some of those stains will never come out.

          Convince Shakespeare to take the dog out of a play, but he decides to keep the line “out, out damn Spot”… and the next thing you know the Scottish play goes from being a light comedic romp to a tragedy.

  6. BTW Sarah I just started reading Dean Wesley Smith’s Blog a couple days back. That is some great stuff. I’ve been stalled in my writing because i got caught in the trap of rewriting. So from now on I’m going to follow Heinlein’s rules. I plan to have the first book finished this weekend, come hell or highwater

      • I know I have no right to ask, and the book in question aint even close to your wheelhouse, but would you be willing to be my first, first reader?

        • Sigh. It’s not a matter of right. It’s a matter of time. Right now I’m trying to dig out from under serious delays caused by health, trying to get the house ready for sale, and trying to deliver books so we don’t run out of money for mortgage and rent.
          I haven’t even read Amanda Green’s latest.

          • No Worries. I know how much you have going on. That’s why I felt like a shitheel for asking in the first place.

          • I haven’t even read Amanda Green’s latest.
            Do so for it is good.

            • Sam, yeah. Right now I’m reading all of Butcher up to the Hugo nommed one.

              • Series binging for the win! Just binged through all of Ouran High School Host Club and it was a nice way to distract myself.

              • I’m binging Butcher also. I actually like the audio books (with James Marster) better than the written. “Changes” and “Ghost Story” are so far the best. I’ve stalled out reading “Cold Days”. It feels like one of the early ones all over again.

                • Uh. Oh.

                  Since I can listen to audiobooks while I work, I consume them in vast quantities. Jim Butcher is on my round tuit list, and James Marsters is, in my opinion, a sadly unappreciated talent.

                  Curse you, gingeroni!

                  • By strange coincidence, I was singing this most of the time I puttered around the kitchen this morning:

                    I still have to remind myself that he’s got a California surfer accent, not an English punk’s.

                  • :boggles: He’s in his FIFTIES?!?!?

                    Never would’ve thought he’s nearly a decade older than the guy who played Angel. Again: wow, talent.

            • Oh, I hadn’t done it, because normally UF is not my thing. (Yeah, I know I write it, but mine is weird UF.) Eh.

      • Well I didn’t finish it. Turns out It wants to be longer than I thought, and i hadn’t written as much as I thought I had. I did get another 10,00 words done though so I can’t call it a complete failure.

        • Stop taking tips from me. Kate calls the last 50 pages of any of my novels “the eternal last fifty pages”, as they can easily become a 100 or more.

          • heh. Im starting to discover that my ideas are a lot like the women in my life. They never do what I think they will, they are always more complicated than I thought they were, and they take a perverse joy in surprising me.

  7. polymath, not polyvalent. Sorry.

  8. As an educator, I definitely experience the myth of genius as a hindrance. On the one hand, I’ve worked with kids who’ve definitely been blessed with natural gifts but are afraid to take intellectual risks because they’re anxious to prove they’re “perfect” students. (I call this the “I Have to Drop AP Physics Because I Got a B” Effect.) On the other hand, I’ve worked with less fortunate young folk who’ve convinced themselves they’re “just not math people” when, in reality, they simply haven’t been properly taught. It’s not for nothing that one of our most fiercely preached mottoes at the center is: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

    • William O. B'Livion

      My father got really annoyed with me that I’d rather get a C in a hard class than an A in a mediocre class. I told him I was paying for college, I was going to learn as much as possible and didn’t care about grades because after college no one cared.

      • Yeah, younger son says he’s taking triple engineering degrees because anything else would be “too easy.” (Sighs.)

      • I recall the newsletter from my prep school telling of one of our instructors’ year at our “sister” school in England and of some of the differences. Most notable was the different attitudes towards tests.

        In England only one high school test actually matters — as with Harry Potter’s O.W.L.s — and a high score on any in course exam was a disapointment as it only confirmed strengths while a middling score identified areas of weakness and told you where to focus your efforts.

    • There’s a lot of articles out recently on how you should praise kids on their effort (as in, “Good job—you must have worked hard!”) rather than saying that they did a good job, so they must be smart. The former inspires trying new things and working on them, while the latter tends to make students act like your example of the “afraid to get a B” student.

      • I try to praise with “good work,” and scold with “you can do better, you’re smart enough, you just need to try harder“– and reassure with “well, we’ll try a different way, you can do it, we just need to figure it out.”

        Also praising her being “clever” if she figures something out on her own.

        • (her sister is very clever; that’s why I’m getting gray hair)

        • My kids are still young enough that I’m trying to short-circuit the “it’s too hard,” complaint, telling them that everything takes practice. When they show improvement, I re-emphasize that they must have been practicing.

          The five-year-old is still dubious.

    • If someone had just told me that my problem with math was not stupidity but that I scrambled digits in a process akin to dyslexia, I could have watched out for it and compensated. Did when I finally figured out what it was. Older son is as digit dyslexic as I am, and he took calc III for fun. (Not required.) I quit at pre-calc because I thought I was dumb. If I hadn’t, I’d probably be an engineer today.

    • The valedictorian in my graduating HS class was loathed (politely and from a distance) by the nerd-corps because she dropped all her AP classes but one in order to boost her GPA for scholarships. And then she ended up being cossetted by one teacher so much that it made the other kids in the class steam. Oh, yeah, and financial need had nothing, zip, nada to do with it and we all knew it. Meanwhile, the saludatorian desperately needed the money, worked his rump off with a full AP load and a part-time job. The difference came down to a few hundredths of a point. A number of us have never forgiven the administration for that.

      • Yeah, that was how our valedictorian worked out, too. Some schools started giving extra grade points for the harder classes, but….

        • Mine gave extra points for the advanced classes… which I think actually ended up meaning that in some cases, the top ranks were decided by who had managed to pack the largest number of them into their schedule, rather than any difference in grades. The downside came in for students who could have aced another AP class but wanted to stick with music or theatre, which didn’t offer them.

          • Mine did, too.

            The year after my sister was a freshman, they expanded it to some freshman honors classes because she had not been first in her class but some kid taking the average courses.

      • We almost didn’t make senior calculus class. 12 students had to sign up so the teacher talked some extra students into it so the rest of us could take it. The extras dropped a few days in to preserve their GPA. Didn’t help though. The valedictorian knew Korean, French and English and had taken calculus as a junior. Yeah, he was one of those guys who busted all curves. He was a nice guy and earned it though. All said, of the top 5 students, 3 took calculus.

      • #2 at my high school was a girl who took chemistry, physics, calculus, and the rest of the pitiful offerings the school had.

        #1 was a feetball jock. His feetball, remedial English, “calculator math”, and “Earth science” course load counted for just as much as her calculus and physics. Oh, and he aced Study Hall. Study Hall was a “for credit” course at my school.

        (and for anyone who might say “Earth science is *hard*”, the book my school used was astonishingly similar to a second of third grade “science” book, except dumbed down some…)

        • Earth Science WAS hard at my school, but that was at least in part because it was taught by The Coz – Cosmo DeBiasio – a man who at least half the students believed was a rock troll. He was also the school’s enforcer. Had cauliflower ears and a nose like a glacial outcropping.

          • In my Middle School, the Earth Science Curriculum Project was a (somewhat experimental) advanced Science class for 8th graders. I don’t remember much of the class itself, but it must have been advanced for that school, because I also don’t remember being bored to death.

        • Breathing for credit, we called it in my high school.

      • You know, I never paid enough attention DURING graduation to know who our valedictorian was, much less almost twenty years later. 🙂

        I do know that we had one kid (out of a class of about 300, I think over 200 actually graduated) that got a perfect 1600 on his SAT. I don’t know if I was actually second highest or not, but I know I had a higher score than anyone else in the AP classes, because I got sick of hearing one guy brag about his score (1470?) and finally shut him up by producing mine (1520?). Which caused some hard feelings, since most of the kids had spent a month or two studying, and I wasn’t planning on going to college so I wasn’t going to take it, until I found out that you got the day off of school excused to take it. So I decided the day of the test to take it, and went and took it.

        On the other hand, I know their were multiple kids with 4.0 GPA’s in my class, so I don’t know how they would have figured the valedictorian, but I know I kept just over a 3.0 because that was the cutoff for the Honor Roll, and you got a big discount on your car insurance if you were on the Honor Roll.

        • In my High School class there were 13 NMSQT Finalists out of about seventy of us. As I recall, that was split fairly evenly between the first and fifth quintiles of the class.

          Draw what conclusions seem appropriate.

        • Robin Munn

          Hmmm, the school I went to had one kid who got a perfect 1600 on his SAT, too. Did you, by any chance, go to high school in Modesto, CA?

          • Nope, Centralia, WA. And at the risk of being called racist, I’ll point out that the kid who got a perfect 1600 was second generation Chinese immigrant. You know, the culture that pushed their children to succeed academically, at all costs?

        • Our high school had talent competitions of a sort for speeches and whatnot. To vote, you had to watch the tryouts. It meant we had a more interesting ceremony than if the speeches and whatnot were picked by GPA.

          It also means that I have no idea who had the highest GPA. Unless it was the girl who told me that my classes were harder than hers anyway…

          • I may not know who the valedictorian or saludatorian but I remember the song we walked to 🙂 Our class ‘advisor’ was a douche (and the teacher of AP senior English, the reason I refused to take it) and he straight up stated that we would not be walking to Metallica or AC/DC, because he didn’t like them. So as a class we voted to walk to Pink Floyd’s “We don’t need no education”. 🙂 Needless to say the douche vetoed that, so we ended up walking to Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me”.

            • Our class song was… Iran So Far Away. 😛

            • I don’t remember what ours was supposed to be– it was picked by the parents of the most obnoxious girls, the ones who’d suddenly realized that the spawn was almost an adult and were trying to make up for it– but I do remember that they tried three times to start it, and then the other guy who was leading the way out looked at me and said “screw it”– and took off at a sprint off the stage.

              I did likewise, so did the rest, and instead of the 25 or so minute long slooooooow walk out of the gym with a stupid song on repeat, it was empty in about five minutes. (including relatives with walkers)

        • We had 5 perfect scores in my class of 101 students. I was squarely in the middle with a 1400, and I showed up….drunk, probably. Definitely hungover if not. Had to borrow a pencil because the only thing I had on my was my ID.

          The head of our improv troupe missed out on being Valedictorian because he ditched his Calc III class at the School of Mines to go snowboarding too often and got a B.

          The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced I went to a pretty exceptional school.

  9. For the most part school was cruelly boring. I didn’t do well not only because my mind was elsewhere, but I was not going to give my controlling parents the satisfaction of a decent report card. And then there’s this (which isn’t me, to be sure):


    • Generally middle and high school to me was boring, only slightly alleviated in the last couple of years by being tracked into Honors and AP classes, where I didn’t have to prove, over and over that yes, I was capable and interested in learning, and not as dumb as a post which was what happened if by some mischance I wound up in an ordinary class.
      College was a blast, intellectually. Yes, it was assumed that we were all bright, capable and interested in learning. G*d, what a relief!

  10. I was an ornery little git, and lazy to boot, unless something piqued my interest. Then I would digest every available bit of information on that subject and search for more.
    Back in the 50s and 60s it was apparently standard practice not to let the students or their parents know how they did on the standard tests, those evaluation and placement tests given a couple times a year, usually named after a state. All I knew was I got a lot of uncomfortable looks and a lot more attention from the teachers than I wanted. And looking back an underlying sense that they were frustrated whenever I didn’t perform up to their expectations. I got a whole lot of “we expect better of you!” but never any reason exactly why. I just figured I must be a failure.
    Freshman year in high school I took a full load of AP courses including Latin at the suggestion of my counselor who obviously knew my test scores. I also took wood shop. I loved that course. Built a cherry gun cabinet that I still have today. At the end of the term I was very much looking forward to next year’s metal shop when the head shop teacher took me aside and informed me that all my teachers had decided I needed to concentrate on the important classes, so further shop was off the table. It was at that point that I checked out from the education system. I kept going to school because I had to, but always carried a paperback and made the minimum effort possible to keep everyone off my back. I barely graduated and immediately took a factory job. Took me the better part of 15 years to find my way back into school eventually winding up with BS and MS in Engineering.

    • That’s unfortunate. These days, they always allow “electives” just so you don’t get that sort of situation, which seems basically like deliberate burnout.

    • Yeah. Younger kid is a triple niner 99.9% and the “only study what interests me” is extreme. His brother is an A student, Marshall is an A/D student though in college he’s moderated it to A/C and runs a B-average. It’s not an advantage to be that smart.

    • You just described me, except I told the teachers and counselors where to shove it, when they thought I should concentrate on the “important” classes. I bounced in and out of AP classes, based mainly on whether I liked the teacher or not. If the teacher was any good AP was generally more interesting than regular, but if the teacher sucked I would just take a regular class (and probably not show up). I took AP English my sophomore and junior year, but despised the teacher for senior AP, so went back to regular English, which was the same class, taught by the same teacher as sophomore AP. I went through calculus in my junior year (only took one semester of it, and then dropped it for an extra metal shop second semester). So my senior schedule was 2nd year Spanish, Body building, two Metal Shop classes, AP Biology, and regular English. I showed up for Body Building and Metal Shop every day, one semester of AP Biology was taught by a great teacher, and the whole semester was labs, so I would show up and do my labs, then not come back until the next week when we started the other labs. English and Spanish? Well, I showed up enough to do the occasional work and know when the tests were, to show up for them.

      • Ahh… Good teachers + an A.P. class: pure gold. Mrs. Jewell, our 5th period AP English teacher was so good that on “Senior Skip” day, the seniors in her class came back just for that one (and left again after).

        • I had a fourth grade teacher named Mrs. Jewell. She hated me when it came to math. She knew I didn’t do the homework, but when called on to give the answer for one of the homework problems, I would always get it right.

          Apparently there was also a math test that we were all supposed to pass, but I (according to my mom) kept failing it, largely by not completing the test, until she told me they would hold me back a year if I didn’t pass the test. From this vantage point, I’m sure it was a lie, but after that, I seem to have not only passed the test, but turned it in first.

        • Senior Skip day is still a bit of a sore subject. First off, I didn’t hang out with my class, because I thought they were a bunch of spineless, whiny preps (although they did choose a good song to walk to). All of my friends were either ahead or behind me in school. So when our class ‘advisor’ announced that we would NOT be having a “Senior Skip” day, and that if we did, our class wouldn’t walk for graduation, they refused to call him on it. He claimed that if a certain number of Seniors all missed on the same day, that would be considered a Senior Skip day, and he would cancel graduation ceremonies. Only an idiot would have believed him, but I already knew what my class consisted of; that is why I didn’t hang out with them.

          The Junior class behind me was awesome however, and they had a “junior skip” day, just to rub it in the seniors faces that the school really couldn’t do anything to them. Needless to say, I joined them on their skip day (which included a rockpit and a keg).

        • And yes, good teachers + AP classes = pure gold, poor/controlling teachers + AP classes = sucks more than a Hoover.

  11. My mother has been running gifted programs for decades, and every time she tries to retire they lure her back in to fix another district, because most programs are run by people who haven’t the slightest idea what kind of kid belongs in the program, or how to teach them when they find them. I can’t count the stories I’ve heard about teachers and parents trying to push Precious Snowflakes into the program while ignoring the Underachieving Odds.

    A good gifted program finds and supports the brightest kids in the district. Sadly, it will only stay good as long as there’s a Very Strong Personality in charge who will fight to get the right kids and the right teachers together, and make everyone else butt out. Without that, it falls apart pretty darn fast.


    • It takes an odd to run them. We had a good one for two years in elementary with Robert.

    • “Gifted” education in this state (NC) took a major step forward when someone of brilliance managed to convince the legislature that it is actually a disability (perhaps a favorable one but a condition that nevertheless meant you were highly likely to fail “normal” schooling.) The programs did away with punitive “extra” problems and “grade-level scope and sequence requirements in order to allow these kids full range of their intellects, permitting (for instance) the Daughtorial Unit’s fourth grade math teacher to write his own math course, essentially covering three “standard” grades in one year.

      Naturally as the legislators who’d seen the light on this moved on in their careers they were replaced by those easily swayed by constituents complaining that their darling bright child was being excluded from a privileged group, leading to dilution of the standards and gutting of the programs as the regression to mean went down.

      • This is one of the core issues with the Public Schools; the unwritten pact between parents and teachers broke down a long time ago, and parents are more likely to take an adversarial stance than not. Many of the teachers deserve it, but it does make discipline next to impossible.

        I really don’t see any way back. Vouchers will at least put the pusher-parents in the position of having picked a school and signed a contract and thereby giving the school leverage in the form of the ability to expel.

        There are a lot of things about the public school system that I loathe, but at base I think the problem os that anything run by humans tends to calcify over time. It needs shaking up in general and probably will gain, no matter what solution is put in place.

        • That’s why districts who add a gamut of charter school choices for their students somehow also end up with stronger public schools as well. It’s a phenomenon that just boggles the Usual Suspect’s minds (city-journal.org covers this kind of thing pretty well)

      • Not quite how I remember the reorganization in the state. The district I lived in had a nation model program for the Gifted and Talented. There may have been two other districts that had programs that came near. The state in its infinite wisdom decided to forcing all districts in each county to consolidate into a single system, and, to be fair, the newly formed county-wide districts needed to create new programs for the Gifted and Talented. In the process pressure was put on the systems to see that the numbers represented were ‘properly reflective of the population.’

        (Surprisingly people who believed their precious child had been unfairly excluded from prior program insisted the that henceforth the new standards should guarantee that darling be included.)

  12. I had a great school district as a kid. They had the Rapid Learner program, which took a lot of testing* to get into, and which put all the “gifted” kids in one classroom so that there was no coasting. We had all the standard stuff, but we also had music and art and Spanish and a play each year and dance lessons on Friday, as well as being allowed to take band and choir with the rest of the school. (Note that this was during one of those periods where they were lamenting, “Oh! They are cutting all the arts and extras!” so I’ve never quite trusted them saying that.)

    Oh, and poetry. We had a published poet teaching us about some basic forms and the fact that poetry didn’t have to rhyme, which is a bad thing to teach a teen but a good thing to teach a third-grader, given the comparative lack of vocabulary to draw upon**.

    In other words, they kept us busy. And not with meaningless tasks, either. A lot of us got to explore things that other student hadn’t really heard of.

    (They still have some variant of that program around here, but now it’s TAG—Talented and Gifted. I have no idea what the current iteration is like, because they don’t start it until third grade now, and I WILL be looking into it for my son, who is doing math at least at a fourth-grade level. His teacher knows, and throws supplemental material at him all the time.)

    • Yeah, Robert had two good years in TAG, (and I taught them fiction writing as a volunteer) but then the person in charge changed, and it became make-work.

    • Forgot my footnotes.

      *Testing was with a proctor and child psychologist, not a paper exam. I didn’t end up finishing, but after ninety minutes, they had enough information.

      **Third-grade poetry is wretched enough without forcing rhymes. And oh lord, I still keep some of my poems from them. I must be insane.

  13. Being “gifted” means your challenges are different, not that there are no challenges.

    Good golly, yes. And then some.

  14. We I was young I.Q. tests were all the rage and the private school that our parents scraped and saved to send us to gave them to all the students. My younger brother tested at a high gifted level and there was much patting and cooing by the school about his extreme potential. (not the family, we all figured there must be some mistake and some other poor unfortunate kid got his results and forever after thought he was a knuckle-dragging troglodyte when he was really a genius all along)

    It completely ruined dear brother for any sort of academics. After that he either got things right away on the first try or gave it up as “not worthy of my time and attention” He barely graduated high school because he never turned anything in and couldn’t be bothered to show up for class since it was beneath him. He is doing okay now, but his kids (who are very bright) have the same sort of attitude which has made life very difficult for them.

    I have 3 children who have I.Q.s in the 160 range and 3 who are barely above 130. (We were part of a group study for a medical issue our youngest had and this testing was a section of what they were studying) Since it wasn’t the school testing them, they never saw their results and I never told them. (I knew better) Their dad and I praised them for hard work and not for being born brilliant and it made all the difference. One daughter had a severe learning disability but because of her high I.Q. the psychologist who tested her said that one day it would all “Click” and she would be fine if we didn’t push her. She could not read until 5th grade and was in specialized reading classes for years. She was such a hard worker we often had reason to praise her determination. Then one glorious day, seemingly over night, she could read!!! She went on working until she became the Salutatorian of her high school class and now works as an engineer for the aerospace division at 3M.

    All of them are doing just as well. I know this is remarkable because I work at a middle and high school and we get our share of gifted students and the ONLY ones who go on to do well are the ones with drive. If they are the kind who have to go around telling people how smart they are or how everything is beneath them, they will struggle. But that is because they are human and modestly “talented” people go very far with hard work and determination. Smarts only get you so far.

    Parents used to know that you don’t brag on your kids or they will get big heads. No one seems to think that anymore.

    • I have to brag on older son, because he drives himself too hard, and periodically needs to hear “no, you really are smart. no, you are not lazy.” His brother… well, between the sensory issues (which is why we had him tested, initially) and the high IQ he drives me nuts. BUT the sensory issues means he HAS to work, despite the high IQ, which I think prevents the “too smart for this” syndrome. I have also talked to him about strategies to circumvent boredom in the less than riveting subjects. (I haven’t told him my strategy which was to brink it. Not to study till the day before, then do a quick read and go in. THAT curse, he doesn’t need.)

      • Do either of the boys regularly read this blog?
        I’m guessing they do if for no other reason than to have extra excuses for teasing mom.

        • No. Robert sometimes skims it. Actually, honestly, Marshall might read it, but I’d never know. He doesn’t talk much. He’s the unnerving and silent type.

      • Sometimes you just have to figure out how to get past the teacher, or a specific class to get to what you REALLY want to do. All of our kids were homeschooled at one point or another but they all also spent some time in public school too. One strategy that the boys employed to deal with unreasonable demands was deliberately blowing pre-tests so they wouldn’t have to work too hard to look awesome. (By then they could care less if mom and dad thought they were fine upstanding hard workers.) One 8th grade teacher was notorious for rigorous adherence to graded level reading tests. Students were never allowed to read below their graded level and had to earn so many points by reading books and testing on them to pass the class. If you tested at a 12th grade reading level you had to get a ridiculous amount of points reading terribly boring things. As we all know, novels and such are NOT written at the 12th grade level. But if you manage to score at a “normal” 7-8th grade level you can read about anything you want. It never occurred to her to wonder how a boy could test at 12th grade reading level the 1st semester of her class and drop 4 levels by Christmas.

        My girls refused to do that. But to each his/her own.

        • I really wish I had known people like the ones here when I was young. I never even suspected that there was anything to be done about the unutterably boring things we were doing in school, and just plodded along trying to get by well enough that I didn’t fail.

          • Eh, I found it was quickest to do the work and get it over with.

            And space out. A lot.

          • My life got ever so much better after I got out of school and was able to pick where and with whom I spent my time and wasn’t force to try to fit in with people based solely on what year they were born.

            But I had no idea how many other odds there were around until the internet was invented and I could find other people (besides my dear husband who tolerates my oddities) who actually had the same random interests even if they lived on the other side of the planet.

            But once I got used to letting my freak-flag fly so to speak online where it didn’t matter, I let little things slip in real life. It has been kind of surprising how many adults are really hiding any “oddness” out of fear. Passing for normal was never an option for me, I just don’t have the knack. But I seems like most people in their heart of hearts feel a little out of phase.

            • Strictly speaking, statistically nobody is average or “normal” in all aspects. It is only those idiotic enough to believe (or timid enough to pretend to agree) that individuals don’t matter — we merely represent our class, our ethnicity, our families.

              Even the most mundane of people has a freak-flag to fly, whether it is football, basketball, hunting, fishing, bowling, shoes, knitting, crocheting, cooking, wine, bands, fashion, nail polish, comics, SF/F, astrology or ancient cultures (aka Bible Studies.)

              If you learn how to quickly draw out and allow the riding of a person’s hobby horse you can become very popular indeed.

              • MadRocketSci

                (sung to the tune of Spider Man)
                Average man! Average man!
                Does whatever a statistical average of everyone does.
                Has no mind, has no face.
                Is a dotted line jerking around in space!
                something something, Average man!

                • MadRocketSci

                  I suppose technically he would be submerged ~1000 miles underground somewhere halfway between China and India.

                  • The Other Sean

                    I suppose the location depends on if the average location is weighted or not. Given average American weights…

            • Aye, that would be very true for me as well. My whole personality for years was “tall, dark, and dumb. As in, mute.” Talking to actual people without a script- and there *is* one, at least in the South- was and remains horrible.

              Took years to figure out what rote responses were expected and proper in what situations, with (looking back) hilarious missteps until got right. With rote response, whole days, weeks even can pass without actually having to really say anything. *chuckle*

          • I really wish I had known people like the ones here when I was young.


            I knew from reading Fallen Angels by Niven, Pournelle and Flynn that there were people like me, besides my family, but the closest I came to “knowing” any was the Yahoo Star Trek boards.

    • I have 3 children who have I.Q.s in the 160 range and 3 who are barely above 130.

      This cannot be so; all the best, most respectable research demonstrates conclusively that children in large families are less intelligent. This is because giving birth to multiple children drains a mother’s essential nutritional elements and precludes her from providing the kind of hovering personal attention that enables a child to prosper.

      Really, the science is quite settled.

      • I will point out that depending on the specific test a score of 130 should still be the lower bound of the top 2% which is the qualifying bar for entry into Mensa. Basically a social group, and best joined for that reason and the bragging rights, but a majority drop membership after a year or so. It is a handy way for an odd genius to gain access to a comfortable social environment.
        Unfortunately high IQ apparently does not protect one from infection by the lib/prog agenda pushed in our society. That requires common sense which is something else entirely.

        • I have heard the old chestnut about children from large families. What can I say, I picked a good dad for them so they lucked out there.

          I had no idea that 130 was also a high score until I started working in the special education department of an elementary school and the psychologist who did the testing left some of the various charts around. I had been secretly feeling sorry for my poor dumb ones, who were hard workers, but not so bright as the others. When I saw they were all in the upper 2% I felt better about it.

          But mostly I wondered why given their supposed “talents” none of them had enough brain cells to spare to remember to clean their rooms, call their grandmothers on birthdays, and write out thank you notes.

        • I question that IQ is a useful measurement of much of anything, frankly. No idea what my IQ is, and don’t much care. But I have observed that a number of highly successful people I know seem to keep their intelligence in their fingers. Test them on spacial relations in drawings on a page and they re nowhere. Test them with something they can pick up and handle and they are done before you’ve finished asking the question. I think there are other breakdowns in what is tested too.

          I worked, for a while, as security for a dying outlet mall. The head of maintenance was standoffish until on day he made a remake about me “thinking I was smart”

          I said, “Oh, come off it. You can build just about anything. I’ve seen you do it. Me, I just swallowed a dictionary when I was six. I don’t think I’m smart, i just talk a lot, and got into the habit of lecturing because my dad was a teacher. If you the ink I’m full of shit, say so.”

          After that, until I lost the job, it was us against the manager.

          • IQ is a useful measurement of how well you perform in academic situations because it was a) developed for that purpose and b) is continuously recalibrated to that metric.

            That is not actually very difficult. It is very poor at predicting performance of those with variances greater than one standard deviation.

            As for vocabulary, I usually explain mine as a result of having acquired the habit of doing crossword puzzles.

          • IQ is useful for measuring abstract reasoning skills. Beyond that…

            • I dunno… I went to school during the “standardized testing” mania of the 1960s and 1970s, and took most of the IQ and aptitude tests at one time or another. Most of them tested for math ability, short term memory, general knowledge, and speed. My math sucked, but I was hell for speed…

              The only tests I remember that involved any noticeable problem solving were the military ASVAB and a couple of tests that might have been dreamed up by the local school.

              One of those tests was particularly memorable. We were given a cupcake candle, a matchbox, a thumbtack, a paper clip, and a piece of string, and instructed to affix the candle vertically to the wall so it could be lit. I bent the paper clip into a curve, wedged it into a corner, and balanced the candle on it.

              The proctor marked “failed.” The only correct solution was “use the thumbtack to stick the box to the wall, and set the candle on top of it.”

              I objected that A) my mother would have beaten me half to death had I put a thumbtack in any of her walls, and B) the walls of the room we were being tested in were of concrete block, and impervious to thumbtacks. No slack for either one.

              After encountering several other tests and similar problems, I became certain the designers of those tests had no freaking clue how to design a test…

              • After encountering several other tests and similar problems, I became certain the designers of those tests had no freaking clue how to design a test…

                Based on the evidence provided, I would say, rather, that the proctors had no idea how to score.

      • My dad had a ‘friend’ that was glad his firstborn was a son, because men use up all their good sperm on their firstborn. Fortunately for me, I was stunned speechless by such rampant stupidity. Once the friend left, I had quite a few apt and mostly obscene comments about his theory.

      • *listens to the thudding sounds that are SUPPOSEDLY the playroom being cleaned up*

        I’d threaten to sic’em on you, but that might draw their attention, and I’ve actually been sitting down for at least ten minutes without anyone making a demand….

    • As I tell subordinates and colleagues over and over: a faster CPU alone doesn’t matter. It’s also the OS and the software running on it — if the OS allocates process time inefficiently, or the software goes at things bass-ackwards, or the software contains AI that just hasn’t gotten “trained” enough,…

      And yes, even those singular geniuses everybody always trots out (Einstein, Feynman, J. S. Bach,…) all also had extremely high drive for their particular craft in common. They just made what they did _seem_ effortless because through endlessly honing their craft it came naturally. (Think of it as the intellectual equivalent of “muscle memory”. The Chinese have the expression “wu wei” — freely, effortless action — but in e.g. martial arts it really refers to something you practiced endlessly until you do it without any conscious thought and with maximum economy of effort.)

      Another example: Every rock guitarist or guitar aficionado points at Jimi Hendrix (possibly the greatest who ever lived — for my money, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci is the top one alive) and his effortless skill at playing seemingly impossible things. What nobody other than connoisseurs know is that during his formative period, Hendrix was practicing or playing literally every waking moment. Petrucci ditto.

      • Of course, there is the little thing that things that come easier to you are a lot more pleasant to practice.

      • If one is to believe the album liner notes, when Son Seals told his daddy “I wanna play the blues” his roadhouse owning daddy insisted he learn to play it right, practicing every note and chord until Son’s hands would play it at his merest thought.

        Being able to sit in with such performers at daddy’s juke joint as Robert Nighthawk, Albert King, Rufus Thomas, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, and Rosco Gordon probably did nothing to damp Son’s ardor.

      • Robin Munn

        … a faster CPU alone doesn’t matter. It’s also the OS and the software running on it …

        This, so very much. This is also why the average IQ differences between different racial subgroups don’t matter nearly as much as people think they do: because the culture, the software that runs on your brain, matters a whole lot more. Take two people from the same racial subgroup, and have one of them grow up in an American inner-city culture that tells them, “The Man is keeping you down, the world owes you a living, and you should throw a tantrum riot to tell the world that it’s failing you.” Have the other one grow up in an immigrant culture that tells them, “You’re going to encounter a lot of people who are prejudiced against you. Work so hard that it forces them to shut up, because they can clearly see that you’re better than they believe you to be.” Now tell me, if the first one has an IQ of 130 and the second one has an IQ of 90, which one is more likely to succeed?

        • Exactly. People perform as they are told they should perform. This is why bad cultural clues (like *ahem* the notorious thug culture so prevalent in any urban sink neighborhood) are so damaging.

        • I think that’s sort of true, but let’s slap those two notions together. IQ tests don’t just measure the base CPU speed, they also measure the OS and the software on them, because abstract reasoning is something of a learned skill.
          Given that, on the whole, there is a difference in how good the schools different racial subgroups go to are, a difference heavily influenced by the different subcultures (and LBJ, may his name be forgotten), it should not be surprising that there is a correlation between IQ and race in America.

      • “for my money, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci is the top one alive”

        Woohoo! (Side note: Have you ever heard of Devin Townsend? Look up Ocean Machine. I’d link my favorite song ever but the only folk that have posted it have managed to do so in such an offensive manner that I’m not linking to them.)

    • It completely ruined dear brother for any sort of academics. After that he either got things right away on the first try or gave it up as “not worthy of my time and attention”

      Sadly, some of my family give up after one or a few tries, saying they can’t do it.

      For myself, I’m stubbornly of the opinion that I can learn any basic skill to above-average status in six weeks or less, and any complex skill in 6 months or less. With a few exceptions, where I did a time cost/benefit analysis and decided it truly wasn’t worth my time, I have yet to be proven wrong. Though I have often proven to have blisters. Or cuts. Or, in one shop, I got one or more knuckles with the belt sander on multiple occasions. 🙂

      • Of course, part of this is because my father could do just about anything, as long as it wasn’t electronic, and do it better than many of the professionals.

  15. “I had the hardest time convincing them that the sons were underperforming because they were bored, not because they weren’t capable.”

    Uhm, yeah. Teachers always protect their turf. So when Little Snowflake is so -bored- that he/she cries every single day after school when Mr. and Mrs. Helicopter come to pick Snowflake up, due to the sheer mind numbing frustration, teachers haul out the ADHD card and slap it down on the table.

    They did this to somebody in my family. That kid’s parents said “oh, yeah? Alrighty then.” and they went and got the kid tested for cognitive disorders. Spent about two grand on it. Snowflake was eight at the time, tested out at equivalent of a 16 year old for general scholastic ability and 3D manipulation of objects. Snowflake was able to concentrate on the test at a fully adult level. He was bored stupid.

    Teachers didn’t have much to say to that. But they still jerked the kid around. Because they’re teachers.

    Parents yanked the kid out of school and home schooled him until Grade 8. Snowflake slept through 8 and still got 80+ in everything, did zero homework, spent most of his classroom time making origami and writing code in a little notebook for when he got home. FINALLY had a decent teacher who stayed the hell out of his way most of the time. Snowflake rewarded her with some pretty fancy origami, from what I saw.

    Snowflake is reportedly sleeping through high school getting 80+ in everything except English. Still making origami and writing code, but now on his phone.

    Teachers as a group are uncultured Unionist assholes. Fight them on every single thing, never give them an inch, never believe a single thing they say without a second or even third opinion. If you find the rare one that is the exception, treasure them and shower gold upon them, for they are a pearl without price cast before swine.

    • We weren’t helicopter parents, so it took us till teachers decided to make kid drop out of 6th grade because of his “attitude” (and because their kids — 17 of them — were bullying him) to realize there was something wrong. I.e. he was smart enough to mask his learning disabilities, and proud as the devil so he never admitted he couldn’t hear/see well. So when he failed it was attributed to his “bad attitude.” And with the bullying he was clinically depressed… So we brought him home for a year, in which he went from reading at second grade level to reading at 1st year in college level, took Greek, played at translating the Iliad, took a bunch of courses online, made claymation level figurines of what humans would be like if they were aquatic, took an art course with me, slept late, went for walks, learned to cook… and skipped the rest of middle school. He chose to go back to public school (I THINK because it never occurred to me to get him a math tutor. I ran out of my competency.) Entered dual college and high school program. Graduated with a year and a half college credits, and is halfway through a degree in ME, EE and Aerospace E which should take him another three years (if I don’t dust his room and destroy all his notes first.) He can usually be found playing a game, watching a movie and studying his books at the same time, which drives me BONKERS.
      If we’d been more plugged in, he’d probably have been homeschooled from 1st grade on.
      OTOH if we hadn’t fought the school, he’d be a middle school drop out.
      Win some, lose some.

      • Mr. and Mrs. Helicopter are a little on the protective side, but more by necessity than anything else. Snowflake 1 is the aforementioned braniac/social moron. Snowflake 2 is a black belt in Social Fu, but allergic to pretty much everything in life, with Epi pen, so home schooled as well. Because you can’t put the allergy kid in the same class as the Autistic kid with the service dog.

        Their home schooling consists mostly of letting the Snowflakes do whatever the hell they want, plus mandatory reading and mandatory multiplication tables. Not undirected so much as unimpeded. The Snowflakes seem to step up to an extent I was frankly surprised by, they know a hell of a lot of stuff I didn’t know at their age. More important, they seem to be able to find things out and accomplish tasks extremely rapidly. Set Snowflake 2 to making cupcakes for example, she downloads a winning recipe off the web and gets right the hell on with making those cupcakes. If they turn out funny she troubleshoots the issue and fixes it.

        I was just saying over at Larry C’s place Snowflake 2 is reading Monster Hunter International for fun. 10 year old girl. (Yes, I did that. ~:) She got halfway through and started a campaign of drawing monsters and monster hunters, demanded gun magazines from Uncle Phantom so she could “do the guns better”. Worked up an entire monster universe with characters and plot and graphics. Its better than some of last year’s Hugo nominations. Low bar perhaps, but 10 years old so not bad.

        Of course, the monster hunting universe is all about the OUTFITS, some of the monsters are pretty snappy dressers. Although the head monster hunter Alice wears a crappy yellow raincoat, she makes up for it with a cool gun, Kel-Tec RDM. (Alice used to pack a suppressed Stehr MP9 until The Phantom explained the terminal ballistics of the 9mm Parabellum. Alice moved up to 5.56 after that. Too hard to cut the head off a vampire with full-auto 9mm.)

        The other kid is boring, he’s making a quad ‘copter robot. Figures it’ll come in handy as a resume enhancement for getting in to uni.

        • “Alice used to pack a suppressed Stehr MP9 until The Phantom explained the terminal ballistics of the 9mm Parabellum. Alice moved up to 5.56 after that. ”

          She draw a lot of vampire poodles? Show her the RFB.

          I kid… I have one of those 5.56N rifles too. But you might point out to her that a lot of things which are cover to a 5.56 are merely concealment to a 7.62.

    • Some of them are not protecting turf but abusing the kids who are brighter than they are — just like the school bullies they used to be.

      • It’s always been my observation that while a certain number of teachers are there because they love working with kids and teaching, there are two other groups that are probably in the majority by some huge percentage: Time servers seeking easy, non-challenging jobs, and those immature types who want power over others, but who know full well they’d never attain it in the adult world.

        I had a raft of these types in my high school, one of whom became principal. I had nothing to do with it, but another one of his victims blew up his cherished ’57 Chevy in the school parking lot, which might give you a clue to how thoroughly he was loathed. They never solved that crime, despite it having been committed before a swathe of the student body that had to have consisted of at least two-thirds of the students…

        • Joe Wooten

          but another one of his victims blew up his cherished ’57 Chevy in the school parking lot,

          I kinda like that kid………..

        • As you’ve probably observed in small unit operations, a few time-servers can drag the entire unit down. “Only as strong as their weakest link” and all that.

        • I never blew anything up… but I entered my gearhead phase while still in high school, and I found that the principal’s personal parking place was a fine spot to drop off a hulk after stripping the drivetrain from it. The school was only a short tow from where we were swapping engines…

          First you start with a small foreign car. Then you stuff a big American V8 into it. Teen fun ensues…

          I dropped a third one off there after I walked away from school, just for old times’ sake.

          • I was told I couldn’t do carpentry, because I’m female. My polite question about what part of my anatomy they thought I did carpentry with got me sent to the directive council which is what socialist schools have in lieu of a principal. than they called my mom who told them my question was perfectly sensible. But they still wouldn’t let me do carpentry.

            • The proper answer to your question would be “You lack the upper body strength to lift heavy timbers into place and we doubt you will ever develop it. how are you gonna carry your cross up Calgary?”

              • Slightly more serious:
                major problem with schools, they do tend to lean heavily on stuff that’s cutting edge of the previous century, even if they’re using modern technology to reach that point.

                Good heavens, my grandmother had a “shorthand machine” when she was taking notes for the court, and yet decades later her daughter missed being required to learn to write in shorthand to graduate teaching college. Not just read, but write, with a pencil, at sufficient speed. (She was also one of a handful of people allowed to use the computer to type up papers without supervision.)

                • I think the court reporting machines still use shorthand. 😀

                  (I’d rather like to use one of those, court reporting seems like it’d be way, *way* up my alley, but I don’t have the foggiest how to find someone to teach me shorthand and then use the machine. >_>)

                  • IIRC it’s a type of code, not exactly shorthand but close (because of the legal vocabulary). You also have to be very good at not responding to what you hear (like not turning green or fainting), according to one guy that I’ve talked to. You might ask at your local court house or JP’s office if any of their reporters might be willing to give you suggestions.

                  • At the time of the French Revolution, the French government was still using single-entry bookkeeping. Governments tend to be — sluggish.

                  • Your local community college should offer a court reporter’s course.

                • Shorthand is excellent for keeping written notes you don’t want anyone to be able to read.

                  Whenever anyone asked about it, I told them it was Minbari script. Buncha Trekkies didn’t even know what I was talking about.

                  While not exactly a secret language, you’re more likely to find someone with proficiency in Klingon than anyone under 40 who knows shorthand. Most people don’t even *recognize* shorthand, but (among IT geeks, anyway) most would at least recognize Klingon when they saw it.

                  • I couldn’t get secretarial jobs in the eighties because no short hand. I couldn’t get them to understand I could hand-write as fast as they could talk. (I used to take notes in class that way.)

              • um…. we weren’t even near Canada!
                Also, it wasn’t construction carpentry. It was cabinet building.

        • There are teachers, and there are Ed School Drones, and there are the worst sort, the aggressive child-bully-ers. Only the first group are worth spit.

          Teachers Unions exist to keep the latter two groups from getting the horsewhipping they deserve.

        • Then you have those taking advantage of – Teaching Is Welfare For Lazy Smart People.

        • Randy Wilde

          Time servers seeking easy, non-challenging jobs

          Reminds me of a line from Breakfast Club:

          Come on Vern, the kids haven’t changed, you have! You took a teaching position, ’cause you thought it’d be fun, right? Thought you could have summer vacations off…and then you found out it was actually work…and that really bummed you out.”

        • Robin Munn

          …while a certain number of teachers are there because they love working with kids and teaching, there are two other groups that are probably in the majority by some huge percentage: Time servers seeking easy, non-challenging jobs, and those immature types who want power over others, but who know full well they’d never attain it in the adult world.

          And this is why I decided a long time ago that I don’t want to put my kids through public school. As far as I can tell, it’s like playing Russian Roulette with half the gun’s chambers loaded, and you have to spin it & pull the trigger five or six times every year. Maybe you’ll get nothing but good teachers every year, but that’s not the way to bet — and just a single BAD teacher can do enough damage to outweigh half-a-dozen good teachers.

          • I decided, most definitely that I didn’t want to be a school-teacher when I blundered (through simple curiosity) into a college class on children’s literature. Silly me – I thought I was going to learn about … well, classic children’s literature, of the sort that I grew up reading at Mom’s direction … Wind in the Willows, the Little House books, Child’s Garden of Verses, the Jungle Books, Little Women, Peter Pan …
            No such hope.
            The class was a pre-req for a qualification as a public school teacher, and the instructor was a smug, judgmental a-hole, who poured unending scorn on all of that. Garden of Verses was bad because it rhymed … and the most lyrical chapter of Wind in the Willows (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn) was just sentimental garbage. Yes, I despised him thoroughly after about a month, and if I had ever had any ambition to qualify as a public school teacher, the thought of enduring classroom hours taught by smug and judgmental a-holes like him would have been enough to put me off it forever.
            And this, mind you, was in 1972 or so. I can only imagine how awful it has gotten since then.

            • I figured out pretty early on that becoming (and remaining) a teacher would be an exercise in jumping through hoops. Teaching might have been a goal, otherwise—I get asked if I’m a teacher a lot, because I do a lot of off-the-cuff explaining.

            • Sounds like you caught someone well-schooled in Critical Theory. It’s easy to sound like you’re someone of substance by tearing down everything around, but sooner or later, outside of academia people are going to notice you aren’t building anything up.

        • Patrick Chester

          They never solved that crime, despite it having been committed before a swathe of the student body that had to have consisted of at least two-thirds of the students…

          AltText: “Police interviewed three dozen cheerful bystanders, yet no one claims to have seen who did it.”

      • My father didn’t go into his public schooling much, but I did get the impression that he would have had a lot more trouble, except he was The Reverend Doctor Schofield’s son and Ed Major drones were scared to death of his dad. As well they should have been.

        But my Father the lifelong teacher is the one who introduced me to STALKY AND COMPANY.

        • If you haven’t already, dig up and read the Lawrenceville Stories by Owen Johnson, very similar tales told about an American boys’ school in the late 19th Century. If you haven’t experienced the yet met The Prodigious Hickey, “Doc” MacNooder, Hungry Smeed, The Tennessee Shad, Skippy Bedelle, and The GutterPup you have a real treat in store.

          A superb mini-series adapting several of the stories was shown on PBS’s American Playhouse circa 1987 but is available only on VHS.

  16. I, personally, preferred not to be responsible for his learning the less savory stuff Romans did.

    Insert c4c badly concealed as snark over college students who need trigger warnings for Ovid. OVID fer gods’ sake!

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Trigger warning: dead white male, Western Civilization.

    • “Intelligence doesn’t equal focus, doesn’t equal aim, doesn’t equal understanding of the world as is, and it almost correlates inversely to the ability to get along with people.”

      In my experience, high intelligence is not a gift.

      It means you’ve figured out the thing and moved on already before the rest of the group has finished hearing the problem. It means that when you are in a business that you don’t own yourself, you have to walk around with your lips clamped shut or be fired. Self employment, even as a poo mover, is superior to working for anybody else. It means you feel like you’re surrounded by IDIOTS, all the time. And you can’t shut it off!

      Worst of all, high intelligence never seems to be worth a damn at solving YOUR problems. Just other people’s. And they never thank you.

      High intelligence doesn’t mean you think the same things other people think, except faster. It means you come up with stuff they can’t even imagine, which then -works-, and it makes them angry. The grand jest of modern management theory is this claim that they want “people who can think outside the box”. They can’t tolerate people who think outside the box, and they go on pogroms to eliminate them at all costs. See Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft for elucidation. IBM used to have signs up all over the place that said “THINK”. Now they have signs that say “SHUT UP!”

      The curse of high intelligence. Not the gift.

      • Sometimes you can with a bit of luck find a niche for yourself working for someone who has the sense to recognize and utilize your unique talents. Usually it’s either the business owner or head of a department with sufficient autonomy to keep corporate well away from your activities. You have to find someone who will treat you like a black box, problems go in and solutions come out. Unfortunately, most managers cannot tolerate such an arrangement. They would rather be in charge of a failure than accept a success that they didn’t create and truthfully don’t really understand.

        • Generally when they want you thinking outside the box they only mean the innermost box of the nested boxes.

          A very few will accept you thinking outside the second or third order box and almost nobody will accept your thinking outside the largest box.

          • When somebody tells you they want you thinking outside the box in business, it is -always- a lie. They don’t want that.

            What they want is something their boss will think is clever, or more often will be the same as what their boss thinks except with fancy wrapping on it and a little bow.

            That this does nothing to solve the problem is not considered a problem. Rocking the boat with some Crazy Scheme is a problem.

            Example, some guys were given the task of improving the management of stoplights in a big city. What was envisioned (and wanted) was a “new” and “improved” algorithm for the centralized command and control of the traffic so the city planners could squeeze a few more car through.

            What the outside the box answer was instead, shitcan the central control, fire everybody and have each traffic light decide how many cars to let through, in consultation with other lights in the next intersections. Apparently its fabulously more efficient than “timing” lights etc. for high traffic.

            Another, better answer was devised in England, TAKE DOWN ALL THE SIGNS. A village took down every single warning sign, speed sign, traffic light, stop sign etc. and reduced the rate of accidents that occurred.

            Anybody want to bet what happened in those meetings?

            • The intersections that city planners consider “more dangerous” actually have fewer accident. Because the drivers realize they are tricky.

            • No, but it must have been EPIC! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall, or the mousy secretary in the corner, taking notes.

      • It means you’ve figured out the thing and moved on already before the rest of the group has finished hearing the problem.

        And being right often enough that it’s really easy to get into the habit of assuming you’re always right, since people challenge you in exactly the same way no matter what.

        • I usually enjoy finding out I’m wrong about something. Its rare, and can be exciting because it opens a whole vista of new things to find out about. Unless its some arbitrary matter like “right turn on red is illegal in New York, sir.” That’s less awesome, and frankly much less rare.

          People generally hate that somebody is never ever wrong. If I was smarter I’d be wrong on purpose in exactly the correct ratio. Sadly, I’m not that smart.

          • My mom figured out, and passed on, that they’re not actually upset that you’re not wrong often enough– they’re upset that you’re not wrong when they WANT you to be wrong.

            I found a guy who was willing to tell me when I’m wrong, honestly, and who was willing to listen when I told him he was wrong, and why.
            Married him.
            Iz good.

            • Apparently, to some people, you also need to be very obvious about it when you’re wrong – that is, almost make a show of it – or else they believe that you think you’re always right. For myself, I am usually ready to throw away something I had believed was true, unless I have a lot of background to support it, with no fuss, as soon as someone gives me a reason to believe that I was mistaken.

              That is to say, if I’m shown that my opinion of something was wrong, I’ll go “oh, okay”, and go on with life, but if someone tells me something that contradicts everything I’ve learned about something, and would violate what I know of the background of it, I’m going to be stubborn as hell and demand rock-solid proof that there is at least a reason to suspect that they’re right and I’m wrong. This apparently leaves people completely forgetting the things I either automatically deferred to them about (such as my wife and most things involving history, geography, or entertainment), or else didn’t even request more information about when they told me what I thought was wrong, and they only consider the times I did NOT automatically believe them, and say I “always have to be right”.

              Very irritating, actually.

              • Ah, a fell “argumentative” who “picks fights”!

              • It is because of people like you that we have to have Global Cooling Warming Climate Change instead of sustainable power from the sun, wind, sea and unicorns. If you would simply allow yourself to beee-lieve Tinkerbell wouldn’t have died for our sins.

                Speaking of dying for our sins:

                12 Years Later, a Mystery of Chemical Exposure in Iraq Clears Slightly
                The toxic vapors acted quickly against the Second Platoon of the 811th Ordnance Company, whose soldiers were moving abandoned barrels out of an Iraqi Republican Guard warehouse in 2003. The building, one soldier said, was littered with dead birds.

                As the soldiers pushed the barrels over and began rolling them, some of the contents leaked, they said, filling the air with a bitter, penetrating smell. Soon, many were dizzy and suffering from running noses and tearing eyes. A few were vomiting, disoriented, tingling or numb.

                After the soldiers staggered outside for air, multiple detection tests indicated the presence of nerve agent. Others suggested blister agent, too. The results seemed to confirm the victims’ fear that they had stumbled upon unused stocks of Iraq’s chemical weapons.

                From Camp Taji, where the barrels had been found, more than 20 exposed soldiers were evacuated in helicopters to a military hospital in Balad, where they were met by soldiers wearing gas masks and ordered to undress before being allowed inside for medical care.

                “They drew a box in the sand and had armed guards and were like: ‘Do not get out of that box. Do not get out of that box,’ ” said Nathan Willie, a private first class at the time. “I was kind of freaked out.”

                Since last fall, the United States military has acknowledged that American soldiers found thousands of abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq, and that hundreds of troops notified the military medical system that they believed they had been exposed to them. The military acknowledged the exposures after years of secrecy — and of denying medical tracking and official recognition to victims — only after an investigation by The New York Times.


                Earlier this year, the Pentagon adopted guidelines for screening hundreds of veterans who were exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq.

                Among those to be offered medical examinations are roughly two dozen soldiers from the 811th Ordnance Company and others who worked with or treated them after their exposure in 2003, according to Brad R. Carson, an acting under secretary of defense, who led the Pentagon’s review of chemical casualties.

                And last week, after repeated requests by The Times, the Army declassified a two-page document that appears to answer the veterans’ first question: What was in the barrels?

                The document, a site survey report written after liquid samples were tested by the Iraq Survey Group, the task force organized by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency to examine Iraq’s special weapons programs, identified the contents as benzenamine 3,4 dimethyl, an organic compound with multiple industrial uses.

                In boldface letters, the report called the compound “a carcinogen and poisonous chemical.”

                Chemists and chemical warfare specialists interviewed said the chemical was part of a family of organic compounds used in a binary rocket fuel for Eastern bloc missiles and rockets, including variants of the Scud.


                After the defeat of Iraq, as American forces began the long occupation of the country, the 811th Ordnance Company, a reserve unit with soldiers from West Virginia and Virginia, was assigned to secure stockpiles of abandoned Iraqi ordnance.

                Lt. Col. Timothy Cary, who commanded the company as a captain in 2003, said his soldiers were ordered to sort and store as much as 50 convoys of captured ammunition each day — a task for which they were neither equipped nor prepared.

                “The way they formed this task force to deal with this stuff was uncalled-for,” he said.

                [END EXCERPT]

                I am very confused. Didn’t the NY Times declare that there were no, none, nada, zero, zilch, NO WMD found in Iraq? Is this article from some fake NY Times, or perhaps Bizarro NY Times? Many questions unanswered even as they sneer at Jeb Bush for not saying — knowing what we know now — that the invasion was a mistake.

                • If you would simply allow yourself to beee-lieve Tinkerbell wouldn’t have died for our sins.

                  Have I mentioned that I’m hard-headed?

                • Not to mention the miles of satellite photos showing convoys headed from Iraqi sites to locations in Syria…. and yet no one wonders where Assad got his chemical weapons from.

                  Unless they’re denying that chlorine gas counts as a chemical weapon… when it was actually the first one used.

                  These people are too damned dishonest to live around.

                  • But hey, Jeb Bush thinks we should resettle Detroit with Syrians. No, I’m not joking. There’s a hole in my brain wot the stupid hath burned.

                    • Jeb Bush’s proposal should only be agreed to if he agrees to move his entire extended family there without security.

                  • I saw all those curious reports posted on the back pages and by various mil-bloggers around 2003. I thought it was perfectly obvious where all the incriminating stuff had gone. Later, all those odd reports from the same source of stuff that various units had found here and there.
                    Which of course never made it to the front pages of major media above the fold, loud and proud and out there. So of course, (insert heavy sarcasm here) Boooosh lied!

                    • Courtesy Snopes:
                      “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
                      Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

                      “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
                      Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

                      “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seing and developing weapons of mass destruction.”
                      Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002.

                      “I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
                      Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002.

                      “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”
                      Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

                      “We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction. “[W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime … He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. And now he has continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction … So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real …
                      Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003.

                      Snopes quibbles that these were taken out of context or were uttered in opposition to the invasion, but that is quibbling; such claims are no better based than the “Bush Lied!” argument.

                      In a speech on 09/27/02, Teddy Kennedy warned:
                      We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence community is also deeply concerned about the acquisition of such weapons by Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria and other nations. But information from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

                      ALL OF WHICH IS BESIDE THE POINT.

                      A big part of the reason for the Al Qaeda attack on us the presence of American troops on the “holy soil” of Saudi Arabia, guardian of Mecca and Medina. Our troops were there at the behest of the Saudis in order to protect them from Saddam Hussein’s militarism. We could not remove those troops until Saddam was removed.

                      Further, the Hussein regime was undermining and corrupting the UN’s “Oil for Food” program (I knowwwwwww! Imagine that!)

                      Then there was the bounty paid by Saddam to the families of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks on our ally, Israel.

                      There were a score of reasons beyond the WMD issue for our deposing Saddam.

                      Knowing what we know now …“? What DO we know now? Do we know Saddam wouldn’t have further abused and oppressed the Iraqi people? Do we know he wouldn’t have broken the various sanctions or that the current administration would have maintained the No-Fly Zone?

                      For that matter, one of the things we DO KNOW now is that the Obama policy team had its collective head up its behind when Obama declared the pacification of Iraq complete and withdrew our troops in spite of warnings he was acting prematurely.

                      So I guess the answer is that, had I been president in 2002, contemplating the invasion of Iraq and known that we’d never be credited with finding Saddam’s WMD (discovery of another trove of nerve agents was on the front page of Saturday’s NY Times) and that my successor would be a head-in-the-cloouds anti-American academic community organizer who would squander all we achieved in six hard-fought years of rebuilding a seriously damaged nation, then I probably wouldn’t have risked it until after we’d suffered another disaster.

            • Oh, wonderful. I could maybe figure out a ratio, I’m never going to know when somebody -wants- me to be wrong. Curse you Asperger!!

              Thank Heaven for self employment. My employees have to put up with me being right about random shit all the time. ~:) “How the hell do you know that?” is a common complaint.

              I don’t claim to know -everything- of course, no one does. I do like to know enough about any given thing to know when its time to hire an expert. The right thing for fixing a TV is a TV repair man.

              • “How the hell do you know that?” is a common complaint.

                Part of what I love about this site is that I can be pretty sure all the regulars have at least thought along the lines of “well, I don’t actually KNOW, just x, y and z suggest it, while a and b could support what you think, c doesn’t work with that.”

                • Part of “how the hell did you know that” is, as you suggest, reasoning from general principles and other knowledge. Otherwise known as the educated guess. When you get to be old, your “guesses” usually hit pretty close to the mark.

                  Part of “never being wrong” is not having an opinion on things you don’t know anything at all about. I have no opinion on Lindsay Lohan or the Kardashians, other than the general notion that Kim K has a butt you can balance a champagne bottle on and Lindsay L is a crappy driver. Beyond that I admit total (and perhaps blissful) ignorance.

                  • Part of “never being wrong” is not having an opinion on things you don’t know anything at all about.

                    :gets the giggles:
                    My husband had to chime in and inform people that yes, I really did mean it when I said I didn’t have any expectations about a thing where I didn’t KNOW anything about it.
                    There was nothing to form an opinion from– but saying that in various ways simply didn’t get across to anybody.

              • FWIW, mom figured out I might need to be told this because people mistake “quiet”– me trying to be polite and not waste everyone’s time with needless chatter– for “meek” and “mild.” Then they say something that is interesting enough that I ask questions, and take intensity for hostility. She’ll even warn people that I’ll run right over them so they’d better have their ducks in a row…. (And it gets worse if the justification they have for why they think the thing that got my interest is something I know to be wrong or outdated, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.)
                Sad thing is, “I’m not sure” is a perfectly OK source to me, if they’re not simultaneously going to insist that the evidence I have is wrong.

                Wayne put it well:
                if someone tells me something that contradicts everything I’ve learned about something, and would violate what I know of the background of it, I’m going to be stubborn as hell and demand rock-solid proof that there is at least a reason to suspect that they’re right and I’m wrong

          • Tony Randall used to regularly appear on the Carson Show and do things like summarize the plots of various Operas in order to demonstrate that complaints about sex and violence in the Arts had precedent. Nothing ever endeared him to me so much as, on the occasion of one appearance, his absolute delight when he learned a fact new to him as Carson made an offhand comment about Columbus dying in prison.

            Carson seemed as surprised to discover he knew something new to Randall.

            As Thomas Sowell has observed, the amount of knowledge in this world is so great that no one person can acquire even 1% of the sum. Thus the intelligent person accepts and welcomes the fact that new information can come from any source.

            BTW – a quick check demonstrates that Columbus’s death in debtor’s prison is a myth: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/1010/Christopher-Columbus-Five-things-you-thought-you-knew-about-the-explorer/MYTH-Columbus-died-a-penniless-man-in-prison.

    • Yeah. Ovid.
      Rolls eyes.

    • Can’t wait ’til they hit some of Sappho. Will seriously bend their little pea brains.

      • Their pea brains are already so badly bent that they will hail the Lesbian as the first rebel against the white male hegemony and ignore (or reinterpret) every word she said while simultaneously denying that the greeks recognized her talent.

        On top of that, they will misinterpret her being a Lesbian as having meaning other than residency on Lesbos.

        • Now, come on. Sappho was kinda sweet on some of her female students. Just like plenty of Greek male teachers were sweet on their male ones. It’s a weird ancient Greek separatism of the sexes thing.

          • …kind of like the modern folks who have arguments about if it’s possible for a male and a female to be friends?

            (That really pushes my buttons. I don’t have a lot of friends, and they want to inform me that most of those I have are impossible/not REAL friends?)

          • Yeah, but these enlightened twits likely think “lesbians” was where that isle got the name of Lesbos.

            • I was thinking in particular of the poem where Sappho’s protaganist tells her love that if her love ever abandons her for another woman, make it a younger, more beautiful girl, rather than a woman of her own age, because it would hurt less to be rejected for something she can no longer be than for what she is now…

  17. Yeah, they used that “gifted” line with me in grade school. I even tested into the gifted classes. But once there, I could hardly keep up. Being able to take a test and being able to preform are not the same thing. I fell in the funny crack in the middle, just slightly ahead of the rest of the class, but not far enough ahead to survive in the “gifted” classes. I never forgot that. When I got the HS and could pick my own classes, I took the general classes my Freshman year, got “B’s” without really trying. I did up grade to “academic” classes my Sophomore year, and got mainly “C’s” with the same limited effort. (Math being the big exception. Mathematically I’m well behind the curve.) But I never again took the “gifted” classes because I didn’t think I could cope with them. 😦

    • The people slightly ahead are the ones who do best in life. So, there’s that.

      • This is the secret tragedy of Dash Incredible: he has nobody to compete against and thus no cause to challenge himself and fully realize his potential.

        Could be a nice plot for a sequel.

        • ravenshrike

          Except he does, as his family got back into the Super business so there would be ample opportunity to push himself to the limit. Now, if the second movie focused of the dichotomy between the children’s lives and how everybody they know is normal without them suddenly finding a secret bunch of Super kids, that might be work.

      • To be honest, I have never been able to figure out *how* I got a score high enough to even consider being in the class. The only thing I could ever figure out was that in grade school I was fairly good at puzzles and I could sometimes see patterns. –shrug- I’ve always considered myself just a middlin average. I never got Math or English. Heck, I was slow to read until I decided to see what my older brother found so interesting in books and started reading his stuff. (I went from Dick and Jane type stories to finishing The Black Stallion Series in about one year.) It was Dad’s RAH collection that Russ had that ruined me. –laugh-

        • Dick and Jane stories were deathly boring in first grade. I went to the teacher and she told me that if I was bored, I wasn’t applying myself. If I wanted to progress to the next level, I had to show proficiency. (She had the class in levels and we had to pass proficiency–her tests– before she would let us advance.) It took me longer to get it. Once I got it in the first two levels, I zoomed through the rest. And when we showed our skills to the parents, I was one of the readers. She was the BEST teacher I ever had. Sadly that was her last year of teaching because she refused to use the twaddle– the new program– called Programmed Reading. This was in SLC in 1967 btw.

          Miss Sargent was her name. We were expected to do our homework and prepare for class. It was in first grade that I learned how to study for college. 😉

          • I got out of 1st grade with below average reading.

            Mom and Dad tried during the summer between 1st and 2nd making me read. Didn’t really click. I had half the Dr. Sues books. (which, btw, I detest) It took horses and SF to get my interest.

            By 4th grade, I was reading a year and a half ahead of my grade level. -shrug-

            • My cousin, who is a reading specialist once told me that between 85% and 95% of reading difficulties and even outright disabilities would be eliminated if they would not push reading until the age of 8.
              Most 5 year-olds are not really ready to easily learn to read. It has nothing to do with intelligence but with normal human development.

              But a lot can be said for letting kids read what interests them too.

              • It’d induce a bunch, too.

                A large part of my problem with reading was that my interests outpaced my ability, really quickly. I’m running into the same thing with the Princess.

                We’re lazy and pig-headed, and while we could easily be charmed into reading something interesting and mildly difficult– starting to read is hard. And “interesting” stuff runs out quickly, although strangely enough the novelty of the hooked on phonics booklets as rewards works about once a week.
                Reading’s best taught by repetition…which is boring, by definition; you do it until you don’t have to think about it, and then until you don’t.

                Having a little luck teaching words that must be memorized by making her write them out, but I have to vary that a lot, too, or she gets bored… most recently, she discovered how to use the search bar on a computer to find pictures.
                (… yes, we have safe search on, because her mother tends to search for things that she didn’t realize had a less savory possible meaning. I’m trying to figure out if there’s some kind of “even safer search” option somewhere that will still find useful results. She’s technically a flippin’ pre-schooler, for heaven’s sake.)

                Discussions around here have been really handy– I grabbed a bunch of really inexpensive Calvin and Hobbes comic collections and have planted them for discovery. Hopefully that will spring, soon; the printouts of stuff related to babies in a bunch of animals (staring with cute, moving to strange, with “human” set for the day the baby will be here) seem to work; a bunch of trace-the-word children’s Bible vocabulary with corny pictures works fairly well for now. If anybody else can come up with suggestions, I’ll gladly consider them and probably steal it, too. 😀

                Thankfully, her sister is getting the whole “letters make sounds, you string them together” thing fairly quickly, and I might be able to get her to the “and they let me find out what I want to know” stage before I need many tricks.

                • Don’t forget that the various Disney books are excellent early readers with worthy moral messaging.

                  Collections of such comic strips as Peanuts, BC and Wizard of Id can also be sufficiently accessible and interesting to entice young readers.

                  If you can find copies of the McGuffy Readers that have not been updated for modern idiocy sensibilities that would be an excellent investment.

                  Finally, we were fortunate enough to live within convenient distance of our state’s annual Home School Convention, an event very like SF/F cons with a dealers’ room that will offer a cornucopia of resources. A very commonly found item there are the George Alfred Henty biographies. These books are commonly used under the thesis that children become interested in History first through biographies and as they develop start looking for continuity connections.

                  • Don’t forget that the various Disney books are excellent early readers with worthy moral messaging.

                    I was actually looking for some of the ones Sarah mentioned when I got the inexpensive Calvin and Hobbes books– all the ones that looked perfect for the kids cost more than the five big C&H I ended up getting, combined. Maybe when one of them gets protective/devious enough to be fairly sure they won’t be destroyed, but right now even much favored books get torn a lot. (Current favorite: Dragons Love Tacos.)

                    • That reminds: the How To Train Your Dragon series is delightful (at least as audio books, read by David Tenant) and should be accessible. The humour is more boys’ than girls’ style, but some will claim that a virtue. The movies should help stimulate interest and openings for discussions of how the books and the films differ.

                      If you allow the tykes to listen to the audio book while looking at the words/illustrations in the dead tree editions I would not be surprised if they took to reading and rereading the books when denied the audio versions.

                      Or, you know, just go to your local book store or library with a decent children’s section and watch what they look at. If kids see Mom & Dad interested in books they are likely to wonder what the joy is about and explore on their own.

                    • We have something better than the Library, which mommy has to keep a short leash at– we have GRANDMA’S HOUSE!

                      And mommy is slowly unpacking the books, too; their library has been stocked from getting to choose ONE book at Goodwill, if they’re good. (“…well… alright, you can get two. Three? What?!? Well, if you promise to clean up without whining, alright…..” I think our record is five before I thought one of them would catch on that she wasn’t winning anything I wasn’t delighted to give her. Luckily, the Baron is still young enough that he is more interested in books as something to make noise; when he gets big enough to pick something, I’ll have to start on “books to show Grandma” or something.)

                    • *scratches head* I can see where the limitation would help maintain the idea that books are a treat to be valued, but unless I’m missing something major, it seems like it might also contribute to the issue of running out of “interesting.”

                      I don’t know, though. I apparently learned to read during the stage of high tolerance for repetition.

                    • They’re very young, so the appeal of victory makes the book much more treasured than, say, the ones they get as gifts– and for something as long as a book, the very length keeps it from becoming repetitive when their desire for familiarity has them asking for it again. And again. And again.

                      The eldest is five; none of them have developed the attention span for something like the “How to train your dragon” series. (Car trips. They’re good for figuring out what point kids mentally wander off. Peter Rabbit is more about where it’s at for now.)

                      Princess read about half of “Green eggs and ham” on her own, starting a bit less than half way in, but by the end she was obviously getting tired of it. If someone else reads it? She’ll ask for it a dozen times.

                    • Aah. Makes sense.

                      I know intellectually that there’s a stage (and one some people never leave, depending on talent and proclivity) where it’s easier to listen to the same material than to read it. Me, I keep thinking I should try audiobooks to keep things interesting while I clean and stuff, but I suspect I’d just… stop listening at some point.

                      …On the other hand, I can imagine where Green Eggs and Ham might be more entertaining out loud. *grin*

                    • We had a 1000 Dalmatians book that Dan made all sorts of additions to while reading. Additions the kids didn’t get, but which almost did me in.

                    • Now that does sound fun.

                      I remember there was a time I decided to switch things up while reading a Winnie the Pooh picture book to my brother, by swapping character names around. What I do not remember, but am assured was the case, is that my mother was also highly entertained.

                    • Sigh 101 Dalmatians…

                    • ?!? I thought that might have been one 899 of the additions made by Dan.

                    • No it was more how Anita was on prozac and what’s his face, the guy, drank heavilly….

                    • Look in ebay. People sell batch lots of Disney comics. Not in good condition, but cheap. Also, if you have a comic shop nearby, they often are in the “dollar, used” bin.

                    • The Other Sean

                      How about 101 Dalmation Nights?

                    • Never heard of it, will keep an eye peeled for the little Baron

                    • They are a little young for them now, but as they graduated to novels, be sure to check out Jim Kjelgaard’s books. I loved those growing up, and they are still good reads today.

                      I was at the post office today, and noticed the nametag on the lady working there was Kjelgaard, so I had to ask her if she was related to Jim. Turns out he was her uncle, and she is named for his daughter. She informed me that she has all of his books in signed first editions; which about made me drool on the counter. 😉

                    • I don’t know what her reading skills are but the nonfiction collection at the local public library really ought to have a range of “beginning reader” nonfiction on neat stuff like sharks, and abyssal creatures and F-14s. They range from “barely mastered reading” to nearly ready for the Magic Treehouse and Boxcar Children books.

                    • ANTS. I spent a year reading about ants and bees.

                  • I have the McGuffey reprints that are copywrite 1909– again, yay amazon!– and the problem we’ve run into is that she’s more interested in the woodcuttings than the words. I need to try that next time she zips through a HoPh, though.

                  • A lot of Disney comics have stuff like Atlantis legends. Look for the work of Carl Barks and Don Rosa. If I weren’t flat broke (or a little beyond) right now I’d send a gift. Maybe when house sells!

                • Give her comics, Foxfier. It’s what bridged that space with my boys.

                  • I’ve given her stuff before, and she won’t go for it– if she discovers it, though, there’s a better than even chance that she will.

                    How stubborn is she? The “Baby Animals Book” (tons of pictures of really cute baby animals, with a HUGE picture of her favorite species on the front) was absolutely ignored until her sister got big enough to snag it and make it desirable that way, while the book of cat breeds from my brother that I tried to keep her from bending up is still a favorite.

                    I did mention “pig headed,” right?

                    We now have Weirdos from Outerspace (I think?) planted in the crafting books on their shelves, and several others including Scientific Progress Goes Boink! stuck in with the books mommy doesn’t like them messing with because they’ll tear them up.

                    I’m considering planting at least one of them with my “absolutely do not DARE touch these school books unless *I* said so” stuff when my mom comes for the new baby, so they can “talk her into” letting them use them after lessons. We’ll see.

                  • Absolutely – my daughter began to be interested in reading because of the Asterix and Oblelix comments. She loved them – and that was her gateway, after being her bedtime reading-by-mom at the age of three or so.

                    • Asterix and Obelix was where my thoughts turned. Tintin, too, for that matter. The A&O tales have been adapted for tolerable cartoons which seem currently unavailable (but might possibly be had through EBay.)

              • Thank God your cousin didn’t get her hands on me then. Grandma taught me to read when I was three, and it was the only thing that kept me out of trouble long enough for my poor mom to get any rest.

                • I don’t think you would have had anything to worry about. “Not push” is not the same as “not give them the option”. Expecting all the children of a certain age to read at a certain level is what can cause some troubles. Clearly, many people are ready to read sooner than age 8, but some simply aren’t.

                  • It is only reasonable to expect the kids to all mentally develop at the same rate, just as they all develop physically at the same rate.

                • Pull out To kill A Mockingbird and read Scout’s description of her first day of school.

              • Oh I wanted to read at three. My parents believed that they needed to wait till I was in school to teach me to read… Something that was being said at the time by the child psychologists. *sigh … It depends on the child… (bunch of carp)

                • Yeah, some believe you should not LET the kid learn to read till eight.
                  Fat good it would have done me with #1 son 😉

                  • I used to take the books and make up my own stories. If I couldn’t read there stories, then they couldn’t read mine. lol Yea, I was a stubborn kid… and a stubborn adult.

                    • When my little sister expressed an interest in reading, I taught her to read (she was three or four) and I was 8 or 9. So many people were mad at me (teachers, parents, the world).

                    • I taught my sister to read when I was six and she was four. The school paraded her to show how well they taught kids to read — and shove me into the below-average math class on the grounds that anyone who talked that badly (speech defect) had to be stupid.

                    • Part of Marshall’s problem, till he was 12 when he overcame it by forcing a british accent. he now speaks normally, but if he gets nervous he becomes veddy british. We had to explain high school English teacher he was not being funny.

                  • I have a cousin with spina bifada, which was misdiagnosed. He could read before he could walk — he taught himself out of a Sears catalog. (He read All the President’s Men when he was six. OTOH, he has a permanent grudge against librarians ever since one of them looked at Watership Down, thought bunnies=kids, and shelved accordingly.)

                    • he has a permanent grudge against librarians ever since one of them looked at Watership Down, thought bunnies=kids, and shelved accordingly.

                      Hmmm … I wonder whether she reached the same conclusion about Playboy?

                    • Well… Traditionally and historically, the juvenile section of the American public library goes up to 8th grade. It was invented before the “teenager” was, after all.

                      The challenge for the Children’s Librarian is to have books that a strong 8th grade reader can enjoy, as well as a weak one. So you’ll find Jane Eyre on the same shelf as Beverly Cleary’s romances. Watersip Down is a bit of a judgement call, but if you don’t remember the rapes (my husband didn’t) you’ll have it in along with Andre Norton’s Breed to Come.

                      Now we’ve got YA departments, so the line has effectively moved down to ~5th grade: but the original rule is still in place.

                    • OTOH the standard represented by “8th grade reader” seems lower every generation.

              • Does your cousin also think kids shouldn’t be in school until age 8? Because I could kind of go with that, but being trapped in several hours of classes every day and expected to pay attention and interact constantly with no reading for a few years sounds terrible. Even being homeschooled, I was SO happy when I got math books that assumed the students could read well enough to understand text explanations.

            • If they would scrap the modern readers and give kids Just So Stories and such like there would be far more eager readers. The trick is to simplify vocabulary without simplifying stories. Some things a kid just won’t understand until older — lust, for example — but most human emotions are known to very young kids.

              But they do tend to prefer story over “character development” in the same way they prefer cookies over oatmeal.

              • I have to get older, but I don’t have to grow up.

                Stuff the oatmeal. I’ll go for the cookies every time…

                • Then, my mother makes really good oatmeal cookies.

                • Do both!

                  3 cups dry oatmeal (instant, quick cooking, rolled oats, WHATEVER)
                  1 cup brown sugar
                  2 teaspoons baking powder
                  1 tablespoon cinnamon (or pumpkin spice, or cinnamon and nutmeg, or… feel free to put in extra, too)
                  1 teaspoon salt

                  In a big measuring cup, melt
                  1/2 cup of butter with
                  1 cup milk

                  add 2 teaspoons (or a tablespoon) of vanilla
                  3 eggs

                  Add nuts, coconut, dry fruit, chips– although I wouldn’t go above 1/2 a bag of the chips, gets messy– or leave plain.

                  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. (like a normal cake, although you can use bread pans)

                  Boom: baked oatmeal that, per several kids and at least one family member, is “cookies oatmeal.”

              • I see I’m a little late for the “then make oatmeal cookies” comment. But oatmeal cookies should always have raisins and lots of chocolate chips.

  18. It should be acknowledged that there are indeed multiple kinds of intelligence. I’m not referring to that IQ / EQ / SQ twaddle but to (fer ex.) that intelligence which permits its possessor to quickly grasp essential elements of a discipline and the different intelligence which enables its possessor to truly understand a topic in depth. The two may occur in a single individual but the former commonly impedes the latter’s development.

    Then there are the different intelligences defined by retention of knowledge. Some people pick up basic knowledge quickly and retain it briefly while others acquire knowledge more ponderously but having once gained it retain it seemingly forever.

  19. I attended school before busing. The schools were separate, but they were absolutely far from equal. Part of the problem is overcompensation for past crimes. We had standardized tests at least once a year. In High School, most non-elective subjects had 3 tracks, X-accelerated, Y-slow, “no letter”-normal. My 11th grade History teacher recommended me for placement in the no letter Government, as History was the only ‘D’ I received as an honor student. My Guidance Councilor ignored him, and yes I got straight A’s in X-Government. My best friend somehow tricked them into a no letter English in 12th grade. They were diagramming sentences. We were reading English Literature. My friend did his Linear Algebra homework during English.

    Of course, standardized tests are standardized to the cis-gendered male hetero-normal white patriarchal privilege; but, funny thing is they are the single best predictor of how you will succeed in the real world after graduation. Lowest Common Denominator is the only ‘fair’ way to educate students. Accept this statement assumes that the needs of Society outweigh the needs of the Individual, sort of like reparations, you pay even though you did nothing wrong.

    Add to that the Feminine Mystique a.k.a. how dare you suggest a ‘boy’ is better than my daughter. Then add Unions. The final part is what Sarah often refers to as the social consequences of the pill. In my school years, women wanting to work had 3 basic career choices (ignoring the ‘oldest’ one): Teach, Nurse, Secretary.

    Clearly a society that allows the workforce of females unrestricted access to all career fields and does not pigeonhole institutions by the color of their skin is flat out superior to the ‘good old days’. Unfortunately, our education institution have not changed with the times. They answer the challenge of different interest, learning and intellect with least common denominator. They answer the challenge of the best and brightest teachers in a competitive work environment with Unions. They ignore the needs of the one and treat all as interchangeable cogs beholden to the State, and espouse the solution to their myriad of problems just like a first year college student: Send Money.

    As an aside on vocabulary; I learned French in elementary, Latin in High and German in College. I learned none of them well enough to pass as a native or translator, but well enough to realize the richness which the vocabulary of English is endowed. My only regrets were not learning Greek, and my Mother not making me learn to play the piano.

    • Mother not making me learn to play the piano

      In my youth I played the piano. The piano consistently won.

  20. I still get bored, which is why I have a lot of little projects that I work on… It takes longer to finish, but I don’t get bored… and I don’t get anxious. Funny that boredom and doom are linked in my mind.

  21. The best piano teacher I ever had said: Talent it what makes the practicing easier. Implied: it’s the practicing that makes you good.

  22. Since we seem to be drifting towards the discussion of intelligence and the teaching of children, I’d like to throw out that we really do not understand either very well.

    I once made the mistake of thinking that there were people who were intelligent, and people who were less intelligent. The brights and the dumbs, so to speak. Long, sad experience has rubbed my nose raw to the point where I am no longer sure I can even describe the details of what I’d consider “intelligent”, and have to rely on the old saw about knowing it when I see it.

    I had a mission once, when I was young, dumb, and in charge of a small unit. Said mission was loading a goodly quantity of concrete tetrahedrons onto a flat-bed truck. Heavy equipment was supposed to arrive, but it never did, and we had to get the damn things moved. Cue much hemming and hawing, as all of us tried to figure out what to do. Had this one guy, who… Well, frankly, I was pretty sure was at least learning disabled. Probably retarded–His ASVAB test scores were low enough that he was barely able to get in the Army during a period when the standards were particularly low. Not, according to my then-prejudices, the brightest light on the Christmas tree. He kept pestering me for attention while we were trying to solve this insoluable question before us, namely how to get these heavy-ass tetrahedrons onto the trailer, using only muscle. I kept brushing him off.

    Finally, he got really pissed off, and went over and grabbed a pile of cribbing, and a tanker’s 60″ pry bar, and started lifting one side of the tetrahedron and slipping a piece of cribbing under it, until he had cribbing high enough to match the deck of the trailer, whereupon the rest of us noticed what he was doing, by himself. We’d been trying to brute-force the problem by trying to figure out some way to get the five or six guys needed to lift the weight around those dense little bastard tetrahedrons, which we never did because there was nowhere to lift from. While we’re doing it, my supposed dunce has one of them high enough to get on the deck, by himself.

    Right about then, I realized two things: One, I’m a damn idiot, and two, not everyone who has a brain tests well. Took us about another two hours to load those things, using his technique, and I never again took anything the ASVAB scores told me, aside from whether or not someone can take a test well. As I got to know my suspected “dunce” a little better, I discovered that he was actually quite brilliant in practical things. Put paper in front of him, and you’d think you were dealing with a low-grade moron. Throw the actual real-world problem in front of him, and you were going to get an embarrassing surprise. I am quite proud of the fact that I’m the guy who got him over for the people at the Education Center to do some testing with, and they found that he had undiagnosed dyslexia and a couple of other issues his sorry-ass schooling had missed, and the guy’s actual IQ was easily up in the mid-one hundreds range–Actually, about five points ahead of mine, and one of the highest they’d ever seen. Humbling experience, that.

    I’m of the opinion, at this point, that there is rather more to intelligence than we suppose. Some people are bone-stupid about some things, and brilliant about others. I had a female senior NCO I worked around who was probably one of the people-smartest leaders I ever knew, but she had issues with doing anything involving writing or expressing herself. Didn’t matter–She just worked around it, finding someone working for her who was, and then utilized that person to do all the word-things for her. Otherwise, she was a veritable genius with people. I saw her defuse more ugly situations with a few low-key words at the right time with the right people than I care to remember. Would some have called her smart? Probably not, but I can recognize genius when I see it, and she was a genius with people.

    And, it goes beyond that: Some have a knack for a specific academic skill, while some have others. What makes that happen? Why is intelligence in one area not transferable to another? I’d submit that it’s because there are different varieties, different knacks for things. It’s not a universal tool, intelligence–It’s more like a vast toolbox full of special-purpose tools, and each of us only ever has access to a few specific drawers. I’m sure that there are some polymath geniuses out there who are good at everything, but I’ve never really met one. Most of the academically super-smart folks I’ve run into needed flippin’ keepers in order to survive day-to-day life, and the people who were best at doing the day-to-day were usually not academic superstars. Or, so I’ve noticed…

    • I don’t think of intelligence on the same spectrum as “dumb.” The dumbest person I ever knew (and had to work with, so help me) probably tested out reasonably well, though certainly under 100. Pulled the stupidest stunts you could imagine and when we finally had to take him home he couldn’t tell the guys driving him where he lived. The kicker? They called his mom and *she* couldn’t tell them, despite the fact she was in the home at the time. No native sense at all.

      Mind you, I’ve been friends with several people with Down’s Syndrome. This guy may have had a higher IQ, but he was yards and away dumber than those folk. And far less interesting to talk with.

      • He probably tested really well, though, didn’t he?

        • At a totally random guess, I’d put him down at about 90. Intelligent enough to seem normal, but a huge gap in conceptualizing ability, and he certainly had no grasp of sarcasm.

      • I know some college professors with IQs I guesstimate to be in the 140s range and are capable of astonishing feats of abstract reasoning — yet are complete klutzes at solving practical problems ranging from daily life to university bureaucracy. And I know others who are considered just OK as scientists yet solve the same problems before anybody can even tell them how. It had led me to conclude that ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete/practical’ intelligence aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    • There’s really no substitute for lived experience by someone who’s paying attention, is there?

      And this is why the modern, usually vileprog (but it’s common place amongst all the blog-gy chattering classes) habit of eliding every kind of problem-solving and mental competency: from learning, to experience, to wisdom to cleverness to facile verbal facility into: smart Is so incredibly debilitating. We can’t recognize good judgment when it’s right under our noses, or bad even if it’s breaking us in two.

      I’d assume some kind of conspiracy (on a par with “stem cell” = both adult sourced and killed-a-unique individual to get it stem cell) but it’s more likely some kind of lefty tic. Obfuscation just feelz right to ’em.

      • … habit of eliding every kind of problem-solving and mental competency: from learning, to experience, to wisdom to cleverness to facile verbal facility into: smart Is so incredibly debilitating.

        Give me ten minutes apiece with them and a yardstick and I’ll make them so smart their bums will glow.

    • I don’t know what the current psychological consensus is, but I think it’s pretty clear that there are “tracks” in which your brain works, that are used for handling different types of concepts and/or controlling the body in different ways. Various of these tracks are more or less strongly developed from one person to another, and some people have what could be thought of as malformed, damaged, or completely disrupted tracks to one degree or another, leading them to having extreme difficulties in that area of learning or even daily functioning. These same people can have other tracks that are like superhighways, allowing very fast and dense communication, allowing them to learn things in that track almost effortlessly.

      Learning how to diagnose the malfunctions, and open up the blocked pathways will lead us to some REALLY fascinating places.

  23. “But now they have to put in equal work on everything they intend to do, to supplement what they got for free” – not entirely dissimilar to a dancer’s training discipline: if you’re naturally right-handed (or footed), work twice as long and hard on turns and movements to the left.
    I think it should be taken as a given that everyone’s unbalanced – and if we want to be more balanced (which makes doing things easier), we’re going to have to work at things that don’t come easy. Equally true whether our strengths come from nature or nurture.

  24. Sparked a thought–
    a lot of issues with teachers might be what happens when you get above-average intelligence people who, when they recognize that a kid is also above average intelligence, forget that they’ve been doing stuff for decades longer.

    This would be especially bad if you caught a teacher who’d absorbed that without catching on to the parts that had a lot more built into it. Sort of like how the “America Sucks” type history makes sense if someone really had 20+ years of all the GOOD stuff already absorbed.

    Is part of why I hate with a passion the “saying stupid **** to shock people into thinking” tactic. It only works on people who are already standing at roughly the same point that the person trying to do the shocking assumes– and somehow intelligent people keep forgetting that the way they went is not even a sizable minority. It will work on those who are, and some portion of those who trust you– and will be taken as non-stupid by some of those who trust you, while making yet others think you (and more importantly, whatever you’re promoting) are moronic.

    • How does one “like” comments on this thing?
      Because seriously, this explains so much, and articulates one of the things that gets me twitchy about how a lot of people roll when it comes to history.
      For that matter, I wouldn’t even mind the “America stinks” stuff so much–we are a nation of humans, after all, which means sinful–if it was tempered by “and so does literally everyone else.”

  25. Patrick Chester

    (though I had clue zero about foreshadowing until Dave Freer applied a Gibbs Slap)

    ….but did you say “On it, Boss!” ? 😉

  26. I have come to the conclusion that the SJWs are, in their shriveled hearts, all R. P. Tyler:

    “It is a high and lonely destiny to be chairman of the Lower Tadfield Residents’ Association.”

    R. P. Tyler, short, well-fed, satisfied stomped down a country lane, accompanied by his wife’s miniature poodle, Shutzie. R. P. Tyler knew the difference between right and wrong; there were no moral grays of any kind in his life. He was not, however, satisfied simply with being vouchsafed the difference between right and wrong. He felt it his bounden duty to tell the world.”

    Not for R. P. Tyler the soapbox, the polemic verse, the broadsheet. R. P. Tyler’s chosen forum was the letter column of the Tadfield Advertiser. If a neighbor’s tree was inconsiderate enough to shed leaves into R. P. Tyler’s garden, R. P. Tyler would first carefully sweep them all up, place them in boxes, and leave the boxes outside his neighbor’s front door, with a stern note. Then he would write a letter to the Tadfield Advertiser. If he sighted teenagers sitting on the village green, their portable cassette players playing, and they were enjoying themselves, he would take it upon himself to point out to them the error of their ways. And after he had fled their jeering, he would write to the Tadfield Advertiser on the Decline of Morality and the Youth of Today.”

    Since his retirement last year the letters had increased to the point where not even the Tadfield Advertiser was able to print all of them. Indeed, the letter R. P. Tyler had completed before setting out on his evening walk had begun:

    I note with distress that the newspapers of today no longer feel obligated to their public, we, the people who pay your wages …”

    Except that their chosen métier is the Tweet.

    • But… it’s on fire!

      • “[R. P. Tyler] did not have a television. Or as his wife put it, “Ronald wouldn’t have one of those things in the house, would you Ronald?” and he always agreed, although secretly he would have liked to have seen soe of the smut and filth and violence that the national Viewers and Listeners Association complained of. Not because he wanted to see it, of course. Just because he wanted to know what other people should be protected from.

        Emphasis added.

  27. Sarah, apropos vocabulary: one of the things that slows me down in the highly technical writing that I do as part of my day job is precisely that I keep looking for clever and original ways to say something that I’ve already written a number of times elsewhere yet needs to be repeated to make the report self-contained. The result is gridlock of the type you describe, and your editor DWS was right on the money.
    Voltaire was onto something when he wrote: “le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien” (which I translate freely as: “the best” is the enemy of “good enough”).

    • Don’t do that. DWS was my teacher, not my editor, but I’m passing it along to you. I don’t think you can make the words bad, if you try. JUST WRITE.

    • My recommendation for technical writing is to say the same thing in the same way. If you change the description of something, it should be because the thing itself is different. Otherwise people focused on getting the information from the document (as opposed to critiquing the writing of it) will have to decipher if the two different descriptions are really the same and then wonder if, even though it reads like it means the same, it might still be different because why would they describe it differently if it was the same thing? You don’t want exciting technical writing when you’re trying to figure out why the oil rig topdrive is down. Consider the words to be more like drafting symbols. You don’t switch up your symbol for something on half your drawings just to make the fabricator’s day exciting.

      • Yes – How many times have I re-written a portion of a tech manual in the field because it was “creative” or downright wrong… More times than I have fingers and toes. Technical writing needs to be easy to read because the dang tech only opened it because of a technical problem that he can’t solve from experience. 😉

      • Chiming in. A well-turned phrase is nice, but unless you have to avoid putting something the same way for IP reasons, consistency and clarity are far more valuable in technical writing than original phrasing. I edit academic papers; it’s probably less important there than in a manual, but sometimes repeating the exact same phrase is the best thing you can do.

  28. One of my favorite quotes is from Dragonsinger, by Anne McAffrey.

    “It is never easy… to have a real gift: something else is withheld to compensate.”

    • I hate that quote, because it gives people an out for not trying hard with things they aren’t already good at; “Oh, I have a gift for X, but to compensate, I can’t do Y other things.”

      Besides, I don’t buy it. They are rare, but there are a few people out there who are simply good at anything they turn their mind to learning.

      • I always assumed that the “something else” was a rapport with other people, because they can’t understand the drive, and so treat it as trivial.

        It works in that context, since a large part of Menolly’s problems at the time stem from a total lack of meaningful relationships.

        • Have you read Masterharper of Pern? Robinton’s personal background gives a whole different meaning to that quote.

          Also, I think Sarah has a good point, that it’s often used to imply that the highly talented have something wrong with them, so the less talented don’t feel so inferior.

          • The highly talented do have something wrong with them — the envy of the less talented and less willing to work.

      • More to the point, there are plenty of people who can’t do Y and can’t do X either.

      • It works OK if you focus on the gift part as “special favor,” rather than another way of saying “is good at.”

        Kind of a companion of the “smart does not equal successful” thing– a counter to the “they have this advantage that I noticed, so it’s OK to punish them” impulse.

    • eh, that kind of thinking, in my experience, is used to insinuate that the bright kids really have something wrong with them.

  29. Spiderman’s uncle–with great power comes great responsibilities. Or, as per a few days ago, noblesse oblige.

    I think the best thing raising my kids is that they’re in a household of fairly above average academically people. Dad was a National Merit Scholar the second year, I think it was, they had them. No one here is awed by a smart kiddo.
    The great benefit of getting the IQ testing done is that it gave me a hammer to whack at extra-curricular instructors with. No, they are not ADHD, they are bored. See, I have official paperwork to prove it. The most unhappy teacher shut up, the others adjusted and seem content with results. It seems an effective appeal to outside authority: all moms think their kids are super special but tests aren’t prejudiced.
    For that reason I would say it’s worth it to get the IQ tests done if your kid is gifted and you intend to have them associating with other kids in any sort of classroom setting with an instructor, even Sunday School, probably at whatever point you start getting hints from the teachers that really your kid ought to be on drugs for ADHD.