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When President George W. Bush came up with "no child left behind," I knew things would become even worse for gifted children. The attempt to make everyone equal is a terrible idea, supported by people who believe everyone can be fit to a standard mold, or those who want to punish anyone smarter or more talented than they are. It is horrifying.

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To be fair, "no child left behind" was designed to be a backdoor school choice/privatization system. The idea was to hold school districts to impossible standards and when they inevitably failed, convert them into a charter school/school choice system (Bush had originally wanted to directly implement school choice, but political reality forced him to attempt the indirect approach). The problem turned out that the education bureaucracy was far too entrenched for this scheme to succeed, and the schools simply gamed the system/fudged the numbers.

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The education bureaucracy and the teachers' unions don't give a damn about anything other than their pay, their benefits, and their union dues, and their ideological compadres that they think can help them with the same.

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He or his appointees should have followed up, then. They made a bad situation worse by allowing the "no child left behind" protocol. And his education people must have been idiots if they did not realize how corrupt and stupid the education bureaucracies are -- federal, state, and local, with some rare exceptions. In many ways Bush was just a well-meaning elite ignoramus who latched on to some good ideas but had no idea of the situations on the ground or how to implement his agenda in the face of determined opposition.

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The president has a lot less power to make changes to the system then one would think since the bureaucracy is effectively accountable to no one.

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Government schools are generally bad for every child, but most especially the highly gifted. A gifted mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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In trading, you double down on winners - no reason different principles should apply to children.

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Apr 13·edited Apr 13Liked by Aporia

This hits home. I can personally attest to this from first-hand experience. The curriculum and school system caters to the lowest common denominator. That's it. It takes a lot of internal grit, perseverance and self belief to get through it and move onwards and upwards.

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Apr 14Liked by Aporia

This article was therapeutic for me. Like a fish swimming in water and not knowing it is wet or how to describe the sensation, I couldn't have written this, but it fits my experience to a tee. Reading it made me realize I was not alone in my experiences even though there was no one like me my age in my school. While, I don't claim such a high IQ, as others have pointed out, even a couple of standard deviations makes you stick out like a sore thumb.

My favorite takeaway from the article, failure to develop executive function. Even today, I tend to be a horrible procrastinator because the pressure to produce quickly, and the adrenaline rush, focuses my mind like nothing else, and then I can knock out the project quickly. Also, I can always find something for my mind to do that it prefers than a project I have to do, even though that project might pay the bills.

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Me as well, except I procrastinate by reading such illustrious substacks as Aporia...

While I'm sure that many of us share this deficiency on the executive functioning front, we really should try our best to rectify it. At least in the math/physics/CS worlds, the more time spent can actually result in deeper understanding, broader exposure to novel ideas, and tangible achievement (mammoth projects). Yes, I can jam a whole bunch of work into a short time frame and do better than most others would, but why should I limit myself to just being a bit better when I could truly shine? That's where I get in my own way, and I imagine the same goes for many of us.

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That tracks with my experience. I always felt out of place with my peers, and couldn't understand why they struggled with concepts that bored me or I could make connections out of quickly. When you're different, you know it, and being a social pariah in school is a painful experience.

Can attest and agree to the struggle to develop executive function. It may be harder to learn later in life, but it can be done.

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Apr 12Liked by Aporia

Life is rough at the curve's far reaches, left and right.

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I was this all through school, even through undergrad, until I got to a point I could do research.

This is a relatively high risk problem - I was so bored I deliberately became a "delinquent" in junior high and high school because then they send you to a special school for delinquent kids where they give you all your school work for the week at 8am monday - so I could do the week's worth of work in a couple of hours, then spend the rest of the week flirting and getting in trouble with the other delinquent kids.

Of course, having your peer group being all delinquents didn't exactly encourage an environment of study and achievement - I literally skipped more of my senior year than I attended, did every drug known to man, slept around from a young age, and it's only by luck and grace I got a full ride to a college with a good research program and got a good white collar job and eventually founded a few startups.

My personal plan for my kids, given they'll likely have the same hedonic and risk appetites as me, is home schooling and hiring individual grad student tutors for anything I can't go deep enough on, and aiming for undergrad between 14-16. This also has the salubrious effect of having most of the "teen drama" and drives-for-independence things happening in college vs directed at us parents.

Overall, we waste ~$17k a year per student on average in the US, and $25k+ in good neighborhoods - do you know how many individual grad students tutors you could hire for that?? To explicitly give the 1-1 Aristotle-tutoring-Alexander-the-Great dynamic? I've always thought we should be able to individually direct those funds to our kids via homeschooling and tutoring, to give everyone the chance to give their gifted kids a decent education, not just rich parents.

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Sounds like an excellent plan, you should hit me up if any of your kids would benefit from guidance on the mathematical front.

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Apr 13Liked by Aporia

What a beautifully written essay. While the subject matter is obviously important, the subject of his essay, as described, seems more likely to have Savant Syndrome with his Autism. Hence his inappropriate social interactions and the bullying he received. It would also explain how he could be brilliant in some things and average in others. What is definitely true is that boredom for young students with high cognitive functioning is real. Schools are dumbed down to the least common denominator and for someone that processes and learns fast, school is a painful process. I bet if we had good science done we would find a good percentage of high IQ folks radically underachieve their potential because of years of boredom and poor direction of their talents.

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I have a friend who taught himself calculus for fun and described high school as easy and boring, and did not have an interest in going to college. He struggled for a long time with self-confidence, but as I would point out, he taught himself calculus and undersells his abilities. Thankful he got a job as a government contractor and is doing well, but it was so hard to see him not appreciate his own skills.

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This raises the question of what kind of remedial actions we need for kids with ASD, including those who due to their giftedness might be un- or under-diagnosed.

There are a lot of "socially awkward" kids out there who are high-performing and thus don't immediately strike teachers and admins as needing an IEP, who could obviously benefit from the support. And that support is NOT going to be the same as we provide for those with low-performing ASD who are performing below grade level.

I know why we now refer to people with conditions ranging from exceptionally-high-performing Asperger's to profound non-verbal autism on the same "spectrum"; however, in many regards they are profoundly different enough to require totally different approaches.

Government schools do a terrible job at anything requiring individualized support; unfortunately, those with ASD require it as ASD manifests itself so many different ways, requiring different, individualized approaches for remediation.

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Apr 14Liked by Aporia

I had this experience with teachers. A lot of resentment, emotional crackups, crumpling up papers, accusing you of cheating, etc.

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Apr 15·edited Apr 15Liked by Aporia

Both my husband and I were "gifted" and our kid seems so too, to the extent a toddler can be so. We know other kids who tested gifted.

The thing I notice about my husband's and my childhood as well as the gifted kids around us is the only things we were allowed to do was excel at academic stuff. That's the stuff we spent a lot of time on and that's what we ended up excelling at. Our parents didn't hold our hand through socializing as much as we needed, and there were other factors that made us feel alone and left out. It was easy to point to intellect and say this is what it is and that meant no one had to fix anything.

With georgios, that's the impression I get. No one seemed to be able to break down and explain to him why he needed to be with others his age, for instance. Was there much attempt at helping him socialize and find friends? It feels like he was never really soothed when he experienced disappointment, and he leaned hard into the stuff that didn't disappoint him. And if you spend a lot of time studying philosophy, that's what you become good at, to the detriment of everything else.

You mention some disorders. They probably made it hard for him to socialize normally. It feels like he takes disappointment very hard and no one really paid attention to helping him figure that stuff out.

I'm curious about his early childhood. Did he speak early? Did he have early/delayed milestones? Did he go to daycare or did he have a nanny or parents watching him fulltime? What do his parents do for work?

It feels to me like helping kids deal with negative emotions is more valuable than focusing on building left brain skills because left brain skills can be worked on later, but right brain skills (using left and right brain loosely here) aren't easy to develop at later ages.

Edit: I thought longer about this. It feels like Georgios's entire self-worth is tied to him seeming smart and he sticks to activities that aren't evaluated, because he's worried the evaluation might make him out to be not-smart and he freezes while doing regular tests etc because he doesn't want his whole world crashing down. If he were to take college-level classes or something in a subject of his interest, he'd probably start detesting that interest and switch to something else. It feels like this kid needs cognitive behavioral therapy from a very experienced trustworthy therapist, not harder classes.

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I feel like I know the text...

That being said, I liked it both times

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This one was an instant classic.

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Excellent article, thank you!

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Apr 12Liked by Aporia

Outstanding!

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This disinterest and sabotage has always plagued the academically gifted children. On the other hand, the physically gifted are almost always catered to; they get dedicated coaching and facilities and are socially and materially rewarded for excelling. The academically gifted are usually resented for the same.

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Thank you for sharing your personal experience with a gifted child, that was very interesting.

Did you ever openly share your exasperation with him?

> The formulaic and constrained structure of a GCSE 15-mark question was mind-numbing for a mind like Georgios’

I don’t buy this part of the essay. There’s always a way for a gifted child to make a test interesting, for instance by answering questions extremely quickly.

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author

He couldn't answer them quickly. He froze.

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Apr 13Liked by Aporia

Wrong, you can only write so fast & the faster you write, which they do, the more illegible the writing becomes & the lower the mark, as tired teachers do not spend any time deciphering the scribbles of pupils they already feel inferior to.

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I used to take my math tests without using a calculator for this reason!

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Where can the eleusis podcast be found?

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author

Will see if I can find a link.

— Matt

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