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Re: Defining Student Success (slightly OT; deals with a student but not a physics student)

Mary and Bill Allsopp wrote:

Ours is only a small group, but I often wonder if all across America
there are brilliant youths who are languishing in mediocrity, their
extraordinary talents being wasted, simply because the "good students"
(e.g., the ones who played the system), are getting the awards.

I believe this is likely to be the case. Consider the following true

Today (2 June) I attended the graduation ceremony at Antelope Valley
College in Lancaster, California, a two-year public community college.

Two of the more than 700 graduates were 13-year-old girls, both of
whom graduated magna cum laude. (If you live in the Los Angeles area,
they were written up on page B5 of the 31 May 2001 edition of the Los
Angeles Times; they also appeared on the front page of the 2 June
edition of the local Antelope Valley Press.) I happen to be a longtime
friend of the mother of one of these girls.

Although neither of the girls will likely become a physical scientist,
it is clear that they are both very talented. My friend's daughter has
an engaging and energetic personality. A wide circle of her (older)
college-student friends attended her post-graduation luncheon. She
gets good grades, has accumulated over 100 semester units, but
cheerfully admits to not studying very hard.

I was appalled to discover the great lengths to which my friend had to
go in order to enable her daughter to attend the college. (You won't
find this aspect of the story in the newspaper reports.) After her
daughter completed sixth grade, she left the public school system
completely to attend college full time. The local K-8 school district
promptly threatened to fine and prosecute them for truancy, including
specific threats of sending the daughter (an honor student, remember)
to juvenile hall! The girl's mother had to fill out reams of paperwork
establishing that she was home-schooling her daughter, and had
established an appropriate curriculum. As she was effectively acting
as the "principal" of her home-schooling school, she also was required
to produce written transcripts of her daughter's grades, as well as
other documentation.

As long as local school districts value the dollars associated with
average daily attendance over the development of the talents of this
nation's gifted youth, such travesties will continue to occur. How
many other talented students with less dedicated parents are
"languishing in mediocrity," bored to tears with the banality of the
modern U.S. public school system, which seems increasingly geared to
meet the needs of the lowest common denominator and/or the next
scheduled achievement test? I would bet my finest physics toys (which,
on my budget, are hard to come by) that not only do such brilliant
students exist, but that their number is, taken across the country as
a whole, considerable.