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Against child prodigies

"The world wants a prodigy, and they want to watch a prodigy fall."

— Marlo Payne Rice, school psychologist and director of the Brideun School for Exceptional Children in Broomfield, as quoted in this New York Times article.

March 12, 2002 6:33 PM


"The French love heroin addicts. But the French like their heroin addicts eventually to die, and I guess I just didn't want to yet."

Jeffrey Lee Pierce (ex of The Gun Club) on why he enjoyed extreme popularity for a time in France, where he lived due to cheaper heroin prices following the band's break-up in the U.S., but then came home again on a "down note."

Posted by Les on March 12, 2002 7:19 PM

In Australia, we call the "loves to see a prodigy fail" attitude the Tall Poppy Syndrome. It permeates the culture here, and is a terrible poison. Unsurprisingly, we have few "gifted and talented" programs of any kind. I was no prodigy, but I was bored out of my noodle in school and got into plenty of trouble as a result. Makes me wonder what happens to kids with real gifts Down Under. I suspect that they wind up in loony bins.

Posted by Sen on March 14, 2002 2:44 AM

It permeates the culture here, and is a terrible poison.

That's brutal. I imagine it also costs the country more than a few who might otherwise have gone on to become talented artists or scientists....

Posted by M on March 14, 2002 1:05 PM

I'm a genius, and I'm smarter than that jerk Michael Kearney, or William Sidis. I never skipped a grade and never got anywhere, but noone seems to give a hell about me. Sure, they like talking about how poorly the world treats a genius, or at least for the successful ones, but they still don't care.

Posted by Tim on April 18, 2002 4:35 PM

I'm in the below 15 age category ... and I scored in an online IQ Test 160. Apparently I was "Below Genius" level, though I excel in no academic subjects. I have a few psychological theories that come to my mind, nearly everyday.
I've seen sites on Indian Prodigies, and how there are so many. The reason more indian children are prodigies is down to psychology (Surprise surprise!) and their circumstance. (Yes, this is one of my theorys!) They live in what you can call, a shit state. Not enough food to go round, no home etc etc, no friends. And with all this alone time they have to do something ... usually it's a hobby, that turns into more of a hobby. Their boredom leaves them nothing to do so they work on their hobby all the time, every day, over and over. And they become a prodigy.

You may be thinking, how obvious. But how many under 15 year old children can tell you what I just have? Post your comments, I'll be grateful.

Posted by Anthony on December 4, 2002 5:04 PM

That's a rather grand generalization about India; it being the world's second-most populous nation, it is home to great wealth as well as great poverty. I suspect children of wealthier Indian families are actually more likely to become prodigies than their poorer brethren -- the poor often don't have the time or money to spend on hobbies.

There's more to a prodigy than having done a certain amount of work, as well. It wasn't just practice or training that set Mozart or Picasso apart.

(And a seemingly obvious answer isn't necessarily right -- all it takes to invent a theory that sounds good is intelligence, but finding a genuine solution requires work and discipline, as well.)

Posted by M on December 4, 2002 9:34 PM

i farted.

Posted by j on January 11, 2003 1:59 AM

i farted again.

Posted by j on January 11, 2003 2:00 AM

Feed back to Anthony talking about indian prodigies.. that is the most dumbest theory i have ever heard, It seems to me that you are full of shit.. and that you have no common sense. You are probably jealous of that fact that they are smart and you are stupid. Their parents probably taught them things when they were younger and yours probably left u sitting in front of the TV. So before you call another country a shit state, remember, you didnt come from anywhere better.

Posted by nidhee on March 18, 2003 7:45 PM

cs sao tudo burro

Posted by Eu on April 30, 2003 1:53 PM

Child prodigies or even those with high IQs don't necessarily translate in to worlwide success stories. There is a woman who has the highest IQ in the world and she writes a column for parade. Yup, thats right, she's not a rocket scientist or nanotech engineer. Of course there is always Dr. Richard Feynman, who revolutionized the world of quantum physics and is the proud owner of a SAT score of 1080.

Posted by matt on August 23, 2003 5:12 AM

The person with the highest iq isn't the columnist for parade, he is actually a bouncer at a bar in new england. If I can ever find the article I read about him in, I'll post it here.

Posted by joe on September 8, 2003 1:45 AM

i have a question about "gifted and talented" or "prodigious" children------I wonder if their "smartness" comes from genetics------It's preety confusing---are there any theories based upon how one attains the ability to be "prodigious"---or is it simply genetics???????

Posted by me on November 3, 2003 12:41 PM

sorry--i spelled P-R-E-T-T-Y wrong

Posted by me again on November 3, 2003 12:42 PM

i have a school project on this so any quick feed back would greatly be appreciated--------email at

Posted by me again on November 3, 2003 12:43 PM

yeah--i do wonder abut Indian children--but lets be honest---(stereotypes and racism aside their parents ALL do seem to be either brain surgeons or some type of something like that---------but oh well

Posted by me agian----- on November 3, 2003 12:45 PM

I think child prodogies are the freaks of nature, the good kind.

Posted by YO MAMA on December 6, 2003 11:37 PM

If I had loved anyone sufficiently to make confiding my griefs a necessity, I should not have been in the condition I was. I felt, too, that mine was not an interesting, or in any way respectable distress. Advice, if I had known where to seek it, would have been most precious... My father, to whom it would have been natural to me to have recourse in any practical difficulties, was the last person to whom, in such a case as this, I looked for help. My education, which was wholly his work, had been conducted without any regard to the possibility of its ending in this result; and I saw no use in giving him the pain of thinking that his plans had failed.

Posted by JSM on December 8, 2003 12:19 AM

I am a child prodigy. I am 11 years old and I have been playing the violin since I was able to hold an object that was 0.68 pounds and 0.59 ounces. Thats how much my violin weighs. Its not fun being a prodigy all the time. I had to miss school to play at Carnige Hall 4 times. Other children make fun of me. I tell them they have skill just like I do, all they have to do is learn how to play a Bach double in E minor. When I was 6 years old I recieved a scholarship to Julliard. I was appreciative. Although I would have to leave my parents when I was 7 to go to Julliard, it was worth it. Have fun on the site!

Posted by Nicholas James Johnson on February 1, 2004 2:03 AM

Well, Mr. Nicholas James Johnson,

It sure sounds as if you are "hard done by", by having to miss school to play violin. fag

Posted by awesome on April 18, 2004 11:10 PM

I would probably make fun of you too, Nicholas Johnson, if you showed off by writing how much your fucking violin weighs.

Posted by word up on April 18, 2004 11:18 PM

I actually wanted to know some stuff about Micheal kennedy for a debate. Turns oout this site knows nothing. Too bad, I guess i'll suffer!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Alex on April 24, 2004 1:23 AM

Wow it really works!! sorry i spelled out wrong. oh well. I better get back to this debate. bye now!!!

Posted by Alex on April 24, 2004 1:25 AM

Awesome, word, take your respective 0.68 and 0.59-ounce minds somewhere more catered to your mentalities. Anyone who can make sense out of such an intricacy as the violin can be much more appreciated than blatant ignoramuses who can't do anything but jeer from the sidelines. NJJ, rock on. (genre pun unintended)

Posted by Spheroid on April 26, 2004 11:04 PM

Awesome, word, take your respective 0.68 and 0.59-ounce minds somewhere more catered to your mentalities. Anyone who can make sense out of such an intricacy as the violin can be much more appreciated than blatant ignoramuses who can't do anything but jeer from the sidelines. NJJ, rock on. (genre pun unintended)

Posted by Spheroid on April 26, 2004 11:04 PM

Well, I think the reason so many Indians appear to be brilliant (in the eyes of Americans) is due to the immigration restrictions. Generally only the brightest, most promising Indians (like doctors, dentists, etc.) are able to pass the requirements to obtain a visa, and subsequently citizenship. This is how my father got into the country. I see no reason to believe that Indians themselves are genetically predisposed to genius. Just look at the sheer number of people in India. If even a small percentage are highly intelligent... well, you do the math.

Anyway, I don't think IQ is a very reliable (or useful) tool for determining intelligence. It's unfortunate, in my opinion, that most researchers consider only one's skill and quickness with pattern recognition, mathematics, and the like. A large number of such "geniuses" tend to do very little creative work (just look at William James Sidis), and contribute little if anything to society, perhaps partly as a result of being treated like a sideshow.

In any case, I've never been really impressed with the whole culture of IQ tests and measurable intelligence. People seem to be very careless and speculatory, certainly not scientific. I'm reasonably intelligent, though I can't perform complex calculations in my head or memorize the sequence of a deck of playing cards, and I certainly didn't graduate at age ten. I think I have an IQ of around 140, but I've scored anywhere from 190 to 90, and that's on OFFICIAL IQ tests--not internet or magazine quizzes. The whole thing seems like pretty transparent pseudoscience to me, and belongs in the history books along with phrenology, lobotomies and eugenics.

Posted by Shravan on May 27, 2004 8:53 PM

On the whole indian people are smart thing; I've noticed that in general immigrant children are so much smarter than american children its not even funny. There are people in my class who can't even speak english and they can get up in front of the board and solve any math problem like nobody's business. it would take me 3 hours to solve what they do in like 10 minutes. I think its because other countries are much more education oriented than the US. What people learn in college in the US is what some child in china or india learned in 5th grade.

Posted by ria on May 27, 2004 11:34 PM

Shravan's post, the speck of hope amongst the drivel.

To elaborate further, the important facets of the human brain, in today's world, are the abilities to grasp abstract concepts, to recognize where to apply those concepts, and to create new ideas where there are gaps. None of these are sufficiently examined with standard IQ tests; those who do score very high on such tests are often no more useful than a walking computer, and they cost more.

Posted by CordialHoplite on May 28, 2004 4:18 AM

prodigy something that absolutely comming from God and it so naive if every man really want it.every normal people supposed to thank to God that they were normal, not expecting to be prodigy. prodigy is nothing without a good religion. and Islam is the only good religion who can give satisfied explanation and good education for all prodigy children in this world.

Posted by ari nugroho on June 26, 2004 8:42 AM

One of the reasons why child prodigies are prodigies, or any genius is a genius is their high IQ's. But remember, this is just one reason. The other reason is TALENT. I personally know a man with an IQ of 183. He is no genius. Its all about how the mind works. That is how you get a Richard Feynman, a man fellow doctors called " a magician " who revolutionized quantum physics, yet had IQ scores in the 120's. Being a genius takes more than just the # of neurons you've got available. It also matters how they are arranged, and whether they work together properly when needed.

Posted by Max on July 3, 2004 2:53 AM

Maybe there is such a thing as reincarnation, and the the child prodigy somehow remembers the thing(s) they've done in past lifetimes. So their skill or talent is really just recycled stuff from the past on a cosmological timescale. If we were that attuned to our previous existences, then we might be geniuses too! OK, maybe not.

Posted by Kelly on August 1, 2004 10:28 PM

Duh!My penis weighs 5 pounds 3 ounces, Im a fuckin prodigy! Grow up you little faggots. Thanks, I appreciate it.

Your buddy Steve

Posted by steve on August 9, 2004 2:34 AM

You ignorant imbeciles who complain and bitch about prodigies probably have an IQ of a common house fly. How about all you lackies go jump off a bridge, you unsuccessful whining baboons.

Posted by truth on September 16, 2004 4:11 PM

I suppose I am different. I hate sounding arrogant, but I am somehow -- smarter? Not nearly a prodigy, but I feel wiser than any other twelve year olds could be. My father tells me I may have more intelligence that most adults -- of course, he is my father. I don't know why it is I feel smarter, wiser; older. I'm often disconnected from my Cosmo-reading friends while I am caught with a Smithsonian between the pages of my Science book. What is it?

Posted by R on November 4, 2004 9:18 PM

In reading Marlo Payne Rice's quote, it got me thinking: why would anyone want to see a prodigy suffer? I'm simply throwing out ideas, but here are a few possibilities. Maybe it's as simple as jealousy. "Gee, I wish I could play the violin with such beauty, depth, and ease. It's so unfair that the prodigy gets all the fame and fortune. Wouldn't it be nice to see that in ten years, the prodigy is just like everyone else?" Or maybe it's the sideshow-freak mentality. Akin to racism, anything the majority doesn't understand is feared and shunned. Along the same lines, perhaps it's insecurity shared amongst the majority -- 'that dude has green skin, and I fear that he and his community might take over my land and livelihood, my world as I know it.'
I have this theory (no basis whatsoever other than speculation) that prodigies in the popular arts (like sports and entertainment -- football, rock 'n roll) are likely to be given god-like status, while prodigies in lesser-known and often-misunderstood arts (like astronomy and chess) are viewed as 'freaks.' Maybe this is because people give up trying to understand the prodigies in the arts they follow and view those prodigies as icons or heroes -- vehicles for vicarious accomplishment. Meanwhile, the gifted souls in the already-shunned-out-of-ignorance arts become the figureheads and targets of misguided hostility. In any case, I think people, including myself, should try to be as understanding as possible before bringing the rest of the boat down with them.

Posted by abba on December 9, 2004 12:48 AM

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