Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Issues relating to education


The below is a hodgepodge of various thoughts relating to education that spun off each other in a comparatively short time. Normally, I keep new ideas, with preliminary elaborations, in a particular (unpublished) file for later spin-off into new articles (or integration into existing); however, with the somewhat larger amount of text involved here, I preferred to move them jointly into one document to not flood my ideas file. The result is not optimal, but will serve as a compromise for now. Beware that some of the headings are only rough guide-lines, and that the corresponding texts are not always separated into logical sub-topics. (The contents may or may not be cleaned up or moved to other pages later.)

Dumbing-Down of education/Lack of challenges

Many of the problems with modern education result from the flawed principle that any task that pushes the student to his limits, let alone above them, is better avoided. This is made the worse, because the limits used are not that of the individual student, but of the typical student—or even a sub-average student. (Indeed, class-room education is often dictated by the weakest link in the chain.)

This principle goes against the very purpose of eduction: To better the students. The point is not whether a student is able to complete a task today, but whether trying the task (even if failing) will make him better at it—possibly allowing him to succeed tomorrow. One can go even further and claim that is suffices that the student becomes better at something (possibly something entirely unrelated, e.g. learning his own limits). Similarly, in order to grow and to exceed ones current limits, it is important to push them.

A discussion I had with a fellow student during high school is telling: I suggested that PE should have specific minimum targets on fitness and physical ability, including e.g. being able to run an 800 meter race (with no time criterion, and with obvious allowances for e.g. the wheel-chair bound—really not something taxing). His response was distinctly negative, and displayed how he had missed the point entirely: Not everyone was currently able to do this; thus, the test was unreasonable. The irony: I was a poorly trained book-worm and he a Swedish junior champion in judo, who also had some semi-success in long-distance running...

http://www.schoolchoices.org/roo/textbook.htme gives telling examples of how text-books in the US have been dumbed down. To be blunt: If this reflects the literacy created by modern education, school is not worth bothering with. In fact, concerning the first text, I originally, unthinkingly, interpreted “8th grade” as referring to 8 year olds—and, by at least the first few sentences, did not think the text too hard! For the teenagers it is intended for, it is a joke, and a poor joke at that. (For some reason, my first impression to “xth grade” is often “x years old”. I am unclear as to why this misinterpretation keeps recurring.)

The eventual issue here is that a child who is confronted with a hard text with unknown words will develop, increase his vocabulary, learn to better understand non-trivial grammatical constructs, etc. In contrast, a student reading a book which he is already fully capable of understanding will not develop in these regards. Now, I grant that some dumbing-down of the language of most text-books may be needed—students should put their mental efforts primarily into understanding and learning the subject matter. When we look specifically at “readers”, however, the contents of the book are secondary to the language it self: The difficulty of the language is what makes the student grow. In effect, a reader should be too hard for the students current reading level; non-readers should be more or less on par with this level, possibly a little harder, possibly a little easier. Notably, if the level of text-books is lowered, then reading-skills will sink too, necessitating further dumbing-down of text-books, and so on. (The same principle of dumbing-down applies, m.m., to other kinds of text-books: If, e.g., the Math book does not push the students boundaries in Math, then something is amiss.)

http://www.textbookleague.org/82dumbo.htme begins with a historical view by James Michener, which hits the points I am trying to make rather well (as does the rest of the article).

Reducing the criteria for a “pass”

A depressing issue is that the current standard way (at least in Sweden and the US) of handling unsatisfactory graduation rates is to lower the criteria for a pass. Attempts at actually bettering the education are left at empty claims and for-show measures. This poses a particular danger when (as in Sweden) there are strong political forces striving to put as many people as possible through college, leading to a continual decrease in the quality of the students and, with some delay, a decrease in the graduation criteria. In a worst case scenario, the value of an entry-level degree will be diminished to a beefed-up high-school diploma.

I have repeatedly heard claimed that this has already happened in the US, e.g. that

Our students frequently lag behind students elsewhere in the age levels at which certain subjects are introduced. To phrase the point differently, students can and should learn by 14 or 15 what they currently learn by age 17.


This effectively puts US students at least a community-college degree behind the reasonable target. Similarly, at least in the early nineties, the Swedish government did not grant support moneyw for the first year of US colleges for Swedish exchange students—with the motivation that the first year studies corresponded to the Swedish high-school level.

Something to ponder: What should the graduating percentage of enrolling students be? In the best of worlds, bright students and first rate teachers/text-books might ensure a near hundred per cent ratio (allowing for some necessary drop-out due to changes in interest, lack of funding, health issues, and so on); however, in the real world this is unrealistic. So, 90 %? 80 %? 50 %? I would actually favor a comparatively low value, possibly in the range 50–70 %: This way students are kept on their toes and a later diploma actually counts for something. As an added benefit, certain professional groups will be protected from complete incompetents and diligent nit-wits. To manipulate the graduation criteria to push e.g. a 60 % ratio upwards is just a bad idea (but I have nothing against improvements in e.g. the teaching with the same purpose).

Notably, the political pressures for pushing as many people as possible through college are fundamentally flawed in that they assume that going through college is what makes the average graduate intellectually superior to the average non-enroller: This is simply not true—the education can increase the difference, but the main cause is an existing difference in intelligence. What it boils down to, is that the more intelligent are more likely to choose college in the first place, more likely to graduate successfully, and more likely to benefit from college. Looking specifically at Sweden, a common assumption is that “working class” teenagers are kept from going to universities by lack of funds, giving them an unfair disadvantage later in life and keeping their family lines in the working class. This may be one factor (and certainly a factor that should be corrected); however, the main explanation lies with the parents: Working class parents tend to be less intelligent than middle-class parents (on average; beware of great individual variations), which will lead to less intelligent children (again, on average), which will lead to less academic interest and prowess. Further, I have the impression that these parents often have a very negative attitude to education, and instill this attitude into their children. Indeed, during my own school years, I noted a very high correlation among my fellow students between a negative attitude to school and uneducated parents; even around 13, many (most?) children of [un-]educated parents strongly felt that they would [not] go to college—and eventually did [not].

Wood-shop/Changes in subjects taught

In contrast, some complaints of a declining level of education are unjustified, including those that focus on the removal of classical languages and literature from the schedule, or protest that some other “humanistic” areas, e.g. writing poetry, are of less importance than in the past:

There simply is much more information available today, and many areas of modern life require new skills (e.g. computer related ones)—compromise is unavoidable and priorities must be set for the limited time available. These compromises may well be worthy of lament; however, if the compromise is well done, not of complaint. In particular, mandatory schools should focus on giving students the skills and knowledge that they need first, and the nice-to-haves second: Studying Shakespeare is well worth the effort, but is something the interested can do in their own time and/or when they are out of school. OTOH, learning e.g. critical thinking, sex ed, and the basics of society should be highly prioritized—these will immediately affect the students life.


My own schooling (and, I suspect, schooling in general) showed large deficits in many areas of importance. Notably, there was very little said on philosophy (including ethics and principles on how to live ones life), psychology (including how the human mind works and how to handle difficult people), how to think critically, and (for want of a better word) wisdom. Generally, there was an overemphasis on learning facts, instead of gaining understanding, be it within specific subjects or regarding what subjects were taught and not taught.

To reconnect with the above: If classic literature should be studied, then start with Aesop or similar material. (More typically proposed classic works often contain much wisdom, but in a less accessible and less condensed way than Aesop.)

Similarly, some subjects may simply be of so little relevance that they cannot be justified as curricular and mandatory classes: Consider e.g. the mandatory wood-shop and “textile-shop” (integrated in home economics in the US system?) that I had two hours a week of for the first six years of schooling—I cannot recall ever having used what I learned there in any form (I have used hammers and screw-drivers, even sewing needles; but not in a way that would have required me to have had any kind of previous instruction—a hammer is a hammer, not an aeroplane). These subjects were outdated in the eighties; they are even more so now. In the past, knowing how to work wood or use a sewing machine were important skills—today they are something mainly for hobbyists. (I note, further, that some practical skills that can actually be useful in the modern world, e.g. how replace a light-switch, were not taught.)

I briefly checked some Swedish webpages on the topic, and noted that proponents of the subject make statements along the lines of “a valuable complement to the theoretical education in other subjects”, “... gives the students a break from boring theory”, “... gives the opportunity to actually see something created”, “... teaches how to make something in a structured four-step process [with elaboration]”. Largely, this sounds like excuses: I note that art class fills the same niche (with a higher justification); that students would prefer two hours less per week rather than a pseudo-break; that no methodological teaching (be it four steps or not) ever took place in my classes; that the unequivocal focus was on learning specific skills, e.g. how to plane a piece of wood or use a sewing machine; and that an extra-curricular inclusion would still be possible. I grant that things may have changed in the intervening years; however, not so much that it would justify the continued inclusion of these subjects. (Yes, the subjects still seem to be mandatory in Swedish schools.)


  1. The “quoted” statements are not verbatim quotes, but an attempt to catch the spirit and content after the fact. Interestingly, the one argument that I would see as an actual reason, not an excuse, was not mentioned: Practical work can be good for the motor-skills of the children.)

  2. The above overlooks one case: A comparatively large proportion of students end up as e.g. construction workers and may benefit from wood-shop as a preparation for their future profession. It can, however, still be disputed whether wood-shop should be a mandatory subject—even whether the conventional school is at all the right place to learn the corresponding skills.

    (In contrast, the proportion of students benefitting from “textile shop” is very small.)

Lee-way for students

It may pay to give more intelligent students a lot of lee-way. For instance, during “math” (read: “boring arithmetic”) in fifth grade, a topic where most of the work was done individually rather than as a group, I started to ask the teacher for permission to read a (fictional) book instead, after having worked for possibly three-quarters of the period. As this was granted, I made my request earlier and earlier, until I did 5–10 minutes of work per math period and then read.

Did this affect my math ability negatively? Not that I noticed: During later years I was well-known for being good at mental calculations; from seventh grade (when the first subject grades were given) until high-school graduation, I earned straight A’s in math; and in high school, where calculus, non-trivial trigonometry, and a few other topics appeared, I plowed through the entire three years in the first semester (most of the time taken up by, unnecessarily, solving every single exercise in the text-books), and spent the second semester doing college level math (after which my interest waned somewhat).

As is, I had the luck that my fifth-grade teacher recognized both that I already was reasonably good at arithmetic and that allowing me to pursue reading made school less boring for me—while allowing me to develop other skills than arithmetic. Had she stubbornly insisted that I plague myself through the entire period, I would have had a less positive academic development. (I note that the first few years in school were deadening, with their endless, boring exercises for learning basic arithmetic and writing, including copying the individual letters ad eternam.)

Problems of the gifted

One of the fundamental problems for someone with an unusual level of intelligence is the lack of peers during childhood (with some reservation for special classes for “gifted”—if at all available): The students of the same age will have a different level of intelligence and a different set of interests; and older students, while having grown in intelligence, will have a higher maturity level, a more developed world view, be loath to spend time with “kiddies”—and still have a different set of interests.

Notably, as children and teens still develop physically, intelligence may be a lesser determinant of intellectual (to some degree) and emotional (to a high degree) progress than is physical development. Similarly, the effect of sheer time when going from e.g. 10 years of age to 12, will be highly noticeable, and can overcome a limited difference in intelligence; in particular, when considering that the average child of twelve (IQ ~ 100) will have an IQ around 120 on the scales for children of ten, and that those brigher will reach correspondingly higher values. (OTOH, there are some indications that there are other differences in brain-workings than just IQ.)


For these and related reasons, simply letting a bright child skip one or several years is a potentially dangerous solution, replacing one set of problems with another (but, with luck, lesser) set—a careful, individual decision should be made. A further complication is that, from a knowledge POV, skipping early years is better; yet, it may not always be clear at that time who is a good candidate (consider different development rates and pre-school education)—I, myself, was a bit slow in learning to read (lower third of the class?, despite being the second oldest), but once I got the taste for it, I blew past the rest of the class, reading (not truly understanding, however) works by Dostoyevsky, Zola, and Strindberg as a pre-teen. (My sister, in contrast, learned to read somewhat earlier, but went through school with sub-average grades, and did not complete her high-school diploma until her late twenties... Admittedly, this could relate more to external circumstances than actual ability.)

In fact, the lack of peer contacts and people with similar interests and the willingness to interact can lead to a level of solitariness which is detrimental to emotional development (and social skills), leaving a highly intelligent child actually trailing his age-peers in some regards—as I can testify from personal experience. This in particular as an inborn (as opposed to developed, in the preceding sentence) introversion could be more prevalent among gifted children.

A common topic of debate is how to prioritize limited resources (the gifted vs. the dull vs. the average). This is a complex question with no good answer (unless the limit on resources can be lifted). Two points worthy of consideration, however: Firstly, if a dull student is over-educated this will bring him (and society) little benefit, and may well seem an unnecessary intrusion to him. Secondly, money spent on the gifted has a much higher probability of re-paying it self: They make the best (not to be confused with “most successful”) software developers, managers, engineers, scientists, authors, painters, actors, ... Getting them into the right positions with the right knowledge and the right motivation is something that will benefit society.

(There may be some debate as to whether e.g. good a scientist and a good actor share one kind of giftedness. I would maintain that intelligence is important for both, if likely more so for the scientist. There will be, at least, many accomplished actors who would be candidates for “traditional” gifted education; and many others with the possibility of some other kind of giftedness needing special treatment. Note that e.g. Tom Cruise, not the brightest of the bunch, may be an immensely successful actor—but he is not a very good one.)

Women and intellect/grades

The not entirely uncommon misconception that women would be superior to men in many intellectual regards could be based in a mistaken believe that abilities are some sort of see-saw: If men are physically superior then, ipso facto, women must be intellectually superior. In contrast, both my own experiences and large amounts of statistics I have seen on the subject, indicate that men are intellectually superior.


Obviously, there is a differentiation in strengths and weaknesses in the intellects of the sexes, e.g. that men are relatively stronger in “math” than they are in “verbal”, to borrow SAT terminology; and women the other way around. Certainly, women will be better in at least some specific areas; however, I am not entirely convinced that verbal skills is one of these (although many studies indicate this). In my opinion, women use many words, but without regard for quality (and are generally weak in their communicative skills); they read more than men, but seldom something actually worth reading (consider celebrity gossip, insightless self-help books, and romance novels); etc. Notably, men tend to have marginally better scores than women on the “verbal” SAT sub-test (while outdoing the women by a wide margin in “math”; cf. http://nces.ed.gov/Programs/digest/d95/dtab126.aspe). One might speculate that women are better at basic skills, like knowing many words, being good at building sentences, and similar, but that men have an advantage where actually thinking about meaning, reading critically, expressing own thoughts, etc. becomes more important—this, in turn, could be explained by women spending more time using language, in particularly actively, leading to a training effect; but that men have a greater general intelligence.

A particular note on school grades: According to several surveys I have seen, the GPAs of girls tend to be better than those of boys. This should be seen in light of at least the following cautions:

  1. Grades, in particular in the earlier school years, have a strong subjective component; and, because girls/women tend to be better at manipulating people, behave more like “they are supposed to” (e.g. by sitting still and obeying), and likely are more sympathetic to the female majority of all teachers, it seems likely that girls have an implicit advantage with regard to this subjectivity.

    Further, when comparisons between test results and grades are made (e.g. the Swedish nation-wide tests), it can often be observed that girls have better grades than would be expected from the tests. (Note, however, that there are unproved claims that women simply test worse, which could be a partial explanation.)

  2. Women, in my experience, are often more diligent than men; and the less advanced the subject matter, the more important is diligence for good grades. This for at least two reasons:

    First, texts, topics, problems, ..., typically have a “DMZ” in intelligence where the more intelligent can handle the situation with ease and the less intelligent cannot handle it at all; whereas the student in the DMZ can cope, but with more or less effort depending on where in the zone he is. The implication is that for easy tasks, hard work is the main determinant; and for hard tasks, intelligence is an absolute pre-requisite (depending on the exact details, intelligence may be enough, in it self, or may require diligence in addition).

    Second, the less thinking is required, the less intellectual stimulation is present—which implies that someone who can overcome this lack of stimulation has an advantage. Notably, more intelligent people can have a severe disadvantage here, with poor grades resulting from boredom and lack of stimulation.


    Notably, according to several articles (cf. below), some educations systems have changed from assessment by one or two larger examinations of knowledge and understanding to “continual assessment” by a stream of course work. This is obviously a disadvantage for those who “work smart”, and an advantage for those who “work hard”: Someone who could spend a week before the exam with hard study and earn the grade he had his eyes set on, can no longer do so, but has to spend noticeably more time doing leg-work. In contrast, someone who lacked the brains for fast learning can now earn good grades by sheer diligence.

    From another angle, the system has changed from testing ability to testing effort, which is entirely in line with the dominant political ideologies in e.g. Sweden and the UK: It is “not fair” (in a school-yard sense) that someone should succeed because of talent, or that anyone who puts in an effort should fail.

  3. Girls mature physically at an earlier age, and are likely to have some gain from this in their teens. In particular, there are statistics showing that they have a marginally higher average IQ in their early teens, with the adult difference (typical numbers put men ahead by 2–5 points) only developing later.

  4. The level of reading ability has a non-trivial effect on school learning even in education based on class-room teaching, and girls read more than boys on average. That what they read is typically junk, is secondary to the training effect (at least until high school starts).

  5. Measured by IQ women tend to be more closely clustered to the average with men more common as outliers. Because the school system tends to be focused on the average or somewhat below average students, a greater proportion of girls see a good fit in the curriculum, teaching methods, etc. In particular, the greater proportion of gifted boys, who would theoretically pull the average results of boys upwards, are often troubled by being understimulated, bored, misunderstood, or similar. The result is that they do not receive as good grades as they should; in fact, in some cases they may even pull the average grades down (although this is likely an exception).

  6. Boys tend to have a wider set of interests and obligations that will take a part out of the time available for study outside of school.


    This claim may be in need of revision: I originally had my mind set partially on sports, which often come with a “Show up to training thrice a week, or you are off the team.” obligation (and similar constraints). It is, however, quite possible that girls perceive (rightfully or not) similar, but informal, constraints, e.g. “If I do not go over to X’s thrice a week, I will be out of the clique.”—in my understanding, something just as dire as being off the team.


I have later found a number of articles by others with very similar ideas, e.g. Boys are still top dogse and Boys are being failed by our schoolse; or with another take, e.g., Teaching Boys and Girls Separatelye.

My own writings on feminism contains a further discussion of perspectives on “feminization” of schools, abuse of Ritalin to keep boys down, and similar—something which currently is a major problem in at least the US, the UK, and (with some reservations for Ritalin) Sweden.

Unsurprisingly, the harder the topic, the better men do relative women (at least among the top students). Also note that my own college grades in Math were better than my Business grades (cf. TODO)—even though I considered the courses in Business easy, and have the impression, from conversations, that my understanding of the subject matter was superior to most other students (many of whom actually struggled with the difficulty of thinking involved in first year accounting and economics classes, which is very low compared to graduate level analysis.)

Class-room education/College lectures

Generally, I am highly critical of classic class-room education (including college lectures): This may or may not be a good solution for the less than brilliant, but for a student with a noticeably over-average IQ (even without a limit to the extremes) learning through books is generally faster and more efficient. When I consider how much time I could have saved by not sitting eight hours a day in class, but actually learning instead... Interestingly, when I started in college, I switched gears entirely: partially, because the subject matters were more interesting; but mainly because I learned that I did not need to go to the lectures, if I studied the text-books. Based on what I did in college, I would have been able to go through the entire high-school pensum in one year, had I studied on my own. (With reservations for testing opportunities, under the assumption that PE was dropped, and adding some presence phases for “conversational” English/German and practical experiments in e.g. chemistry and physics.)

I am eternally grateful to the professor who, in one of my first lectures, gave the class the advice to read ahead in the text book, because this would make the lectures easier to understand: After a few weeks, I noticed that if I read ahead, the lectures were not merely easier to understand—they were redundant.

(An exception to the above is a direct interaction in a small class between a teacher and a class on the same wave-length; however, such constellations are rare. Language classes, and possibly a few others, are also exceptions, because of the importance of interaction, irrespective of class size.)

Unfortunately, when I came to Germany as an exchange student, I found a very lamentable state, where good text books were absent and each professor had his own (often hand-written!) lecture notes/hand-outs (“Skript”)—and because these were often of a low quality, the students could not avoid lectures without risking severe negative side-effects. I even recall one instance where I had only very rarely visited the lectures—too easy to waste time with—and had planned to just read-up in the last month before the exam. As I asked the professor for the Skript, he refused (!) to give it to me with the motivation that I had not been to his lectures. Interestingly, he explicitly allowed me the opportunity to take the exam, just not access to his Skript.

The way I see it: Either a professor has something truly original to bring to the table (facts, insights, better pedagogy, ...) and, if so, he should write his own text-book; or he has not, and he should then get a text-book someone else has written. Realistically speaking, the second case will almost always apply outside of highly specialized courses: When dozens, sometimes hundreds, of text-books are available for a particular topic, what are the chances that the average professor can do better than the top books?

As a direct consequence of this, I went with a long-distance university when I, years later, decided to go for a second master. Here the situation was, necessarily, much better; however, they too wasted time and money writing their own, usually not-on-par-with-text-books, educational material for most courses.


I later stumbled onto the following quote, which reflects my own feelings rather well:

Lectures were once useful; but now, when all can read, and books are so numerous, lectures are unnecessary. If your attention fails, and you miss a part of a lecture, it is lost; you cannot go back as you do upon a book. . . . People have nowadays got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do as much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be best taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shown. You may teach chymistry by lectures. You might teach making shoes by lectures!

(Samuel Johnson, http://www.xs4all.nl/~jcdverha/scijokes/8_6.htmle)

Here comes the bomb: This quote is not from 1991, nor even 1891, but 1791! Yet, lectures are still the main form of teaching and learning—despite this insight having been present (at least) 218 years ago! Worse yet, I fear that in the year 2227 things may well be as bad as today. Possibly even worse: What if books, and the descendant textual media, are phased out entirely in favour of books-on-tapes, lectures recorded onto video, ... (Note that while these will enable a rewind, a book will still be infinitely superior in this regard—and all other advantages of books remain advantages. This while the one advantage of a lecture, the limited possibility to ask the lecturer questions or require clarification, is lost.)

Or consider:

Lecture: An art of transferring information from the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the students without passing through the minds of either.

(http://forums.sexyandfunny.com/showthread.php?t=18216e, non-text characters altered.)

Clearly, just using a copier would be much, much more efficient—and ensure fewer errors. While at it, why not write a proper book based on the notes instead?

Problems caused by insufficient intellectual challenges

One of the issues caused by my intellectual mismatch was that I learned poor habits for studying, problem solving, etc., which lead to trouble during my second year of college (where I had a course load more than twice the normal and took some really advanced math and physics courses)—I bit of more than I could chew, saw my grades drop, and had too little spare time.

A specific example: In high school we were often told to draw a picture of a physical or mechanical problem before starting to solve it—yet, the problems provided were so easy that I would just have wasted time by drawing these pictures. Not only did I not learn to draw pictures—I learned that pictures were something for intellectual wimps. Came college, I had bad habits; and when faced with problems where I would have benefited from pictures, false pride kept me from drawing them... If we assume, in contrast, that I had been challenged by tougher problems in high school, it is likely that I would have learned that pictures can be a valuable help in problem solving, and also have gained experience in how to use them optimally, before college.

Obviously, these issues were worsened by how I moved ahead of the schedule: By taking second-year courses in the first year and third-year, even several post-graduate, courses in the second year, I did not have time to develop my study-technique, mature intellectually, and gain humility with regards to my intellect vs. the difficulty of the courses, in the way I needed to truly be on top of the more advanced classes. Instead I forged ahead with the “brute force” approach that had sufficed in high-school and first-year college classes—and eventually hit a limit where brute force did not cut it anymore.

In an analogy, a brilliant high-school runner can, if never challenged, learn that he wins whatever strategy he uses, be it an all-out effort from the starting line to the finish line, a hang-back-and-take-everyone-in-the-finish approach, or any other version (within reasonable limits). However, when that same runner is confronted with other runners who are not vastly inferior, he will find that things are much harder, that he gives races away through poor tactics, that his finish is no longer good enough to make good forty meters in the last lap, and so on. In contrast, had he been exposed to better competition in high school, he would have run into these problems earlier—and had been forced to adapt, develop better tactics while still in high school, had more humility, etc.

A related issue is that too easy courses can lead to too little study: Study typically has at least two different goals: Understanding and remembering. I tend to be interested in a course only until I have understood it—after this point I have little motivation to study; and if the course is too easy, I can cease to study before I am able to remember everything that I should remember. This was in particular a problem with my business studies, where exam questions concerning understanding were few and far between, and checks for rote learning abounded—“Name and briefly describe five of the methods to do X mentioned on page 97 of the text-book.” rather than “Give five methods to do X. Explain the possible positive and negative consequences in the short and long term.”. (Unsurprisingly, I have later learned that business graduates tend to be very weak in understanding, lack insights into side-effects and long-term effects, etc.)

The non-benefits of integrated education of gifted

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/d_major_chord.htme contains a very illustrative discussion of education of the gifted and how they benefit from receiving various forms of “accelerated” eduation, instead of receiving the same education as their age peers together with their age peers—as the politically correct often insist be done. (Generally, the site provides a great number of articles and links on various aspects of giftedness).

What particularly struck me was the following quote (concerning a gifted child educated with age peers, like in Sweden, rather than with intellectual peers):

The more mature [word resulting from an analogy used] child will have to learn:

(a) How to explain ideas in simple terms that the other children can understand

(b) How to wait patiently while the others struggle with concepts he or she has known for some time.

(c) How to delay the gratification of answering all the teachers’ questions, so that the others have the opportunity to participate.

(d) How to fit in socially with children whose games are uninteresting, and who play by rules that seem crude and unfair.

(e) How to live without any real friends or understanding from others. [Emphasis in original.]


As for c: Personally, I was not more keen on this than other students. However, the general principle of having the far greater knowledge and intelligence, and being severely annoyed at the slowness of others in coming up with answers, respectively their answers being obviously inferior (not to mention their inability to see that this was so...), has been a problem for me for a very large part of my life.

I note that the Swedish gifted-hostile education is at least partially explained by a wish for a–d, but without concern for e; however, that I got e down pat, but never benefitted from a–d in anyway—possibly, because I, as a result of e, grew even more isolated from and uninterested in people than I would otherwise have been. In fact, problems in these areas followed me far into adult life: Only in my early thirties did I start to conquer them—and then the first successful step was to isolate myself from such influences, gain perspective, develop an intellectual understanding, ...

What I would have needed was just one thing: On the first day of work, for a senior to take me aside, have a discussion of how most people I will interact with will be intellectually far behind, will lack ability to reason, will be motivated by egoism, etc.—and that I would benefit from thinking of most of them as children, try to accommodate them from this POV, ... Such a discussion never took place—on the contrary, either (E2) I was told that this or that individual was problematic and to just ignore him, or (at least at E1 and E4) I fell victim to the tall dancer phenomenon because the leading people in those companies were themselves too intellectually weak.

Better yet, this information, as well as practical training, could have been integrated into the education of the gifted—thereby ensuring that they would not run into problems as adults, and giving both them and society as a whole major benefits. (As discussed in various other places, competent people tend to be unter-utilized or put on too short levers, while those should be kept away from responsibility and long levers are not. Cf. e.g. my discussions on medium fish and absurd promotions.)