Term Paper: Child Prodigies

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Child Prodigies

The objective of this work is to take a position on whether there should be a set age limit for a child prodigy to attend college. This work will take the position that there should be an age limit of seventeen (17) years of age as the writer of this work feels that for children to start college any sooner they are missing out of socialization aspects of life and thereby rendered socially dysfunctional.

The word prodigy derives from the Latin prodigium, meaning:

omen or portent, a harbinger of change. It also means something that violates the natural order." (Hartigan, 2005)

Hartigan (2005) relates: "History has been kind to some prodigies - think Mozart or Einstein. At the same time, society has been suspicious of eccentrics. Consider the contrasting fates of two prodigies form the early 20th century. Norbert Wiener entered Tufts University in 1906 at age 11 and went on to graduate studies at Harvard in 1909. That same year, a brilliant 11-year-old named William James Sidis also enrolled at Harvard. Wiener became the father of cybernetics. Sidis became a recluse who collected streetcar transfers. He died alone disillusioned at the age of 46." (Hartigan, 2005) Hartigan asks the question of "what contributes to such dramatically different outcomes?" (2005)

Hartigan relates that Julian Stanley, a psychologist at John Hopkins University in the late 1960s studied "mathematically precocious youth. He identified a need for programs for gifted children, and in 1979, he established the Center for Talented Youth at the Baltimore university..." (Hartigan, 2005) According to Stanley:

Little kids aren't geniuses...They're just little kids who are good at taking tests." (Hartigan, 2005)

The story of Marnen Laibow-Koser is shared by Hartigan and it is stated that Marnen "could have been the next Mozart" however, his mother states: "He certainly didn't have a normal childhood." (Hartigan, 2005) Another individual, Jonathan Edwards states that when he was growing up "All he wanted to do was work; math and science were his childhood friends. Educators weren't tuned into the concept of 'giftedness' back then...The burden of this great gift has haunted him his whole life." (Hartigan, 2005) Hartigan relates that Edwards states:

always felt that I'm walking this tightrope, that if I made one mistake, I was ruining or dashing this incredible potential." (Hartigan, 2005)

It is clear that these child prodigies suffer in either one manner or another and the question remains which type of suffering is worse?

III. The DEBATE

In a recent article entitled: "Can the Child Prodigy Work Out if He Should Go to University Aged 7? Published in the Times Online addresses the problem of a seven-year-old science prodigy whose parents have begun a "world-wide search for a university place for their child, with the warning that a 'great mind could be lost' if he is not offered the chance to pursue his studies at a degree level." (Frean, 2007) the child, Ainan Celeste Cawley, is stated to be the son of a British father and a Singaporean mother, "passed his O-level chemistry in Singapore at the age of 6 and is studying for an a level in the same subject." (Frean, 2007)

Professor Tim White, of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore expresses that there is "no doubt that the child was a chemistry prodigy..." (Frean, 2007) However, "his own university had decided not to offer a place to Ainan because the laboratory benches were too high, with shelves out of reach and chemical dispensers too big for the child to hold. There were considerable logistical barriers." (Frean, 2007)

Logistical barriers are indeed not the only problem for universities to consider when allowing child prodigies to enroll in classes. As well there are a plethora of ethical and moral considerations.

IV. ETHICAL and MORAL ASPECTS of THIS CONTROVERSY

There are ethical and moral issues related to the controversy and debate as to whether child prodigies or those who are geniuses as children should be allowed to attend college universities because just as in the case of Ainan Celeste Cawley logistical barriers compute to liability insurance costs and as well the harm that could befall such a young genius due to the lack of physical growth to match the rate of the individuals intelligence quotient expansion at such young ages. Other issues such as would a six-year-old boy dress out in the same locker room as the older boys in physical education classes and what of the study requiring viewing of a R-rated movie in the college setting? There are many ethical, moral and even legal issues that must be addressed.

VI. PERSUASIVE ARGUMENT

Currently, there are some initiatives underway to address the education of young geniuses in society however it is generally understood that college admission of these young child prodigies is not always the optimum means of providing these youngsters with stimulating and challenging education. One case of the progression of a child prodigy is related in which the young many first started college but instead wrote a computer program for the school that ultimately sold for millions and the young may has since secured a job, still without having graduated from so much as Jr. High School and is one in which he makes agreeably high income in a career that is in the area of technology and engineering computing programs and one which he orchestrates for companies throughout the world.

The work of Derek Van der Mewe entitled: "Reflections on the Impact of Globaliation on Higher Education Policy" states: "Higher education is a vital component of any government policy that seeks to maximise the emancipatory effects of globalisation for its citizens and to minimise the destructive effects of competitive dominance globally on its citizens. Institutions of higher learning in any society serve as important repositories of accumulated intellectual capacity and knowledge within that society, from whence knowledge is generated and transferred to new generations of learners. In this capacity they play a role of vital strategic importance, because their ability to generate new knowledge or to creatively utilise existing knowledge and to transfer that knowledge effectively, largely determines the cumulative ability of that society to compete globally and to harness effectively the advantages of globalisation. If this important role of higher education institutions is recognised in the context of the effects globalisation have on the well-being of members of society, then it becomes clear why it is necessary to seek, by means of policy formulation, answers to such questions as by whom and for whom, with what resources and for what purposes is knowledge generated and transferred by such institutions. One reason, of course, why higher education can and should feature prominently in any globalisation strategy, is that universities by their very nature function in a global context. Universities as we know them today originated in the twelfth century in medieval Europe, when scholars began to organise themselves into faculties that taught students on the basis of a planned course of studies and awarded them with qualifications upon successful completion of their studies. The earliest faculties were those of theology, law and philosophy and, later, medicine and literature. Significantly, the corpus of knowledge studied and taught in these faculties transcended all national boundaries and formed part of the common stock of knowledge of European mankind. Scholar and student alike who travelled from Oxford to Paris, from Montpellier to Bologna, from Salamanca to Leipzig, would find at their destination scholars and students who spoke the same learned tongue and studied substantially the same texts in substantially the same way. It created early on an international community of scholars and of scholarship that to this day reflects the essential ethos of Institutions of higher learning worldwide. Higher education, then, is strategically well placed to make a significant contribution to the development of a policy that meets the demands of globalisation. Governments worldwide are well aware of this and in the last decade or so a range of policy instruments have been developed that have led to widespread reforms in higher education." (Derek Van der Mewe, nd)

Among these reforms in education should be an attention addressed to the collective group of child prodigies which exist in the world and the formation of a specialized institution(s) of educational instruction for child prodigies should be extensively explored to accommodate the world's collective group of child prodigies in order to develop them to their best ability without the restrictions or limitations that present as barriers to their educational provision properly suited for their intellectual capacity in terms of development of their area of expertise in study. Stated specifically among the reforms are:

The need to broaden access to higher education for learners to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to function effectively in the competitive global arena - and to transmit their knowledge and skills to others;

The need to embark upon a concerted strategy of quality assurance of all aspects of higher education, a strategy that will… [END OF PREVIEW]

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