Sunday, July 13, 2008

When your child is smarter than you . . .

It can be both fun and traumatic when you get to the time of life when your children finish college. Here's a portion of a note from a fellow MIT alum, about his daughter who graduated from the 'Tute this year:

I've learned to live with an unfamiliar combination of pride and envy at having offspring at MIT with higher grades than I got. Then to top it off, after commencement I asked her whether she was looking forward to the end of MIT academic stress. Her damned answer was, "I didn't have all that much stress." But of course she missed out on the valuable networking opportunity of periodic contact with the Committee on Academic Performance.*

*(The disciplinary committee you get to visit when your grades become substandard.)


John Gunther said...

While working full time in E19 for the Office of Administrative Information Systems (OAIS), I belatedly programmed and wrote a thesis on 3D-mapping through computer search techniques (geometric, not content). When I walked in to show it to my Course II thesis advisor, Ernie Cravalho, his initial reaction was an emphatic, "Gunther? I thought you dropped out a year ago!" I waited nervously as he "Hmm"'d his way through the document since the whole thing had been done without ever consulting him. In a tone that I distinctly remember as one of wonderment, his only comment was, "Hey, you know? This isn't bad at all!" With that remark my final exit to the Mass Ave crosswalk hove suddenly into view.

While I didn't attain a 4.0, I've always maintained that we were there during the "political years" and overhauling society competed legitimately with academics for importance. Although that rationale is called into question by people who accomplished both, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

e-Patient Dave said...

btw, Paul, I know you know this, but just for the record I'll like to tweak your title.

"Smarter than" is not the same as "does better in school." There are many different types of smart (Gardner's Multiple Intelligences), and besides, testing well is completely different from doing well in reality.

e-Patient Dave said...

How I managed to avoid networking with that committee is beyond me.

My advisor (the venerable Tom Allen) dropped in to my office (I was his TA) eight weeks before graduation and asked if *I* was planning to graduate. Seems I was only registered for enough courses to complete my junior year.

I said yes, and he asked me to step into his office.

I explained how a large number of incompletes (dating back to Kent State and almost every other semester) would get finished, leaving me 3 credits short; a professor had offered me 2 to write a paper, and I said I'd find another one somewhere. He said "deBronkart, you're a worse con than I was in my day. If you pull this off you own me a six-pack." I did, and I did. Got out with a B average, too, somehow.

It still doesn't make sense, but I guess it was an early sign of a talent for beating the odds, which came in useful later in life.

jessica lipnack said...

First, Dave, Tom Allen was your advisor? His work has been so important to mine. Lucky you.

Second, another father-cedes-to-child story. My hubby was a competitive downhill skier, which meant our daughters were on skis as soon as they could walk. When they approached adolescence, they took up snowboarding (er, riding) and Dad switched conveyances too. All was well for years as he whooshed down the slopes ahead of them. Then when he reached a certain marker age, there was a moment on a glacier in the Canadian Rockies, when she whooshed past him - even though he was back on his lightning-fast skis. He always has a funny look on his face when he says that at that moment he passed the torch and now enjoys following in her tracks. Sort of.

Anonymous said...

To e-patient Dave the con man: LOL!! Keep beating 'em! (:


e-Patient Dave said...

Tom Allen's gift to me was that none of this stuff is anywhere near as complicated as people think it is.

As I recall, he had an 18 month consulting contract with some firm in Ireland to study the effect of water cooler placement on informal information flow between engineers. (I'm not making this up.) At the end of the project, the executive summary read as follows, in toto:

"You can lead an engineer to another engineer, but you can't make them talk."

It's hard to imagine today's big-dollar consulting firms having the stones to actually say it that concisely. But that's Tom.