Johns Hopkins Magazine -- September 1997
Johns Hopkins Magazine



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A "new low" for the magazine
Amazing academic achievement

A "new low" for the magazine

The poem excerpts by the gay poet in the April issue ["Gay poet starts 'telling the truth'"] touch a new low for an otherwise good magazine. Besides being in execrable taste, they should give concern for the Hopkins medical institutions with "I hate safe sex. / I hate public health & outreach workers./ _ _ _ But.../ I don't care."

One of the strengths of Hopkins over more than a century is its consistent maintenance of high standards. Your sick article with its poem make a mockery of that achievement.

Carrington Williams, AB '40
Falls Church, VA

Amazing academic achievement

After nearly 26 years of being virtually ignored by the Johns Hopkins Magazine, we of the JHU Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) welcome senior science writer Melissa Hendricks's interesting, well-written "Yesterday's Whiz Kids: Where Are They Today?" [June]. She listened intently to those whom she interviewed and reported their reactions carefully.

Of course, no writer of a rather short article concentrating on the early cohort could wholly please the director of such a study who had made it his major life work (obsession?) for a quarter of a century. I would have liked a little less emphasis on educational acceleration per se and more on the astonishing academic achievement of many of our "protégés."

For example, one year five of the six members of the U.S.'s International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) were from SMPY's small "700-800 on SAT-Math before Age 13 Group." Lenny Ng, who graduated from Harvard College in 1996 in three years at age 19, summa cum laude in mathematics (not our only Harvard summa in three years), broke nearly all the U.S. middle school, high school, and college math records. At age 10, he had scored 800 twice on the math SAT. At age 32, Hopkins graduate Colin Camerer became a full professor of business economics at the University of Chicago; two years later he moved to a chaired professorship at Caltech.

And there are the three young women who graduated No. 1 in their respective highly selective colleges: Harvard, MIT, and the University of California at Berkeley.

If space had permitted, Ms. Hendricks might have mentioned SMPY's role in helping start state-supported residential high schools for the intellectually talented; there are now at least 10, from Maine to Alabama. I am especially proud to have been a co-founder in 1986 of the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) of the University of North Texas in Denton and to serve since then as the only non-Texan on its Advisory Board. The nearly 200 TAMS graduates per year, all of them Texans, have completed enriched grades 11-14 in two years. They then transfer as college juniors, usually at ages 17 and 18, to the academically best colleges in the country. The 18 who have entered Johns Hopkins thus far have done well here and thereafter. For my devotion to TAMS, the University of North Texas has awarded me an honorary doctorate.

A newer systematic, residential early-entrance-to-college program is the Advance Academy of the State University of West Georgia (AAG) in Carrollton, 50 miles west of Atlanta. Unlike TAMS, it is open to students from anywhere who have completed the 10th or 11th grade. For my service, that university conferred an honorary doctorate on me, a graduate in 1936 of its junior-college predecessor. Thus, I and my wonderful co-workers have tried in various ways to help youth choose among the 20 or so different ways to accelerate their educational progress. Skipping grades outright is but one way, and usually not the best.

P.S. The photo on page 30 of 28 boys and no girls seems likely to result in indignant letters. The facts are as follows: in 1981 there were 28 boys and no girls who in SMPY's annual search scored 700 or more on SAT-M before age 13. That was a low year, however. In 1980 there had been 15 boys and 5 girls. The usual male-to-female ratio at that score level nowadays is about 4 to 1. During the early 1980s it was 12 to 1, so girls appear to be doing increasingly better compared with boys--but have not nearly caught up with them yet.

Julian C. Stanley
Baltimore, MD

Thank you for the article on Professor Julian Stanley and his work with academically talented young people [June]. The university is fortunate indeed to have a member of its faculty demonstrate such leadership on behalf of young people around the world who deserve and want a challenging learning environment.

From the beginning, Dr. Stanley gave unstintingly of his time and expertise--one student, one family, at a time. When looking at work like his, the tendency may be to measure his success in the dramatic achievements of his students. Undoubtedly there will be much of this in time as his students mature. What we saw in 1979 was more immediate, however. Highly able students who loved learning found challenge and flexibility and, for the first time, enjoyed the work of learning. For most of them, Dr. Stanley was the first educator to adjust the pace and level of their instruction, to introduce them to friends who shared their abilities and interests, and to guide and encourage them in searching for meaningful academic work. Just when they might have become average, he kept them learning and working.

Nancy and Hullie Moore
Richmond, VA