Tuesday, October 04, 2011

"Super People", and Celebration of Ignorance

Over the weekend, there was an interesting New York Times essay that discussed how there seems to be a new breed of hyper-impressive people. A sample:
A BROCHURE arrives in the mail announcing this year’s winners of a prestigious fellowship to study abroad. The recipients are allotted a full page each, with a photo and a thick paragraph chronicling their achievements. It’s a select group to begin with, but even so, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on this list who hasn’t mastered at least one musical instrument; helped build a school or hospital in some foreign land; excelled at a sport; attained fluency in two or more languages; had both a major and a minor, sometimes two, usually in unrelated fields (philosophy and molecular science, mathematics and medieval literature); and yet found time — how do they have any? — to enjoy such arduous hobbies as mountain biking and white-water kayaking.

Let’s call this species Super Person.
Super People [New York Times]

From there, the essay -- written by James Atlas, president of the publishing company Atlas & Co. -- progresses discursively. Atlas wonders if this is happening because of evolution and better availability of nutrition and other types of health-consciousness. He also wonders if "Super People" are a sign of growing income inequality in America such that the wealthy parents can invest in their children to an unprecedented degree. He further wonders if "Super People" phenomenon is to some degree an illusion, created by resume-padding instead of genuine commitment to achievements. But he finishes on a relatively positive note about "Super People".

The essay was an interesting read, but even more interesting read was the comments, which were overwhelmingly critical of the "Super People". Now, a whole bucket of salt is necessary when it comes to glean anything meaningful out of comments left on Internet message boards. The caveats should be familiar -- the samples are not representative, anonymous comments can be expressed more radically than the writer intended, and so on. But these concerns are partially mitigated by the fact that this is the crowd that reads the New York Times. They like reading news and commentary. They tend to be more educated and worldly. They tend to be in positions to shape opinions of those around them. And overwhelmingly, they disliked the idea of "Super People."

To be sure, many of the criticisms of "Super People" in the comments were very legitimate. It is perfectly legitimate to critique that trophy-collection does not necessarily contribute to building a sound character. (The Korean has consistently argued that education should be seen as a character building process, not a skill acquisition process.) It is completely fair to wonder if the "Super People's" achievements are an optical illusion, which did not leave much lasting impact on the person other than the line on her resume. And to the extent that those achievements are indeed genuine, it is deeply worrisome that America's income inequality deprives middle class and poor Americans from being able to invest in their children as much as wealthier Americans do.

But sort the hundreds of comments by "Readers' Recommendations," and a disturbing trend floats to the top: attacking the achievements themselves, and celebrating sloth and ignorance instead. Indeed, even the criticisms that appear facially legitimate have an undertone of contempt for more knowledge, more experience and more doing.

The prevalent image invoked by the phrase "celebrating ignorance" might be that of a rabid right-winger denying evolution or climate change. But this troubling trend of anti-intellectualism is an American trait that infects the entire American culture, including the presumably well-educated, left-leaning New York Times readers. Achievement-denial, in fact, has become the liberals' version of evolution-denial.

(More after the jump)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

There should really be no debate about the fact -- the truth -- that the achievements listed in Atlas's essay, if genuinely attained, would lead to making of a better person. Musical training leads to increased brain activity and improved memory. So does bilingualism, which in turn leads to improvements in multitasking -- not to mention the obvious benefits of accessing completely different modes of thought taken from a different culture. Excellence in sport teaches the value of toughness, grit and teamwork. Travelling to a foreign land broadens one's perspective, and even more so if one volunteered to help the needy while traveling. These benefits are so obvious that the Korean cannot even believe that he has to spell this out.

It is fair to wonder if anyone could truly achieve all of the above and more -- hence, the caveat that the achievements must be genuinely attained. Although true "Super People" certainly exist, some (and the Korean would say a decent proportion of) "Super People" are undoubtedly no more than poseurs. But regardless of that, what sense does it make to attack the achievements themselves? How can people seriously believe that mastering a second language, mastering a musical instrument, or volunteering in a foreign land makes a person worse? How can people seriously be proud of the fact that they did not do these things that would unquestionably make them better?

Here is the most recommended comment, written by none other than New York Times reporter Jane Gross:
When do these Super People have time to ruminate, to day-dream, to eschew GPS systems in their cars because it's interesting to get lost once in a while? When do they have time to be kind? To be a good friend? To go the woods with their dog? To dead head their gardens, mindlessly, for an entire afternoon? To sleep for 11 hours and let their bodies and mind do whatever bodies and minds do when they're sleeping? I couldn't do a square root in high school and still can't, unsure then and now what a square root even is is and why I need to know it. I remember nothing of my SAT scores except that they were very high, without benefit of tutors. I wasn't an extra-curricular activities kind of girl. My bandwidth was narrow then and far narrower now, at 64. But I held my own for 29 years at the New York Times. I wrote a book that a serious publisher paid good money for. Starting out in the world today, I'd be a loser. Why am I not properly ashamed of that?
Here is a stunning celebration of ignorance. Gross is parading the fact that she does not know what she should have learned in high school. (And it really should be middle school.) She is proud of the narrowness of her vision. Why? How is it a badge of honor that she knows less?

Another line of criticism is that "Super People" are inevitably unhappy, uncreative, uncaring, or deficient in some way, as Gross implies in the earlier part of her comment. For example, "Don Seekins" from Hawaii said:
There was a time, not so long ago, when people actually read books and went places to learn something, experience something - not put it on their resume. Super people are empty people.
Similarly, "Dan" from New York said:
What do an alarming number of super people do when they finish at Harvard? They become I-bankers. They cash out. I realize this is a gross generalization and that there are, indeed, real life super people. It does seem, however, that the list of extracurriculars and good deeds is formed with one goal in mind - gaining admission to an elite school and making a lot of money once you're finished. Is this bad? Given the sorry state of our country, I would say yes. All these super people haven't made the US a better place. There's a big difference between knowledge and wisdom.
"aj" from New York said:
Amost [sic] nothing kills creativity like competition and well-roundedness. A lot of these people will wind up as wealthy doctors, bond salesmen, Wall Street lawyers, and government bureaucrats. None will design the next IPad, 787, femtosecond laser, fiberoptic communication system, cancer drug, or program Facebook, or Solidworks. That is the real sadness of this business.
There are so many wrongheaded ideas here that it becomes tiresome to address them. What makes "Don Seekins" think that "Super People" don't actually read books and go places to learn and experience something? (How does it make sense that a travel can only be made worthwhile if it is not listed on the resume?) On what basis does "Dan" think all the young "Super People" are only interested in making money? (For one counterexample, elite institutions like Cornell, Georgetown, Yale and UC Berkeley -- which presumably attracts the young "Super People" -- consistently lead the number of Peace Corps produced.) And where in the hell does "aj" get the idea that diligence kills creativity? (The recent rise of competition in classical music produced technical virtuosos who are more creative than ever.)

More fundamentally, where does all this bile come from? Why do they feel the need to denigrate "Super People" and cut them down? Why can't they simply admire "Super People" for what they are? Is it so hard to admit that they -- I -- might know less and have experienced less such that I should be impressed by "Super People"? Is it so hard to admit that "Super People" are better than I? I can, for example, easily admit that I am not even half of a legal mind of, say, Justice John Roberts or Judge Richard Posner. They are my judicial heroes and, unquestionably, "Super People." (One of my law school professors, who was a classmate of Judge Posner at Harvard Law School, said Judge Posner self-taught Greek on a whim that he would prefer to read the Greek philosophers in their original language. How many people can do that?) Justice Roberts and Judge Posner are better than I am. For me to state otherwise would be insane. Similarly, if I ever met a trilingual -- something that I could not become, and not for the lack of trying -- I would be really impressed. If I ever met a trilingual who is a top-notch intellectual as well as a pro-level athlete, I would be even more impressed. Never for a second would I wonder if the person is an unfeeling, materialistic monster who is dead inside. Nor would I ever attempt to make the ignorant argument that I am somehow better than the athletic, intellectual trilingual because I know less and can do less than she does and can do.

Fortunately, it is not all bad news in the NYT comment section. Although the Korean had to rummage far into the "Most Recommended" pages, he was able to find a positive comment to close. "Steven J." from New Haven, CT wrote:
Let's celebrate this new breed of Renaissance person. They are well-rounded, brimming with energy, and I bet many of them will go on to do good things with their lives. And please don't confuse the 'true' Super Person with the rank careerists, scrabbling for points on their resumes. Nor should we blithely assume the 1% who are most effervescently intelligent and creative are identical with the 1% who amass the most wealth. What we want, as a society, is to educate these golden youth to want to create and serve and protect the rest of us.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Envy tends to be nasty - nothing new here.
    Envy also has a wicked habit of crystallizing itself in tough economic times - it takes moral fortitude to cheer on your neighbor's achievements when one is worried about one's ability to put food on the table. Hence humans tend to be more prone to schadenfreude than genuine happiness for the success of their fellow human beings. And while societal norms, prudence and decorum might keep those feelings mute in public, it's free-for-all online. So, Timmie might be a Rhodes scholar, fluent in 5 languages and an avid skier, but thinking he's a habitual alcoholic with divorced parents, ugly wife and a padded resume makes his neighbor's life more tolerable for them to bear.

  2. All the vitriol amounts to little more than envy. Modern America is a land of snowflakes: everyone is unique, special, and full of undeveloped potential, or so we've been told by well-meaning teachers and HR departments across the nation. So to see someone who truly is a special snowflake really drives home the fact that most of us are not. Such an emotional response is nothing new, of course -- the dumb stereotype of pretty women acting catty toward each other often plays out in real life. I call it the "locker room phenomenon". If only I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say that [beautiful, athletic, successful woman] put on weight, wears too much makeup, or has terrible fashion sense...

    Unfortunately, to see someone else's success as one's own failure is a distorted mode of perception that's all too common. In the back of my mind, there's a tiny, disquieting voice asking what might have happened if I'd just tried a little harder... And who wouldn't love to be a Super Person? There's certainly room on my walls for a few more advanced degrees. However, I have a firm belief in the intrinsic value of every person, even those of the non-snowflake variety. As such, I admire overachievers from my cozy rung somewhere in the middle of the social ladder. But if I were less confident (or arrogant), Super People might get under my skin. And then, being a mature and reasonable adult, I'd post nasty comments online about how they're all emotionally dead.

  3. You know why they do it. We all know why they do it. Even they know why they do it.

    The best part to me is the part where people level these insane accusations about how they should be reading books and traveling purely for the experience, or going to Ivy League schools in order to be creative minds, and not money makers. Because, you know, I'm sure the people critiquing these hypothetical imaginary motives did all of their world traveling and Ivy League school attending for the right reasons.

    Oh, wait.

    One thing I will say about the super human types I have met though, is that there does seem to be a tendency toward a lack of sense of humor. I think personal failure cultivates a healthy ability to laugh.

  4. I also have to agree that a lot of it is envy. However, I would add that the situation is compounded by the latest flair up of anti-establishment anger currently gaining momentum in the Western world. It reflects the rhetoric you hear from across the spectrum from "Occupy Wall Street" to Tea Party activists: soulless bankers, capitalists and other bourgeoisie who've sold out the nation; the establishment Ivy elites who don't understand "the Real America"; the evidence of the reinforcing of the divide between rich and the working class; and lawyers and government bureaucrats that rule with tyranny.

    In a time when the norms have been upended with both economic recession and perceived national decline, when people feel helpless with their own situations, the easiest way to emotionally cope is to lash out.

  5. Another great post TK.

    Attending a good university in an East Asian country I can really see a contrast with my English speaking home country when it comes to attitudes toward effort, self responsibility and success. Where did it all go wrong?

  6. I used to be a super high schooler. I graduated at 16 with nearly all APs you could take at my school, from English to chem to art history; took calculus at age 13; was in the American Chem Olympiad camp (which meant I was therefore one of the top 20 HS chemistry students in the US that year); studied Chinese on the weekends; and was a voracious reader of everything I could get my hands on. It was fantastic, and I loved that part of my life.

    I also practiced two instruments and did a lot of volunteering. I did these things purely to add to my resume. While I know those activities were worthwhile for me, at the time they felt very fake. You see, when you do that kind of thing for your resume, you can't just do them; you have to pretend that you love doing them. (Colleges know that teenagers do things just to get into college!) Both my teenage mind and my scientific mind hated putting up that false front.

    After I got to college, I dropped both the music and the volunteering. Beyond med school admissions, NO ONE is grading people as a whole people any more. Even to get into grad school for my PhD, what the schools wanted to see was my research and grades. So why should an adult who has an adequate all-around education do things that she hates doing, if the things she likes doing are also worthwhile?

    Perhaps some of these NYT commenters are also people who faked it on a resume and hated misrepresenting themselves. They assume that *everybody else* had to hate it too. They're wrong- I've met some people who genuinely do everything with aplomb, and who are wonderful people with interesting lives who are fundamentally happy. But I'm sure that the kids who felt it was fake, that it was a game, outnumbered the kids who genuinely believed in everything they did. I know I couldn't be fundamentally happy doing the things that "super people" do. It is incredibly difficult for most people to imagine that other people have different base values- we model other people's actions and feelings based on what we would want, and it's hard to "get into another person's shoes" when those shoes are actually mittens. You can do it, but it takes more acceptance and generosity than many people have.

  7. This would be a head-scratcher if the book 'Outliers' hadn't come out like 3 years ago and answered all these questions. And I think about 100 million people read it, so I'm surprised this journalist has never heard of it.

    Yes, people who are born into monied families have way more advantages, and a strong Educational system (with potential for Student Loans, Grants and Scholarships) aims to lend a hand to those who don't benefit from such luck. Also, the chapter on what 'Rich Kids' do in the Summer time, vs the Lower-Income Kids pretty much answers all of these questions.

    Ask someone where they came from, and it's obvious how they did those amazing things. So if these are 'Super People' then what are the people with zero opportunities (yes, even in the United States)?

  8. Between two equally skilled people, I find more impressive the one mastering his job with ease than the one mastering it after struggling for it. Similarly I am more impressed by people who make the most of their lives with ease ("ease", not sloth!) rather than those who are needlessly number 1 here and there. Sure I am envious of those super people, but I am even more envious of the subtle people who are as successful as them without the hardship. Hence the comment by Jane Gross makes sense to me.

  9. Good read.

    "Super People" should inspire. ;)

  10. > Excellence in sport teaches the value of toughness, grit and teamwork. Travelling to a foreign land broadens one's perspective, and even more so if one volunteered to help the needy while traveling. These benefits are so obvious that the Korean cannot even believe that he has to spell this out.

    (What is obvious is rarely actually obvious.)

    At least one of those points is *extremely* questionable: the Grit point.

    As it happens, a few weeks/months ago, I read that same exact paper during some additional research on the personality trait Conscientiousness (http://www.gwern.net/About#fn34), so the instant I saw 'teaches', alarm bells went off.

    *Correlation is not causation*. And correlation is all that Grit paper shows in its 6 studies (not 'experiments', notice). The data simply doesn't allow you to talk about causation; it's just as plausible that having the Grit was a major factor in causing them to (continue to) play sports or whatever. People with high Conscientiousness go to college and graduate disproportionately; does graduation cause Conscientiousness?

    (One can't even attempt to make causal inferences by assuming away third factors and then looking at Grit scores before/after an experience, and ask 'did surviving the first year of West Point increase Grit scores?' - because Duckworth et al didn't do before/after surveys!)

    And for the foreseeable future, correlation is all Grit studies will be able to show. Why is this?

    Because there is no way to manipulate the personality trait Grit or Conscientiousness; the Big Five personality traits in particular are stable over a lifetime, equal to or more so than things like IQ.

    Actually, I lied a little there. There's weak evidence Conscientiousness can be improved, in the short term, a bit by trying. And there is, in fact, one known way to quickly affect one of the Big Five traits: you can increase your Openness - by taking hallucinogenic drugs (http://jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/09/28/0269881111420188).


    On the general topic of the article, Goodhart's law (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law) comes to mind.

  11. As somebody who used to be a super highschooler, I used to be frustrated because so many people would just not treat me like a real person with understandable motives because I was involved in x, y, and z extracurriculars (and did well at them, and actually enjoyed them). I just wanted to learn so much more about the world, and I was capable at the time - does that make me soulless and dead or something?

    I also like how suddenly investment bankers and wealthy people aren't people anymore. I work in a certain part of the banking industry where I get to meet many investment bankers and wealthy clients, and they read philosophy, literature, and go travelling in their spare time. They care about social justice issues, donate, start up fundraising drives. They appreciate art and such - hell, they fund developing artists. And yeah, a lot of them are more materialistic, want nicer houses/cars/food in life, but they work the hours to get these things, and have far higher-pressured jobs than most people do, so can you begrudge them? Really?

    Envy is an ugly emotion. Now that I am older, and not a super-person, I freely admire these people and know to look up to them. I envy people too, but to discount their achievements is kind of petty.

  12. I was never a super high schooler, but I would say I was above average, at least when it came to the Performing Arts. I was heavily involved in Orchestra, Choir, and Drama. I was on councils, and received the Actress of the Year award my senior year. I also took four years of Spanish, and had a full schedule my senior year- no lunch, no off-hour- just so I could take all of the classes I was interested in.

    I am proud of all of my accomplishments, but I was nowhere near the "super" level. To be honest, I wasn't really trying to be. I just did what I loved and never once thought to take a sport, since I don't enjoy them at all.

    For many of my friends, it was different. They put me to shame. Besides being in orchestra, choir, and drama, they would run for President of the councils. They would take AP classes like they were drugs. They joined National Honor Society, studied Spanish or German or French, and were in every club you could think of. Some of them also had part-time jobs on the side. They got better grades. Pretty much the only area I beat them in was on the ACT, and even that was relatively close.

    I admired them and also felt shamed by them. Everything I was proud of, they had done- and more.

    What I didn't understand was WHY they did what they did. It was essentially a pissing contest. But often, they weren't happy. My boyfriend worked himself to the bone our senior year, and was always tired and cranky. He would complain about everything and tell me how he had no time for anything, never slept. And then a new opportunity would come along and he would take it on, despite the five thousand commitments he already had. Honestly, he did it to look good and to feel good. He wasn't happy unless he was signed up for everything he could be signed up for. And he was under a ridiculous amount of stress, stress he put himself under.

    My friends did a lot and I was always very proud of them. But everything they did that I didn't do made it that much harder for me to go to college, to get a scholarship. This same phenomenon is what led to Korea's obsession with studying- everyone wants to be the best, but there are only so many spots, leading to an insanely high level of competition.

    The people who are complaining just want to feel like they aren't losers compared to the "supers". That's why they preach about how spotting a beautiful leaf on a stroll through the park is just as much of an accomplishment as winning an Olympic gold medal and helping malnourished children in Mali. Whatever helps you feel better about yourself.

    As usual, excellent article! I love reading your posts on hard work and excellence, they are always very inspiring. =)

  13. Admirable accomplishments but it seems the apparent ubiquity of these high-achievers discounts the indulgent use of "super." Perhaps some among the Super People are actually "super." And what of "super" people who never led the "super path?" Visionaries who sculpt our culture with their innovations but who didn't learn to fly helicopters or become trilingual before they hit puberty?

    I like to think the description "super" should be reserved for those rare subjects whose accomplishments, whatever they may be, are so astoundingly rare as to be unmatched. When 5,700 applicants are vying for 100 university spots, how distinguishable can they possibly be from each other?

    Sorry, it's the semantics. I'd prefer to call them Super High-achieving Genius Busy People.

  14. Not, it's not envy. It's closer to racism. People don't know what it's like to learn something difficult, like a foreign language or molecular biology, so they rely on stereotypes and assumption. But they also measure things based on their own successes and shortcomings.

    Someone like Gross has probably had a successful, happy life, and we'd all be happy to lead a similar life. At the same time, she must think to accomplish more you'd have to sacrifice something.

    It's easy to imagine, that if someone has so many positive virtues, that there must be hidden flaws. Lack of imagination or feelings are easy flaws to imagine, in part because those are common themes in the Hollywood's parables about the difficulties of genius. Most people don't stop to think about how that doesn't make any sense, because they haven't learned from genuine experience, and they're too busy living their lives for such abstract thoughts.

    One of the things we've learned about the Internet, though, is that ignorance is stronger than anything. It's stronger than knowledge, it's stronger than intelligence, it's stronger than all the data and information you can bring to bear. It's a mental form of gravity. As high as we can jump or climb mentally, we all reach our limits.

    Because it's so powerful, many people try to use it as a weapon. It pulls people down, after all. It shows their limits, after all. As if that makes anything better.

  15. How do the rest of us fit into a world that celebrates "super people"? What if this celebration becomes the expectation, and then a requirement, of success, regardless of the discipline? And does everyone have equal capacity to reach these levels of intellectualism? And who decides with particular acts as "super"? None of these questions have obvious answers to me, but they do point to an uncomfortable dissonance between exceptionalism and democracy. Where do the rest of us fit in a world that actively promotes "super heroes", and are we acting against our self-interest when we elevate them above ourselves?

  16. MLW,

    Some of your questions, like "who decides with particular acts as 'super'?", are fair -- people often gravitate more toward something exotic (e.g. volunteering in Bolivia) compared to something that appears more mundane but nonetheless quite tough to do (e.g. working long hours at the family farm.)

    But your overall point is troubling. What would you prefer to do then? Pretend that "super people" are no better than anyone? Make sure the smarter people get dumber? What sense does that make?

  17. For me, it's not a matter of pretending that 'super people' aren't super. For the truly exceptional, this is self-evident. This issue for me is extent to which we accommodate them in our society. Should our institutions grant them preferential treatment? I would prefer efforts that elevate the lowest common denominator, rather than denigrate it.

  18. This trend has been going on for ages: there are so many TV shows that have the successful guy be portrayed as weak and uptight, only to be "educated" by his average, underachieving friend on how to relax and loosen up. Old trope.

    That being said, I do have a problem with the article though. Not on the "super people" themselves. Sure, there are some who just accomplish things to decorate their resume, and there are some sociopaths who think their "super people" status gives them the right to trample over those lesser than them, but people like that everywhere are everywhere. Human nature.

    My problem is with the writer of the article, and people who coined the term "super people". Isn't it enough just to say smarter, better experienced, given more opportunities? Do we really need the adjective "super", as if they were beyond human? It might seem like arguing semantics, but I feel the term "super people" brings up too many unfortunate class (and I do believe this is completely about class), social, and philosophical implications. And I think that's what people in the comments are concerned about, behind the anti-intellectualism and green eyes.

  19. Some people are smarter and have more energy, just as some are a bit slow. The opposite ends of the bell curve.

    There are also those who are genetically gifted with ability, but genetically lacking in the drive for hard work. Evolution is merciless and rewards only those whose combination of genes is just right.

  20. I apologize for the amount of space this is going to take up.

    "There are also those who are genetically gifted with ability, but genetically lacking in the drive for hard work. Evolution is merciless and rewards only those whose combination of genes is just right."

    Let's not confuse genetics with habit, opportunity, and application. Yes, genetic predisposition does factor into how well each person comprehends certain subjects, but it seems like you're arguing that diligence and hard work are lesser factors in achievement that sheer biology.

    Also, those "Genetically lacking in the drive for hard work" sounds suspiciously like those "whose parents didn't force them to study".

    True, forming habits as a kid goes a long way toward creating the appropriate mindset to achieving, but that doesn't preclude the rest of us from sucking it up and developing good habits. As JK Rowling said in her Harvard Commencement Address: "There's an expiry date on blaming your parents."

    And I'm sure the commenters on that NYT article are pretty much there. Thus, there is no excuse for criticizing people who have clearly proven themselves to have excellent habits. Shouldn't the appropriate response to jealousy be fixing one's OWN deficiencies?

    I guess it's just easier to try to kick the columns of praise out from under the over-achievers.

    There's no doubt that a lot of these "Super People" were forced into hobbies, studies, and other such activities by parents seeking to help their children achieve.

    ...but does that make the fact that the "Super People" actually, you know, ACHIEVED these things any less important? No, maybe she didn't care so much about that family she bought a mosquito net for, but would anyone deny that her contribution was less important for it? That's like saying a Microsoft donation of 100,000,000$ to the Save the Children foundation isn't as important/useful as or otherwise comparable to the 100,000,000$ raised by everyone else, because Microsoft was clearly doing it as a publicity stunt.

    It's still 100,000,000$. It still saves just as many children. Sure, it would be *nice* if everyone who donated really meant it, but do you really expect a charity to turn away donations because they think the donator is just doing it for attention?

    Let's stop asking whether or not these "Super People"'s achievements are worth as much as anyone else's. I'm pretty sure most of the people who are harshing (yes, it's a verb-shut up) these young people their earned admiration were the kids whose families let them play video games and go outside, and not the ones whose parents told them they had to keep playing violin for another hour before they were allowed to breathe.

    And how many of these kids do you think had parents that actually wanted them to pursue a career in an instrument? Can you imagine having to learn something that you know you're not even allowed to do anything with? The frustration would be too much for me, personally, to bear.

    I think most people will look at a staggering list of achievements and immediately go on the defensive. Rather than looking at how much these "Super People", manufactured or not, must have sacrificed, they start looking for ways to crucify them instead--burn their achievements before they start to raise people's expectations.

    Well. What's wrong with raising expectations? Maybe not to a "Tiger Mom" degree, but really?

    Even I know how to do a square root.


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