Monday, July 2, 2012

Seriously Talented Youth

The students accepted into the CTY summer program rank in the top 2% of their age groups, but sometimes they say things that make you wonder. Take, for example, the young fellow that Sammi encountered the other day in her role as Assistant Academic Dean at CTY's Princeton site.

He proudly proclaimed that CTY stood for Seriously Talented Youth. Though I suppose he would have spelled it Ceriously.


Here in Chestertown, one of my students told me that he could not imagine a boy his age being named Bob. I pointed out that when I was in sixth grade, there were myself and five other Bobs in the class.

This remark startled one of the girls, who stared incredulously and said, "You were in sixth grade?"

Which prompted me to quote Casey Stengel, who responded to a young rookie who was amazed at how much "The Old Perfessor" knew about baseball, "Did you think I was born this age?"


Speaking of age, this year's crop of students were born in 2000 and 2001. They refer to the George W. Bush presidency as "the olden days." Everything before that -- George Washington's presidency, the Civil War, the Great Depression -- is mushed together into "classic times." That's also when all "those old books" by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Dr Seuss were written.

In adding a bit of history to her work, one student thought the War of 1812 was still being fought in 1888.

When I suggested that they were, perhaps, a bit historically challenged and that these were things we used to learn in school, one of them pointed out, "Mr. R, you're from a different millennium than we are!"

Classroom discussions have been quite lively.  During a lesson on denotation and connotation, we talked about the difference between "old" and "antique." This prompted one student to proclaim, "Just because your grandmother is old doesn't mean she's valuable!"

An exercise about sensory detail asks them to come up with a word or phrase for each of the five senses as relates to various things. One student was baffled about coming up with a sound related to spaghetti. When she asked, "What does spaghetti sound like?" one of her classmates told her that if she held it to her ear, she could hear the sound of wheat fields swaying in the wind.

Finally, when we were talking about audience, we got into a discussion about how books aimed at one age group might be changed to appeal to a different one. For example, one student suggested, that Curious George could be expanded into a series of books for a YA readership, beginning with "Curious George Gets a Tattoo." 
I suggested that we could also add an adult novel line, beginning -- and ending -- with "Curious George Meets the Taxidermist."

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