Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hijack

This blog has been hijacked by Possum#1.

There have been several adults who've doubted my writing skills. I want to ask them if they could program a computer when they were eleven? I doubt that many could. However, in this era, it's not uncommon for an eleven year old to have that skill. In the 2004 and 2006 Olympic games, we saw children do amazing things. Why should a command of language be any different from a triple axel or a piked, double back? Not everyone can do those things, but those who practice the skill can. I love reading, writing, and science. I read four or five books a week. Sarah Vowell, Dave Barry and Thomas Paine are my inspirations. My favorite games are; Scrabble, Scattergories, and Balderdash. If I were devoting twelve hours a week to gymnastics, I don't think anyone would question my ability to do a double full, Yurchenko on the vault. But, because I chose to practice "words", rather than walkovers, I'm labeled a fraud. What a ludicrous double standard. It would seem that our standards and priorities are way out of tune if we applaud the gymnast and lambast the writer.
I really appreciate the majority of people who had kind words. Thank you.

58 comments:

Kazim said...

Look, possum, don't be insulted. Instead, be flattered that everyone says you write so well that they can't believe you're really eleven. Since YOU know that you're not lying, why should you care that they think you're older?

By the way, I wrote a post on my blog with some thoughts for Possum Momma. She's already seen it since I called her earlier, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Hi Possum#1! I agree with what Kazim says, but I can certainly understand your feelings on the matter. I guess it's not too often that people encounter children who can think so clearly. You are certainly above average in many respects.

Most of the youth in our country are not taught to think critically the way you have been taught, and that's a real shame. Heck for that matter, most of the adults in this country are not taught to think critically either!

Mike said...
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Mike said...

Well possum#1 I can onlt assume that you've had a rough going of it. But aside from whatever skills you have with language, you also appear to have a strong group of people supporting you no matter what attention you may recieve. Apparently after reading kazim's post on the matter, it seems that the attention wasn't wanted by anyone. Allow me to apologize for everyone who came to defend you and your Ma and overwhelmed the place. But, I'm sure things will be back to normal in no time. In any case, keep your head up, there will always be doubters of greatness.

Siamang said...

Attagirl.

I hope my daughter grows up to be like you.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Allow me to apologize for everyone who came to defend you and your Ma and overwhelmed the place

No need for an apology. Possum#1 was just blowing off a little steam. And, while the attention wasn't expected, it did allow us to discuss some things- as a family- and, ultimately, ended in a net positive.
-Possummomma

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

I never doubted your writing skills. Your voice is far to authentic to be faked by an adult. I am, however, completely jealous of your talent. You write better than I ever will and I know your going to get better. Still in nine years or so I will be able to say I read her when while you are accepting your Nob el Prize for literature. .

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

Frell that should be you're not your. See I told you you were already better than I.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Look, possum, don't be insulted. Instead, be flattered that everyone says you write so well that they can't believe you're really eleven. Since YOU know that you're not lying, why should you care that they think you're older?

Hey Russel,
Possum#1 read your comment, here, and the post, in your blog, before she turned in. She says she really is flattered and "would like to leave a comment in return, but (her) mother is making her go to bed." :)

I think that was supposed to be a dig on me. Oh well...I'll live.

Tom Foss said...

Possum #1: I spent a good portion of grade school fielding the "your parents helped you with this, didn't they?" comments, even losing out on consideration for awards because of it. So I certainly understand your frustration. You are a fantastic writer (leagues better than I could have claimed at your age), and I've read work from college-age English majors that fails to display your understanding of vocabulary and composition. I hope you continue to hone your skill, despite the disbelief of authority figures. It may take some years, but eventually you'll be accepted as the sole author of your work.

Possummomma: This series has been amazing to read, and I thank you and Possum #1 for that. When I become a parent, many years from now, I only hope that I will be able to raise my children in the sort of reasoned, skeptical, open environment that you have provided for yours.

Thank you all for an enlightening and entertaining read.

Nicole said...

Hey! Possum Numero Uno! Glad to see you come online and say Hi. Awesome.

You raise a really good point, contrasting reactions to a young gymnast to those greeting a young writer. I hadn't thought about it that way, and you're totally right. What's really weird to me is, this is the same society that discounts the craft of writing in adults. How many novelists, coaxed into answering questions about their career, have heard random people say, "Oh, is that what you do? Pfeh. Anyone can write. Someday I'm gonna write a book myself." And yet these people who think "Oh, anyone can write" have the gall to believe that you can't, by virture of being eleven? People are weird.

Perhaps not quite as extreme an example, but when I was about 15 I started logging onto local bulletin boards (before access to the internet was common to every home, we used modems to dial up other modems on computers that hosted isolated bulletin board systems, yay WWIV!) and chatting with the locals about whatever. Politics. Religion. The rock band Rush. Y'know. A few people were totally convinced I was lying about my age--"No 15-year-old writes that well and argues that coherently!" Pfeh. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I showed up at the BBS picnic.

(It was extra fun, because I was not only 5'2" but also about 40 lbs lighter than I am now--and I'd show up driving Dad's great big blue Suburban. Something about a tiny kid getting out of the driver's seat of a great big car makes people kind of goggle.)

Joe said...

#1,
This is a good lesson in how ignorant people will attack you when they don't have anything constructive to say about your position. "Ad Hominem" (sp)I think its called.
You write well. You have a gift. Nurture it and feed it well, your gift will serve you well in life.

Berlzebub said...

Possum #1:

For the record, I never had any doubt that it was your writing. No one who can write that intelligent and coherent would bother trying to masquerade as someone else. I applaud your courage in saying what needed to be said, and the grace that you've handled the repercussions. Also, I can somewhat sympathize with your situation. Although, mine was math based. The teacher gave us some problems to do, when I was in the sixth grade. He also showed us how to solve it. I looked at his solution, and came up with a shortcut. However, when I turned in my homework, he tried to give me a failing grade because I didn't do it the way he said to. I finally got the guidance counselor and principal into it, and argued my side of the case. I can't remember exactly what I said, but it was a diplomatic way of saying, "Why should I get a failing grade because I'm smarter than him?" Ironically, I think the teacher was the only one who didn't get the subtle dialogue. It ended up with the principal trumping my teacher, and forcing him to just grade the answers. Which meant that I went from a failing grade, to 100%. ;-)

Anyway, keep up the excellent writing. I'm going to bookmark your mother's blog, and if you ever get one, make sure that she lets us know. I'd enjoy having my 3 year old daughter read your thoughts as she grows up. I can only hope that she shows the courage, intelligence, and grace that you have.

-Berlzebub

Anonymous said...

Hi Possum#1. Just delurking to say that I never had any doubts about your writing being authentic.

It did, however, take me quite some time to accept that William and his family weren't a parody. I mean, identifying yourself as 'wife of William'? - there's nowhere for satire to go from there. I stopped being a Christian at University, but if I'd been exposed to someone with views as immoral as William's it would probably have happened a lot sooner.

Iain

recklessmind said...

I wandered in here from Pharyngula.

Great blog, really. Seems like you have some wonderful kids.

Anyway... thanks for helping me pass the time at work the last couple days!

:)

trebonius said...

Possum1, I want to be you when I grow up.

Anyway, it's clear that your mother couldn't be ghost writing for you, because your grammar is superior.

recklessmind said...

lol.

Maggie Rosethorn said...

I'm delurking to comment, Possum #1. My daughter, too, wrote very well from a young age (and got a lot of the same comments.) For any person who reads a lot, each writer's "voice" is unique; so it was easy for me to tell the difference; your paper is unlike your mother's posts. (although, you can see a family resemblence) Keep your chin up and be proud of yourself.

Deoridhe said...

Possum~1
I love your analogy or practicing words to practicing gymnastics; it really gets the message across. I'm glad to hear you aren't taking the doubters to heart, too.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Possum

When I was in high school, I had a teacher write on one of my papers, "Very good, IF you wrote it!"

I still remember that as one of the happiest feelings that I had ever enjoyed. Because I knew I had written the paper, and the comment proved that I was better than my teacher even thought possible.

My mother was furious. She wrote a harsh letter to the teacher that I was supposed to deliver. I never did deliver it. My view was that if the teacher thinks that I am that good, then I want to know about it.

Be proud.

Milo Johnson said...

How tartly succinct - standing ovation!

joisymikes said...

The brains / sports analogy is brilliant. Sad fact is, the gifted athlete will always be the one recalled the quickest, no matter how dense they are / were.

Steve said...

Many children can write and articulate themselves well. I don't see why that's so hard to believe. Apparently, there's a preconception out there of all children automatically being mentally underdeveloped, regardless of age.

smax said...

pleased to meet you possum #1.
i was horrified by the nonbelievers (in you that is). It is a shame that we expect so little of our children/young adults. Your essay was brilliant. If we expect such brilliance from all our young citizen perhaps they will perform, and the 'norm' will move closer to your level of intellect.

Martin Wagner said...

I've arrived late to the party, as I usually do, so allow me to pitch in my 2¢ and give Possum#1 a huge pat on the back. William is truly an exemplar of how badly religion can damage the mind, turning it into a seething cauldron of anger and loathing towards anyone not part of the club. It's as if he's a walking stereotype with no sense of irony. Indeed, if you put a character like him in a movie, Christian viewers would express outrage at the perpetuation of such an unrealistic stereotype of hateful, bigoted, ignorant religious fanaticism! And yet here is, real as he can be.

You're awesome, Possum#1. Signed, your newest fan, me.

Russ said...
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Russ said...
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Russ said...

Concerning matters of the mind, Possum #1, you hammer home our societally counterproductive tendency to set the bar far to low when young people are involved. Most Americans don't look for greatness in young people beyond the playgrounds, gyms and ballparks, so it's no surprise they are effectively blind to the endless stream of high-level achievement pouring from the millions of children and young adults all over this country. Music, painting, sculpture, writing, the sciences, philosophy, literature, almost every area of human experience, has active teen and pre-teen participants making important contributions.

I'm convinced that true genius of all sorts exists in abundance among the youth of this country. Unfortunately, I am further convinced that almost all of that genius will be stillborn due to conscious abortive efforts by dim-witted adults who consistently dismiss, demean and downplay the accomplishments of our young as they demonstrate their preference for dribbles, homeruns, and touchdowns(or as in Preacher William's case, memorizing Bible verses while excluding real knowledge and understanding).

Take, for example, Emily Rosa, a nine-year old who had her fourth grade science fair project published in JAMA - the Journal of the American Medical Association. Note, Possum #1, from the article that her experience parallels yours as, "Advocates are blasting the young science student's research."

http://www.cnn.com/
HEALTH/9804/01/therapeutic.touch/

Real important science by not a high school, university or graduate school student, but a fourth grader. I, for one, don't think it's a fluke.

Here's another: Sirena Huang, at age 11 when this was made, was already two years into her professional solo career. She delivers a talk between performing pieces. Her "Yankee Doodle" is not your typical "Yankee Doodle."

http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/
tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=s_huang

So, Possum #1, when I consider your literary work alongside the important contributions of these two other pre-teen young ladies, I'm not at all surprised, nor should anyone else be. I am, instead, overjoyed that from the wellspring of millions of skilled and talented young people in this country, one more develops her potential in a way that benefits herself and those of us she touches: she makes the world a better place.

Russ said...

Sorry about the deleted comments, but in the preview, it appeared as though the URL's I supplied had been truncated. They are really great examples of young people achieving great things, so I wanted to be sure they were complete.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Maybe my generation won't be a bunch of morons who can get nothing done because they are addicted to myspace!

Grumpybum J Crankypants. said...

Actually, Possum#1, I don't believe those gymnasts are the real deal either. It's all done with wires.

Wires, I tell you!

Karmakin said...

Pfft.

I've been following this, mostly with mouth wide open. The only problem I have with this post, is the "Thank You". While I understand the idea behind it (politeness is good!), we as a society should be begging your forgiveness.

That we're not begging the forgiveness of our youth says a lot about us. None of it good.

Karmakin said...

Oh pfft on me.

I missed the last line where she was thanking the people with all the last words.

Reading comprehension is good. Really!

Everything else stands 'tho :)

adam H said...

you rock kiddo!!

ceinwyn said...

I just love this kid! You're probably going to take a little flak from your school mates in the years to come. It's not popular to be a non conformist. I was never sad to part ways with the crowd, and I don't think you are either. But, if you'd like a crystal ball...I did get a little vindication, and found the real, life long friends.
I'll buy your first book.

Mark said...

I found you blog through digg. I bet you see lots of traffic now.
My daughter is going through the same questions about faith right now. I was raised by agnostics and have always told people [and myself] that I was an agnostic, because that was more acceptable. After reading the bible I can now say I am 100% atheist. My wife was raised Catholic. You can now say she is a "recovering" Catholic. She thinks the bible is BS, but she's not willing to get off of the fence just yet.
We have raised our daughter to make up her own mind. She has been to church (Catholic, Mormon, Baptist) many times with the grandparents, cousins, and friends. However she developed a love of science (biology) at an early age. It was interesting to see her mind work after hearing stories of Adam and Eve and reading about evolution.
Our friends always comment on how much they like her. She is capable of having a conversation with adults. I sometimes prefer conversation with her over another adult. Maybe it is a good thing to allow a mind to think.

Spherical Time said...

Hi Possum #1. I'm an atheist, and I think that your essay was quite good, and I agreed with the points that you made about being sensitive to the cultural differences of other students.

However, I am one of the people that doubt that you wrote it. I have a couple of reasons (I describe them below) but first I have to agree with what kazim said in the first post. You shouldn't be insulted, you should be flattered.

You shouldn't care what I think if I'm not right, you should know that people don't believe you precisely because of how impressive it is.

I did say that I didn't believe an eleven year old wrote the essay. Please realize that I'm not attacking you, but this is the basis for my though process:

First, if an eleven year old wrote the essay, that eleven year old is in the 99.99th percentile in writing. People like that do exist, and #1 could be one of them, but the odds are against that.

Second, I have a passing familiarity with 5th and 6th grade writing. My mother taught 5th/6th in a Charter school for years, and I would occasionally tutor her students or grade the work of kids in her class with her. Once again, #1 could just be a prodigy, but I've seen the work of prodigies and this is significantly better than the best that I've ever seen from kids at this age.

Third, and this is most convincing to me, the cultural references in the essay are dated. You reference "A Christmas Story" instead of a more modern Christmas movie or book. The reference makes sense in context, but it also illustrates a deep knowledge of Christmas movies gleaned from years of experience.

The movie is used as a springboard into the cultural significance of Christmas as it relates to the separation of Church and State. You state that "[your] public school teacher" should be more cognizant of the fact that there are non-Christians in the class. It's obvious that you understand the debate, and you have a well thought out position on it.

You also don't bother to explain why "Mahmeed" doesn't celebrate Christmas. You are implying that he's Muslim because of his name, but I find that implication odd. Most people aren't taught that names correspond to religion (or region). That's an acquired stereotype.

Your reference to all three other students is also strange because you specifically point out that the other three aren't doing their work. Perhaps you are very empathic, but if you are, you apparently care nothing about pointing out that your friends aren't doing their work to a teacher that you find incompetent for her lack of empathy.

The entire last paragraph of the essay is very bitter. It's moving, thoughtful, and attacks your teacher convincingly on a personal level. She should have known better than to offer you a "standard" essay on the subject of gifts on Christmas. Yet I'm surprised that you recognize that this is a standard essay.

All of these cultural markers are not ones that I expect from an eleven year old. They're cultural makers that I expect from someone that: 1) Has seen "A Christmas Story" every year since 1981; 2) Has had years to understand and think about their position on the separation of Church and State as it has to do with public education; 3) Has an understanding that names can carry a cultural bias; 4) Doesn't have a personal connection to the people that she illustrates as not doing their work; and 5) understands how "standard" an essay on what you want for Christmas is.

These are all references that I would expect from college graduates due to their age and experience, not from elementary school children.

Fourth, in this long list of what convinces me that an eleven year old did not write this, is the language. I've written ten minute essays before in class, and this is about the right length, but strikes me as suspiciously polished. If this was a "pop" essay, it appears much too clean. There doesn't appear to be any evolving thought process through the essay as if it was come up with on the fly. It appears that it was visualized in its entirety before the writer started. Even if I got this essay as a TA for a college class, I would doubt that it was written in ten minutes. Perhaps in a half hour with a rewrite, but not in ten minutes.

Fifth, the vocabulary is exceedingly large for someone in her age group. This could also theoretically be explained by being a prodigy.

None of these would automatically raise my suspicion on their own, but together they lead me to think that this isn't an eleven year old's ten minute "pop" essay.

Once again, good essay. I do agree that the teacher should be more sensitive to students that going to celebrate Christmas.

Good luck on your future endeavors.

-Spherical Time

Spherical Time said...

Sorry, all of that, and I messed up the second to last sentence. Obviously it should read:

I do agree that the teacher should be more sensitive to students that are not going to celebrate Christmas.

Also, I've decided to post this response to my own blog, but that blog is not safe for children to read so I'm not providing a link.

Once again, my best wishes to Possum #1, Atheist in a mini van, and your family.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Please realize that I'm not attacking you,...

Not attacking, but you're going to proceed to call her (and I) a liar. ?? Interesting.
And, as for the "hits" or the "audience": no...we never imagined it, nor did we really desire it. Now that it's here... it's a bit intimidating.

Spherical Time said...

First, thanks for the response with all of the information. Obviously I don't know either you or her, so at this time I can't help but to be skeptical.

I am an atheist, after all.

I'm sorry that my response upset you. Really, I didn't intend any disrespect. However, as this post is devoted to responding to people that doubt this, I assumed that an explanation of what informs my opinion wouldn't be out of place.

Obviously I was wrong.

My apologies.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I'm sorry that my response upset you. Really, I didn't intend any disrespect. However, as this post is devoted to responding to people that doubt this, I assumed that an explanation of what informs my opinion wouldn't be out of place.


Sorry- I'm a touch sensitive at this point. Your explanations are perfectly logical and rational. I can't say that I wouldn't voice the same skepticism if the shoe was on the other foot...well, maybe I would, since I've got too gifted kids myself. But, I *do* get that this is hard to accept. Just kind of wish people would...I don't know. Lighten up. Quit rippnig it apart. She is my child after all. It's the mama' bear defense.

I see her work every day and writing like this is par for her course. I need to recognize that not everyone is used to seeing a child with such proclivities.

Sorry.

Spherical Time said...

Well, I'm going to pick a blog and stick with it. I'll post my last response tonight here, and I'll check back tomorrow so you don't have to check my blog response again.

Please don't worry about being upset. You have every right to be, and I understand how my post would have hurt you. I don't have kids of my own, much less kids like your possums, so I suppose that this just falls outside the realm of my experience.

So, once again, I'm sorry for upsetting you. If deleting the response over here in your blog would help, you should definitely do so.

I do hope you'll tell possum #1 what kazim said, that people were so amazed by her writing that people actually couldn't believe it.

-ST

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Third, and this is most convincing to me, the cultural references in the essay are dated. You reference "A Christmas Story" instead of a more modern Christmas movie or book. The reference makes sense in context, but it also illustrates a deep knowledge of Christmas movies gleaned from years of experience.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I usually only need to see a movie once or twice to gain a good understanding of it. I don't think it's so unusual that possum#1 would reference THAT movie. It's shown marathon style each year and is a really cute movie, so hardly a stretch at all that she would reference it. Geez and that's the MOST convincing point in your mind?

William said...

Your mention of me and singling out of me on the nonprophet radio show was not necesary. You know nothing about my church or my flock. I had left this blog to concentrate on more pressing problems in the world. It just shows how you atheists are that you make a internet show and a television show to bash me. Do not mention my name again.

There are many of my fellow ministers who listen to atheist programs. I took the ACA programs but we do listen to some other apostate material. We have to know what we are up against. We have to arm our flock with the tools to recognize blasphemy when they hear it. We also laugh at you.

Spherical Time said...

No. I was talking about all of the cultural references. Not just that specific one. I listed five, you'll notice.

Any one of my points isn't by itself suspicious. I've known a lot of smart, talented young writers that may have different cultural norms than I do.

I'm sorry if my response didn't make that clear, Virginia.

Aerik said...

William: Fuck the holy spirit. Seriously. Fuck it in the ear, in the mouth, in the ass, in the eye. Just fuck it. And not just a penis, either...

Anonymous said...

And furthermore, just plain fuck you, self-righteous assholes like yourself are ther reason people take the piss out of your asshat religion in the first place. OH, and the show was most definately NOT for your benefit, you just happened to be included by dint of your fucktardy ways, be grateful for the free PR and get the hell off this blog!

Kazim said...

Hey guys, this is another person's private blog. I think that perhaps an extra level of care and respect is in order, don't you?

Russ said...

Spherical Time,

In what follows, please understand that I don't intend to be disrespectful, but, frankly, having read your analysis of Possum #1's expository writing sample, I am left mourning for the intellectual vitality of the human community. While you may be certain of the rectitude of your critique, others of us remain unconvinced, partly due to some of the same reasoning you apply to Possum #1's essay, but more significantly due to factors of which you are apparently unaware.

Let me comment on the five points you raise in disputing the assertion that Possum #1 authored her classroom essay.

You first contention, "if an eleven year old wrote the essay, that eleven year old is in the 99.99th percentile in writing. People like that do exist, and #1 could be one of them, but the odds are against that," provides us no insights whatsoever since we have no way to determine how you arrive at this. You state unsupported statistics and use them to make unjustified inferences. A couple of relevant statistics from the Columbia University School of Journalism might be of value for you, Spherical: 1. The majority of US students who have just passed the sixth grade(eleven and twelve years old) have better writing skills than the majority of US adults. Remember, Spherical, most newspapers target adults with reading levels ranging from fourth to sixth grade. 2. Those US students who have just passed the sixth grade and have written regularly for two years or more - personal journals, songs, plays, scripts, stories, news articles, poetry - are in the top 1 percent of non-professional writers(adults included) in the US. Most Americans, especially adults, write quite rarely, a skill which degrades rapidly with disuse, but the research demonstrates that, when they do, even the young can develop a comparatively high level of skill.

In point two, you highlight your own quite limited experience working with writers in this age group and, then, you say, "I've seen the work of prodigies and this is significantly better than the best that I've ever seen from kids at this age." Essentially, Spherical, you tell us that you are not sufficiently qualified to assess sixth grade writing skills and then you proceed to do exactly that. Your skepticism is born of ignorance. To convince yourself that the excellence demonstrated by Possum #1, is far more common than you are aware of, talk to gifted and talented teachers, drama coaches, literature teachers and writing teachers, directors of writing clubs and camps. Please stop denigrating the talents of people simply because they are young and you are not well-informed. Under the proper guidance, our young people are capable of great things.

In part three of justifying your doubts, you make several claims which leave me puzzled. I fail to see how any normal, intelligent person, engaged in the intellectual community as you imply that you are, Spherical Time, can make such overreaching claims. You are way off base here. In this case you expose your own lack of understanding of the impact of technology and media on contemporary life, especially the lives of the young, and, thereby, further heighten the pile of evidence supporting the idea that you are not qualified to assess the capablilities of young people.

In modern society, through the media, people of all ages, encounter an almost dizzying array of different concepts, ideas, and situations with intense variation in the emotional content. It is a simple fact of modern America that even small children are often forced to confront issues having profound long-term emotional and psychological ramifications - 9/11 comes to mind, as does Possummomma's blog account of her neighbor's drowning toddler. In a nurturing childhood environment, good guidance from a parent or other counselor, teaches the youngster to cope with, adjust to and, to the extent possible, understand what might otherwise be overwhelming circumstances. With the pace and intensity of media content being ever on the rise, for all age groups, younger and younger children are learning to wrestle comprehensibility out of apparent mayhem. Many young people - Possum #1 being an exemplar - use writing, thought, and open discussion to extract some semblance of coherency from what is otherwise near chaos.

At one point, Spherical, you say, "The reference makes sense in context, but it also illustrates a deep knowledge of Christmas movies gleaned from years of experience." No, it doesn't. Here, years of experience has nothing to do with Possum #1, recalling the movie and finding contextually correct parallels to her immediate circumstances. She has clearly learned - as we all would be fortunate to do - through experience, training, and serendipitous observation from books, and other media, that the thought tools of metaphor, simile, allegory, paralleling, contrasting, and comparing, offer us ways to clarify our own thoughts, as well as to share them more clearly with others. She only needed to recall one very specific movie, not many. Anyone who has read and discussed Aesop's fables with a two-year old, knows they not only "get" the morals, but those agile minds can create their own fables with morals. One advertising slogan for The United Negro College Fund reads, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," yet, in dealing with young minds, our actions, and, per your example, our words explicitly, often say, "I disagree."

Later, you state, "It's obvious that you understand the debate, and you have a well thought out position on it." Here, you reiterate a fact, quite apparent from the essay. Any child aware of their parents non-belief status, is also implicitly aware of some of the social fall-out which results. It's not unexpected that Possum #1 would have thought through the implications many times in conversation.

Your contention that, "Most people aren't taught that names correspond to religion (or region). That's an acquired stereotype," is simply wrong. While it may be true that we don't hold classes to explicitly point to names most often reflecting a specific religious heritage, now, in this society, the learning process is automatic. Just as there are not a lot of Robert's or William's in mosques, neither are there many Mahmeed's in Christian churches. Possum #1 is eleven, in 2001 she would have been five or so. What is the likelihood that in the past six years, she, or indeed, any of us have seen this pattern frequently corrupted? Spherical, grill an eight-year-old on this topic for evidence. Any good writer, addressing contemporaneous issues, uses the prevailing social norms, assumptions, language, and, if observed demographics are stereotypes, then, stereotypes, too, as givens; that is, as the context for expressing their ideas. Possum #1 adopted the time-tested formula for greatest comprehensibility for her intended audience: simplicity and clarity produce understanding.

Spherical, your barb, "you specifically point out that the other three aren't doing their work. Perhaps you are very empathic, but if you are, you apparently care nothing about pointing out that your friends aren't doing their work to a teacher that you find incompetent for her lack of empathy," proves that you have no business analyzing anything in written form. The mentioning of the ambience of the room, the space, the behaviors of others, is a wonderful way for a true word craftsman to engage the reader, pull them in, make them part of the event. Do you seriously think that the essayist was descibing the situation in a way that the teacher was ignorant of or would have characterized differently? If so, you are woefully mistaken.

In times of concentrated mental effort, we all adopt idiosyncratic behaviors - tics, hums, grunts, stares(who among us hasn't annoyed or been annoyed by a tapping pencil, or a bouncing knee) - which a gifted writer uses as hues on a masterpiece. Note, that your accusation goes quite wide of the mark. Possum #1, accused no one of dereliction, she set a scene by describing people, young as they might be, in thought.

Your take on the last paragraph, "The entire last paragraph of the essay is very bitter," maybe says more about you yourself than it does about Possum #1's essay. Or perhaps it reflects the skill of the writer that readers can take in exactly the same words and arrive at diametrically opposed interpretations.

Each of us focuses an author's work through the lens of our preferences and proclivities, education, experience, peculiarities, and moods. Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled" has been interpreted in many ways. We see the first line, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," and off we go into metaphor-land seeing this simple phrase as any life decision. It just happens. So, Spherical Time, maybe the bitterness you attribute to the author is more accurately just the way you envision the world.

As far as the "standard essay" goes - "Yet I'm surprised that you recognize that this is a standard essay," as you noted - any parent of a daughter who enjoys reading knows that many of the age-appropriate story themes involve their lives as students - schools, playgrounds, assignments, sports, academic competitions, librarians, and the ubiquitious teachers. Teachers, in all their glory, with all their wonderful human proclivities: kind, nasty, friendly, compassionate, mean, loving, vindictive, wise, dumb, pretty, goofy, dim-witted, homely, rotten, insensitive, and, relevant here, lazy, often following the path of least resistance by assigning time-fillers, busy work, and "standard essays." Amazon.com provides a good resource here.

Prior to making the statement, "These are all references that I would expect from college graduates due to their age and experience, not from elementary school children," one would expect that a responsible adult would try to ascertain its veracity with trivial online research. Children are not stupid. Child are often quite skilled at negotiating the complexities of social relationships. Check out some fundamentalist Christian sites, if you want to see college graduates at their loathesome best. Look at some writing by children with terminal illnesses for examples of young people's insight to the human condition.

In response to your fourth and fifth items, it's sufficient for me to repeat the observation that you do not understand what young people can do. Their skill with language and the tools for using it as an artform are frequently superior to those same skills in adults, a fact that you seem to unaware of.

In Les Miserables, the little boy, Gavroche, triumphant after exposing a traitor in his troup, sings, "it only goes to show what little people can do." Later he lyrically chides us to, "never kick a dog because he's just a pup," advice I heartily encourage you to follow.


See the following examples from one of my previous posts on this thread for more of "what little people can do."
------>
Take, for example, Emily Rosa, a nine-year old who had her fourth grade science fair project published in JAMA - the Journal of the American Medical Association. Note, Possum #1, from the article that her experience parallels yours as, "Advocates are blasting the young science student's research."

http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9804/01/therapeutic.touch/

Real important science by not a high school, university or graduate school student, but a fourth grader. I, for one, don't think it's a fluke.

Here's another: Sirena Huang, at age 11 when this was made, was already two years into her professional solo career. She delivers a talk between performing pieces. Her "Yankee Doodle" is not your typical "Yankee Doodle."

http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=s_huang

Geekwad said...

There have been several adults who've doubted my writing skills.

Not that I am one such adult, but...

I want to ask them if they could program a computer when they were eleven?

Yep! I also got my first modem when I was was that age, back in the 80s. My age was a closely guarded secret that shocked the few online friends I did tell. I kept it secret because I did not want to be dismissed out of hand, and because I didn't want to deal with exactly this sort of nonsense. Which is why I didn't doubt for a moment.

Adults forget that children are much smarter than adults are, they just lack experience. When I compare what I used to be able to learn in a day to what takes me weeks to chisel into my brain now, it makes me want to weep. I used to be able to code for 16 hours a day and wake up the next day wanting more. Now it is a struggle to get through the 7 that's expected of me at work.

But back to the critics; the way I look at it, if twits want to go out of their way to point themselves out to me, it can only be to my advantage. It lets me focus on the people who are worth my time (and then some). Don't waste your precious time or thoughts on the doubters.

Spherical Time said...

To Russ:

We're all entitled to our opinions. You're entitled to yours, and I'm entitled to mine.

Obviously, I'm sorry that I upset you, but the only point that I'll respond to is this one:

Spherical, your barb, [...] proves that you have no business analyzing anything in written form.

We both know what reaction my post caused, and I don't find your post substantially different in content from mine. What kind of reaction were you trying to provoke from me?

I'd offer you a job, if I could, but something tells me that you'd turn me down. I won't say how I figured that out. I wouldn't want you to think that I was analyzing something in written form.

No matter. Have a great day.

-ST

Russ said...

Please accept my olive branch, Spherical Time.

My response to you resulted from a "perfect storm" of convergent circumstances, some pre-existing, some of my own creation, and some purely coincidental.

The pre-existing stuff is mostly me-stuff, especially my not-always-balanced tendency to see red and whirl into a defense posture when my "a child is under attack" alarm sounds. When I sense the attack's objective is gaining control of the young person's mind - like Baptist Minister William the Mental Child Molester - the shrill sometimes overtakes me and I strike with all the venom I can muster. If I may humbly borrow from Thomas Jefferson: I have sworn hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of children. Responding to you, I became an antagonized bull at Pamplona, your list items were the people running the streets, and, one way or another, one of them was getting crushed, trampled or gored. For me, constraining this beast is a real challenge because I see more and more adults trying to assail children, especially on the web.

Then, too, neglecting to keep watch on the thread, I was unaware that other bulls had already bolted in from the side streets. I soldiered on, my horns pitching this way and that, obliviously skewering fallen prey.

The dominant factor precipitating my response to you, Spherical Time, was, however, this: I was home alone! By sheer coincidence, my family - wife and two teens - left me, for a few exquisite hours, in solitude, abandoned with laptop, large carafe of coffee, and, what was that sound, was it, could it really be? Yes, it was...silence!

So, what was it I hearing? I was hearing no French horn, no bassoon, no banjo, no drum, no trumpet, no piccolo, no tuba, no piano, no recorder, no bohdran, no clarinet, no singing, and no talking. Only three people, but so much sound: they play thirteen instruments among them, counting duplicates. The fates had orchestrated a veritable symphony of silence. Oh, I was not hearing so very much.

Then, from out of the silence, a chain-of-thought whack! on the side of the head. Silence is a lack of sound. Lack is emptiness. Emptiness is vacuum. Nature abhores vacuum. Nature tries to fill a vacuum. What does nature use to fill these voids in the head? Thought. What is thought based on? Ideas. Where do we get ideas? The web, of course. So, I booted a browser, clicked on an icon, and perused Possummomma's pages of posts. That, Spherical Time, is how your post came into my life.

For the next few silence blanketed hours, I analyzed, researched, mulled, pondered, cogitated, crosschecked, deconstructed, synthesized, thought about and wrote about your post, though my absorption was so complete, so deep, so fulfulling that I would have accorded the same intensity to a Campbell's Soup label.

Then, my wife and kids returned, and seeing my mother-in-law in tow, bliss-filled reverie mutated into something more akin to a thinly-veiled panic-stricken horror. The spell was broken.

The quiet time spent with your post, Spherical Time, was a much-needed and much-appreciated mid-Michigan mid-winter cathartic. I hope my mild abrasiveness didn't rub you the wrong way.

The olive branch is yours for the taking.

Russ

Spherical Time said...

Don't worry about it Russ. Olive Branch accepted. Hope everything is great with your wife and kids.

-ST

Terry said...

*Surveys the steaming mess left in the wake of the bounding Pamploma bull*

Anyone got a shovel?

Laura said...

To Possum:

Don't get discouraged or angry by the people who will doubt that you can actually function well without assistance. I learned to read at two years old, and write at three; I've heard my share of doubts and accusations. It took years for even my parents to believe that I could do the things I claimed.

You seem to be doing well and rolling with the punches, and I hope that you don't get upset when things continue to be frustrating (or even escalating in levels of infuriation). Stick up for yourself when people doubt you; don't change who you are to please them, either. Trust me, it's easier to do and harder to live with than you might realize.

yassensei said...

Greetings, Possum #1!

I know this is a late comment--I've only discovered this blog in the last few days and I'm trying to catch up. Needless to say, I understand your frustration with the barrage of attention you've gotten. It's been a torrent, for sure.

You have to realize that many adults don't really like young people. It shows rather clearly in the media and how they portray kids. They don't understand how young people can actually be intelligent and well-spoken. As a teacher, though, I know the truth--that teens and tweens can be more adult than many adults are.

I've been exposed to young people for many years--in the classroom, in chat rooms, on message boards and blogs, etc. While your gifts are rare, they are certainly not unique. I can see how someone who doesn't understand young people could think your eloquence comes from age. Some people don't get the fact that students can master languages as well as adults can.

I'm guessing that your detractors could figure out your intelligence by having an actual conversation with you. I would bet that your verbal gifts are at least as formidable as your written skills are. You definitely have a gift and I hope you continue to build on it.

You know, it really doesn't matter if you're atheist, agnostic, nontheist, pantheist, deist, or whatever. The fact is that you are far more perceptive, thoughtful, and empathic than most students your age. In fact, you probably posess more of these qualities than most adults do.

My previous offer still stands. You're welcome in my physics class any time. I'll save you a seat.

take care.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

yassensei, possum#1 wanted to say thanks for reserving a seat in your physics class. :) She wrote a note that I'm supposed to enter in for her (she wrote it before she went to bed). Here goes...

Hi Yassensei,
I would love to be in your physics class. I love science! My interests lie more with organic chemistry and life sciences, but I would love to study physics in relation to the human body and movement. I find the subatomic theories regarding our body's cells to be really, really cool.
Sincerely, the Possum.

Nicki said...

Hey possum 1,

don't worry about it hun when i was in high school i was told by my english teacher that i could not have done any of my projects myself because they were to well done and that i had to have plagiarized them from somewhere.

I love your bravery and I hope you never let any r'tards get in the way of the things you love to do.

huggles :)