Monday, August 15, 2005

Julian Stanley, remembered

Julian Stanley
Julian Stanley, dead at 87

On my plane flight home this morning, I was saddened to discover that my undergraduate advisor, Julian C. Stanley, died on Friday (New York Times obituary here).

I attended Hopkins from 1975-78, and knew the man since 1972, when he was in the midst of research that would result in the widespread administering of the SAT to elementary-aged students for use in predicting academic excellence in mathematically precocious youth.

His southern probity and gentle manner, coupled with his scientific bearing—those who suppose that social scientists lack rigor should have met him!—made him a capable shepherd and father-figure for this young student. As I aged, I didn’t always agree with his (and, more importantly, his protégés’) take on issues concerning what has come to be known as “gifted education”—in particular, the emphasis on the avoidance of boredom as a prime motivating force, and an examination of the psychosocial that was, shall we say, less than nuanced—but the man, an expert in experimental design, had little time for speculating on that which could not be measured.

Later in his career (and ever the scientist), he acknowledged something lost on legions that have followed in his footsteps, selectively reading from his work: those who suppose that radical acceleration is the best for their child should consider

Another danger of starting early is that you may get into the wrong field. If you’re good in math and science, you get moved into physics, etc. At each stage, you get moved up. But if you do it too early before you’ve thought it out, you might settle for a career that you end up not being happy with.

His involvement in my youth profoundly affected my life’s trajectory, an influence that I honor today; a memorial service will be held September 17th at Vantage House, 5400 Vantage Point Road, at a time to be determined.

Clarification: In reference to “boredom,” I’m focusing on the practice of using acceleration as a response to boredom in school, a JCS (and gifted parent) bugaboo. [cws::16 Aug]


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