*First: I apologize for being a year late to this party.
Second: As a former smart kid, I am clearly jealous of Esther Okade.
Third: Is this family crazy!!
Esther Okade is an 11 year old who is apparently taking college level courses through a distance program after being home schooled for primary and secondary school. Esther Okade has a strong aptitude for mathematics and, as of last year when her story came out, was planning on getting her PhD by 13 and open a bank at 15. These are great goals to have but are clearly not normal (nor healthy I would argue) for someone not yet a teenager.
When I was younger and getting good grades I remember thinking of skipping a grade as the holy grail of smart people. I was obsessed with it for a few years. So in that regard I wish I had the opportunity to go through as much curriculum as fast as I could and push ahead. My jealousy Esther stems from a competitiveness rooted in my childish lack of restraint.
But as I have gotten older I can safely say it would have been a mistake for me to skip a grade. And I don’t believe I am alone in this regard. Most people mature physically and then have their mental perspective catch up later. Were I put in situations with older kids I would have been distracted and not nearly as successful. It was hard enough to keep from being sidetracked without missing out on a year of mental maturity.
Furthermore most people who are advanced in one area of life, are not as developed in others. In this regard life is a zero-sum game. Those who spend enough time to be able to complete high school level mathematics at 7 or 8 years old are not spending time developing themselves in many other areas. I am not making a value judgment on this imbalance but merely an observation. No, my value judgment is that it is objectively bad for the adults around such a 7 or 8 year old to continue pushing a kid ahead so that a teenager finds themselves having to contend with adults in adult situations.
What a person knows is important; who a person knows is important. But how a person deals with other people is just as important, even if it is overlooked. In light of this fact it is critical to note that Esther was homeschooled up until college and is theoretically completing her college coursework from home as well. I don’t doubt her genius but I do note that she has been coddled and put in an isolated situation to best succeed every step of the way. I hope she can still perform when put in social situations.
Related to this is the fact that Esther’s parents are budding educators who (as of last year when this story came out) wanted to open a school in Nigeria. Also related is the fact that Esther’s younger brother is going down the same road. It seems like Mr. and Mrs. Okande have figured out that children will do whatever they are told – even advanced mathematics – and like to please their parents. And that high school curricula are really not that challenging. Nevertheless they should not be pushing their children to such achievements at such young ages.
10 year old Trevor would have been envious of Esther Okande. But 40 year old Trevor who has kids feels compassion for Esther and is pissed at her parents.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.