Impressions After Sending My Son To Nerd Camp

Added on by C. Maoxian.

My son is doing a three-week-long robotics camp this summer in Maryland, organized by Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth. I just sent him to the camp yesterday and wanted to record my impressions before I forget them.

I estimate that 90 out of 100 campers are ethnically Chinese. Another 5% are Indian ("subcontinent, not Injun," as my friend Carl likes to say) and 4% are Jewish. This leaves a sad and beleaguered 1% of WASP attendees. The lopsidedness was shocking.

It makes me suspect that the Center for Talented Youth isn't interested in identifying exceptionally smart kids from all backgrounds, but instead is filled with bright kids who happen to have pushy parents who are trying to get their little darlings an edge, at any cost. Anybody with money can sign their kids up for prep courses or get their kids tutors who can help them pass "above grade level" tests. I thought CTY was all about finding weirdly brilliant kids, untutored, of any race, from all over the country, and all kinds of different circumstances. Looking around the campus on drop-off day, I was wrong.

I think Chinese parents must see CTY as some kind of backdoor into the Ivy League, and they might be right that it is, for now. But the overwhelming number of ethnically Chinese kids in the program makes me think that Hopkins is going to have to start limiting them in some way, a quota system perhaps, not far in the future. Striking a balance is going to be a very tricky thing.