Raising exceptional people
I am surprised that I have only found Less Wrong a few days ago while reading Childhoods of exceptional people. The article is of great interest to me, as a father. The same article pointed to Why We Stopped Making Einsteins - which I also recommend reading. Both discuss the importance of 1:1 tutoring, but not in a way that tutoring is done these days. Quoting the latter:
However, despite its well-known effectiveness, tutoring’s modern incarnation almost universally concerns specific tests: in America the Advanced Placements (AP) tests, the SATs, and the GREs form the holy trinity of private tutoring. Meaning that contemporary tutoring, the most effective method of education, is overwhelmingly targeted at a small set of measurables that look good on a college resume.
This is only a narrow version of the tutoring that was done historically. If we go back in time tutoring had a much broader scope, acting as the main method of early education, at least for the elite.
Let us call this past form aristocratic tutoring, to distinguish it from a tutor you meet in a coffeeshop to go over SAT math problems while the clock ticks down. It’s also different than “tiger parenting,” which is specifically focused around the resume padding that’s needed for kids to meet the impossible requirements for high-tier colleges. Aristocratic tutoring was not focused on measurables. Historically, it usually involved a paid adult tutor, who was an expert in the field, spending significant time with a young child or teenager, instructing them but also engaging them in discussions, often in a live-in capacity, fostering both knowledge but also engagement with intellectual subjects and fields.
Something noticeable from the quote is this:
but also engaging them in discussions, often in a live-in capacity, fostering both knowledge but also engagement with intellectual subjects and fields.
Which ties with this account of Virginia Wolf:
Virginia Woolf never attended school. Her father, Leslie Stephen, who, along with their tutors, educated Virginia and her sister, was an editor, critic, and biographer “complicatedly hated” by his daughter and of such standing that he could invite Henry James , Thomas Hardy , and Alfred Lord Tennyson to dine and converse with his children. Leslie Stephen described his circle, in which Virginia grew up, as “most of the literary people of mark . . . clever young writers and barristers, chiefly of the radical persuasion . . . we used to meet on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, to smoke and drink and discuss the universe and the reform movement.” When they went to the Hebrides in the summers, Leslie brought along painters and philosophers, who would hang out and work in their summer house while the children played.
What a remarkable environment to grow up.