August 23rd, 2012
11:20 AM ET

Photos: Inside a 'genius school' in 1948

(CNN) - Decades ago, Hunter College in New York housed a "genius school" of 3- to 11-year-olds whose IQs averaged around 150. The school taught advanced subjects that most students wouldn't encounter until high school or college - chemistry, anatomy and foreign languages, to name a few.

As LIFE magazine noted in a March 1948 feature on the school:

The school they go to is P.S. 600, part of New York’s public-school system and the only institution in the U.S. devoted entirely to the teaching and study of gifted children. It is held in a wing of the college’s main building, in whose long corridors the bright little kids from 3 to 11 years old like to stop off for between-class chats.

Offhand, young geniuses would seem to present no immediate problems because they are usually bigger, healthier and even happier than average children. However, an educational problem exists simply because they are too bright for their age. If they are promoted rapidly through school on the basis of their studies they will end up as social misfits, unable to enjoy the society of children their own age. On the other hand, if they are held back with their own age group, their quick minds are apt to stagnate.

Hunter children know they are smart, but they are more humble than cocky about their intelligence…. [A]lthough their interest are advanced, their plans for the future have a refreshing normality. There is a 9-year-old who wants to be a fur trapper, an 8-year-old who wants to be a babysitter and a 7-year-old who wants to be president of the Coca-Cola Company.


See the entire gallery on LIFE.com

My view: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. anon

    I think it is shamefully racist that they were all white. I know this is in the middle of jim crow, but you'd think folks smart enough to oversee the education of young geniuses would have at least attempted to move past racism by demanding young black geniuses to also be enrolled.

    If the black families didn't have enough money, you'd think the leaders would have tried to make some sort of loophole for them.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • anon

      Also, I think it's great that the kids were in such a learning environment, but what's more important to me is how they turned out as adults. How many went on to start up companies and contribute to society vs. those who became street bum alcoholics?

      August 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Susan

      You have to look at the time... 1948... so much as change since than... You are right about it's sad there are only white kids. It's 1948 and America at the time had not gotten the message yet... Everyone is equally smart and needs the same changes in life.
      I'm sure if it was done today...I'm sure you would see children of all colors not just black or white but all...

      August 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • hobie2515

        Everyone is equally smart? I beg to differ, some people are just smarter than others just like some people are faster or stronger than others

        August 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • rd

      the words genius and black dont go together in the same sentence

      August 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
      • wglbugmom

        rd – you are obviously NOT a genius!

        August 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • white anon

      How come all you blacks scream racist at every turn, yet are the very first ones to stick in our faces at every chance? Come on, its 2012, not 1812 !! Im not racist till you all mention it and then shove it in my face every chance you get.

      August 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
      • Shayna

        You are the definition of racist.

        August 27, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  2. Tom

    The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics presents an outstanding program of advanced studies for high school juniors and seniors, in Durham NC. Most or all of the teachers are PhD level. Kids finish high school in the first year and then start college level courses in their senior year. They put a lot of emphasis on helping high octane minds work together constructively rather than destructively. Our daughter attended and loved it. She and maybe half of her girl friends have finished their Masters and/or Doctors degrees in technical fields, but some, like her husband, are pursuing History and English. I heard that there are 14 such schools in U.S., perhaps one in Illinois. Outstanding program.

    August 24, 2012 at 6:22 am |
  3. Brenda

    I wish they had this type of school today. Gifted Americans who cannot afford a private education are stuck with the local public school geared to the norm. In my community over 30% of the students are special needs and the academic standards are so poor. I can't imagine a gifted child suffering 13 years here.

    August 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • cristysoh

      Brenda, great strides have been made in homeschooling the gifted child. Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is a great place to start research: http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org

      August 24, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • Jibbie

      Brenda, there are international baccalaureate programs at high schools all over America. My children attended the one in Pensacola which is a magnet public school program for the gifted. It cost me nothing. Do a Google Search for IB Programs in your State. We now have magnet school programs here even in elementary and the PATS program for middle school Gifted students. I began teaching my children when they were born, so a lot of their schooling began long before they started "school."

      August 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
      • Stacy

        I went to an IB school. It is not necessarily all it claims to be. I wish I had done AP instead. Look at the quality of the teachers before moving schools just for a program.

        August 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  4. Valerie

    Not impressed. These are the types of things families should be doing at home. We did growing up and raised our sons in the same manner. Learning is not just for the classroom and the most important skills should be learned at home and practiced and reinforced out in the world,

    August 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • GTparent

      Yep- you should do it at home too. However, if the content of instruction at school has been previously mastered (sometimes years before same age peers), a G/T child should not have to sit through meaningless lessons. How long would you let someone teach you early literacy skills? Not very long as you are already literate and would disengage from the lesson. They should be taught content that is appropriate. G/T kids almost always process information faster than typical children and do it using higher order thinking skills for EVERYTHING all the time. It is never just knowledge base- it is always at the top of "Bloom's Taxonomy". Typical classrooms just do not offer opportunities for this.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:01 am |
      • Concerned Parent

        I disagree! Our local public school "typical" classrooms are well designed for both learning challenged as well as for gifted students! You just have to get involved in your school, get familiar with course offerings and special programs and openly discuss your concerns with your childrens' teachers and counselors! If you sit on your hands and expect the school to magically impart great knowledge upon your children without any effort on YOUR part or on your children's part, then you will probably get exactly what you deserve!... Remember, YOU are their parent, so ACT LIKE a parent!...

        August 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  5. ruthgree

    I went to a Midwestern school for gifted kids in the 60s that exchanged teachers w/ Hunter. The school provided scholarships for kids whose families couldn't afford to attend. We had inner city kids and kids from the rich suburbs and kids whose dads wore blue shirts with their name sewed on, like mine. Our school was smalll...so I know that many kids became professionals, academics, artists, and entrepreneurs. There is a famous longitudinal study by Terman that shows what happened wth kids w/ high IQs if you want to know what happens with "bright" kids, and lots of research since. Both of my kids have gone to our amazing public schools in my small Eastern town, and are getting an equally great education. If education is a priority in the home, and made a priority in choosing where to live, there are plenty of great public schools.

    August 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  6. Analystgirl

    Can you imagine what parents today would have done to get their kids into this school today? No wonder it no longer exists!

    August 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Concerned Parent

      Programs very much like this currently exist in public schools ALL OVER this Nation! You just need to do a little research and homework to find the local programs that are available to you!

      August 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Tim

    I'd be very interested in where these children ended up. On *average*, I have no doubt they should have more "intelligent" jobs and higher earning capacity than the average member of the US population. Nevertheless, there must be some who didn't make it. How many of these kids grew up to obtain Ph.D.s? How many became doctors, professors, research scientists, engineers, lawyers?

    August 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Derek

      Yes I'm curious about the distribution aswell.

      August 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Jim

      I agree. The story is incomplete without this information. They conducted an experiment with these kids. What was the outcome?

      August 24, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  8. RFG

    The polar opposite of this concept is being conducted today. They call it public school.

    August 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Concerned Parent

      RFG, I am sorry that you received such a poor education! My experiences with our local public schools and the experiences of my children in our local public school system have been quite exceptional! Three of my children were placed in the local AP curriculum and my autistic child has been provided with very competent and aggressive special education classes. All of them have progressed quite well and have ranked high among national averages despite the fact that we live in the deep south! I am certain that being from the south will cause many readers to presume that we are all slack-jaw imbeciles who can barely spell our names, but that is very far from reality here! We have some of the best teachers and most advanced students in the nation and we have consistantly produced record numbers of National Merit Scholars! All products of public schools! Our local high school has been rated as the best high school in the U.S. more than once in the recent past! Public Schools rule!

      August 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  9. rh

    Talk about a self-selecting bunch of kids. Who in their right mind pays for an IQ test for a 3 year old? Someone with lots of money.

    August 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • so

      so what is the point??? it is better to have them in a good school than to have them in public with a buch of numbnutz losers.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Bill

      When your 3 year old is talking, reading, playing chess and learning the piano, you get an IQ test.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Aramark

      Not true...IQ tests are given to pre-school aged children as part of a battery of test to diagnose certain conditions, such as retardation, learning disabilities, ADHD and psychological issues, as well as to identify children who may be gifted. I had an IQ test at the age of 4, in 1963, that was a material factor in my being diagnosed as a dyslexic.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:59 am |
      • 2bsquare

        Your absolutely correct. My sister and I were part of the Harvard Study on dyslexia in the early 1970's. Ont he old IQ test i was 171 and she was 186. We both turned out successful, but no thanks to public schools. In the 1970's Mass. had the 766 Bill. If our parent signed off saying we were mentaly handicapped they would put us in a special school.

        Harvard got us into schools for dyslexia. My parent took out loans to pay it. ANd I have thanked them daily for the sacrifice.

        Dont mention cost and private education without looking at your return on investment. I live in a town with one of the worst education in NJ. THey spend 18,000 per student. The private schools spend 16,000 and produce a much different product.

        I can only thank my parents and a few dedicated Harvard doctors.

        August 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • selcect

      I want to know the IQ of my 3yr old. what is wrong with wanting to know?

      August 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |