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Limited state funds shouldn't be spent on Missouri Scholars Academy

Monday, March 23, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 25, 2009

I’m a nerd: I admit it. I love grammar puns. I relish solving algebraic equations, and I will swoon for any man who uses Latinate phrases. I’m such in nerd, in fact, that I attended multiple nerd camps during my youth to cultivate my nerdiness outside of the classroom. One of those camps was the Missouri Scholars Academy, a state-funded program that the Missouri House has just recommended be cut from next year’s budget.

Love my time there, though I did, I must say — to what I’m sure will be the outrage of my fellow nerds — that the House is absolutely right: If funds are truly limited, that particular nerd camp should not get government dollars.

I’m not saying the academy isn’t great fun or that it isn’t beneficial for the attendees. It is, but at heart, the “academy” is really just a summer camp that happens to take place on the MU campus, and there’s no reason the state should pay for nerds to frolic when other, less nerdy Missourian kids have to shell out for their summer fun.

The state-funding proponents, largely program alumni, make a series of arguments to the contrary. They speak about how noble and necessary the academy is to the future of America. KBIA/91.3 FM featured some such defenders in their “Exam” education program last week. Below I present some of their arguments and my humble (but empirical) rebuttals.

Sophism No. 1: The program molds talented young people into leaders of tomorrow, leaders capable of tackling the world’s toughest problems.

The program consists of a three-week “academic program” where campers choose a “major” and a “minor” to study. However, this “study” is only done for 23 hours out of the week, and the subjects don’t necessarily strain the brain. I, for example, majored in “Humor,” which meant that I spent my days making sad attempts at improvised comedy and watching clips from Adam Sandler-esque films.

Outside of those 23 hours, campers have weeks filled with fun activities and field trips, making the bulk of the program just like (that’s right) your run-of-the-mill summer camp. My fond memories of those times include going to Ellis Library (to dance to Nelly songs on its steps) and making my way through a mud obstacle course.

The ad absurdum version of this argument, that if kids don’t experience these three weeks of camp, then they won’t become leaders, is silly enough. But I hardly left the Missouri Scholars Academy more mentally equipped to cure cancer than when I arrived, unless it turns out that laughter really is the best medicine after all.

Sophism #2: This is a case of giving gifted children their due because their potential is so often neglected in public school classrooms.

The above rebuttal also applies to this argument. The academy is not a means of evening out the attention that gifted students get relative to other students. I agree that the neglect of smart kids, in classrooms where teachers are busy not leaving other children behind, is a problem, but sending them to summer camp in compensation is not a responsible solution, especially because only 330 kids from the whole state are invited to attend.

Sophism #3: If the state spends money on these young people, those students will choose to go to college in Missouri, therefore making state-funding of the academy a good investment.

This is the equivalent of bribing athletes to attend schools. Even if some children would, is funding this dicey effort a better investment than funding educational programs where the desired return is simply that children learn something at the time?

Sophism #4: This is the only place in the world where really smart kids can fit in.

The academy certainly did provide tear-inspiring social acceptance when I was there, but it is not the state’s responsibility to pay for creating that environment. Nerdy outcasts should by all means huddle together and support one another in the summer months, but they should pay for that privilege – just as young Christians and overweight children and aspiring astronauts do at their respective camps.

Another point many seem to be glossing over is that the academy does not have to perish simply because it does not have space devoted to it in the Missouri budget. The camp is also funded by the Gifted Association of Missouri, the Missouri Scholars Academy Alumni Association and tax-deductible contributions from the public. This is to say, there are subsidies left, and if there are smart children out there whose families can’t afford to foot the rest of the bill, those outspoken proponents of the program should take it upon themselves to get grants and develop scholarships for that purpose.

The Missouri Scholars Academy is a wonderful place, but it’s not the Sorbonne. If the state doesn’t have funds to subsidize it, we must accept that and start looking for other ways to fund the program rather than hassling the legislature.

Katy Steinmetz is a columnist and reporter for the Missourian. She moved to Columbia after spending two years teaching in Winchester, England, and one year in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has freelanced for a variety of publications, including 417 Magazine in Springfield, Mo., and the Guardian in London. Katy plans to complete her MU master's degree in 2010.

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Comments

Christina Andrade March 24, 2009 | 8:53 p.m.

MSA may not be the best way to reach gifted kids in daily classrooms, but it is one of the only ways Missouri is currently trying. Before we cut this program, I would suggest looking at what else we /will/ be doing in its place--and, right now, that answer will be nothing. Funding existing programs is difficult in the current legislative environment; creating new ones will be impossible.

What matters here is whose responsibility it is to provide a free, appropriate public education to Missouri students. It does not belong in the hands of a few taxpayers or private donors; that lies squarely in the hands of lawmakers. It is public education's responsibility to do this for every student: disadvantaged, average, or gifted. (For the first and second categories, FAPE is required by different legislations--IDEA and NCLB, respectively. Nothing is legally required for gifted students, and largely little is done.)

As for a counter to a negative MSA story: I attended. That attendance brought me to the University of Missouri, majoring in education & English, and planning to teach in the public school system which supported me (where I already volunteer). MSA is the reason for this, and did make me realize what I could give back to my community. All 330 scholars from one year embarked upon a mission to spread "Random Acts of Kindness" to their home towns. A student from last year's Academy raised several thousand dollars for the March of Dimes. What the Academy does for scholars--and what those scholars go on and do for their communities--matters, and deserves saving.

(Report Comment)
Jenny Rogers March 24, 2009 | 10:02 p.m.

Interesting column Katy.

(Report Comment)
Katy Steinmetz March 25, 2009 | 3:27 p.m.

To Christina - Sorry for the belated reply. (I only just saw this.) I think we're in agreement about smart kids not getting enough attention and the need to address that, but just because the academy pays three weeks of attention summer-camp style to a tiny sliver of such Missourian kids, that doesn't mean it's a good use of funds.

Funding private tutoring, buying advanced textbooks, or forming gifted programs to be run during normal school hours (so more than 330 of those gifted kids don't spend their days bored out of their nerdy little minds) would all be more practical and fair uses of any funds. Presenting the academy as an answer to this problem is an insult to the needs behind that problem. And as a general rule, the funding of grossly insufficient programs is not justified by the lack of more appropriate ones.

Also, my MSA experience was by no means a negative one; it simply wasn't a particularly scholarly one. There are nebulous references to "character-building" and "leadership" that get thrown around a lot in reference to the academy, and it's hard to say the place doesn't provide such vague change, but, in my experience, there was an absence of concrete, academic curriculum to substantiate the program's title and supposed function. All that, however, doesn't mean I didn't have a great time; I think any kid who has the opportunity to go should go but that they could be expected to pay for that privilege because MSA is more a camp than an academy.

It's great that you and others you know were affected positively by the program, but doing "Random Acts of Kindness" is simply not an academic endeavor, however beneficial it might be, and my point is that such activities should not be funded by the government under that pretense.

Katy

(Report Comment)
Elliot Meyer March 29, 2009 | 11:08 a.m.

I'm a sophomore in high school, and I just received my letter in the mail Friday saying that i was accepted into MSA. I am really excited about going, and have been wanting to go for years now. I think MSA needs to stay. At all the other summer camps I've been to, I've made really good friends, but they are from all over the country, so I never get to see them. A state organized camp is great, because you'll get to see all of your friends again, through school activities, sports, etc. I just hope that gifted students in the future also have the same opportunity. There's always summer college programs for students my age, but they are really expensive, and you might have to fly or drive half-way across the country to attend.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 29, 2009 | 1:04 p.m.

The most extensive summer camp system operated in Missouri by a university campus is the long-running one at Missouri University of Science & Technology. Their camp system is known nationally, attracts students from both Missouri and numerous other locations, and has even been written about in the New York Times.

Programs are aimed at students from middle school through senior in high school; some programs are specifically for girls while the rest are coed. My granddaughters have attended and enjoyed the programs.

The camps are a non-profit operation, but there are fees for all camps. Most students, actually their parents, are expected to pay full fee; however, financial hardship cases are excepted, based on proof of hardship and recommendation by the camper's teachers and principal. In those cases the fees are paid privately, and there is now even an endowment strictly for that purpose! The intent is not to make money on the camps, but the camps must not be paid for by Missouri taxpayers.

As many as 40% of former campers eventually enroll at MS&T. We consider that a very good "return on investment." How many advertising or publicity campaigns get 40% positive responses?

(Report Comment)
Katy Steinmetz March 30, 2009 | 12:34 a.m.

That sounds like a great financial system and one that might be a good model for other, similarly admirable but struggling camps to look at.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 30, 2009 | 4:50 a.m.

It is a great system - period - not just financially. It has been studied by institutions of higher learning outside Missouri. We give information to all who ask for it.

It has fascinated some of us that for years the four campuses of this supposed "university system" have each operated as if the other three campuses do not exist. Every "wheel" must then be painfully re-invented at each campus. How can that attitude be justified, especially in these economic times?

This is something we'd like to see our alumnus, Gary Forsee, and the Curators correct.

(Report Comment)
Rebekah Gordon May 12, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

I have also been accepted to MSA for this year and I am extremely vexed at the thought that our state should neglect the advance of education for gifted students in favor of social prgrgams or other nonsensical expendatures.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 12, 2009 | 12:19 p.m.

"I have also been accepted to MSA for this year and I am extremely vexed at the thought that our state should neglect the advance of education for gifted students in favor of social prgrgams or other nonsensical expendatures."

I wouldn't be against better spelling programs, though!

(Report Comment)
William Sun June 25, 2009 | 2:37 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Katy Steinmetz June 25, 2009 | 3:06 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ellis Smith June 25, 2009 | 3:32 p.m.

"MSA is not a summer camp." Okay, explain to me what's wrong with the long-running and very successful summer camps sponsored by another University of Missouri System campus?

Yes, they ARE different: Missouri taxpayers aren't being obliged to pay for them, nor are they being asked to do so. Nor WILL they be asked to do so. They are financed by campers and their families paying a reasonable tuition, by faculty members donating their time, and by an endowment which funds tuition for a number of campers each summer whose families cannot afford the tuition. No grand claims are made for the camps. They are first and foremost a recruiting tool, but they also provide campers with an interesting and stimulating experience.

If MSA is worthwhile, why not charge tuition and also pass the hat for private funding?

(Report Comment)
John Perry December 4, 2009 | 9:00 a.m.

My daughter went to one of the "Nerd Camps" and the result was worth a million dollars.

She met the people that will be running the country in a few years. She realized that she is not alone in this world with her mind power, feelings, and obscure references. It gave her a purpose and drive that only equals can provide. I am sorry that you wasted such an opportunity on having fun. But if you stopped to think about it, having fun with those that will be your doctor, congressman, lawyer, and perhaps President, is not such a bad thing.

Would you rather see the money go to a football program, where the players are having there glory days at 18, or to encourage a child to go on to become President by showing that they are believed in?

During MSA my daughter came out of her teenage shell. She forged contacts that are opening the doors into college, and her future. An investment into the mind is never wasted.

(Report Comment)
Matt Pearce December 4, 2009 | 6:05 p.m.

I missed this column when it originally ran. I'm an MSA alum. Allow me to rebut.

Steinmetz sophism #1: "The program consists of a three-week 'academic program' where campers choose a 'major' and a 'minor' to study. However, this 'study' is only done for 23 hours out of the week, and the subjects don’t necessarily strain the brain."

Maybe "humor" didn't strain your brain, but my area of emphasis for those three weeks was to study education/teaching. My minor? Poverty and public policy. I'll spare you the spearing for equating your own experience with everyone else's, but let me say this: I learned a lot at MSA that I wouldn't have otherwise encountered until years later, if at all.

Steinmetz sophism #2:
"The academy is not a means of evening out the attention that gifted students get relative to other students."

Says you. I'm one of those public school mutts that typically argues point #2. I attended a rural district that (very reasonably) didn't offer gifted programs or Advanced Placement classes; there just weren't enough students or resources to warrant having them. The Scholars Academy was the only real exposure I had to an advanced academic environment during my K-12 years, and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg to attend. If it had, I'm not sure I would have gone — meaning the opportunity was, at least for me, irreplicable.

Steinmetz sophism #3:
"This is the equivalent of bribing athletes to attend schools. Even if some children would [attend Missouri colleges], is funding this dicey effort a better investment than funding educational programs where the desired return is simply that children learn something at the time?"

(A) Let's ignore your equation of an academic camp with bribing athletes [!], 'cause it's a real skull-clutcher. (B) Here's the thing. Many MSA scholars have attended Missouri colleges. I'm one of them; so are several of my friends, despite the fact that they probably could have gone to more prestigious schools out-of-state. My MSA experience was or less responsible for my decision to attend Mizzou. Alumni are probably more likely to stay in-state and give back to the community that paid their way in. Which leads me to point (C): Given that the camp's goal is to cultivate the state's top students — and given that these top students are likely to become top contributors to whatever community they end up in — the camp probably has a very real net benefit in fiscal and social terms.

(Report Comment)
Matt Pearce December 4, 2009 | 6:07 p.m.

con't:

Steinmetz sophism #4:
"Nerdy outcasts should by all means huddle together and support one another in the summer months, but they should pay for that privilege – just as young Christians and overweight children and aspiring astronauts do at their respective camps."

We do pay for the privilege — in taxes. Yes, a public burden is never palatable, but I've already argued that this public burden is likely to be repaid by alumni who have become leaders in the community — the same alumni who are now vociferously clawing for the program's survival. The fact that proponents argue so hotly in favor for some supposedly silly summer camp should say something to its value, if anything.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 5, 2009 | 8:16 a.m.

Whether public funding is used to support summer camps can be a choice. We (see above posts) have chosen not to burden Missouri taxpayers with support of our summer camps, charging campers tuition instead. For outstanding students whose families have financial problems we pay all or part of the tuition, but the family is encouraged to pay whatever it can. For example, for a $400 tuition the family might pay $100 and our endowment - yes, endowment - pays the other $300. Financial "hardship" cases come from all over Missouri, not just the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas.

We make no bones about it, our camps are intended to be a recruiting tool, as well as an interesting experience for the campers.

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Wendy Brownell April 3, 2010 | 10:57 a.m.

I attended MSA way back in 1988. My majors and minors were very academic, and in addition I attended an optional Latin course. I had never studied foreign language before and that experience made a big impact. I am now a foreign language teacher. I was from a rural area, had never been out of the state of Missouri, and was never in any gifted program. Being with so many gifted people from so many different backgrounds really opened my eyes to what life was like beyond the corn fields. :) I also became a much more confident person and secure in my giftedness. Without MSA I doubt I would have found any other gifted people to "huddle with" and get support. Boombah!

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Ellis Smith April 4, 2010 | 7:07 a.m.

There is at least one advantage to funding your own program: if your funding isn't coming from the state (or federal government, for that matter) then the state can't reduce it or cut it off. I have no first-hand knowledge of the MSA program but it's obvious that some who have been in the program think it is very worthwhile. Perhaps we are really only discussing the matter of funding (see also above posts).

The 50 states are finding themselves in a position where they can't afford to fund every existing program at the levels some would like; our federal government is in the same position but is in denial.

(Report Comment)
Chadwick Spradling November 21, 2010 | 8:10 p.m.

I, as an MSA 2010 Scholar, would like to state that the three weeks I spent at this Academy absolutely put 'strain on the brain'. I found that this program, as with any other program one is enrolled in, is only as beneficial as the effort one puts into it. My Major, "Taking a Chance," presented Statistical Analysis and Probability in a way that helped evolve my thinking of anything regarding data and put a mathematical twist on games involving chance.

Were MSA funded by private groups, the money generated would be sporadic (and I believe ultimately lower) in its ability to keep the program at subsistence. This would increase the cost to participants and limit entirely the kids who need this the most.

This is a changing experience. Unlike other academic camps that I don't have the chance to go to (since they are privately funded and cost more than my family can afford) this is not 'just a summer camp that takes place on MU campus'. Though the Academy does occupy some of the MU campus. It provides such an ample atmosphere for like-minded peers to bond that it provides a connection rich in new and ever-evolving synergistic interaction. The hours outside of my 23 hour Study were filled with a wide variety of intellectually stimulating debates, activities, and seminars. Though there were slightly less academically vigorous options to accommodate one's off-days, there was always a chance to challenge oneself.

(Report Comment)
Miranda Cover April 6, 2011 | 7:34 p.m.

I don't know if you know this Katy, but this past MSA we did pay 500 dollars to attend MSA. I know that this does not even cover the cost of running the camp, but my family could not afford this amount. A private company donated 175 to help, but that is still a large sum of money for my family. My high school is not well funded and the money the school does have never goes to the advancement of the academic students. For example, I am a Junior and I have run out of classes at my high school and I must foot the bill for my college classes that I have to enroll in, because the school has no funds or motive to help above average students.
I'm sorry that you chose a major that did not challenge you academically, but you chose it. You cannot blame the program because you did not chose to challenge yourself. I, for one, intended on getting every tidbit of information that I could. I chose strenuous classes and in the "free time" that you say that we nerds spent "doing fun activities and making field trips" I, and many of my fellow scholars, spent in secondary classes learning more than just the requirement of our majors or minors. I had the amazing opportunity to learn about subjects to which I never would have been exposed had I not attended MSA. It allowed me to see new career opportunities and wonder about what we are all capable of.

(Report Comment)
Miranda Cover April 6, 2011 | 7:34 p.m.

I would like to say that I do not plan on attending a Missouri school, but that has nothing to do with MSA. I know a lot of my scholar-peers are planning on attending a school in Missouri, because of this academy. MSA taught me to aim high and for now I dream of going to MIT and I have the scores to get there. Next year, my senior year in high school I will be attending a Missouri School, for which my school is not helping me pay. Though I do not plan to attend a Missouri school permanently, I will still positively influence the state and the country as a whole.
About your dancing on the stairs of Ellis library, I would like to say that the librarians were probably not very happy with you. We went to Ellis Library to do research and learn peacefully and quietly.
When you said that students who did not attend Missouri scholars academy would not become leaders, you were only half right. How does an isolated, but motivated student know how to excel? How does this motivated student know hard he or she is going to have to work to achieve greatness, or to become a leader? This gifted student must be able to see his or herself in respect to the other gifted students, so he or she can work with them, work harder than them,and challenge themselves to lead the pack. I'm not saying that we should always judge our value on the success of others, but how can you be a leader if you don't know what you are leading? We, the scholars of Missouri, will not be leading the students that we interact with on a daily basis. We will be working with other intelligent people, fixing the problems that the people voting on this issue are creating.

(Report Comment)
Miranda Cover April 6, 2011 | 7:35 p.m.

On the issue of nerds not fitting in anywhere else, I have quite a lot to say. I work very hard in school. I have not yet gotten a B in a class, and most of my school has great disdain for me and my achievements. When I get excited about something nerdy, they laugh, mock, and definitely do not understand me or accept me. At MSA, I discovered that there were other people like me. This both excited and humbled me. I could talk about things that meant the world to me and, for once, someone appreciated it. Christina Andrade was one of these people who appreciated me. She was my RA and if MSA had not existed she could not have changed my life. People like me not only existed, there were adults like me too. I would not have to "grow out" of my funny quirks, as my mother always told me I would. I could just keep getting smarter and nerdier as long as I live.
Apparently your life was not changed by your experiences at the Missouri Scholars Academy, but my life was saved. My identity was saved, but more importantly to the people voting on this issue, my intelligence will not go to waste. I will be doing amazing things with my intellect because I don't have to stop being a nerd. Nerds may not yet rule the world, but you need us. Who will find the cure to cancer? Who will fix the economy? Who will save our planet from consumerism and waste? Who will write articles in the Missourian? Who will save the English language and the word whom? These things rest on us, on you as well. Think about where you would be if you had not gone to MSA. Think about this very article, which has gotten you so much attention. Now, think again about the impact that MSA has had on your life.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 6, 2011 | 9:01 p.m.

Miranda, I like you attended college during my senior year since my high school offered no math classes past pre-calculus. Unlike you, I didn't think I was entitled to free college credits and my parents paid the bill for five hours of Math 75. Sounds like the real world will be coming up on you soon, and I say that as an MSA '86 alum.

(Report Comment)
Trey Dockery April 7, 2011 | 4:29 p.m.

Katy, just because you chose non-scholarly courses doesn't mean that it is not a scholarly program. The schedule has been reworked. For example I took the major To Infinity and Beyond, where we discussed highly advanced mathematics, I learned about Cantor's Set, Mandelbrot, Euler, Euclid, Hilbert's grand hotel, the relationships between different sizes of infinity, the properties of the different sizes of infinity, the usefulness of primes, etc. For my minor, I took Mathematical Mazes for the Mind, this class was all about advanced mathematics and learning to love math more, and training your brain to work fast and correctly.

Without this program I would not have the love for mathematics I have today, I have decided to go into engineering and MU is currently at the top of my list. This program is not a waste of money, it is an investment in our future, the government is investing money into the best and brightest in hopes to promote leadership skills and to better our economy.

The government should spend money on this program, I say this because I am a alum from MSA 2010 and the funding was cut so badly last year that almost every scholar had to pay $500, that's $165,000 (some scholars did not have to pay as much if they received free or reduced lunches at their schools) There are much better places to cut funding than MSA.

(Report Comment)
Jordan Scott April 8, 2011 | 11:00 p.m.

I mean everything I am about to say with the utmost respect, but I fear you are a bit misinformed, even from your own personal experience, on how important programs like MSA are necessary Katy. While there isn't enough attention put on giving the education gifted students need in the classroom, MSA goes way beyond that. MSA gives scholars, like myself, the ability to express themselves thanks to social dynamics classes taken after our minor. You see, even at schools, like my own, where they have honors and AP courses to give gifted students the challenge that they drastically need to thrive, they care not whether we can actually speak for ourselves. Sure, I could speak about school and talk about important figures 'til the cows came home, but I had no way to actually express feelings, look for help when I needed it, or actually realize what I felt. Media and society at a high school level, idolize the slacker who can just get by and ostracizes the kids who care about learning and excel at academics.
Without MSA I would still be that kid who feels like a freak in the halls just for being intelligent. And don't try to pass it off as something teachers and adults should be able to instantly pick up on; for those of us who have gone through this, we are very good at hiding how we felt.
MSA was the first place where I actually saw a place that teaches you not to just learn academically, but to also learn about yourself and realize why you don't have to feel ashamed for being an intellectual.
So, when you say MSA is a run of the mill summercamp, I can't help but feel that you missed the point of all that MSA does for people. If you want to see the difference that MSA makes in people's lives, go to the MSA of 2010 group on facebook. All of us there are people who were shaped into what we will become in the future by MSA.

(Report Comment)
Joshua Zink-Duda April 10, 2011 | 5:26 p.m.

I, as an alumnus of MSA 2010, agree with my fellow scholars, so I will not delve into a several paragraph post arguing something that has already been articulated quite clearly.
I will, however, offer my own perspective. MSA, for me, was never about book learning. That is not to say that I did not learn while at MSA. I learned plenty in my "Taking a Chance" major that has well prepared me for my statistics class this year. MSA was about letting the scholars be free to show their true selves and grow as people. Even in a academically rigorous high school, being "nerdy" does not win you many friends. At MSA, this was quite the opposite. Every one of us was allowed to show our true selves and to be accepted for who we are. Instead of being squished into society's mold, we can now continue to grow and thrive as nerds.
I understand that your major was not very "scholarly," but a)that was your choice, and b)that's not really the point of the program. I also understand that not everyone has an incredible experience at MSA, but the 2010 MSA group on Facebook has 296 members, out of the 330 scholars. That's 89% of the scholars who, clearly, had an amazing, life altering experience at MSA.

(Report Comment)
Nathan Quinn April 10, 2011 | 7:21 p.m.

As a past MSA graduate, I am shocked that anyone, least of all a fellow alumnus, would suggest cutting funding to the program. Even as a political conservative, I would find it hard to justify to myself the idea of cutting a program that has done so much positive good in my life and in the lives of thousands of others.
I didn't go into MSA as a particularly insecure child in most senses of the word--I have always been articulate and unafraid to express myself even when I have unpopular views; I'm an athlete and a musician--but on many other levels MSA allowed me to open up to others in ways that I never had before.
For once in my life, everyone I talked to had something to say. Every day, I was presented with numerous opportunities to attend educational lectures of all sorts (which, incidentally, were optional-but-encouraged). I have always been ambitious, but MSA made even my highest ambitions seem reachable. Most of all, MSA allowed me to get into contact with a support group of other gifted kids--something I still feel the benefits of today.
I am not, however, from a rich family. Were it not for the fact that my (public) school was kind enough to pay my $500 fee, I don't know that I would have been able to attend. (Ironically, if we rely on public schools to pay for their students' fees...well, where does their budget come from, again?) As I would not have missed MSA for the world, it pains me to hear talk of ceasing its funding.
Oh, and my major, information from which I still use a lot of today, was "Politics and Policy." Not "Humor." ...perhaps that is what the idea of defunding such a wonderful program is: sickly humorous.

(Report Comment)
mike miles August 22, 2011 | 12:38 a.m.

I must say that I disagree completely! I attended MSA this past summer (but I am also more mature that a typical sixteen year old and do not wish to be "that one kid with an opinion" in this discussion). The summer nerd camp, or however you wish to see it, was not just three weeks of having fun. The fact that you attended a class about making jokes is your own fault, not any other future scholars' faults! Many of the scholars took rigorous and mind-molding classes, including me. My major was called "Infinity and Beyond" with Frank Corley. Frank absolutely stressed our brains in this class in which we learned about infinity and other difficult concepts relating to infinity (sorry, aleph-nought). It opened my eyes to new possibilities, for which I feel sorry that the columnist could not see. The class also taught me some incredible life lessons, such as how asking questions is a great tool, especially for the next six years of a prospective college student's life. I am now attending the Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Computing, a program that allows me to basically start college two years early, and although I've only been taking a class on math review to ready me for PreCalculus, the lessons from Frank's class have already greatly help me in the lectures and assignments. For my minor, I took "Time N' Writing" with Joan Potthast, in which we studied literature that contained strong elements of time and space, such as Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman. The concepts in there, too, greatly helped me understand this thing we call time and how it affects us in ways which most don't realize or understand. Also, the social experience is like no other! The people whom I became friends with there became better friends than those back home whom I've known all my life. They are totally accepting of all people and allow anyone to be who they really are. I am a rather large and "tearless" person who lacks visual emotion but during the PSD classes (Personal and Social Dynamics), there were sometimes where everyone cried but me, times where no one cried but me, and times where everyone cried for no real reason but in joy for the fact the academy existed. My residential counselor became like a parent to me, my friends like brothers and sisters, and Ted Tarkow (Director) like my nosy, authoritative grandfather with a bunch of fun and funny hats ;D . On the last day, I cried for hours because the idea that such an experience was over, but I soon realized it wasn't. When I went back home, I spread the idea of social acceptance and hard work to my fellow friends, family, and community, and I have noticed a difference in those places and in me that wouldn't not be there for it not had been for the Missouri Scholars Academy. It was THE BEST THREE WEEKS OF MY LIFE.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 22, 2011 | 11:48 a.m.

It might be worth anyone's time to again read Kathy's article and ALL ATTACHED POSTS.

Based on the glowing posts, the efficacy of MSA seems to be without question, in spite of Kathy's unflattering comments. I have no connection with MSA, but am willing to go along with the positive comments presented. The efficacy of MS&T's technology summer camps is also without question.

One marked difference between the two operations is WHO PAYS THE BILLS. This might not be a consideration for those teens attending MSA but it could become a future consideration for Missouri taxpayers.

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