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October 20, 1974 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1974-10-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

laura berman
howard brick
contributing editor:
mary long



page four-books
page five-features

Number 7 Page Three Octobe

r 20, 1974







belong on


a child prodigy when he gradu-
ated from the University of Michi-
gan in 1923 at the age of 18. With-
in a year he and his friend Nathan
Leopold, another prodigy, had
plotted and committed what they
thought would be the perfect, un-
traceable crime: the kidnapping
and murder of Bobby Franks, a 14-
year-old Chicago boy. But their
strategy failed; they were arrested,
put on trial, and sent to prison.
The press seized on the incident
as "the crime of the century" and,
in a mood of whole-hearted sensa-
tionalism, speculated on how the
boys' brilliance had contributed to
their moral perversity. "Their
scholastic success doubtless min-
istered to their egoism," one writer
The case tended to confirm and
intensify the popular belief that
brilliance in childhood could only
have ill effects-that it would lead
to snobbery, maladjustment, sui-
cide or other forms of neuroses.
That assessment may or may not
be valid but the middle American
distrust of genius is fact. As one
mother said, "People tend to feel
very threatened by a gifted young-
ster. There is a strong movement
of anti-intellectualism in this
country and it is almost un-Ameri-
can to be bright." She spent many
years trying to convince teachers
and school administrators that her
child was not sick or abnormal but
simply very, very intelligent.
Her son, Greg Wellman, enroll-
ed in the University at the age of
14; when he had difficulty secur-
ing financial aid in 1973, his name
hit the papers under garish,
splashy headlines like "U-M Mum
on Help for Young Genius." Despite
it all, he has continued to study
here and is now a 16-year-old jun-
ior majoring in math.
CREG IS A TALL BOY with thick,
fluffy blond hair that covers
his ears and falls over his fore-
head down to his tinted, tear-drop
eyeglasses. His face is smooth with
just a touch of light fuzz over his
lip. A little nervous and reticent at
first, he opens up when his favor-
ite subject, math, is discussed.

"There's nothing I like better
than math," he says. The logic and
the structure of it, the beauty and
elegance of proofs are what at-
tracts him to the field. Greg sees
math as an intellectual game in
which you can start with almost
nothing and play with it until you
find something ingenious and as-
touding. He admits a profound dis-
like for the sciences, especially
physics, because "I don't like math
to be restricted to these little phys-
ical bodies moving around." Later,
with a little smile that takes the
edge off what would otherwise
seem undue boastfulness, he adds,
"Math belongs with music, litera-
ture, and art - in the lofty re-
But his intellectual interests are
not narrow, either. He likes films
(he was looking forward to seeing
Charlie Chaplin's "A King in New

draw my fives like you're supposed
to." His third grade teacher once
sent him to the principal's office
with a note saying, "Interested in
the wrong things, not normal
classroom work." His mother, Mary
Ann Wellman, with the help of
the school psychologist, finally
convinced school officials to let
Greg skip fifth grade. Later he
skipped eigth and ninth grade. At
the age of eleven, he began taking
courses at the local community
college and finally, at fourteen,
left twelfth grade early to enter
the University.
But what happens to children
who enter college at such an early
age? There has been a lively de-
bate in psychological circles for the
last fifty years on the proper way
to handle highly gifted children
but no real answer has appeared.
Bruno Bettelheim, the prominent

says, he's in college with people he
can really talk to. "He's happier
now than I've ever known Greg to
be. I would have to agree with
Ketcham that if a child is where
he belongs intellectually, other
things will develop naturally."
Things actually may have turn-
ed out well for Greg. Admitting a
little prejudice, his mother claims
he is "not one of those flaky,
creepy, geniusy kids you see crawl-
ing out of garrets." From all ap-
pearances, she is right. But other
children in similar situations do
not always make it through so
Fred Bookstein entered the Uni-
versity in 1963 when he was not
quite sixteen years old. He too was
a math whiz. He whipped through
his undergraduate studies in three
years and headed off for graduate
math studies at Harvard at eigh-
teen. Since that time, he has gone
through many changes and much
reflection. Now, at the age of 27,
he is back in Ann Arbor as a mem-
ber of the Michigan Society of Fel-
lows, working independently on a
problem of mathematical biology.
"TN HIGH SCHOOL, I learned a
great deal of math with al-
most no idea of what it was good
for," he says. He knew all the
theorems but had noeidea of what
drove people to invent them, he
adds. Submerging himself in math
books was a way of avoiding the
more difficult parts of life.

"You cannot plan for one in a hundred thou-


child psychologist



said. "They (extremely gifted youngsters) are
so outside the normal distribution that what-
ever arrangements you make will not fit them.
They will just have to find their own way."

Greg We
He started ignoring sports and
social activities when he was quite
young. "I was fat and clumsy and
I had no reason to do things that
would shame me . ,. As soon as I
saw I could coast through elemen-
tary school with good grades, I
stopped talking to my fellow stu-

Doily Photo by KEN FINK
.I man
dents and had almost no friends."
One of the difficult problems
with gifted children, Ketcham
says, is the way they relate to
adults and the way adults relate to
them. "Thehchild gets personal
ideas from the way adults act to-
ward him, and he may never lose

York" this weekend), loves clas-
sical music (and takes private les-
sons in composing), and is well
read in literature and philosophy.
He has read almost all of Nietzche
on his own and can't quite under-
stand why some people dislike
him. When reminded that Hitler
sometimes quoted Nietzche in sup-
port of his ideas concerning the
"superior human being," Greg re-
sponds with quick and subtle per-
ception, "Well, the inquisitors used
to quote Christ when they tortured
FROM WHAT HE can remember,
Greg says he was always bored
and somewhat out of place in ele-
mentary and junior high school.
An intellectual free spirit even in
his early years, he often got on
teachers' nerves. He recalls one in-
cident when "my second grade
teacher had a screaming fit for
half an hour because I didn't

child psychologist, once wrote
about the possible development of
an "intellectual pathology" in a
gifted child. "He uses his intelli-
gence to gain the approval of par-
ents or teachers," Bettelheim
wrote. "In so doing he overempha-
sizes the intellect and blocks ave-
nues to greater gratifications bas-
ed on emotional acceptance rather
than on intellectual admiration."
Bettelheim has also come out
strongly against rapid acceleration
of gifted children, saying that the
problems of social adjustment in a
group of students far advanced in
age could leave the child damaged
for life.
"VOU CANNOT PLAN for one in a.
h u n d r e d thousand," Bet-
telheim said last week. "Thev (ex-
tremelv gifted youngsters) are so
outside the normal distribution
that whatever arrangements you
make will not fit them. They will
just have to find their own way.
But I don't think anyone should
go to college before 16/2 to 17
years old. If they are geniuses
they will find ways to enrich them-
selves in high school."
But a local educsational psvchol-
ogist, Warren Ketcham, a profes-
sor in the School of Education, dis-
agrees. "All of these peonle ought
to be out of high school and in
some college or university by the
age of fifteen . . . I wouldn't think
of nutting a kindergarten child in
with a class of sixth graders, but I
would think nothing of putting a
twelve year old kid in with eigh-
teen year olds." He argues that
keeping these children in the
"lockstep" of normal educational
routine would only breed frustra-
tion and worsen social problems.
The best climate for them is the
one in which they feel intellect-
ually comfortable, regardless of
age, he says.;
"Greg didn't have a lot in com-
mon with other kids in elementary
school," Mrs. Wellman says. She is
a calm, gentle, and thoughtful
person who concedes that her sonr's
situation has, at times, brought her
much worry and anxiety. "He was
happiest reading in his own room.
He did spend a period of time
when he was withdrawn. but then
hp im n nn~ff ,, 1 0n mahP-

A blo t on the Michi'gan pas t,
an insult to a black a thlete

FORTY YEARS ago t o d a y, on
October 20, 1934, something
happened that could only disap-
point a modern historian of Mich-
igan's athletic past. The Wolver-
ines, defending national football
champions were set to entertain
the Georgia Tech' Yellow Jackets
at Michigan S t a d i u m, but one
healthy Michigan p 1 a y e r, Willis
Ward, did not suit up for the game.
He was black.
It's hard to believe that Ann
Arbor, Michigan could be witness to
such blatant bigotry and injustice,
but it was. Ward, now a Wayne
County Probate' Court judge dis-
cussed the incident last week in
his Detroit chambers. The 1934 in-
cident is still fresh in his mind.
CEORGIA TECH, like a l m o s t
every other school south of the
Mason-Dixon line, observed a strict
racial code on its athletic teams.
Their players were white and they
preferred - opponents of the same
color; and they made their prefer-
ence well-known. So when Georgia
Tech came to Ann Arbor, Willis
Ward - an extraordinary athlete
who was only the second black to
play football at Michigan-sat on
the bench. And it was a sign of the
times that this game was played
without protest.
Sure, there were condemnatory
letters in The Daily, and the Young
Socialist Alliance started a "Willis
Ward Defense Fund,' but the vast
majority of people felt it would be
discourteous to the Southern vis-
itors either to let a black play or
to cancel the game.
Despite a rally in the Natural
Science Auditorium on the evening
before the game, campus opinion

rival Ohio State on a number of
occasions, also was a fine football
player. Even though the Wolverines
lost seven of their eight games in
1934 and scored only 19 points,
Ward received an All-American
honorable mention.
The Daily reported that Ward
was hardly missed as the Wolver-

ines won the defensive struggle
from Tech, 9-2. Michigan's 138
pound quarterback, F e r r i s Jen-
nings, s c o r e d the game's only
touchdown on a 13-yard punt re-
turn. Gerald R. Ford played a fine
game from his center position.
In the spirit of fair play, Georgia
Tech coach Bill Alexander had
benched his starting end E.H. Gib-
son. Alexander, asked to describe
his team by a Detroit sportswriter,
said, "We're just little 'ol Southern
boys who like their fried chicken,
grits, turnip greens and corn sticks,
with the exception of Guy Sachet,
a second string end, who is from
New York."
EDGAR HAYES, a sportswriter for
the now-defunct Detroit Times
from 1927 to 1960, covered the Wol-
verines then and recalled the in-
cident last week.
"I thought it was terrible. It
would have been great had Mich-
igan insisted he play, but it was
not as hot an item as it would be
today. People didn't get excited be-
cause a black was barred."
A Detroit Free Press advance on
the game illustrates the lack of
interest Hayes remembers. "Add to
the trio y of injured players the
name of Willis Ward, who almost
certainly will not play against the
Yellow Jackets, and it is easy to
see that the Wolverines are far
from ready to match strategy with
a first class football team."
THE FRONT-PAGE news items,
however, tended to be of a spec-
tacular nature, as Bruno Haupt-
man, the kidnapper of the Lind-
bergh baby was captured and ar-
raigned and mobster "Pretty Boy"
Flod as klld b s e na .t

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