John Larrysson's Column: Early to University (2 of 3): What the Police Told Me 

Last time I wrote about someone who was envious of a child who went to university early, skipping most of secondary school. I related two disastrous stories about cases of very gifted children I knew. One of those cases ended with the death of a schoolmate of mine. The police remembered me from the coroner's inquest and asked me to consult (as an expert) on other cases. In one of these cases a young child was sent off to university, instead of secondary school. 

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His parents were proud that their eleven-year-old boy was going off to university. However they treated their eleven-year-old as an adult. The child could not cope with university life. He had tried to make friends, but did not know how to relate to university students. The school work was too difficult. He was unable to manage an independent life, getting his own food and washing his clothes. Even just getting to where he should be on time and finding his classroom was difficult. But his parents kept pushing him to excel. He found the only escape he could. He came home for Christmas, shot both his parents and then himself. Children cannot be sent off to university as if they were adults, even if they can get the grades. 

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A person does not gain a huge advantage in life by passing through school faster. To be healthy, children (and adults) need challenges that are within their ability, but outside their comfort zone. These challenges must be academic, physical and social. Sending a child off to university when they are unprepared to cope with adult life can be a disaster. Keeping a child in classes that are too easy will not prepare them for adult life. These stories have all been depressing. They are warnings about parents who were not successful in sending their child off to university. Next time I will provide a positive example of parents who did it successfully.  

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Related article: Early to University (1 of 3): My School Mates

by John Larrysson [email protected]

A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.

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NOTE: Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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