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Cool:

 

AFP reports:

Two Russian-born sisters are due to become assistant professors of finance in New York state later this year, even though they are only 19 and 21, university officials said Wednesday.

Angela Kniazeva and her younger sister Diana were due to take up their new positions in September at the University of Rochester, where half of their students will likely be older than them.

The pair, who already have masters degrees in international policy from Stanford University in California, were picking up their doctorates from New York University's Stern business school on Wednesday after five years of study....

The duo were home-schooled by their parents and earned the equivalent of their US high-school diploma at the ages of 10 and 11 before graduating college in Russia at the ages of 13 and 14....

UPDATE: Added the photo; thanks to reader Colin for the pointer. For more on the Kniazevas, see this article, from which I copied the picture (something I think is fair use under the circumstances, given that it has no effect on the value of the photograph -- if I hadn't copied the picture, I would have done a direct IMG SRC= to that site, which wouldn't have given the copyright owner any extra money but would have created untoward traffic for the NYU servers).

M. Gross (mail):
What? No picture?
5.14.2007 6:42pm
Colin (mail):
Here you go. Seven degrees, youngest masters' graduates in Stanford's history, and considering law school. Very impressive. I suppose that's one benefit of having a mother with a PhD in pedagogy who specializes in the education of gifted children!
5.14.2007 6:56pm
mikeski:
Guess not.

I tried google, but my search for 'teenage russian schoolteacher sisters' didn't find it. It was educational, though...
5.14.2007 6:57pm
Tomm:
Lousy Russian prodigies, taking all the professorships at U. Rochester, UCLA, and so forth from honest American students.
5.14.2007 6:58pm
liberty (mail) (www):
You braniacs make me sick.
5.14.2007 7:18pm
dearieme:
A friend of my wife's started teaching very young at Trinity, Dublin. He walked into the lecture theatre to be greeted with "Does your mammy know you're out?"
5.14.2007 7:21pm
gab:
"Angela Kniazeva and her younger sister Diana were due to take up their new positions in September at the University of Rochester, where half of their students will likely be older than them."

You'd think AFP would know English grammar... geez.
5.14.2007 7:33pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
Definitely a cool story.

It would kind of be cool to take the same programs with your sibling.
5.14.2007 8:01pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
"But what about socialization?"

= response of everyone who hears about anyone being homeschooled. Yeah. I bet these girls are real backwards.
5.14.2007 8:11pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Yet another reason to stamp out home-schoolers.
5.14.2007 8:13pm
Enoch:
The brainiac pair, who have already been teaching international financial management at New York University,

So, uh, do you actually have to have managed any international finance before you can teach international financial management? My guess would be no. Though for a fact, a 30-year-old brand-new PhD in international financial management would be equally unlikely ever to have managed any international finance as these two.

I think they should get real jobs for a while and then come back to academia, comfortable though the ivory tower is.
5.14.2007 8:48pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
So, uh, how do they feel about older men who were once prodigies as well?

(Yes, I did take my first college courses at eight.)
5.14.2007 9:02pm
anonVCfan:
Enoch writes:

I think they should get real jobs for a while and then come back to academia, comfortable though the ivory tower is.

Based on what? Your visceral distrust? Regardless of whether U. Rochester thinks these women understand the subject matter well enough to teach it, regardless of their accomplishments, etc., they should quit their job because you think "it just ain't right"?
5.14.2007 9:17pm
Enoch:
Based on what? Your visceral distrust? Regardless of whether U. Rochester thinks these women understand the subject matter well enough to teach it, regardless of their accomplishments, etc., they should quit their job because you think "it just ain't right"?

Based on my personal knowledge of a great many 19 and 21 year olds, bub.
5.14.2007 10:16pm
happylee:
A very inspirational story. I hope these gals pick up a copy of Human Action by Ludwig von Mises and learn some real economics before educating future generations on what passes for ecnonomics today.
5.14.2007 10:18pm
anonVCfan:
"Based on my personal knowledge of a great many 19 and 21 year olds, bub."

That's great. You should write to them and to U. Rochester. I'm sure they'd appreciate the advice. I'm going to write to Theo Epstein and tell him to spend a bit more time in the trenches.
5.14.2007 10:29pm
veteran:
just goes to show you, if you concentrate on reading, riting, rithmatic you can still accomplish something in this world. Home schooling may seem low brow to some, social re-habilitation should be left to the nazis, they showed the world what could be accomplished when anger and hate rule.

(Godwins rule be damned)
5.14.2007 10:34pm
LM (mail):
I saw a guy once on Letterman give himself a wedgie. Can these girls do that? Didn't think so. How smart are they now?
5.14.2007 11:54pm
bkw (mail):
For some reason, whenever people start talking about "socialization" with regards to school aged children, I always think about Lord of the Flies ...
5.15.2007 12:06am
lyarbrou (mail):
Looks like a great combination of genes and environment! To get this you can't have one without the other.
5.15.2007 12:37am
Jim FSU 1L (mail):
How much international finance have they actually managed? Is there some benefit to having someone speak it instead of just reading it out of the book yourself?

I think we should be having children learn from people in the real world, sort of like the apprenticeships of old. Learning from books, especially when the teachers have no more experience than the students is just wasting time.
5.15.2007 12:50am
Joe Bingham (mail):
I think we should be having children learn from people in the real world, sort of like the apprenticeships of old. Learning from books, especially when the teachers have no more experience than the students is just wasting time.

Anti-liberal-arts runs amok even at VC. Gyeesh. "Abandon the collective experience of 5,000 years of Western civilization! Get your own experience! It's the only thing that matters!" Nietzsche, anyone? Of course, if you recognize Nietzsche in the sentiment, you've probably had a liberal arts education...

As a product of homeschooling (closest I came to prodigy was an "A" in a college class in 10th grade... not very close) my lack of social interaction definitely gave me some trouble in a college world populated with the products of a fairly homogenous diet of the same TV shows and curricula. The advantages outweighed the disads, though--I was way more ready for the college part of college than they were. And now I'm socially recovered enough to be engaged to a real hot girl...

Props to these girls. Wish I'd been a true genius homeschooled poster child.
5.15.2007 1:01am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
If I were, oh, thirty years younger, I'd be willing to give them some socialization. Unfortunately, if I were that age again, I'd be of little help in that field.
5.15.2007 2:01am
Jeek:
How much international finance have they actually managed? Is there some benefit to having someone speak it instead of just reading it out of the book yourself?

I think we should be having children learn from people in the real world, sort of like the apprenticeships of old. Learning from books, especially when the teachers have no more experience than the students is just wasting time.


People age 18-22 are callow, sophomoric, jejune. It is always amusing to see their reactions to their first real job ("what... you mean I don't get a summer vacation???"). Only someone who has never had a real job (e.g., an academic) could insist that having a real job is not fundamentally transformative and important for personal development.

How anyone could insist that something as nebulous as a "liberal arts education" - which these days could mean anything, since there is no longer an agreed canon - is superior preparation for real life to actual experience is beyond me. In fact, the "liberal arts education" today is little more than a money-making scam. It has no intrinsic value or utility, but nonetheless the middle class agrees (incomprehensibly) to beggar itself to purchase this credential for their children so they can have office jobs intead of (horrors!) being plumbers or electricians. Why should lawyers learn from books in undergrad and then law school, rather than on the job as clerks or paralegals? No reason. You'd be a better lawyer if you spent seven years as a paralegal rather than getting a BA in English or History and then attending law school. But, so sorry, we have all agreed you should be $100,000+ in debt for your "liberal arts education" rather than having a sensible apprenticeship where you'd actually make some money as well as gaining relevant experience.

So yes, they would be far better professors of international financial management if they'd actually had a real job - even for a short period of time - in international financial management.
5.15.2007 9:11am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
So, let me get this straight. All of you arguing for real world experience then think that the University of Baltimore Law School has a better faculty than U of Chicago or Yale? After all, UofB has many practicing lawyers teaching courses, while Akhil Amar never even took the bar exam!
5.15.2007 9:54am
liberty (mail) (www):
For some reason in this culture we must always create dichotomies. I certainly think we go overboard with ivory tower cloistering, but there is something to be said for learning some of the vast accumulated knowledge of history, and understanding theories and proofs, rather than only knowing what one can pick up on-the-job.

I have seen the two extremes in CS. Some CS profs have never written code for functional use and its pretty funny what they think would work in a work environment - their theories can be quite absurd - while some of the best design has come from those inventing by necessity on the job; and the fresh graduate trying to apply what he learned at his first job is always a laugh. At the other extreme you have those of us who never got a CS degree and I must admit that it can be quite a disadvantage in terms of designing scalable code and thinking about and tackling more complex concepts -- yes you can learn it through apprenticeship, but if nobody wrote this stuff down in books, much would get lost and anyone who didn't have a great mentor would lose out. Book learning/teaching provides those at the start of their careers with the tools to advance regardless of their apprenticeship and so that they may utilize this advanced knowledge from the start and the wisdom will accumulate and increase rather than getting lost. Going back to the days of oral story stelling doesn't make any sense.

So, I think both are important. I do think that professors should be expected to get real world experience, but I don't think we can just toss the whole concept of academia and go back to apprentice only. And I know, I would not want to hire a lawyer who had only been a paralegal and never had to study through all the heavy coursework of law school. Thats where you get gaping holes in knowledge, and incompetance.
5.15.2007 10:05am
Mike Keenan:
They aren't much younger than the TA's who seem to do most of the teaching anyway. Don't see why it would be a concern. Cool is right.
5.15.2007 10:28am
markm (mail):
I don't think many disagree that the professions require both classroom-style education and an apprenticeship. (Some can complete their schoolwork through independent study, but at a minimum they need a curriculum and a way to have their "homework" checked, otherwise you get those "gaping holes in knowledge" Liberty mentioned.) The medical profession has both medical schools and a formal system of apprenticeship, through the cooperation of many schools and hospitals. Lawyers and engineers do not have formal apprenticeships or a multi-employer OJT program (on the job training), but employers who hire them straight out of college definitely do have to do OJT somehow.

However, I think the issue here was with teachers at the professional schools that have never practiced or been through OJT. That sounds like a poor practice to me. Such professors are quite likely to be divorced from the realities of the profession. Where I went to engineering school, it was fairly easy to tell the professors that had experience in engineering or were still keeping their hand in (through corporate research grants, or in one case by serving as an expert witness in liability suits), from the ones that knew engineering only in theory.
5.15.2007 11:38am
Jim FSU 1L (mail):
Oh yeah, I should point this out because it isnt obvious. I had nearly 10 years in the real world before I came back to law school and made this account. I'm also not a 1L anymore.

I feel that most of my education was wasted time. Anything I needed for a job or a hobby required a kernel of abstract book knowledge combined with probably 80 to 90% context and application. The huge problem (not benefit as some have claimed) with the liberal arts system is that the knowledge is all contained in books! The professor teaching from the book and making you take a closed book exam at the end is unnecessary. Real life is open book. The book is something you consult for a few minutes before begning the drudgery that consists of doing the job.

Repeatedly applying a certain set of book knowledge to the real world repeatedly builds up a repository of experience and skill. You know how long it will take to do X, Y and Z. The books are always there in the background if you need them. The value in this is that you can tell a client the chances of project A succceeding, how much it can cost, how long it will take, why you can't have it for him next thursday. This is what employers are paying for. Book knowledge alone will get you an interview for an entry level position.
5.15.2007 11:44am
Ross (mail):
A liberal arts degree from an elite institution is a fine degree to have. The problem is that it does not scale down very well. The discussion that takes place in a class of 15 or less with every member having an ACT of 26 or higher is a lot different than the discussion in a class of 30 or more with an average ACT of 18.

It is my belief that anyone teaching should have some experience working in the area they are teaching. That is not the norm but it should be a minimum standard. Of course, it would be even better if a few years of domain specific work experience was required before entering graduate school.
5.15.2007 11:44am
tamdar (mail):
If one relies strictly on OJT for learning their field, they'll be constrained to competence just in those narrow parts fo a broad field with which they have direct experience. The college education presents the accumulated theory of the broad field and, ideally, gives one a basis for competence in any part of the broad field.

Certainly one learns a lot in the application of that theory that wasn't covered in their college courses, but that's true for most all college education. If these two go into the classroom and teach all those non-academic, practical things they learned on their first job about how the business or industry works in the real world, they'll only be teaching their students how to have that job. A different job at a different company or firm would have its own set of real world realities to deal with.

Is that really what we want college to be about, or do we want college to be about the rigorous explainations of the theoretical underpinnings of these industries? Before one can learn how to apply a theory one must first know the theory.
5.15.2007 11:49am
Jim FSU 1L (mail):
And yeah, I have chosen professions that require lots of book consulting because I enjoy reading. But I would be well educated without a liberal arts education. People who don't enjoy learning arent going to gain an appreciation for it through rote memorization.
5.15.2007 11:56am
Jim FSU 1L (mail):
Ross, I went to an elite institution for undergrad and I dont feel that I got my money's worth. All it taught me was that even things I enjoy could be made boring with enough effort.
5.15.2007 11:58am
Stan Morris (mail):
For Gene Vilensky

Many of my professors at Chicago did outside work. In particular, we were jealous of Harry Kalvan who represented the Playboy Foundation.
5.15.2007 12:06pm
Jeek:
If one relies strictly on OJT for learning their field, they'll be constrained to competence just in those narrow parts fo a broad field with which they have direct experience.

No. As you advance in the field, your experience will naturally broaden.

The college education presents the accumulated theory of the broad field and, ideally, gives one a basis for competence in any part of the broad field.

College education in the US today does not do this. Professional schools, to some extent, do this.

If these two go into the classroom and teach all those non-academic, practical things they learned on their first job about how the business or industry works in the real world, they'll only be teaching their students how to have that job.

Even if that were true, the students would be better off than if these two profs simply spoon-fed them pure theory, as is now the case. But it's not true. Practical experience gives a much broader perspective than "just that one job", and would enable them to teach the students much more than just "what I did all day at the one job I had."

Is that really what we want college to be about, or do we want college to be about the rigorous explainations of the theoretical underpinnings of these industries? Before one can learn how to apply a theory one must first know the theory.

College right now - and especially a "liberal arts education" - does not provide a "rigorous explanation of the theoretical underpinnings" of any industry. Would that it did.

Also, you are mistaken in assuming that one can only learn "theory" in an academic setting.
5.15.2007 12:26pm
Boris Ruhmsen:
Check out this article - the girl's mother on the value of certain education facilities:
"Сразу оговорюсь, что все нижесказанное относится к ведущим американским университетам и колледжам. Другие, по моему убеждению, не стоят тех денег и сил, которые приходится положить и родителям, и детям, чтобы успешно закончить программу и получить степень."
5.15.2007 12:59pm
Sebastian Holsclaw (mail):
"People age 18-22 are callow, sophomoric, jejune. It is always amusing to see their reactions to their first real job ("what... you mean I don't get a summer vacation???"). Only someone who has never had a real job (e.g., an academic) could insist that having a real job is not fundamentally transformative and important for personal development."

I suspect you are falling for a fallacy here. Yes, MOST people of that age are callow, sophomoric, jejune. The fact that these particular women are already so accomplished suggests that they don't neatly fall in to that generalization.

The better reservation is about their real-world experience in finance. I tend to agree with the objection. But that is an objection against much of the way we run the academic world in general. It isn't any stronger against these professors than it would be against most others.
5.15.2007 1:03pm
happylee:
Liberty -- a very well-reasoned analysis. Sadly, modern economics is mostly mumbo-jumbo math that is by its nature divorced from reality, so it is quite alright that these women have no experience in the "real world." Students will hone some math skills, learn some silly stuff and then receive a real education on the job. Or the students will learn nothing useful and take up high-level positions in the Federal Reserve or some such other trouble-making institution.

Boris -- Translation?
5.15.2007 1:28pm
happylee:
Boris: Online-Translator.Com ( http://www.online-translator.com ) produced the result below. Is it close? Does she mean to criticize non-elite institutions? What?

" At once I shall make a reservation, that all mentioned below concerns to leading American universities and colleges. Others, on my belief, do not cost(stand) that money and forces, which should be put both to parents, and children successfully to finish the program and to receive a degree. "
5.15.2007 1:33pm
justanotherguy (mail):
The interesting point that I take away from the note is that we have two world-class intellects and they choose to come to the United States to make their living/mark on the world. In the global competition, being able to lure away the key component of success (brain-power) is vital to staying on top or at least in the running.

Now how do we convince them to stay?
5.15.2007 2:12pm
Aultimer:
Can somebody remind me why the academy think that the best students make the best teachers?

Oh, that's right, educational institutions are measured on prestige, not quality of education, so it doesn't really matter if the teachers can teach.
5.15.2007 2:14pm
Jeek:
I suspect you are falling for a fallacy here. Yes, MOST people of that age are callow, sophomoric, jejune. The fact that these particular women are already so accomplished suggests that they don't neatly fall in to that generalization.

Fie, you are the one who is falling for a fallacy. Have you ever met one of these Doogie Howser prodigies? They are even more likely to be callow, sophomoric, and jejune than their less-accomplished peers. That they are even better at school than their peers does not mean they have had any greater scope for the life experiences that gets rid of the callowness. You can't get life experience from a book, no matter how smart you are - you have to live it.
5.15.2007 3:07pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
How anyone could insist that something as nebulous as a "liberal arts education" - which these days could mean anything, since there is no longer an agreed canon - is superior preparation for real life to actual experience is beyond me. In fact, the "liberal arts education" today is little more than a money-making scam. It has no intrinsic value or utility, but nonetheless the middle class agrees (incomprehensibly) to beggar itself to purchase this credential for their children so they can have office jobs intead of (horrors!) being plumbers or electricians.

You just share America's fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of a liberal arts education. It is not to increase earning power or knowledge in any particular discipline. It is based on the belief that there is more to people than earning power and more to the mind than economic utility. Its purpose is to expand a student's spectrum of knowledge, his ability to process, appreciate, and communicate insight from any discipline. The point of a liberal arts education is to expand someone's mind, not his earning power.

Using a liberal arts degree's lack of economic utility as an argument against it just reflects a misperception of what a liberal arts degree is supposed to be. If people want to go to vocational school or get an apprenticeship, that's fine, but don't pretend that they have the same purpose as liberal arts universities and just fulfill it better. I agree that a lot of American "liberal arts" schools fail in their purpose, but that purpose isn't vocational training. Their problems stem from the problems Henry Adams addressed with his own education--they've accepted a worldview without a philosophical foundation, and can't figure out a value for a liberal arts education, so they try to create some hybrid John Dewey model short of simple vocational training. They don't see a reason for an education that includes Plato and Aquinas because they don't see any value in Plato and Aquinas; everything of value, in their eyes, has come along in the last 150 years.
5.15.2007 3:09pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Fie, you are the one who is falling for a fallacy. Have you ever met one of these Doogie Howser prodigies? They are even more likely to be callow, sophomoric, and jejune than their less-accomplished peers. That they are even better at school than their peers does not mean they have had any greater scope for the life experiences that gets rid of the callowness. You can't get life experience from a book, no matter how smart you are - you have to live it.

Far be it from me to attribute your close-minded stereotyping to the failure of your liberal arts education.

However, I recommend St. Johns College, which I did not attend, to anyone who sees value in the liberal arts.
5.15.2007 3:14pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Jeek,

Failing to accept your anecdotal evidence as experimental proof of the inherent nature of a class of people is not a fallacy. Generalizing from your own experiences is. SH is correct. It's called an "inductive fallacy."
5.15.2007 3:18pm
Kent G. Budge (mail) (www):
Two prodigies get professorships, and everyone thinks this proves their pet theory, whatever it is. It proves that liberal arts education has gone soft. It proves liberal arts education is more important than ever. It proves homeschooling works. It proves homeschooling produces freaks. It proves we don't value real-world education enough. It proves formal education is all wasted time.

Actually, it proves none of these things. These kids are outliers, and outliers are a really lousy basis for any inductive conclusions.
5.15.2007 3:48pm
Sebastian Holsclaw (mail):
"Fie, you are the one who is falling for a fallacy. Have you ever met one of these Doogie Howser prodigies? They are even more likely to be callow, sophomoric, and jejune than their less-accomplished peers."

Jeek, in my experience people who use pseudonyms in blog comments are MORE LIKELY to offer bad arguments than those who use their real names, but that doesn't specifically say anything about your arguments, they can be judged for themselves.

Even if it were true that prodigies are even more likely to be callow, sophomoric, and jejune than their less-accomplished peers, that says nothing whatsoever about these women. It isn't proper to assign variable characteristics of a group to its individual members unless those characteristics define the group or are always found in members of the group. The traits you describe are common in people of all ages, and are not found in all (or even nearly all) of the group of "really intelligent youths". These particular women don't seem to have the problems you describe any more than a vast majority of older people in similar teaching positions.

I suspect that you believe many teachers have insufficient real-world experience. I tend to agree. But that is not a problem specific to these women. You would have been better off describing your objections to them as being typical of professors rather than typcial of intelligent youths.
5.15.2007 3:56pm