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What a diamond of a mind she must have - finishing high school at age 7, pursuing a graduate degree at 13. Hard to even imagine.

In a country where many girls are still discouraged from going to school, Sushma Verma is having anything but a typical childhood.

The 13-year-old girl from a poor family in north India has enrolled in a master's degree in microbiology, after her father sold his land to pay for some of his daughter's tuition in the hope of catapulting her into India's growing middle class.

Verma finished high school at 7 and earned an undergraduate degree at age 13 — milestones she said were possible only with the sacrifices and encouragement of her uneducated and impoverished parents.

It's a whole family of go-getters, it seems:
Sushma — a skinny, poised girl with shoulder-length hair — is not the first high-achiever in her family. Her older brother graduated from high school at 9, and in 2007 became one of India's youngest computer science graduates at 14.
Source: ABC News/Associated Press

Whenever I read stories like this, it makes me wonder about nations where fully half the population, women, are kept downtrodden, persecuted, abused and uneducated.

We simply cannot afford to jettison half of humanity's imagination, intelligence, and creativity. No nation can afford to do that, and they never could.

How many women over the centuries have lived and died, who, if allowed to meet their potential, would have become the inventors of lifesaving medicines, the discoverers of new physical laws, creators of new technologies, or effective political leaders who brought their nations as far as they could go?

It boggles my mind, the wasted potential in this world, and how long it's been going on.

Where would we be now if all had been given equal opportunity from the start? Colonies on Mars and the Moon? Free of Cancer? A less cruel and exploitative economic regime ruling the world?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipped (3+ / 0-)

    for taking this story from CNN or wherever you got it, and calling out its real point.

    Have you thought about including some attribution? If you do, I'll recommend your diary, too.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 11:29:02 AM PDT

  •  while many prodigies do adjust well later in life (10+ / 0-)

    others do not.  It would appear, given the caste system that is still active in India de facto, it would appear her best bet would be to immigrate.  She is experiencing the double whammy of being so very young in an adult environment while being in a culture which still discourages both social advancement and education for women

    •  I know my across the hall neighbor (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, OIL GUY, historys mysteries

      was waiting for ICE documentation (he was worried they'd put the wrong apartment number); not sure if it was for permanent residence or just to renew his H1-B visa. But he has two wonderful young daughters and I'm not sure if their future education has been on his mind...

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:18:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which Indian culture? (3+ / 0-)

      I hope you know there is no one "Indian culture".  There are a million cultures.  In some of them women are indeed oppressed.  In others, they are pretty much equal to men.

      •  The same as one refers to a Chinese culture (0+ / 0-)

        while there are many variations, there are also certain cultural norms.  Otherwise, you are unable to discuss any large aggregation of humans in general terms.  It would be helpful if you would list those groups in India where women enjoy full equality with men and give some idea of the size of the group demographically.  After all, the caste system is not universal among everyone who lives in India but the caste system, though it is eroding, still has an enormous effect upon the majority of people in the country  

        •  That would be the Indian population as a whole. (0+ / 0-)

          Under the Indian system of laws women enjoy full equality with men, the size of demographics are over 1 billion.

          The caste system is something that was codified into law by the English, it has not bearing to the Jati and Varna system that Indian culture actually comprises, but relates more to the social structure of Europe, where birth based class was rigid and not able to be overcome.

          The system has no such effect on the majority of the country, not in the law, not even in the culture.  In fact the only place it comes into play is to secure seats in colleges and government jobs, which aren't quite the 'abuse' you imagine, at least not to the people you imagine you care about.  And marriage of course, an institution where ethnicity, language and culture (which is what makes up the even the modern form of "caste") comes into play in nearly every civilization.

          The enormous effect of caste is more properly found in the minds of those who refuse to bother to educate themselves about the reality of Indian culture, and why their notions that India is a homogenous group of brown folk just doesn't work.  Caste was something that confused most Indians when the English began cataloging it, and it doesn't apply to most Indian populations.  The hierarchy you half learned in your skimming of 19th century literature doesn't apply to most populations in India.

        •  Jaati (0+ / 0-)

          India has many thousands of groups, largely defined by endogamy, and each has its own cultural norms.  Yes, these are getting eroded by urbanization, by India's common system of laws, and so on.  Yes, there are toxic elements especially as tradition morphs as it meets modernity (e.g., the connection between consumerism and dowry).  But it is a very complicated picture.

    •  Many (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OIL GUY, historys mysteries, kurt

      child prodigies do have many problems latter in life but I think the advantages for this young lady far outweigh her lost childhood.

      I had a suite mate as a freshman in college who was only 13.  Bright young guy but he struggled with social interactions the entire time he was in college.

      "In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism" Marine Corp Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler

      by Kevskos on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 01:32:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A very good friend of mine (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kevskos, historys mysteries, kurt

        had just turned 16 our freshman year in college. He compensated by coming across as the hard-edged New Yorker. He used to wander from dorm to dorm hustling ping-pong.

        We became very good friends, but it wasn't until years later that he revealed his age. He's quite well adjusted today.

        Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

        by OIL GUY on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:40:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Do you mean emigrate? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OIL GUY

      As in leave India?

    •  You don't know much about India's social system. (0+ / 0-)

      What in the story of this little girl referenced caste?  What, other than your profound ignorance of the country and blindness to your own, would spur you to recommend that she immigrate?  

      She's CLEARLY not in a culture that discourages social advancement or education for women, nor is she in one that would render her health, her well being or her life somehow unimportant.

      She's experienced the 'double whammy' of access to an excellent education (despite her being poor and female, )  AND the possession of parents who put the lie to your bigotry in their desire to sacrifice and encourage their female child to access, focus on and excel in education.

      You want her to come here?  Where the people who imposed a rigid system of caste imposed (look up where the system of caste, including the word actually comes from and whose society it reflects, here's a hint, its one in which a hereditary social structure still thrives) yet another rigid system in which her skin color is all that matters?

      Should she come here to be discriminated against openly due to her gender, her age, her ethnicity, her religion and her skin color?  Or stay in the place where she was not only give the cultural nurturing, but the educational opportunities we regularly deny our own poor population?

  •  Probably not that much additional progress (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    would have been made in these areas

    How many women over the centuries have lived and died, who, if allowed to meet their potential, would have become the inventors of lifesaving medicines, the discoverers of new physical laws, creators of new technologies, or effective political leaders who brought their nations as far as they could go?
    considering that in most cases forces beyond the individual people involved are responsible for such progress (although I realize that humans do revel in "cult of personality" issues that glorify or vilify individual people))
  •  Half of the human population (5+ / 0-)

    For most of our history half of us have been oppressed.  By the other half. When we finally figure out equality there will be no stopping us.

    The road will be hard. But what a bright light youve shared here.

    Thank you. T&R

    "Every book is like a door"

    by Hammerhand on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:05:23 PM PDT

    •  I don't think it is half and half. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      janemas, kurt

      The oppressors are and have always been small in number relative to the oppressed. There was one Pharaoh and one Caesar at a time, and far fewer kings than subjects. Even today, it's more like 95/5 than 50/50.

  •  one more "Big Bang Theory" TV demographic /nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, historys mysteries

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:21:22 PM PDT

  •  Um, hellllooooo!?! I believe the correct term ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    ... is Native Americans!



    Please do not be alarmed. We are about to engage... the nozzle.

    by Terrapin on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:53:17 PM PDT

  •  Sadly, those controlling the GOP today (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Swampfoot, historys mysteries

    want to take American women back to the day when any talents they had withered on the vine because of the imposed belief that their destined calling was to be mothers and anything else was abnormal.

    Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

    by anastasia p on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 01:14:03 PM PDT

  •  She's starting her graduate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    studies at 13, which is impressive. But it's not a world record or anything. This kid finished his master's at 16, and this kid got his PhD in Physics at 15, having started grad school when he was 6.

    •  Okay, but your examples are both boys (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries

      Don't you think it was harder for a girl, given the obstacles?

      "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

      by Nespolo on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 03:42:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would say that this is a record you don't want (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to hold or win. To be very young with a college degree is not necessarily the most optimal situation, regardless of one's aptitude.

        I'm not intending to be critical of the family's choices, only that creating these comparisons suggests that there's a benefit/advantage/wonderfullness to completing a degree early. It may be the best option for a particular student and that student's circumstances, but I'd hate to see anyone vying for "youngest ever" of such a circumstance, as an end goal.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:12:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, I agree (0+ / 0-)

          There are many examples of young people burning out after this kind of super intense focus.  You have to wonder how much of a "normal" childhood they have sacrificed.

          "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

          by Nespolo on Sun Sep 22, 2013 at 09:50:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  so in both cases that's nine years to get a (0+ / 0-)

      PhD - which is par for the course, or even lagging a tad . . .

      that seems to be the great equalizer, compared to earlier education levels (including most or at least many masters programs) that tend to involve rote learning rather than original thought.

  •  This may have been the best option for her (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, OHdog, kurt

    given her various opportunities, but having seen very young kids go through college with me, I think that they missed out on some of the culture and experience and bonding and opportunities that are available in an American university, which is about more than classes.

    If I had a daughter who was a prodigy of this sort, I'd find various ways to broaden her education so that she didn't enter undergraduate college until age 16. I'd have her study foreign languages, I might have her take classes at the community college, I'd deepen her knowledge of all kinds of things, I'd have her read a ton of literature, perhaps enroll her in MOOCs, etc.

    My point in this is that while I'm sure she's very bright, that there are a lot of very bright kids who aren't pushed through the grades this way. No doubt in this area, this is the only way to get more education. Kudos to her family to supporting her and doing so much to help their kids.

    And as to the point about all the wasted human potential: YES. There are so many very bright kids out there who are crushed by their life circumstances.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:07:29 PM PDT

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