Idiot vos Savant

Avoiding prejudice in classrooms.


Rebecca Traister
October 10, 2006 5:00PM (UTC)

While perusing the Parade magazine inserted in my paper this weekend, I spotted an interesting lead-off question to high-IQ super-genius Marilyn vos Savant, who has had a column in Parade since time began. Well, since 1986 anyway.

"As an elementary school teacher, I work hard at not calling primarily on boys and at giving equal attention to advanced students and others alike. Do you have any words of advice for teachers to help close other unintended gaps in treatment?" wrote Los Angeleno Ray Baker. Vos Savant's highly erudite response? "Try to do the same for unattractive children, the ones with faces that only a mother could love. Cute kids and beautiful people have so many undeserved advantages in life. A better education should not be one of them." So to summarize: Treat kids who are slow, ugly or female with the same respect you reserve for children who have the advantage of being smart, attractive and male.

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There are so many things to say here. But I'll just pick one: As vos Savant's high IQ was whirring into action on this one, did it not cross her mind that the initial equation of girls with less-advanced students was worth remarking on? OK, one more: When considering other classroom situations in which some students might get disproportionate attention from the kind of teacher who has to concentrate really hard on calling on girls, did mentioning minority or non-English-speaking kids not occur to her?

Whatever. Then while I was writing up this item, I went to vos Savant's Web site and found her "Ask Marilyn Daily Diet," which includes the revelation/tip that she consumes "a very light breakfast" and "a very small lunch" in order to keep her trim physique. She then clarifies that by very light she means practically nonexistent: "maybe 250 calories for both [breakfast and lunch] together." She also cautions against snacking, even on fruits and vegetables, because "an average apple has the same number of calories as two pats of butter!"

It is not without irony that the woman is married to Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart.


Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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