Today, I was having a conference with a student who is bright beyond the capabilities of a classroom. Maybe you know the sort? His mind is about ten steps ahead of any point in the discussion. He grasps twenty different ways of seeing a subject. He probably should be in grad school, but there is that whole pesky need for the bachelor's degree first. You can see his intelligence bursting out of his body in the way he moves and talks and walks.
He is too much for the other students, and capable of absorbing about a hundred times more information in about half the time...and my other students aren't anything to scoff at in that department, either, especially in this particular section. If you could serve the information to them like a meal, they would eat the thing whole, lick the flowers off of the plate, and ask for seconds before you could sit down yourself. They demand to know, to be given the tools to understand. He's too much, even for them.
As I recommended books for this particular student to read -- actually, not to read so much as to feed to his insatiable appetite for learning -- and he wrote down the titles and authors, he mentioned "Library of Congress, here I come." Not the public library, not the school's library, but the actual Library of Congress.
"Have you been there, to the Library of Congress?" I asked, thinking that I might have heard wrong.
"Yeah," he said, "I hang out there. That's my vice, my high, my drug. Good books."
He told me that his father, a fairly accomplished attorney, took him there when he was just a little boy. "The best books in the world are here," his dad said. When my student told me that, he spread his arms out and looked up, as if he were still that child, standing in the middle of that magnificent, golden cathedral of a reading room. "The best books in the world!" he said.
"We aren't close," the student added, "so I don't have that feeling for what my father's done, for what he's accomplished; but I have that."
So here is a young man who goes to the Library of Congress to sit down and read books. I almost wept for joy.
These are my students.