Tyler Cowen, one of my favorite econobloggers, extols the virtues of the Center for Talented Youth program for smart and curious teenagers. I participated in the program myself for the three summers before 8th, 9th, and 10th grades and enjoyed it immensely, taking courses in Japanese, Algebra 2, and Computer Science. A good time was had by all, and there was quite a bit of learning, too.
Anyone who doubts that public schooling can be improved upon by privatization should look into the CTY program and examine its successes. I learned more over those summer than I did in whole years of public high school, and more cheaply when you take into account the taxes my parents pay.
Jacob Levy has many more comments and says:
In retrospect, my admission to and financial aid for CTY (math, 1984) provided a pretty tranformative experience for me, and one of the major mechanisms for my own social mobility. The other major mechanism was my scholarship to Exeter. CTY made me realize how desperately I wanted to go to an academically first-rate boarding school. Once I was through Exeter, my course was pretty well set; at that point there was effectively no chance of my not going on to a good college and beyond. Had I stayed in my medium-town New Hampshire public school system-- which was fine but nothing like the public-preps of wealthy suburbs-- I would have stayed pretty miserable and continued to get full-time negative reinforcement for intellectual excitement and curiosity. I wouldn't have understood the range of possibilities that were really open to me, and would have had my sights set much, much lower than they were ultimately set. And I do think I would have ended up internalizing (what I perceived to be) the hostility to nerdiness among my peers. It seems pretty unlikely that I would have ended up in nerd heaven, here at the University of Chicago. After CTY and Exeter excited me to possibilities I hadn't understood existed-- and that, it turns out, provide a path to significant social mobility.I wouldn't say CTY had the exact same effect on me, but I can certainly relate to Mr. Levy's experience with public schools.