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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Confession Time/Thank you, Madonna! (Note: I've changed the student's name)

As high school reunions arrive and one gets older, one wonders how other lives turned out. Yet, decades later, I remembered the name of only one fellow student, Gene, and not favorably.

An old saying is that one forgets those who have done us favors but never forgets those who humiliated us and I found this to be true. Throughout my life, Gene's name burned within my psyche.

During my lonely high school days he had seemed a Gatsby-like figure. Handsome and popular, always nattily dressed and with his intended goal of Yale, he would have been a shoe-in for Homecoming King had my school such a celebration. I envied his friendships from within my social circle of one.

Gene spoke to me only once. As he approached, I felt proud, anticipating that he would value me as a friend and share his approval with others and I would gain friends and especially a girlfriend. But he only wanted to borrow money, which I lent him and he never repaid. Nor did he approach me again.

Several years later I read in the high school newsletter that Gene had died young of cancer. From his obituary in The New York times, I learned that our professional lives were similar. We both earned doctoral degrees and wrote books but these were common achievements for graduates of my selective high school from which eight graduates won the Nobel Prize and seven won the Pulitzer Prize, more than any other secondary education institution in the United States. Yet I gained an achievement which, almost certainly, no other graduate had.

Years after graduating, while driven to a Manhattan TV interview and stopped at a red light, the limousine driver turned to me and said, "Madonna was the last person to sit where you're sitting." With this, I instantly told myself, "Gene, you bastard, I beat you!"

So, thanks to luck and Madonna, I did vanquish Gene in the long Game of Life.

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Admission Into Selective High Schools (And My Thanks To Madonna)

A March 11, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Parents Challenge Lottery Systems Used to Diversify Elite High Schools") aroused reader comment, virtually all opposing the ending of admission testing and underlying premise that all are equally talented. As one reader humorously wrote, "Ya know that NBA team is over represented by talented and tall men. We need to achieve equity so hence forth we open the NBA to tryouts by lottery."
The reality is that student achievement derives both from innate ability and having experienced a "good-enough" early life parenting during which psychodynamics develop and the basic ego capacities form including control of thinking and behavior, modulation of mood, and others. Poor parenting is the ever-present "Elephant in the Room" that politicians fear to confront, preferring to raise the false hot-button argument of "discrimination.".

Having attended a test-selective high school I don't believe that I learned more than I could at most high schools except that here there were no fights or other disturbances, no bullying, and few parties (to which I was never invited). Nor do I remember there being any school athletic teams. It's almost embarrassing to see how many leaders of industry and founders of startups will be celebrated at the school's upcoming anniversary celebration to which I received an invitation. And no, I'm not one of them.

To elaborate on my high school failings, I share the following. There was a boy in my grade that I envied since he seemed to have it all: preppy dress, many friends, even a girl-friend. As he once approached me, I fantasized he wanted to be my friend and that, through him, I would become popular too and maybe even get a girl-friend. This was not to be. He asked to borrow money which I lent him. He didn't pay me back and never spoke to me again. I felt humiliated, developed the deep hatred that an insulted teenager can, and his name (Eric) is the only student's name that I remembered. Decades later I read in the school newsletter that he died and compared my life to his. He too gained a doctorate though in a different field and I wrote more books that him. I also achieved something that he likely never did. Once, while driven in a limousine to a TV interview, the driver stopped at a red light, turned to me and said, "The last person who sat where you're sitting was Madonna." Eric, you bastard, I beat you, I childishly thought. Thank you, Madonna!


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Thank you, Madonna!

As high school reunions arrive, one wonders how other's lives turned out. Yet, decades later, I remembered the name of only one fellow student, Eric, and not favorably.
An old saying is that one forgets those who have done us favors but never forgets those who have humiliated us, and I found this to  Read More 
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