30 May 2007

Bright student found dead

Edward Field, 20, was missing for ten days before police found his body. His family and friends had searched for the chemistry student at Bristol University and used Internet networking sites to try to find him.

Mr Field, whose family live in New Malden, Surrey, is understood to have been worried about his end of term exams, although a spokesman for Bristol University described him as ‘exceptionally’ clever.

Last night a close friend said: ‘Ed was a really bright boy with everything to live for. ‘Exam stress may have played a part in what happened but there are a lot of different pressures in student life and it is impossible to know.’ (from ‘Student worried over exams found hanged in woods’, Daily Mail, 29 May 2007)

Being ‘exceptionally clever’ is certainly no reason why an undergraduate should not be stressed about a university exam. He may have needed to do exceptionally well in order to proceed to the sort of exceptional and rarely obtainable career which he needed to have.

Those who are not exceptionally clever are much more likely to feel that, whatever their exam results, they will be able to get by in whatever sort of life is available to them in modern society.

It has been recognised by authorities other than me that the correlation of academic success with IQ breaks down at the highest levels of IQ. It is also recognised (but as far as I know only by me and other people here) that those with the highest IQs may have the greatest need for careers that can only be obtained by the highest academic success (and not necessarily even then).

It is also recognised (by me) that high IQ arouses hostility and it is easy for teachers and tutors to use their hostility in ways that are very effective in damaging a person’s prospects.

Why was this undergraduate, if really exceptional, at Bristol instead of Oxford or Cambridge, and taking his degree at so late an age? This suggests that his life may already have gone seriously wrong in the same way that mine did, although it is unlikely that he was so extreme a case.

He had been at Bedales public school, and we know that people from public schools are discriminated against. Perhaps that was why he was not at Oxford or Cambridge. And perhaps his tutors wanted to make him feel “challenged” (or, rather, undermined).

The fact that a “close friend” finds it “impossible to know” what he was stressed about is not particularly enlightening either way. My closest “friends” at Somerville had no insight whatever into my position when I was thrown out with a second-class degree. After that had happened their remarks were extremely misleading, if not positively slanderous.