Whatever Happened to the Quiz Kids?



A Remembrance of Things Past   
    One night, when I was a teenager back in the forties, I was listening to "The Quiz Kids" on the radio when the announcer asked 6-year-old Joel Kupperman to calculate how many seconds there are in a year. There was a stretching silence for, perhaps, 30 or 40 seconds. Finally, Joel spoke up and, in a childish drawl, said, "31,536,000." The announcer started to say, "That's very good, Jo--", but Joel interrupted him, and they tripped over each other for a second. Finally, Joel managed to get the floor, and said, "31,536,360. I added in leap year."
    That brought down the house.
   Ruth Feldman's book devotes an entire chapter to Joel Kupperman. Joel didn't begin to walk and talk until he was 18 months old(!) At 4, he could total his mother's grocery bill faster than an adding machine. Interestingly enough, he and his engineer-father had a 15-minute numbers workout before breakfast every morning. The book's author, the former 'Ruthie Duskin', who also had a childhood I. Q. of 200+, writes,
    'His I. Q. was above 200, and his mental development was the highest that ever had been tested in the twenty-five years of child study by the Chicago public schools. By six, he was reading eighth grade history books* and had been skipped into second grade; his parents were loath to push him any faster.'
   And listen to this:
    'Engaging Joel in conversation,' Fred Allen once said, 'is not unlike talking to a vine. Every time you turn around, the vine has grown out of earshot. You say something, and the next thing you know, he has clambered up your vest front and down your spine.' (Joel said he was sorry for Allen because the comedian was "awfully dumb" about numbers. The two kept up a correspondence, and at Allen's request. the boy sent him the next tooth he lost. Allen wrote back that he was keeping it on his desk and leaving, "little bits of candy and meat around in case the tooth gets hungry.')
    Another Kuppermanism -
    "That wath only a thynopthith. My muvver told me I've been talking too much."
    Joel Kupperman became a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut. He would be 64 by now.
    Many of the Quiz Kids were ambivalent, if not downright negative about their stints on the Quiz Kids program. Like the "Termites", by and large, they ended up prosperous and successful as adults. James Watson was the Nobel Prize-winner of the group. It's important to realize that when their childhood ratio I. Q.'s are converted to deviation I. Q.'s, they were very bright but of course, not as extraordinary as those childhood ratio I. Q.'s would have suggested. The average I. Q. Of the ~600 children who participated in the original show over its 12-year history was about 160, corresponding to a deviation I. Q. of 150, and an expected frequency of occurrence (for an I. Q. of 150 and above) of about 1 in 1,100. Factoring in whatever regression to the mean may have occurred as they grew into adulthood, and whatever "digression from the mean" may have occurred with other "late-blooming" children in the Chicago area who might have overtaken them in adulthood, perhaps their accomplishments were about what might be expected in such a group."
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* One mother of a three-and-a-half year-old reported a year-and-a-half ago in a plaintive call for help that her daughter had been tested as reading at 5th-grade level. And of course, Michael (Kearney) started high school at 5.
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    I was thinking about how remarkable that was. I'm wondering what ever became of the children on that program. Harold Brown served as the Department of Defense (Deputy?) Director for Research and Engineering (DDR&E), which, I believe, may be DoD's highest technical post. Vanessa Brown had a movie contract, but didn't become a household name. (Few do.) She died of cancer in 1999. Gerard Darrow was another long-standing participant on "The Quiz Kids". As I remember it, the children were drawn largely, if not entirely from the Chicago area, although there were occasional guest stars from other locales.
    Today's hero is
Joe S., who noted that in reciting Joel Kupperman's answer to the question, "How many seconds are there in a year?", I added 3,600 seconds for the six extra hours that correct for leap years, instead of the correct 360 seconds. Thanks, Joe. Joe also mentioned that he thinks that Dr. James Watson, of Crick and Watson fame, was also a Quiz Kid. He thinks Dr. Watson received his Ph. D. at 23. Does anyone have any information concerning that question?

Jack Lucal, James Watson, Ruth Duskin, Margaret Merrick, Claude Brenner

Gerard Darrow, Claude Brenner, Richard Williams, Margaret Merrick, Joel Kupperman, David Prochaska, Ruth Duskin, Harve Fischman, with Chico Marx


And Now, the Answers:
10-28-2000:
Joe S. has furnished further information regarding Dr. Watson's stint on the Quiz Kids program. Born in Chicago in 1928, James Watson received his B. S. degree from the University of Chicago at the age of 19, and his Ph. D. from Indiana University at 22. From there, he went to Copenhagen, Cambridge, and Caltech on post-doctoral fellowships, and joined the Harvard faculty at the age of 27.
   I then ran a search on "Quiz Kids" and guess what I found? Me! Twice! It is to cringe!:Of all the people who are unworthy of being recognized as a Quiz Kid, I'm the most unworthy. I flunked out. One of the nemeses (the only one I can remember) was the question, "If the Aurora Borealis is the name of the Northern Lights, what is the name of the Southern Lights?" I'm sure I must have stood there and stared at the floor. The answer is, "the Aurora Australis." I suppose that you were supposed to realize that "Aurora" was the goddess of the dawn, and "Boreas" was the god of the north wind, so "Aurora Borealis" means "dawn in the north". Then you were supposed to know that Australis was the god of the south wind (I think), so "dawn in the south" would be "Aurora Australis". But I didn't say that. I was too busy staring at the floor. It's strange how the search engine picked up that reference, and yet didn't home in on what I know must be legion out there. There were many stars like Gerard who were on the Quiz Kids for years, and whose names should spring to the fore in a search like this.

Here's what else I found (at "Ask Me"):
"David Buswell gave this response on 6/12/2000:

   "'Quiz Kids' ran for about 10 years on radio and briefly on early TV. The emcee was Joe Kelly and the show was created by Lou Cowan (who later produced TV's $64,000 Question and was disgraced by the rigging scandals) and emanated from Chicago. Over the years there were hundreds of kids who were temporarily on the show and their IQ's averaged about
160 or so. One tested at over 200 (Ruthie Duskin).
    "But in addition to the transients, there were several regulars including Joel Kupperman was certainly the most famous and he lasted 10 years. He graduated from the University of Chicago and is a PhD who has taught as a philosophy professor at Chicago and Cambridge University. He wrote a book entitled "Fundamentals of Logic and Ethical Knowledge." He shuns all interviews about his days on Quiz Kids and has never gone to any of the show's reunions. He is called by his peers on the show "the Garbo of the group." Two other alums of the program became semi-well known. One was Vanessa Brown who became a minor TV and film actress and James Watson who won a Nobel Prize in medicine."
    "On a radio game show, The Quiz Kids, Dr. Glenn Seaborg was a guest questioner when the host turned the tables and allowed the children to question him. One student asked Seaborg if he had discovered any new elements. Though the announcement was scheduled for the next day, Seaborg answered, " Yes. Recently there have been two new elements discovered, elements with atomic numbers 95 and 96." The program ended with a commercial, making this the first and only time that the announcement of the discovery of new elements was sponsored by Alka-Seltzer."
    
I'm particularly interested in this because,
(1) In 1954, my deceased wife, Ruth, graduated from Shimer College (a subsidiary of the University of Chicago) during the week of her 20th birthday. (She didn't win a Nobel Prize.) The U. of C. was operating the Robert Maynard Hutchens Classics program for gifted students, in which the students could pass the 14 year-long courses solely by examination credit.
(2) Drs. Crick and Watson were cited as examples of Nobel Laureates who had IQs below 120, but who made it through pluck, luck, and fortitude. Ha! Instead they would seem to be examples of the advantages of a high IQ in making it big in the sciences.
Ruth Duskin Feldman became an educator in the Chicago area, writing a book entitled, "What Ever Happened to the Quiz Kids?". (I bought a copy of the book today, and will report on it here after it arrives.) She has been one of three authors co-authoring the widely used textbook, "A Child's World" (McGraw Hill), now in its 8th edition. She has also written four other books, including, "Perils and Profits of Growing Up Gifted".
Bobby Ray Inman became an admiral and the deputy director fo the CIA.
Mark Mullins, after appearing on the Quiz Kids between the ages of 6 and 10, and graduating from Harvard, became an Episcopal priest, and served as the headmaster of the prestigious St. Albans prep school in Washington, D. C. (Albert Gore, III, is a student there.)
Louis Edward Sissman has been hailed as one of the outstanding poets of the 20th century.
Robert Easton is a movie director, having directed such movies as "the Red Badge of Courage" and "Star Trek VI".
Alan Kay was one of the masterminds behind Xerox' Parc, and Apple Computer.

More material is presented below:
"Stressing the Smart Kids"
Life Magazine, August 5

Roby Kesler (wrote book "The Quiz Kids")
Quiz Kids Radio Programs

More Quiz Kid Radio Programs
Quiz Kids on TV
Quiz Kids Movie
Sheila Conlon and Bob Burke
   
One footnote: Ms. Feldman mentions that there were four Quiz Kids who tested above I. Q. 200 as children. The greater Chicago area would have had, probably, between 4,500,000 and 6,000,000 inhabitants in the 1940's. The show accepted children from age 4 to age 16 from 1940 to 1952. That would have afforded a total Chicago-based sampling cohort of, perhaps, 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 children (not including children from other cities who sometimes appeared on the show) over the program's tenure. One I. Q. of 200+ per 500,000 people would have agreed fairly well with the observed numbers. (It's worth noting that in the Terman Study, such high I. Q. scores occurred slightly more often than a log-normal distribution would predict, but the Terman sample was urban, rather than urban and rural, and 35% of the children's parents were professionals compared with, on average, 3% professionals in the general population of that day.)

Looking further into Miraca Gross' book:
   She explains that she used the Stanford Binet Forms L & M to obtain mental ages for her children, but she doesn't mention which revision of the SB she used except to say that it wasn't Revision IV. Also, the highest IQ that she lists in her tables is 175+, but this is for the four children who have tested elsewhere at 200 or above on the SB. So I'm not sure just what her scores mean.
I figured it out! It turns out that only three of the above four children, Ian, Adrian, and Chris, had IQs at the 200+ level. The fourth, Hadley, had a 178 IQ, but all four are listed as 175+. So the other 11 children had ratio IQs between 160 and 174. Interestingly enough, there were 1,700,000 children who were within the age range and the geographical area from which Dr. Gross identified only 40 children with IQs of 160 or above. The three children with IQs of 200+ are about what we'd expect out of 1,700,000 children, corresponding to about 1 in 567,000, compared to the 1 in 500,000 that a log-normal model would predict. However, there should have been about 1,700 children with ratio IQs of 160 or above (deviation IQs of 150 or above), and Dr. Gross only found 40. She explains that IQ testing isn't practiced in the schools in Australia. She explains that Australia is a very egalitarian, anti-intellectual, frontier society, perhaps like the U. S. in the days of the Old West. Consequently, she was dependent upon teacher selection to identify children for individual testing.
    The bottom line is that her distribution is bimodal, with 3 children at 200 or 200+, and 12 children averaging in the upper 160's. And yet the median age to begin reading was 2 years 7 months, compared to a median age of a little above 3 for Leta Hollingsworth's children with an average IQ of about 190.
    In short, it's consistent with, although, of course, it doesn't prove that today's children are smarter than they were in the 1930's (when I was a puppy).
    My. friend, Bob Park, in Sydney, says that he has seen Dr. Gross on TV in Australia, and talked with her over the phone. Dr. Gross is diminutive, and has a Scottish brogue. Bob has also met "Daniel". 'Daniel's" childhood IQ was measured at 198. Daniel started university at 13 or 14, is now about 17, and is "very nice, and very, very smart". (It's interesting when your friend knows someone written up in books like "Exceptionally Gifted Children".)
  A few days ago, I wrote, "Ruth Duskin Feldman became an educator in the Chicago area, writing a book entitled, "What Ever Happened to the Quiz Kids?". (I bought a copy of the book today, and will report on it here after it arrives.)"
    Well, it arrived, I've skimmed it, and its contents are fascinating. I'm intrigued with what has become of the Quiz Kids and with their attitudes regarding their stints as Quiz Kids celebrities. They've met with varying degrees of success and recognition, ranging from Noebl Prize winner James Watson to the deceased Gerard Darrow. I'll try to write this up as soon as I have a chance.