Child Prodigy, 13, Claims UConn Age Bias

By | March 29, 2010

Even at 13, Colin Carlson believes he’s running out of time. Colin is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, seeking a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and another in environmental studies. But he’s been knocked off course by the university’s rejection of his request to take a class that includes summer field work in South Africa. He and his mother say university officials told them he is too young for the overseas course. So he’s filed an age discrimination claim with the university and U.S. Department of Education, which is investigating. “I’m losing time in my four-year plan for college,” he said. “They’re upsetting the framework of one of my majors.” Michael Kirk, a spokesman for UConn, would not comment on Colin’s case. But he said that generally, safety is the university’s first concern when travel is involved. The university would not let Colin enroll, even after his mother, Jessica Offir, offered to release UConn from liability and accompany her son as a chaperone at her own expense, she and Colin said. Colin was 2 or 3 when he began reading on his own, Offir said, and was up to “Harry Potter” by the time he was 4. An only child, he has faced trouble before because of his brainpower. His kindergarten teacher would not allow him to take books with him at nap time, and he was ridiculed by other children who fired math questions at him to entertain themselves, she said. “You have no idea what kids like this experience,” Offir said. Colin skipped two grades in public school and began taking psychology, history and other courses at UConn when he was 9. He graduated from Stanford University Online High School at age 11, and soon after enrolled full-time at UConn. “I’m actually like any other student,” he said. “The faculty and students have better things to do than worry about a 13-year-old holding his own.” Over the years, Colin, who said he is fascinated by natural ecosystems, has traveled extensively. He has gone sea kayaking off Nova Scotia and Ecuador, hiked in numerous national parks and, with his mother, has traveled across the U.S. by car. “It’s important to have a very wide world view,” he said. “Biology is fundamentally about the diversity of life, with a focus across the planet.” – cbsnews

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