I have an high school kid interning for me this summer. He is extremely bright, very motivated and eager to learn. With that winning combination, he completed every task I assigned to him with very little supervision. A few days a ago we were chatting about where he was thinking of going to school - he had said he wanted to study Computer Science. I was expecting to hear a list of Ivies and top ranked public schools - this is a straight A student, with a full load of AP classes, athletic and very articulate.
I was very surprised to hear that he was going to apply to a couple of local colleges and generally not step out of home. It got me thinking about that huge gap between who he has the potential to be and who he is choosing to be. I realized for instance during his time with our company he has expressed very little interest in understanding how our business works, who our clients are and what kinds of jobs he may expect coming out of school. His awareness of the real world is fairly limited (which is understandable given his age - though I have seen younger kids who are more savvy) and he is comfortable not knowing.
He loves to tinker with technology and figure things out. He is not thinking about the connection between what he is doing and how it applied - the real point of the internship. I would give him the broad context each time I assigned him a task but he asked no questions. Each time I would try to say something that may spark interest but it never quite clicked. He would just run with it and get the job done efficiently. I had to wonder if the kid was naturally not curious or if the system had killed it for him.
I have to say, I feel a sense of loss when I see this kid. If there was some way I knew to wake him up to see what he can do with his life I would - just jump start that dormant area of his brain where curiosity lives. His ability to work with technology so effortlessly is almost a handicap - he can market this skill today and five years out when he is an undergrad. His readiness almost bookends his potential as a human being.