I have a conspiracy theory I thought I’d share with you. I think that it’s got about a 5% chance of being true, but it might resonate with other things that you or your other readers have read.
There is a curious program in Maryland, begun in 1972 or so and continuing, while in a significantly different fashion until this day. I was involved in it at almost the very beginning.
In that time period, all students in public schools in Maryland were given a standardized test called “The Iowa Test of Basic Skills.” It measured aptitude and ability in several areas.
The students who scored in the top 2 percentile in the math section of the exam were further tested under a program run by Julian Stanley at The Johns Hopkins University. The SAT was among the tests given to these children. The top 2 percent scorers on these tests were then given a very wide range of psychological profile and aptitude tests, and were given the opportunity to participate in accelerated math courses taught at Johns Hopkins on weekends and during the summer. There were about 30 kids in my group, starting in 1973.
This program was called SMSPY, the Study of Mathematically and Scientifically Precocious Youth. They dropped the Scientific pretty quickly, and it then became just SMPY. These kids were then encouraged to apply to college early, and were encouraged to study mathematics once they got there. I entered Johns Hopkins in 1975 after completing two years of high school, as part of a group that numbered about 20.
Now comes the conspiracy part. During my time at JHU (until I was thrown out for good cause) there were several instances when I was encouraged to consider working for the NSA. I was encouraged, as well, to take number theory courses — something of almost no use outside of cryptography. Several of my friends ended up working for NSA, typically giving reasons like “All the best researchers in the world are there — if you want to participate in advanced mathematics you pretty much have to be at NSA.”
I didn’t think anything of this until reading Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider,” which described a similar school and program.
At least one other participant in SMPY has speculated along similar lines.
21 March 2005. Thanks to A.
Other (anonymous or not) stories of NSA preparatory channels invited. Send to email@example.com
NSA Education and Training: http://www.nsa.gov/about/about00005.cfm
NSA student programs: http://www.nsa.gov/careers/students.cfm
A math and science program for high school students: http://www.nsa.gov/careers/students_3.cfm