Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Telegraph Profiles Leonard Susskind

Lots of good stuff in there -- and I'm excerpting the part about his childhood in a working class family and neighbourhood:

Now 73, Susskind was born into a Jewish family in the Bronx, New York. “I grew up in what can only be described as an extreme working-class family. My father was a plumber with a fifth grade education. All his friends were plumbers and steam fitters and steeple jacks. If you were as poor as him and had to leave school, you had two choices: you could either become a working man or you could become a gangster.”

Susskind describes himself as a “poor student in everything. I look back now and I think part of it was I had a chip on the shoulder to do with the working-class background. I resented school, I resented the teachers, I was just a rotten kid. At one point in the sixth grade [when he was 11 or 12] I got put back into the fifth grade. Time after time I was disciplined and my parents were always having to come to the school.”

An only child, Susskind shared a tiny one-bedroom apartment with his parents. “Because it wasn’t really big enough for three people, my parents didn’t want me in the house all the time so I spent a lot of time on the street. There must have been about 500 kids on my block and it was a community of ethnic rivalries – Irish, Italians, Jews. It wasn’t a happy childhood, I felt like an outsider.”