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To be or not to be Genius

Christ Almighty.
THe only good thing about insomnia is that there is often very interesting stuff on TV.

I'm watching a documentary about genius, and child genius and whether geniuses are born or made. Tony Buzan is trying to teach a bunch of under-achieving children in order to prove that with the right stimulation they can potentially flourish into geniuses.

I loved watching this segment of the program- it's wonderful to see how well the children responded in six months to the right sorts of help and encourageemnt. How much more curious and self-confident they were. How their interest in learning developed and thier self-esteem improved.

It's something I believe in deeply - in suiting the education to the person, not the other way around.

But the most enthralling and scary aspect for me is the little vignettes that the program features about various parents who try to turn their children into geniuses and I wonder if any of those people know how incredibly warped they are.

Seriously. The parents are scary fuckers. I'm sorry I'm not taping this because it's absolutely spectacularly horrifying.

e.g. this woman who has her two year old enrolled in a zillion classes, and when asked what her plans for her daughter are repeats:
"She's going to be a medical doctor. And I'd like her to specialise in infertility research."

I find so sad to watch these kids, who have to embody and mediate the enormous weight of thier mother's dream. And yet, to the casual observer, this might look like nurture and dedication rather than emotional abuse.

Or alternatively Take the example of the Sevcik family, where aside from clearly incapacitating their child from birth by naming him Hunter and then the mother even from before birth has gone on to stimulate his intellect delibeartely as much as possible. He wasn't allowed to watch TV, he practically learnt to walk in the Natural History Museum and for me most astounding of all are the things the bloody mother actually says on TV.

eg. *It's amazing how adult-like he is, and has been from the very beginning. Like, I'd sit him down on the couch while he [pointing to the dad] was working a zillion hours on Wall Street, and I'd tell him how much I missed the dad and how much I needed another adult there, and how he was my soulmate blah blah blah.*

For fucks sake!
Talk about making your son into your substitute husband/lover who is going to redeem you, and all the failures in your own fucking life by being a chess genius.

And then they're surprised when thier children cave in and become mental wrecks in adulthood.

It's unbelievable to watch the child disintegrate on screen - where this child is clearly caving in under the huge pressure, where if he doesn't win a chess game he goes to pieces - I mean his fucking mother talks about how he shakes if he loses and throws up, not once but many many times . Good grief. It's amazing that the parents are not seeing how fucking wrong it is, because what good is having a kid who is good at chess if he is an absolute wreck emotionally and can't relate to people. He's only 6 years old for goodness' sakes.

There's such a glamour around gifted children - the exalted heights of genius ; and yet - what is genius exactly, and why is it so much more important than being happy?

So much goes into the effort of hunting for genius, developing genius as though it was some kind of Holy Grail, although interestingly, much less effort goes into preventing geniuses from cracking, and making sure they are rounded, well-adjusted individuals.

I could rant on this subject much much longer, but I should probably attempt to go to sleep now so I can keep my eyes open at work and beyond. ;)

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
twistedserious
Sep. 2nd, 2004 12:13 am (UTC)
Very cute icon. :o) *is isnpired to take pics with bunny-ears now*

So much goes into the effort of hunting for genius, developing genius as though it was some kind of Holy Grail

Amen. I don't quite understand what the big fuzz is about (being well past genius level myself, I can honestly say it's not all it's cracked up to be). And I definately don't understand why intelligense is so much more important that mental health or happiness. You wouldn't believe how many times I've seen that look on people's faces when I tell them I really just want to write. Nobody is saying it, but they're all thinking I'm wasting my potential, and if they had half my IQ, blah blah bliddy blah, vomit. I happen to think there's something valuable in putting beautiful and emotionally stirring stories into the world. People need to feel more. It would do them good to stop repressing emotions like it was some sickness. [/rant]
876454332
Sep. 2nd, 2004 03:12 am (UTC)
that's such an interesting post.

"And then they're surprised when thier children cave in and become mental wrecks in adulthood."
i was a child genius. heh.... and i'm not exactly an achiever *now*
makes you think...

and i know what you mean about the scary parents. there are articles like that in mensa magazines often.
rainsinger
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:17 am (UTC)
I think the problem with child prodigies, like child stars, is that there is often a very huge weighty thing with failure.

Where there is a lot of pressure put on achievement and performance and personal self-worth gets wrapped up in that, because if you're no longer the star student suddenly you're nothing - which of course is not true at all.

And with child geniuses so much goes into stimulating intellectual development, the emotional/social development takes second place I think.

Personally I always advocate the value of non-academic achievement.

Yes, I have the IQ of a genius - but what does that mean exactly? Does it prepare me for life? Does it mean I understand everything automatically? Does it mean I'll be brilliant at every single thing I try, or that I will be worth less if I'm not.

Of course not. Einstein was a lousy student.

Personally, the achievements I am the most proud of have to do with having lived this far, with developing healthy relationships, with trying out things that were once scary for me.
rainsinger
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:12 am (UTC)
*is isnpired to take pics with bunny-ears now*

Yes, go for it - bunny ears are the way of the future ;)
You have a cute hat with ears on, if I recall correctly?

(being well past genius level myself, I can honestly say it's not all it's cracked up to be).

Yep, me too. It's nice to be bright, and speedy, and to be able to think quickly and make the connections between things - but I don't like at all the effect it has on other people - either because they expect you to perform feats of brilliance and eat obscure puzzles for breakfast, or because they feel intimidated and look at you vaguely like a freak.

And I hear you on the wasted potential side of things - I've had it happen too. I keep trying to persudade people that no potential is wasted if you're doing somehting you adore and that arguably people being more nice to each other can make as much, or more difference in the world than a fantastic invention from a genius.

It would do them good to stop repressing emotions like it was some sickness.

Yep, couldn't agree more. And to stop undervaluing their own capacities and intelligence because they didn't score as well as X on an IQ test.
casaubon
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:33 am (UTC)
they feel intimidated and look at you vaguely like a freak

That's because you're wearing pink bunny-ears!

:D
twistedserious
Sep. 2nd, 2004 11:34 am (UTC)
Yes, go for it - bunny ears are the way of the future ;)

*makes note to write decree about bunny ears when I'm empress*

You have a cute hat with ears on, if I recall correctly?

Actually, that's Footie's bunny hat. *s* I have my own ears (hatless, but still).

Yep, me too. It's nice to be bright, and speedy, and to be able to think quickly and make the connections between things

I'd have to say my favorite part is to not have to struggle to understand or remember things. *s* (although sometimes my memory seriously spooks people. Maybe I should pretend I don't remember anything *l*)

but I don't like at all the effect it has on other people - either because they expect you to perform feats of brilliance and eat obscure puzzles for breakfast, or because they feel intimidated and look at you vaguely like a freak.

Me neither. I hate how people expect me to know everything (like hello... information doesn't just magically pop into my head. I'm not God, no matter how much I want to be *s*), and then they get this dissapointed look when there's something I don't know... Like I've let them down because now they have to look in a book to find out how many people live in India.

And I hear you on the wasted potential side of things - I've had it happen too. I keep trying to persudade people that no potential is wasted if you're doing somehting you adore and that arguably people being more nice to each other can make as much, or more difference in the world than a fantastic invention from a genius.

*stopping self from going off on ra
ninetimestodie
Sep. 2nd, 2004 12:18 am (UTC)
See, now I should have watched that instead of staring at the ceiling for hours. Darn.
rainsinger
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:19 am (UTC)
Definately. In the night-time hours telly is your friend.
Although I wish I had little glow-in-the-dark sheep to fix onto my ceiling.

You could have bats on yours.
ninetimestodie
Sep. 2nd, 2004 10:04 am (UTC)
Then I'd never sleep!
mooism
Sep. 2nd, 2004 12:38 am (UTC)
Parents confiding in their children about their love life is one reason why children of divorced parents are more at risk of being fucked up. Amazed at Sevcik family.

Parents determined to turn their children into geniuses at all costs should be forced to watch Wile E Coyote cartoons. Or Pinky and the Brain. Or something. Maybe even themselves on TV.
rainsinger
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:20 am (UTC)
lol

Parents determined to turn their children into geniuses at all costs should be forced to watch Wile E Coyote cartoons. Or Pinky and the Brain. Or something. Maybe even themselves on TV.

Exactly.
And then be put into therapy to look at thier own intellectual complex.
ninetimestodie
Sep. 2nd, 2004 10:05 am (UTC)
Bunny!!
casaubon
Sep. 2nd, 2004 12:48 am (UTC)
That's very scary indeed.
One thing I'm often conscious of, as a parent, is that even little things can affect kids in big ways. And putting so much pressure on young kids is obscene.

Though Tom's got his whole life mapped out anyway - he keep asking me to save him a place at my office, for when he grows up. :)
rainsinger
Sep. 2nd, 2004 04:25 am (UTC)

One thing I'm often conscious of, as a parent, is that even little things can affect kids in big ways. And putting so much pressure on young kids is obscene.


Yes - I get terrified at the thought of being a parent for that very reason. And knowing how well kids absorb the non-verbal messages too.

I soothe myself by thinking that if i end up reproducing I shall set aside from day one for each offspring savings to pay for their education and some for thier therapy. ;)

Though Tom's got his whole life mapped out anyway - he keep asking me to save him a place at my office, for when he grows up. :)

lol
That's so sweet
Although I'm always amused by the evolution in a kid's ideas of what they want to be.

My cousin had his career pretty much mapped out until he went on to study the thing at University and changed his mind.

I think most people feel relief on some level when a kid seems to have some sense of purpose and direction, and a lot of effort goes into pushing kids who don't know what they want to do to make up thier mind about something (although I suppose that becomes much more relevant at A-Level)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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