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Friday, May 29, 2009

On Genius

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth - more than ruin - more even than death... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."

Bertrand Russell

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Jonathan Swift

"Gifted" children.

My eldest son is in first grade at the local public school.
A precocious child, he is already showing signs of boredom...and overreaches, on occasion, with his choice of books to read.
The Gifted and Talented Program in Texas says that it includes kids all the way down to Kindergarten in it's screenings.
What I have gleaned from the process is that K through second grade are screened using the third grade's criteria.
This leads to kids who are above their grade level, but not quite 2 grade levels above their own being passed over.
I haven't determined how this works beyond third grade...but so far, I'm not all that surprised.
I was a precocious child, some 30+ years ago...and in my experience, "gifted" children are viewed as anomalous...almost a variety of mental retardation (or whatever we're labelling those on the "short bus" these days).
Outside the Norm, in a system that is set up, almost exclusively, for those that fall within the Norm.
I'm sure things have improved since I was a kid, but it remains one of my greatest fears...that my kid will fall through the cracks...just like Dad.( with all the coincident problems and psychological issues)

America has a problem with smart people.
They scare folks.
Ask all kinds of uncomfortable questions.
Say things that nobody understands...or worse, misinterprets.

Our culture gives lip-service to the need and necessity of having smart folks among us, but on the ground, things are not so rosy.
On the one hand, Genius is encouraged to excell.
On the other, they are (surrepticiously) encouraged to sit down and shut up, act "normal"...hide their light under a bushel-basket.
At the same time, all the various programs in place to help and foster the young Geniuses among us are inundated with millions of parents who are just sure that their precious child should be included in the Genius ranks.

Too many times, this is simply not the case; Little Johnny/Jane does NOT rise to that level...few, after all, do.
But to exclude Johnny/Jane leads to wounded pride and hurt feelings, which are anathema to our current educational regime.
The outrage and gnashing of teeth has it's result...and the programs that were set aside for real Genius are inundated and watered down with "almost " Genius....or even worse, with idiot children of the rich.
Thus, I understand the position the testers and evaluators are in...a very unenviable one.
This shouldn't be an excuse,however.
The problem is systemic..running right through our entire culture.
And, in the end, I don't think it's an accident.

Genius is scary.
I fear that it is especially scary to those who sit at the top of the heap in our society.
The Parasitical Elite can't afford too many folks who think.
Someone might figure out their ruse...that we don't really need them.
That the whole edifice of Modern Western Society is pathological.

Can't have that.
Hence the long term "dumbing down" of the poulation...and the "inefficiencies" in the screning process that lead to the above scenario.
A Grand Conspiracy is not needed.
Just defund things that work, fund things that don't...and keep everybody fighting amongst themselves.
Keep them bickering about small injustices and perhaps they won't notice the large.


The result is the same, no matter if it's an accident, or an on purpose accident...
Kids who possess real Genius are marginalised, labelled as wierd by their peers, by turns as "underachieving", then as "problems", by the educators.
Some manage to get through without an inordinate amout of trauma...go on to College and Grad School and productive careers.
But how many fall through the cracks, and end up as suicides, drunks and crazies?
What Einsteins and Leonardos have we lost, these past 100 years?
And all because of the "normal" folk's fear and loathing and envy of the "Tall Weeds" that stick up from the mown field?

"There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him."

Antonin Artaud, of Van Gogh

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