Saturday, July 27, 2013

Step AWAY from the reality show trap...

Amazing, the things you find on the Internet.

I just read a small blurb about the latest high-IQ child invited to join Mensa. She's Anala Beevers, a 4-year-old from New Orleans. We don't know exactly what her IQ is, but the criteria to join Mensa is to score in the 98th percentile or higher on an IQ test that the organization approves. In other words, you have to be smarter than all but 2 percent of the people in the world. So, in Anala's own words, she's "really smart."

No problem there. Being really smart should be considered a good thing. It isn't always, but it should be.

Where the problem comes in is in what her father is quoted as saying: "She needs a reality show."

Yeah, no. What she most definitely does NOT need is a reality show. What she needs is a normal childhood, nurturing in whatever she decides to do with her clearly formidable intellect, and a lot of understanding. She needs to be encouraged to develop whatever intellectual gifts she has, but she also needs to be given enough slack to fail at things, that the world isn't going to fall apart if she gets less than A grades in every subject in school. She also, however, needs to learn that her high IQ and a couple of bucks will get her a cup of coffee and little else in the real world, and to learn that there will be people who will dislike her and belittle her for no other reason than that she has that IQ. She needs to know that having an IQ does not mean that every subject in school will necessarily be easy for her.

Some of that might sound harsh, but I'm speaking from experience.

No, no, no. I'm probably not as smart as Anala is. I don't have any clue whether or not I'd be welcome in Mensa, and I really don't care. I've never had aspirations to find out. I don't know exactly what my IQ is; the authorities at school would never even tell my parents exactly what it was when I was tested in elementary school. However, I do know that when I was in school, I was invited into an MGM (Mentally Gifted Minors) program in my school district that, I later found out, quite by accident, had as a minimum entrance requirement a minimum measured IQ of 140. I also know that when I took my SAT and ACT tests in preparation to apply to colleges, I scored in the top 1 percent of the population on every section of those tests except the math portion, at least according to the college counselor who I spoke to when I first enrolled in college. We won't talk about how I did on the math portion; let's just say that I either did not get the math gene or I don't have the patience to put in the time I need to in order to "get" higher math.

Anyway...let's just say that I know what kind of hell the "smart" kid can go through, in school and in life, especially when he or she doesn't keep his or her head down and attract as little attention as possible. Kids, as everyone who has ever been one knows, can be incredibly cruel to anyone who doesn't fit in, and because of the values of US society, anyone who is perceived as being "too smart" often has a difficult time fitting in. I did learn to keep my head down and draw as little attention as possible and I still didn't fit. God forbid what would have happened if they had had reality shows back then and I had found my way into one.

So, basically what Anala needs the most is for someone to sit her father down and explain to him a few of the realities of life, including the fact that while his family, including his daughter, might make a bunch of money from a reality show, that is probably the only benefit his daughter would get from it. She does not need that kind of attention. Her life is likely going to be difficult enough without it.

And it isn't just the kids who are going to make this child's life difficult. There are going to be the adults who are threatened by her intelligence, and who may very well make her life hell because of that. There are going to be the teachers who will assume that she doesn't need any help with any of her studies. No, really. This happened to me. When I was taking geometry in high school (the first time), I just didn't get it. I tried and tried and tried. And when all of my trying didn't get me anywhere, I tried asking questions in class. The response from the teacher was always, "I'm not going to answer your question. I've seen your records. You're smart enough to figure it out yourself." Except that I had tried to figure it out; I hated asking for help enough that I would never, ever had asked if I could figure it our for myself.

The other thing is, as hard as it is being perceived as the smart kid in school, it doesn't get any better when you grow up and go out into the world. It doesn't even take anyone knowing where you test out on the IQ scale. You just have to appear to have interests (interests that aren't sports or pop culture) outside your immediate field in the working world. That alone is enough to label you as "too smart for your own good." And the thing is, bosses usually don't want anyone working for them who they think are any smarter than they are. They don't have to know for sure; they just have to suspect.

Now, I haven't written any of this so you'll think, "Oh, the poor smart girl, she has it so hard." Aside from not being able to find work presently, which I've written about before and which is extremely frustrating, I'm more or less okay. It's just that, from years of experience, I have a realistic view of how it is to be seen as the "smart one" in the real world, and I really don't want Anala Beevers, or anyone else, to have to go through some of the crap I had to, especially up through high school.

But really, Mr. Beevers...Just say no to the reality show.

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