The label of 'Genius'

Categorizing has always been a way of labeling individuals so they will stay in their places. No matter how many little differences there are within the human condition we cannot escape being labeled. We are taught to conform and to fit in, to be one of the crowd. That is the price that an individual pays for being allowed the perks that come from living in groups.

One of the human labels is the label of genius. It once was considered to be anyone who tested above 140 on the Binet intelligence scale. It is not so easy to categorize genius, however. Many who were later considered geniuses tested in the average range on intelligence tests. There are geniuses who are so-called language disabled but who show evidence of high intelligence in other areas. I was one of those who could not remember what I read unless I read aloud. There were no intelligence tests given in my small town grade school so I managed to cover up my disability by overachieving in other areas. I could write well and Aced all my science classes which did not require extensive reading. As an overachiever in high school I completed an extensive leaf collection with the scientific name under each one. I had pressed them between the pages of my mother’s huge dictionary until they were dry enough to fasten into a huge loose leaf notebook. Again there was an A grade with the notation No Criticism beside it.

But when I entered college I was overcome by the reading assignments. While other students were out taking time to recreate, I was still in the library pouring over a book of required reading, sitting there whispering every word as I could not remember what I read otherwise. Luckily I took a lot of math in my first quarter and Aced all my assignments. But following the euphoria I had over Acing my math class were difficult hours of reading in history and literature. I will never forget one literature professor who assigned a long term paper which resulted in an A plus and a note saying: You should be published.

Well, here I am following that advice. I have been a writer ever since at the age of eight I wrote a long poem about my mother on Mother’s Day. I was fairly creative in other areas as well. I still have in my special collection from my childhood the paper dolls with all their outfits that I personally designed. There were the ball gowns trimmed in lace and the sports outfits—even a ski outfit with ski poles as well. Now I am not saying that I am a genius. I am saying that at every so-called mental maturity level there are special talents to be nourished.

People who did not know my language disability often urged me to become a member of Mensa, the high IQ society. Little did they know that I would not qualify. I suppose that is why I became an elementary counselor serving in elementary education. I knew that there were a lot more children like I had been—not recognized for scholarships because of the limitations of so called IQ tests. Before counseling programs were introduced in elementary school many children were often not afforded the special educational environment that they needed. I was able to spot the special needs of children early in their lives and find support services for them.

For several years I planned and supervised a career fair before anyone thought young children needed such an experience. It is known that children are looking toward their future work life as early as age ten but career fairs had previously been provided only for high school students. Even in good times we did not provide free education for preschool children or qualified college students like some other countries do. I have hope that we will find a way for society to put human needs first. Perhaps that will be an agenda for the 99 percenters to consider.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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