Monday, June 25, 2007

Please Pass the Stupid?

I recently read about the British two year old who was admitted to MENSA after discovering that she had an IQ of 152, making her "smarter" than 98% of the population.

The mother was quoted as having said: "It's fantastic. We're so proud as a family."

I'm troubled by this. In the first place, why be so proud? It's not like this was an achievement that either the girl or the parents pulled off through any special effort. It was the luck of the genetic dice. Beyond that, why is it that having the child score so far off the intellectual charts is automatically perceived as a positive thing?

I say this because of my experiences in my own family. I have two biological sons and three step sons. One of my step sons was brain damaged at birth. He is a sweet young man with a heart of gold. But Troy will never be able to understand abstract concepts or to live fully independently. He is limited in his ability to relate to others in some fairly significant ways. On the other hand, one of my biological sons was born with extraordinary intelligence. I don't recall what his actual test scores were - but they put him way above all of his peers. He was reading quite well before ever starting school and can memorize, calculate and just plain think in some very amazing ways. By my reckoning, BOTH of these sons have had special needs.

When my brilliant boy was in 6th grade his math teacher came to me and said he was "the purest thinker" he had ever met, including adults as well as other kids. Half way through the year most of my son's teachers were throwing their hands up in defeat because they could no longer really teach him much, so they just tried to give him things to do to stay busy. Other kids didn't "get" his wildly divergent interests. Sometimes being so smart was a lonely place to be.

Now just because he is extra brainy does not mean it always showed in the choices my son made. Sometimes when he was growing up the dear lad appeared to have the common sense God gave field cabbage. Sometimes wanting to be liked & accepted led him to do some truly dumb stuff. Other times he had his head in the clouds pondering theoretical equations or reciting the bones of the inner ear so he just didn't give much thought to where he was going. Also he was often terribly frustrated by having to wait on others around him to grasp concepts that to him were just plain obvious.

I would say being smarter than just about everyone he will meet has had just as many challenges with it (although of a different nature) as those faced by our other son who is developmentally delayed. Given the choice, I doubt very seriously my scholar kid would willingly ask to have been born just a bit dimmer. In most respects, he likes being smart. But I know as his mom that it has brought struggles as well as blessings.

More of a good thing is only nice up to a point before it starts to bring diminishing return.

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