It was the academic spring semester of 1981 when a middling student was called to the guidance counselor’s office. The guidance counselor requested the meeting so that he could talk to the young man about his future. From the guidance counselor’s viewpoint, the young man’s future – like the young man’s intellect – was not very bright.
The guidance counselor proceeded to give the young man a copy of his transcript. Through the first four semesters of high school, the young man’s transcript was littered with “Cs”. If the young man had to use his transcript to play scrabble, he would have been absolutely out of luck. There were no “As” or “Bs” to be found. The young man would have found it impossible to spell even a simple word like “CAB”.
In hindsight, the young man remembers feeling that the “Cs” were foreboding. In the young man’s mind, the “Cs” represented the first letters of words that the guidance counselor clearly believed would define the young man’s life. The young man was certain the guidance counselor believed his life would be overrun with “C” words like “can’t”, “ciao”, “crime”, “curb” and “cook.
That afternoon, it was not only the guidance counselor’s demeanor and his countenance (a “C” word the young man did not know at the time) which confirmed the young man’s perception. The guidance counselor’s verbalized opinion would make the nonverbal communication crystal clear. There would be no reason for misinterpretation.
The guidance counselor looked directly at the young man and said these word, “You are not college material. Your best opportunity IF you graduate from high school will be to join the military”. The guidance counselor’s assessment of the young man’s intelligence and the young man’s prospects for the future were based on his previous academic performance. In the eyes of the guidance counselor all those “Cs” actually stood for you can’t go to college; say ciao to a future; a life of crime is probable; you could end up living on the curb; you’ll be lucky to work as a short-order cook.
Intelligence Is Not Static
Fast forward nine years when the young man returned to his old high school. A former teacher had asked the young man to speak to some high school students. The teacher wanted the young man to share his story with similar students who literally and figuratively sat in the same seat he sat in less than a decade previously. As fate would have it, before the young man could make it to the former teacher’s classroom, he ran into his former guidance counselor.
The guidance counselor looked at the now grown man smugly before saying “so what branch of the service are you in?” Respectfully, the now grown man replied “I am not a member of the armed forces. I earned an accounting degree two years ago. I am currently a law student and a graduate student working on a dual master’s degree.”
The guidance counselor clearly dumbfounded also appeared disheartened to know that his prediction about the young man’s future had not come true. The now grown man walked away proud yet introspective.
The young man felt a sense of accomplishment but he was also reflective. How many other children were called into the guidance counselor’s office to be given the talk he had received? How many children in schools across the country have or had similar guidance counseling? How many other children are sentenced to environments where expectations are low and solutions for improvement are trifling?
On that spring day more than thirty years ago, the guidance counselor made the horrible and fateful assumption that cripples many children today. The guidance counselor assumed that a person’s past predetermines their future. Moreover, the guidance counselor incorrectly assumed that intelligence is static. Perhaps worst of all, the guidance counselor failed to comprehend that every child can be a genius.
We Can All Be a Genius
Thomas A. Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Mr. Edison’s words provided direction for the timid young man. Mr. Edison’s words helped change the young man’s life.
Thanks to the words of Mr. Edison and the direction of a village who believed in Mr. Edison’s words, the young man’s fate was not sealed after all. The young man soon recognized that he could achieve better than “Cs”, he could be more than smart, and that he could be a genius if he really worked at it. The young man realized that if he had a goal which to aspire if he was willing to perspire, he could achieve higher. Like Mr. Edison, he too could be a genius.
The young man is now an older man but he continues to his “perspiration aided pursuit of genius”. Along the way, the young man learned two very important things about intelligence and about perspiring to be a genius that he believes every child should know:
1. Intelligence is a Set of Skills. – IQ tests are often misleading. Too often parents mistakenly believe that what the IQ test measures at one specific point in time predetermine every future event for our children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Intelligence is only fixed when you resolve to remain unchanged.
Dr. Robert Sternberg, one of the leading scholars on the subject of intelligence expresses the belief that intelligence is not a series of predetermined inborn competencies. Rather, intelligence is a set of skills that our children can increase by going further to develop their existing skill sets and by working diligently to acquire new skill sets.
Give your child a chance to be a genius. Make sure you and those who are allowed to educate your child have a proven process in place to enhance your child’s existing abilities and cultivate their untapped and limitless capabilities.
2. Genius is the Art of Non-Habitual Thinking. – To paraphrase Dr. William James, genius is an ability derived from unconventional thinking. Habitual thinking makes us continue to do the same things over and over again even when they do not work.
If your child is not doing well in school perhaps it says as much if not more about the school and the habits of the school than it does about your child’s intelligence. If your child is saddled with a guidance counselor or teacher like that of the young man, it’s definitely time to make some changes.
Be bold! Be Creative! Be Innovative! Do something out of the box. This is not the time for habitual thinking. Your child’s future and maybe even the state of the entire universe is at stake.
There are a number of other things that can help your child realize their rightful status as a genius. Among them are things like a satisfactory diet and regular exercise, adequate sleep, a reduced dependency on digital devices, and a supportive social environment.
Finally, it would also be worthwhile to remind all parents to take heed of the words from the English writer, Aldous Huxley. Mr. Huxley wrote, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” In short, children already have the spirit of genius inside them so it’s up to us not to behave like the guidance counselor and mess them up.
Previously Published on The RS Project
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