Are You A Genius?

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

According to my research, there is no precise scientific explanation for genius, yet we all recognize it when we see it.  The Latin plural for this word is genii (like the guy in the bottle who grants wishes), and it found its way into Latin partly from ancient Arabic by way of Old French.  But perhaps that’s more than anyone wanted to know.

Recently I was at a large camporee with the Cherokee District of Boy Scouts.  One of my favorite stoves, a little one burner affair with a broken piezo igniter, brought to mind the wonderful concept of genius.  The troop with whom I am associated has a large number of assistant scoutmasters who earn their daily bread as engineers.  I nabbed one of them insisting, due to his training and experience as an engineer, that he might be able to fix the igniter.  He protested for a moment (“I’ve never even looked at one!”) but like all engineers he couldn’t resist the puzzle for long!  Long story short, he dismantled the housing of a micro switch, cleaned and realigned a remarkable number of tiny parts, reassembled the stove, and we then had hot coffee.  This is a clear sign of genius.

There are those who would argue the point.  Experience, the sum of all sensory and intellectual activity, leads only to empirical knowledge.  There is no intuition or inspiration.  Despite what software people tell us, there is no such thing as an “intuitive interface”.  I disagree.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong does too.  He was the psychologist back in 1991 who published the groundbreaking work Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius.  The general idea in his thesis is that our culture, even including our schools, often dampens the genius of individuals.  This is precisely the opposite of what we should be about!  Whether we call it an inclination or a gift or a talent or a particular genius, the real goal of societal institutions like schools should help a child discover the unique role she has to play in our world and the service he can bring to others.  Utopia?  I’d rather call it joy.  Dr. Armstrong believes that the powerful word “diversity” that dominates race and culture should be equally recognized by all of us concerned with intelligence.

Are you a genius?  Without a doubt the answer is yes!  And so are your own children and the children you teach and the cashier at the grocery store.  I believe that recognizing the genius in others helps it to awaken in both of us!

Source: Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN