From ‘Ensure we don’t create elitist mindset’, 19 June 2015, ST Forum
(Jeffrey Law Lee Beng): AFTER reading yesterday’s report on parents having their children tested for “giftedness”, I cannot help but wonder if we are creating an exclusive society (“Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests”). I find it unacceptable that toddlers are subjected to psychological tests, the findings of which some parents claim can help them tap their children’s potential.
Equally deplorable is the fact that some parents send their children for the tests to join high-IQ society Mensa so that their young can be in “like-minded company”. In other words, children at such an impressionable age are encouraged to form a class of their own.
This may not be healthy as they could turn into a generation of intellectual snobs, having the notion that they are extraordinary. Instead of comfortably ensconcing themselves, children should be accustomed to interacting with other children their age, regardless of their personal backgrounds and IQ scores.
This helps them to expand their horizons and further enrich their lives when they become adults. It is, thus, crucial that parents not overreact to their children’s high-IQ status with a “high and mighty” attitude. Instead, they would do well to teach their children that there is more to life than being born gifted.
The youngest MENSA member is 2 years and 6 months with an IQ of 142. While it seems like the most natural thing for parents to find out if their kid is a genius, others forgo the testing entirely and sign them up for GEP tuition classes directly. Unless there is a real need to get your kid’s brain checked by a doctor, I don’t think parents should get over-excited and start calling up psychologists whenever their kid starts exhibiting signs of ‘giftedness’, like reciting a Bible passage by heart or Pi to 20 digits. In some extreme cases, like a sudden familiarity with an ancient language, an exorcist may be more useful than a mental healthcare professional.
Mensa, Latin for ‘table’, was founded in 1946, and was set up as an exclusive club for people with ‘high intelligence’. Its Singapore chapter was established only in 1989, and restricted members to 8 years and above. Today, 5% of the 1000 plus members are 6 years and below. What in blue blazes is a toddler doing in a society still made up mostly of adults, one that counts not just science gods like Isaac Asimov among its alumni, but has also embraced unlikely personalities like Geena Davis (of Cutthroat Island fame) and PORN STAR Asia Carerra? Your MENSA fellows may all have the exact same IQ score, but you guys will still have nothing much to talk about. Well, unless you’re an adult film star with a brain as big as your..never mind.
To call Mensa ‘elitist’ would be like saying that the X-men are ‘freaks’. MENSA is basically a fancy interest group, just like how we have interest groups for people addicted to bodybuilding, Lego enthusiasts, bus-spotters, birdwatchers or vintage sock collectors. In a way, we’re all ‘snobs’ in what we’re passionate about, be it intellectual pursuits, sporting excellence, cafe-hopping or competitive Monopoly. Like Game of Throne geeks, these ‘geniuses’ just need a platform for conversation where they can be on the same wavelength as others like them, and not feel oestracised by the man on the street with the reptilian IQ of 100, though what exactly MENSA has done for humanity remains to be seen. They sure as hell ain’t the Justice League.
The question is whether we’re depriving such young children of a ‘normal’ childhood by rushing them into a club for geniuses before they even develop the minimal set of social skills, like making friends, reading expressions, knowing what’s right from wrong, or even grasp mundane knowledge like why people grow old and die. More importantly, a sense of compassion and humility. Can they grow up and live ‘normally’ despite an insane IQ without being booted out of the village constantly like Brainy Smurf? By labelling toddlers as ‘gifted’, we risk having them fixated on their newfound ‘powers’ relative to their lower IQ peers, giving them high hopes and the illusion that they are destined for success, or worse, Greatness.
7 year old MENSA member George Yeo, for instance, is already sounding like the smart-aleck every kid in school wants to punch in the face. He reportedly told his parents not to ‘waste money’ on school because he already ‘knew everything’. One thing MENSA doesn’t test is your EMOTIONAL intelligence, which could make the difference between someone who becomes a pioneer quantum physics, and the weirdo with the crazy hair building a killer robot monster in his hidden lair.