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Archive for March, 2012

From today’s Metro. (Just a heads-up: an irritating pop-up ad obscured this article when I first opened it.)

Steve Borlase is reported to have an IQ of 180 and an uncanny knack with figures.

However, he has been working for the past year as a window cleaner and would like to move on, but has not been able to find a well-paid job.

The fact that Metro posted this article under their “Weird” section IMO says everything about the attitudes of the reporter and the editorial staff.

As for the “Countdown” job application, it sounds as though this was meant to be humorous, but sometimes there is never a truer word spoken in jest. The point isn’t whether or not Steve would make good TV entertainment, but it is a good illustration of the attitudes in this country. Abilities are ignored and overlooked while excuses every bit as ridiculous as the “shapely figure” card are regularly played as to why this or that person shouldn’t be given a chance.

I wish Steve all the best and hope that he finds his niche in life soon.

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Hypatian Society

A few days ago I received an invitation to join the Hypatian Society, a new online community for gifted women.

The Society was founded by Beatrice Rescazzi, Maria Claudia Faverio and Gretchen Theresa Brinker on March 8, International Women’s Day.

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Here is Sternberg’s definition of intelligence: “I define [intelligence] as your skill in achieving whatever it is you want to attain in your life within your sociocultural context by capitalizing on your strengths and compensating for, or correcting, your weaknesses (personal communication, July 29, 2004).”

There are obvious flaws in defining intelligence purely in terms of performance in the person’s current environment.

Here is an example to illustrate the point. Two people start at a McJob (we won’t speculate on why, as it will get in the way of the explanation). One is of average intelligence, while the other is of above average intelligence. It would be fairly safe to assume, everything else being equal, that the one of above average intelligence will learn the ropes more efficiently than the other one, and achieve a basic level of competence more quickly.

However, once both have achieved a certain necessary level of competence, it is unlikely that a significantly superior level of job performance will be seen in the above average employee. The duties of the job simply don’t allow that extra intelligence to be expressed in any meaningful way. If that employee started attempting to apply his/her superior intelligence to a situation where it was unwarranted or unwelcome, it is likely that he/she will end up getting into wrangles with colleagues or management.

Therefore, the environment itself didn’t give sufficient scope for that person’s full potential to be expressed. If we link his/her performance to such an environment, then we are never going to see the full picture in terms of the person’s capabilities.

Now we take the above average individual and put them on a highly technical project where their intelligence is fully capitalized on, and their capabilities are really stretched. (The average person put on the same project may struggle and take much longer to learn what to do.) These new circumstances are capable of giving a much more realistic picture of what the person can do.

However, not all highly intelligent people find themselves, for one reason or another, in an environment where they can be most productive in terms of their gifts.

I have already written at length elsewhere on this blog how my education came to be messed up, and I tried numerous things in an attempt to discover my true calling in life, which may have been interesting at the time, but didn’t move me forward in terms of what is traditionally regarded as successful. I didn’t discover my interest in neurotechnology research until I was almost 40, and I have been advised not to take the lengthy academic route into this field, but to simply do whatever I can to get a foot in the door careerwise. Although I have stirred up quite a bit of interest, in some quarters, with my activities and writings, nothing so far has materialized into a job offer, and I continue with my pay-the-bills job. I guess Sternberg would consider I am “average”, despite my unrewarded abilities.

My mother had the smarts and the drive to become a lawyer, but by the time she realized that was what interested her in life, she had already had my elder sister. As she was also supporting a sick husband, in England in the 1950s there was no support available for a wife and mother who was also the family breadwinner to train and enter a professional career. So she continued working as a legal secretary, a vocation which I am sure never reflected the best of what she could have been given appropriate opportunities. I guess Sternberg would consider she was average, too, despite her obvious ability to think.

And how about Dr. Celia Green, a prococious youngster whose early academic promise was derailed by a downright oppositional head teacher, and whose subsequent opportunities were never quite enough to push her into the senior academic position she craved? (Strangely, she has never answered any of my emails, despite their supportive nature; either she never received them, or she regards me as a competitor, rather than a potential sponsor or useful pair of hands to forward her own project.)

Whether or not the “intelligent unrewarded” can change that environment to something more personally desirable is not a useful measure either, because like it or not (and as I hope my examples above illustrate), most of the possible obstacles are not neat problems with neat solutions but are tied up in that most random of random variables – other people. Faced with overwhelming opposition from all sides, it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, or how brilliant your ideas are. (Wealth, credentials and the right connections, interestingly enough, often go a very long way toward changing their minds.)

How meaningful, then, is Sternberg’s definition, and how could we rework it so it encompasses ability whether or not reflected in appropriate levels of opportunity?

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