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Reinvent education by discovering and developing genius

Susan Notes:

Longtime educator Lynn Stoddard talks about real education reform, Educating for Human Greatness by seeing each child as an individual with great potential.

By Lynn Stoddard

What would happen if teachers were invited to find and develop the genius in each student? Albert Einstein said, "Everybody is a genius.
But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

Could it possibly be true that every person is a genius? The old Stanford Binet IQ test has led several generations to believe that only a few people have superior intelligence. Because of this, a great many people have lived their whole lives believing that, if not stupid, they are, in many ways, inferior. This is a catastrophe and huge loss for our country.

Now we know it's impossible to measure human intelligence numerically. The Binet test measured no more than eight of over one hundred and forty mental functions that humans possess in trillions of different combinations.

Humans are so different from one another that it's impossible to identify exceptionalism unless you are able to compare people in one of the many trillions of different mental functions. How can you decide which student is the smartest? -- in the same way you decide which snowflake is the most beautiful?

What would happen if teachers and parents started treating every child as though s/he is a genius?

How hard would it be to change a fixed mind-set, after years of indoctrination that only a few people deserve this distinction? When I attended an International Gathering of Savants in Texas a few years ago, I learned that there are many people, born with severe mental deficiencies in some areas who are amazingly gifted in other areas. Tony Deblois, blind and autistic, could play any piece of music, classical or otherwise, flawlessly on the piano after hearing it just once.

The late Kim Peek of Salt Lake City, memorized phone books and read other books with his left eye reading the left page while, simultaneously, his right eye was reading the right hand page. Others at the conference could add long columns of five or six digits faster in their heads than anyone could do it on a computer. Others, while nearly blind, produced amazing pieces of sculpture or paintings.

How would education change if parents and teachers united to help each child find his or her genius?

Educating for Human Greatness is a new concept that holds teachers and parents jointly accountable for finding and developing the genius in each child. Aiming for positive differences changes several things:

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Every child excels in something. All students achieve more because their questions are respected and sought.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ The experience, knowledge, and expertise of teachers are valued. Teachers help students assess their own learning.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Parents are involved as partners.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Students learn literacy and math skills in a relaxed, natural way when the time is right for each one, not when cultural tradition has decreed that they must learn them.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Students are inspired to be contributors, rather than burdens to society.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Compulsory education is replaced by guided, invitational learning.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Dropouts rarely occur.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Joy returns to classrooms where exploration, creativity and innovation are prized.

I recently attended a showing of "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat." It reminded me of the amazing genius of Andrew Lloyd Weber, who composed the music to it and several other outstanding productions. If we were to change education to discover and develop the genius in each person, how many Einsteins, Webers, Frank Lloyd Wrights, Edisons, or Shakespeares would we find?

When I was principal of an elementary school, we found that every child could discover their particular genius through in-depth study of self-selected topics or show it in one of many talent shows that were held to help students find their special talents. Megan, a first-grader, became a genius on hummingbirds and Susan, a third grader, gave an outstanding rendition of a song she composed and performed on the piano as part of her "Great Brain" report on dinosaurs.

These are just two examples of hundreds of children who started to find and develop their genius in elementary school.

Later, an eighth grader composed a piece for full orchestra that was selected to be played at the state music educators conference.

How many adults are yet to discover their special genius and reason for existing to be special contributors to society -- all because the school system they attended was intent on standardizing everyone? Isn't it time for real change, a revolution in education?

Lynn Stoddard, a retired educator, has written four books and numerous articles on the need to restore teaching as a respected profession and inspire individual student potential. He lives in Farmington and can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com.

— Lynn Stoddard



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