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Mensa Trumped by Trump?

Last night, by his own volition, another Mensa member did his best to give the world a chuckle at the expense of everyone else that happens to belong to this group.

On Monday’s episode of The Apprentice, 27 year old Tarek introduced himself to the viewing audience as a member of Mensa, which meant that his IQ was in the top 2 percentile. Based on this, he was made a project manager responsible for this season’s inaugural task… which of course, he failed at.

Sure, it’s good television. Make someone look arrogant, full of himself, or elitist because of his intelligence, and watch everyone celebrate as he makes an ass of himself. Of course, when you have a week’s worth of footage, you can build enough sound bites for a one hour show to sell the scenario to the “realityâ€? television audience to make anyone seem arrogant. The second that Tarek mentioned he was in Mensa, it was pretty well guaranteed that the episode would end with him coming off looking like an idiot.

As expected, I wasn’t disappointed by the producers’ predictability. The show closed with Trump saying that Tarek was “overrated.�

It’s politically incorrect to pick on fat people. Harass someone because of their religion or race and you’re practically committing a hate crime. But pick on someone because they have a high IQ? It’s elementary school bullying, just in a more media-friendly manner. Worse than that, it’s completely socially acceptable.

In all reality, having a higher IQ doesn’t mean much. Think of it like having a big engine in your car – if you know how to use it to its fullest potential, you can get where you want to go much faster. However, to master driving at very high speeds, you need training and practice. Someone driving a car with a smaller engine but knows the streets much better can usually get from point A to B much faster than someone in a faster car but in unfamiliar surroundings.

A high IQ is just like the bigger engine in the car – if you enjoy learning, you’ll do it faster. Love music and you’ll probably master an instrument faster. The same goes with science, language, cooking or business. If you have a faster processor and the desire to do something, you’ll probably be able to get good at it faster.

This doesn’t mean that you’re going to be inherently better than other people who have more passion or training in a subject, just that you have the potential to get better in it, faster. It also means that you have an easier time processing more complex problems. In school, this was anything but a blessing. Luckily, in my home town, they had special programs for the “smarter� kids, letting us work at our own speed instead of having to constantly slow down. That changed in Junior High when my family moved to a smaller town.

Here, there were no classes like what I had growing up. Math teachers hated me because I never showed my work. They called me lazy or accused me of cheating, when in fact, I could see the problem and know the answer without going through it step by step. Being forced to slow down and show the work just bored me and by high school, I was underperforming because I had lost all of my passion for school.

That’s what Mensa was designed for – to give people in the upper 2% a place where they can think faster and be challenged (if they want) and to advocate to school systems on how not to stifle the potential of children who learn a little bit faster. It’s a group filled with artists, jocks, scientists, business people, great human beings and pretentious assholes – just like the rest of the world. There is nothing special about Mensa and unlike what most people think, its members don’t get together and work on equations, wear lab coats or quote Shakespeare or Tolkien. Ok, some of them do – but so do people who aren’t in Mensa. However, the media only seems to mention Mensa when it’s the butt end of a joke, painting a picture of arrogant, geeky or otherwise socially maladjusted people who join the society because they’re better than everyone else. Saying Mensa is elitist because it only allows people whose IQ is in the top 2% as members is like saying that the NAACP is elitist because it is a society for African-Americans.

Let’s hope that in Trump’s zeal to create “compelling reality television� he’s not sending a negative message that brings self-hatred to the next generation of “smart kids� out there.

Posted in General Ramblings.

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