The Nature of Genius

In our work of re-imagining education, we often talk about "unleashing creative genius". But what do we mean by "genius"?

The meaning of genius has changed over time. Today, most people use the term genius to refer to those with exceptional intellectual or creative ability. Not us.

As in someone who might be awarded a McArther grant or a child that deserves to be put into a special TAG program at school.

Genius was seen as being the core of our innate creative character - something everyone has. In part because of the influence of Celtic Christianity during the Middle Ages, the concept of genius further expanded to embrace the understanding of the attendant spirit that is also found in nature.

This concept, however, was at odds with the materialistic rationality at the core of the Cartesian Mindset. This mindset embraced a belief that there was a duality of mind and matter, and was dismissive of anything, such as spirit, that could not be scientifically validated.

Our current understanding of genius was introduced around the turn of the 20th Century by Sir Francis Galton the father of modern eugenics . This new concept redefined genius as primarily relating to intelligence that could be measured and quantified based on a concept of "neurophysiological efficiency".

By incorporating the statistical models of Carl Friedrich Gauss , when the intelligence of people was measured within a society, it formed a bell curve .

The smart ones were those with measured intelligence on the right shoulder of the curve, the dumb ones one the left shoulder. The rest of us, well, we form the middle "bell".

This bell curve model created a justification for a hierarchical power structure and formed the underlying assumption of human potential that underpins our traditional educational system.

Only problem is, it is profoundly wrong.