Since every Mensan was once a gifted child (some of us still are, well into our dotage) it would seem natural that a great deal of our energy, time, and commitment would be aimed at trying to understand the gifted child, developing programs and the criteria for teaching and nurturing these future M’s, as well as providing activities for these children within our local group(s).
Unfortunately it is not always so. It is tantamount to someone asking, “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich”? (Read on for an answer to that question.) True, we all served our sentence as a gifted child, but none of us really understand what is meant by a “gifted child.” Does a gifted child get all “A’s” in school? Hardly. Is giftedness a guarantee of success? Rarely. Is a gifted child a better person? What do you mean by “better”? Maybe the best one can say is that the gifted child (and adult too, for that matter) thinks in a way different from others. In what way, and how is it measured? Possible answers to these questions are the subject of many a conversation between Mensans.
Every “expert” has established his own criteria. School boards usually have the worst criteria. They usually include “talented, ” give extra credit for students on free lunch, who only have one pair of Nikes, and whose parents are not lawyers. (Some of us suspect they wouldn’t find enough candidates if they did not include these.) They also feel that non-”gifted” teachers can teach programs for the “gifted child.” With all this understood, Mensa recognizes the same criteria for gifted children as for everyone else.
Gifted child programs have been attempted in most, if not all, local groups. Most groups have discovered, as did we, that our groups usually have too few young Mensans; that they are usually geographically separated; that their age range is too diverse. Ten-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds just do not mix. Overworked parents do not help either. Every group has somebody with a war story about parents that declined to help with programs, and left children in his or her care long after they were supposed to collect them. Not many coordinators are willing to continue under these conditions. Die-hard members of Miami Mensa have tried over and over again to offer activities. These usually fell apart very quickly.
Although many of our events are “child-safe”, we do not have any programs tailored specifically towards gifted children. American Mensa offers information and additional links for gifted children. Please click on Gifted Children Information below for more information. Chicago area Mensa has created an exhaustive list of gifted children links. Check them out. Click on Chicago Gifted Children below.
Coming back to “the” question. Many Mensans do feel rich within their lives. Money isn’t the only goal. For example, there was one member who was a poet. He had a job walking railroad tracks with a long-handled hammer with which he tapped rail joints. He could recognize their soundness by the ring of metal. He felt very rich. He could walk mindlessly all day long while writing his poetry in his mind. Few financially wealthy people can lay claim to such happiness.