Genius is Far More Important than Sameness: When the problems are outside the box, go there and get them

It seemed perfectly logical; my daughter’s instructions to my pre-school grandson were to help the sailboat find the dock in the maze below.  The little boy looked at the situation and then made the line you see below connecting the sail boat to the dock down at the corner of the page with a straight line.  Most teachers in the world would see what he did and take it as defiance—and they’d likely seek some form of punishment—or ask for a parent teacher conference to correct the behavior—so that the little boy would properly follow instructions in the future.  And I’m already aware that teachers and public schools in the future will want to put the kid on Ritalin to “calm” him down into the speed of his surrounding classmates.  That is how our society treats these types of things—they seek to destroy the condition and to make the young students into a kind of mind numb sameness as the rest of society.C1F2B895-C261-4B4D-B5CF-1A8FF5F9D36B

When I saw that picture it instantly reminded me of something I did in kindergarten under the exact same conditions.  I even remember doing it.  While all the other kids were carefully trying to figure out how to navigate the maze we were told that before we went to recess we had to solve the problem.  I simply drew the straight line and was the first standing by the door ready to go outside and play.  It felt weird to me to stand up and be in front of the class while every one of the other students was still working—but I knew I had completed the task if I wanted to play—and well………..I was done.  The teacher had assumed that everyone understood the rules that the purpose of the exercise was to follow orders, not to solve the problem.  To me the lines on the page were made up rules artificially put there to restrict a solution to the problem, and that the most efficient way to achieve the objective was to simply go through all the barriers keeping the objective from being fulfilled.

I did get into a lot of trouble, especially after the teacher tried to make me feel bad about it.  When my reaction didn’t produce the level of shame the teacher thought was appropriate my mom was called in and instructed how these kinds of things should go in the future.  Of course that wasn’t the first time and it certainly wasn’t the last—and by the time I was in high school I had heard it all before and was numb to the efforts.  Luckily for me Ritalin wasn’t being used yet to treat hyper active minds of young children so I was able to keep my thought processes—and to this very day it helps me enormously.  In fact, the way I think is something that is highly sought after in the professional work, because it’s unique.  The world needs desperately problem solvers, and it really needs people who can see through the rules that mankind puts down on a page and can deliver an objective while virtually everyone else stays within the artificial lines of the rules they’ve made.  We call them “outside the box thinkers” and they are very valuable to advancing mankind.  However the purpose of public education, or any government endorsed education system is not to nurture these kinds of people—it is to destroy them, and to focus on the sameness of its population.

I was recently in a business meeting where all the participants were very rigid thinkers and we had a conflict that was essentially over their lack of understanding of my problem solving methods—which was very outside the box.  From my perspective they were the blind trying to learn to see, and from their perspective there are all these lines on a paper that indicate the rules of society and how we are supposed to navigate through them to reach the objective.  In my mind the objective is what matters, not the artificial restrictions we’ve created for ourselves as a society.  Those lines that keep us in the box of thought are after all only symbols of a contemplation process which forged them.  When new information indicates that the lines don’t hold much meaning, then why restrict yourself to their effects?  So the meeting we had was not about solving problems, it was in adherence to previous beliefs built in the minds of inferior intellects and I wasn’t budging.  I never have and I’m certainly not going to start now. Yet as those kinds of engagements go I always walk away feeling sorry for the people whom I’d refer to as blind.  They are stuck in a box of thought and they either lack the ability or the desire to come out of that box where the real solutions are.  Their lifetime of training solidifies their minds in a kind of concrete for which they can never emerge—their entire lives.  Talking to them is like speaking to someone who has been made deliberately dumb and handicapped to keep them in a line of thought that the governments of the world want—but perilously entrap them as individuals.

For instance my family celebrated with our members in Louisville over the weekend an early Christmas that we do each year and upon returning we got stuck on I-71.  Road conditions had black ice everywhere and there was a major wreck which completely shut down the northbound traffic near La Grange.   It was a terrible spot to get stuck because at that part of the highway there is a large median separating the southbound traffic and there wasn’t another exit for at least 5 miles.  So there we sat in a way I never find myself in—because usually there’s some way to go around the mess.  We sat in that traffic for two hours until enough people up the highway from us got off the next exit and sought some alternative route before we could move up to do the same.  On my right there were tractor trailers stuck in a parked position mostly with their engines off.  On my left was a forested median with no way to drive across to the southbound traffic.  The emergency lanes were littered with people looking to do the same thing—it was just terrible.  Eventually we inched our way up to an exit and were able to get gas—which we were nearly out of—and head down to the Ohio River to take a side road up to Carrolton where we then could get back on the highway—twenty nine miles upstream.  By then the traffic blockage was passed and we were able to resume our drive back home. What astonished me as we got off the highway was how many people at the gas station were filling their tanks and getting right back on the ramp to emerge back into the stopped traffic, which was backed up all the way to Louisville—and after several hours, it still wasn’t moving.  Only a few cars out of the many thousands present thought to drive around the traffic by using side roads.  I think if we hadn’t done that, we’d still be on that highway.  But people just don’t think that way naturally, when they are given a problem, they stay in the lines where thought is comfortable—even if it is extremely painful to them.  And that goes back to their school days where they were taught to stay in the lines and not to deviate—the intention of their homework was not to solve problems, it was to adhere to the rules.

My proposal is that we should spot kids who think outside the box and help them become that much more exceptional instead of destroying them into the kind of sameness that keeps people locked on a crowded highway or stuck trying to solve business solutions from within the confines of inferior thinking.  If the solutions are outside the box, then go out there and get them. But it isn’t the genius level kids who draw lines across the artificial rules of the printed page that are the problem—it is in our desire to make them as dumb as everyone else.  That is a crime against humanity in my opinion, and is one that we could change easily just by having a slight adjustment to our educational priorities.  Genius is far more valuable than sameness.

Rich Hoffman
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