The Genius Qualities: Being Shut-Down
It’s also instructive to consider what constitutes the opposite of genial: “strictness, rigidity, boredom, criticism, or anxiety stifles the creative impulse and strangles any possibility for joy, humor, flexibility, or vitality” (page 60). Sadly, these kinds of environments stifle anyone’s flow.
Thanks for reading my blogs about the 12 genius qualities identified in the unique work by Dr. Tom Armstrong. Since you’re still reading this series, my guess is that you want to make sure you don’t do anything to shut these qualities down. Good for you!
Dr. Armstrong writes about a natural neural decrease that starts around age 2 and continues, a sort of “pruning,” and then becomes less for adults. That makes the formative years of children and teens crucial for developing the characteristics. But Dr. Armstrong also sees unnecessary decreases in and depression of these qualities from at least three key sources: home, school, and media. He does acknowledges roles of “peers and related developmental factors,” but focuses on where he saw the most damage happening in the time his book was published at the end of the 20th century. (We’ll consider some updates to his findings in just a bit.)
Shut-Down in the Home
Is the home environment for learning positively stimulating or is it otherwise? Numerous studies point to a child’s first three years as crucial. Dr. Armstrong overviews four factors that can have an overall negative impact through disrupting development of the 12 Genius Qualities: emotional dysfunction, poverty, a fast-paced lifestyle, and rigid ideologies.
Shut-Down in School
New York University communication professor Neil Postman once wrote: “Children enter school as question marks and they leave school as periods.” What happens in the interim? For many children who have had their genius suppressed during the first five years of home life, school may simply add insult to injury and even further repress their genius qualities.
Dr. Armstrong is highly concerned about school environments that quench the genius qualities. Many school systems and teachers offer positive learning experiences, but many other elements can crush the joy of learning. The four worst offenders, according to Dr. Armstrong are testing and grading, labeling and tracking (that tend to emphasize what students can’t do instead of what they can do), textbooks and worksheet learning, and tedium. About tedium, he writes, “When tedium rules in a classroom, students divert their attention from the lesson plan and take their curiosity inside (‘I wonder what Julie will be wearing to the dance this weekend?’).”
Shut-Down in the Media
Dr. Armstrong’s conclusion about media is sobering. He believes that because most television programming, computer games, and Internet fare are not being created by geniuses to awaken curiosity, wonder, or wisdom … children’s inborn genius is likely to find little nourishment from these. Specifically, there are four factors Dr. Armstrong mentions as the downfalls of these digital media: violence, stereotypical images, insipid language, and mediocre content.
Dr. Armstrong wrote his book in 1998. Perhaps the starkest changes have been in ever-increasing consumption of media and technology. But even back then, he wrote about “infotainment” showing elements of being creative without it inspiring creativity in others. We’re still inundated by junk information and media that detract, not enrich. Little of it provokes growth through genius-quality thought, word, and deed.
What significant changes have you noticed, from the time you were children and adolescents until now, that seem to be stifling people’s genius?
Check out other blogs in this series: