September 12, 2023

Just outside the school, there are two bus stops. It’s really annoying to have to stop at the south end of the school yard and then again at the north end when following a city bus that’s dropping off students. The staff parking lot is a right turn after the bus stop to the north. How come students can’t walk those 150 metres? I’m probably getting late for work…to teach them.

At the south end bus stop there’s an ad for a tutoring company that specializes in math. Their slogan is “Releasing the Genius,” and the tagline for the ad is “Advancing Human Intelligence.” I was going to take a picture but I didn’t get a chance to get out to the school yard today. It irks me.

I work in a wealthy area, where many, if not most, families can afford to put their kids into expensive after school programs, like those that are pushing humankind to the next frontier. Many of my students claim to be unable to complete their homework because of extra-curriculars. Basketball, ballet, karate, kendo, tutoring, and tarot card reading all impede students’ ability to do any learning after class.

The families of students in other, lower socioeconomic areas of the city likely can’t afford to put their children into tutoring programs that will rub the lamp that will free the genie of brilliance within them. Instead, they need to pay attention in class if they want to learn, without the option of supplementing, let alone furthering, that education when they leave.

It’s a bold claim for a tutoring company to make, to say that it will unearth a prodigy and regenerate Einsteinian aptitude. It leaves many students with the wrong impression of themselves and others as learners.

Understanding and doing math well, even exceptionally so, does not a genius make release. Teaching students how to do math does not warrant membership in Mensa. Math is not the most prestigious subject, the one that separates the intelligent from the obtuse. Math is but one subject among many.

I take issue with the inequity of the approach. How are students who cannot afford, or simply choose not to attend, these sessions meant to see themselves within the learning community if participation is approached with such admiration? They are no less intelligent, no less capable, and no lesser a contributor to the collective knowledge of the human race. We overlook, too easily, the capacity and contributions of those who do not rise within an entirely artificial hierarchy of school subjects.

It takes an incredible amount of intelligence to perform, write, sing, speak, draw, science, social study, and badminton well. The ability to communicate well is what creates change. Simply understanding a complex theory does not. Doing anything well, pushing the limits, innovating, and experimenting in any field is a step toward the advancement of human intelligence.

That the ad is outside of a school, where teachers bust their balls to support, encourage, and educate children, in a far more varied and complex environment than that of a tutoring studio(?), is a bit of a kick in the teeth. The work that most students do on a daily basis, not only in math class, is remarkable. How much growth do students experience with each step through the hallways of a public school? We take for granted how much learning takes place in those buildings, believing it to be ubiquitous and common. Minds are expanding, entire lives are growing and transforming, people are finding themselves and their place in the world.

The genius is already free, and you have to advance only 150 metres to see.


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