Mensa

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Mensa

Definition: Mensa is an organization for people with high IQs. It is in no other way an elite organization since membership includes people of all ages and occupations. The youngest member is two and the oldest is ninety-four. Occupations represented by members include just about everything imaginable: scientists, lawyers, doctors, police officers, truck drivers, and farmers are just a few examples.

Contrary to popular opinion, Mensa is not an organization for "geniuses," unless a genius includes those who are moderately gifted. Mensa accepts people whose IQs put them in the top 2% of the population. While IQ scores vary somewhat from test to test, in general, the top 2% includes IQs of 130 and up.

Highly gifted is considered to start at 145. People join Mensa for a variety of reasons, but for many, it is a way to meet others who are like them and who share their interests. It has national groups in fifty countries.

Also Known As: High IQ Society

Mensa is not without its critics. Many people believe that it is nothing more than an organization people join in order to gain bragging rights. They want to be able to tell people they belong to Mensa. Apparently, these people have low self-esteem that can only be boosted by admission into Mensa. Do a search on Google for Mensa and you'll find articles telling you why it's not a good idea to join Mensa, why you shouldn't tell your boss you belong to Mensa, or why the author of one particular article or another chose not to accept an invitation to join Mensa.

As usual, misunderstanding and even hostility rear their heads when any topic relating to high intelligence comes up. Here are the only two reasons that Paul Johnson says he can think of for why people join Mensa:

  1. So you can constantly mention it to other people.
  2. To rub elbows with other smart people so you can pat each other on the back and share the burden of being smart.

    He adds this: "Here’s the rub: If you’re smart enough to be in Mensa, you should be smart enough to realize how much everyone else hates people in Mensa."

    Why is that some "the rub"? That would be true only if Johnson were right about why people join Mensa.

    Kia Abdullah has a different take on Mensa, but it's also a negative one. She took the test required for joining Mensa because, as she put it, she had "a hyper-feminist need to continuously prove my independence and ability." She scored well and was invited to join the organization. How did she feel about the invitation? She says that "Instead of feeling smug, I immediately felt embarrassed. The whole exercise suddenly felt cringingly self-indulgent."

    The fact that Abdullah expected to feel smug says something about how she views people in Mensa. She apparently, thinks members all feel smug about being members. Perhaps it is her reason for taking the test is causing her embarrassment and feelings of self-indulgence. That, however, is her personal issue, which has nothing to do with why other people join Mensa.

    No doubt some people join Mensa because they want to be able to say they are a Mensa member, but to suggest that it's the only reason people join is both wrong and insulting. Many people join for the camaraderie. They are looking for their "tribe," people who are like them, who understand them. What many people don't understand is that Mensa isn't just an organization you join. Chapters hold meetings, events, and activities that allow members to meet in person. Some chapters hold monthly events, while others have something to offer daily.

    One of Mensa's membership benefits is the opportunity to join and participate in SIGs - Special Interest Groups. These are groups that are based on virtually any topic of interest. Some critics have said that with the internet, it's possible to find SIGS on any topic fairly easily. But this misses the point of being with other Mensans. If you can't understand that, imagine having the opportunity to join a SIG made up of other adults. Now imagine having the opportunity to join a SIG made up of 11-year-olds. Which one would you prefer? If you choose the group of adults, do you brag because you are an adult and they admit you to their group?

    So why do parents bother getting their children into Mensa? Isn't that for bragging rights?  Again, that certainly motivates some parents, but just as certainly, it doesn't motivate all parents. Mensa for kids has plenty of benefits for young Mensans. Like older Mensans, young Mensans can meet in person at local, regional, and national events. I can tell you that there are few things more gratifying than seeing your child find and interact with his true peers. As a parent, you also have the opportunity to be with your tribe, too - other parents of gifted kids.

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