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Views on Mensa?

(25 Posts)
trilobyte Fri 29-Apr-16 19:39:07

DS (11) passed the Mensa test so we're giving membership a try for one year to see what it's all about. Can't say I've been overwhelmed by the experience so far - it all seems a bit dated, dusty, quirky and disorganised, and there's not much in the special interest groups that can't be found outside of Mensa. Pre-internet I can see it might have had a role in bringing people of like mind together, but these days there are other ways of buddying up with people who share your special interest in e.g. chess, steam engines, baking or the life and works of Shakespeare.

But am I missing something? If you or your DCs have been members, what have you got out of it?

strawberrybubblegum Mon 02-May-16 10:58:58

I suppose the thing to think about is what you feel your daughter is missing, that you were hoping mensa would provide. Is she struggling to get the companionship she needs from her school and social groups? Were you hoping for some educational enrichment? Or just widening her horizons? Thinking about that might give you more clarity about whether it does provide those things, or whether there are other things you could do instead.

I haven't been a member of mensa. The social side seems to be mensa's focus, but if you are in a professional job then it's likely that a fair percentage of your colleagues and friends will fall in the top 2% - so there doesn't seem much point.

But I can see it would be useful for people who don't get that from work, and especially for children in a non-selective school. Depends on the school of course: a multi-form entry school in an area with mostly professional parents will have a good handful of children who would qualify for mensa I would think.

I'd think that for genuine companionship to happen, you need to see the same people regularly over a period of time in the context of some kind of shared interest. Does mensa provide that for children your daughter's age? (I genuinely have no idea).

Are there activities (mensa or not) your daughter is interested in close to where you live, or summer classes?

The other thing some high iq societies seem to give is a place to share interesting ideas - but my (not very well researched) impression is that that's not mensa's focus. Some others, like triple nine, do focus on that, but they seem more aimed at adults. Also, since they are smaller and don't run tests, qualifying requires an actual iq test which is too much faff, and they also have a higher cut off.

Balletgirlmum Fri 06-May-16 23:29:31

According to a Weschler?? Test administered by an ed psych dd could join Mensa if she wanted to but I'm not sure there would be any point.

everdene Sat 07-May-16 09:17:13

The people I have known who are members of Mensa seem to have joined just to tell others they are members.

I agree with you, it is dusty And outdated and there are better support streams online or in extracurricular groups.

BertrandRussell Sat 07-May-16 09:19:18

Depends what you're looking for. Personally, the fact that MENSA endorsed the ghastly Child Genius programme means I would never want to give it any of my money.

BertrandRussell Sat 07-May-16 09:20:50

"But I can see it would be useful for people who don't get that from work, and especially for children in a non-selective school. Depends on the school of course: a multi-form entry school in an area with mostly professional parents will have a good handful of children who would qualify for mensa I would think."

Ah, yes. I had forgotten that intelligence is the preserve of the privileged classes! grin

FreshHorizons Sat 07-May-16 17:01:31

I did the test at home and then was invited to a centre to take it, but when I looked into it I couldn't see the point. You had to pay and all you seemed to get was being able to say 'I belong to MENSA' which was a bit nutty when there will be lots of highly intelligent people around who don't belong.

FreshHorizons Sat 07-May-16 17:02:40

I can't see who would impressed- it doesn't impress me.

crazycatguy Sat 07-May-16 17:08:56

I'm a member. Joined when I was 15. Mensa has a great social scene if you want it. Young and Mensan (or whatever it may be called now) was good fun and a hotbed of celibacy.

strawberrybubblegum Sat 07-May-16 19:55:02

No need to be disingenuous, Bertrand. Which part are you disagreeing with? The heritability of IQ? Or that professional jobs tend to take from the right hand side of the bell curve?

I certainly didn't imply that all clever people go into professional jobs. Or that all clever children have clever parents (or indeed that all clever parents have clever children). That would be ridiculous.

But there is a correlation, which means that the incidence of high IQ children is going to be higher in professional areas. To suggest that IQ is uniformly spread through all areas and hence all schools is also ridiculous.

strawberrybubblegum Sat 07-May-16 20:20:19

And the purpose of my comment was to point the op towards thinking about the numbers - since I think people sometimes forget to, and think mensan ability is more unusual than it is.

E.g. 3-form-entry (pretty standard where I live) means that you'd expect 1-2 kids of that ability in a year even if you took uniformly from the whole population.

But since you don't take uniformly from the whole population, you might get 3-4. There will also be a good many more who aren't far off (given how the bell curve works). So suddenly there's a pretty big pool of potential friends who are very much intellectual peers (not saying that's necessary, before I get jumped on - just that that's what OP might be looking for from mensa).

Of course, we know nothing about the OP's daughter - so she could still be an outlier. But with the way the bell curve goes, it's more likely she's not too far from the 2% point.

Balletgirlmum Sat 07-May-16 20:33:12

Dd is in a very small non academically selective school so I wonder if it might be of use to her.

I never thought about it like that before.

TiggyD Sat 07-May-16 20:42:14

Your OP was right. Before the internet it had a point. Now you can do most of what it offered for free. The Special Interest Groups which seemed so valuable seem kind of pointless.
The final straw was their forum. They had one which was 10 years behind the time. After much effort they replaced it with a custom made one which was 5 years out of date. I joined a few years ago but I've not renewed now I've found Mumsnet. wink

Supposedtobeworking1 Tue 10-May-16 15:34:51

I joined after passing the test at the same age as your DD OP but that was many, many years ago now. I joined because my parents wanted me to and not because of my own wishes but I haven't renewed my membership since my teens. I didn't gain any benefit from it and in fact it made my life miserable until I left school because the teachers used the "I thought you were supposed to be clever" line every time I found something difficult!

unlimiteddilutingjuice Tue 10-May-16 15:50:52

I was in child Mensa in the late 80's- early 90's before the internet and it wasn't that great then.
I remember many increasingly desperate "special members offers" on the Sinclair CV though! grin

BertrandRussell As a working class ex mensan with working class ex mensan parents- thank you for challenging the casual conflation of high IQ and middle classness.
I see that so often on Mumsnet and find it incredibly sloppy and offensive.

Seriously. Both my parents test at genius level. My Dad was told he was stupid all the way through school. My Mum was encouraged into secretarial work. That's what was expected of girls and boys like them and no-one looked any further.

Given that the population of the working class is larger than the population of the middle class, I would expect this kind of experiance to be as representative of high IQ people than the stereotypical "professional." Possibly even more so

unlimiteddilutingjuice Tue 10-May-16 15:51:30

Sinclair C5 that should be!

PiqueABoo Tue 10-May-16 19:19:13

"Given that.."

Sorry but I don't think that given works.

These numbers are rounded for clarity, but if we use the old five-level class convention then 10% of class 1&2 [professional, managerial, technical] will have a 130+ IQ compared to 1% of class 4&5 [unskilled, semi-skilled]. Class 1&2 is also twice the size of class 3&4.

This is complicated by how someone wants to define "working class" and whether some move from one set to another etc., but if everyone in the country was tested and forced to join Mensa then the ratio between class 1&2 to 3&4 members will be roughly 20:1.

If it's any consolation then 90% of class 1&2 won't make the cut for Mensa.

unlimiteddilutingjuice Tue 10-May-16 20:45:32

PiqueABoo Where are you getting those figures?

unlimiteddilutingjuice Tue 10-May-16 21:03:24

OK- I've found your source. Its this isnt it?

I will have a more detailed look and tell you what I think.

unlimiteddilutingjuice Tue 10-May-16 21:49:28

"Furthermore, the UK is mostly a middle class society nowadays. There are actually more people in Social Class 1 & 2 (around 40 percent of the working population) than there are in Classes 4 & 5 (about 20 percent). "

That presumably leaves another 40% in social class 3.
I'm not too familier with the (quite old fashioned) catogories but If social class 1&2 are "professional, managerial and technical – including teachers" then I would guess 3's are also working class.

The majority of the population is still working class and the working class population with high IQ's is still significant, even assuming differences in IQ across social classes (and we can argue about whether and why that is!).

PiqueABoo Tue 10-May-16 23:55:40

Class 3 = skilled (manual and non-manual) so I suppose you could call that 'working class' and improve the ratio, but it's impossible to know what anyone means by 'working class' these days. That which is not middle-class (whatever 'middle-class means)? The last builder we engaged re. our wrong-side-of-tracks modest house sends his DD to a private school we can't afford.

I'm certainly not claiming a negligible proportion of high IQs amongst lower-SES population, but the correlation between IQ and SES is very well established/replicated and these days the action tends to be around causation e.g. would relieving some economic disadvantage result in IQ increases etc.

strawberrybubblegum Wed 11-May-16 00:11:02

Proportion of people in each class (ie there being more working class than middle class people in the uk) is a red herring unless it changes how socially mixed a classroom will be.

The reason they draw attention to it in the article is because the question they are answering is different - ie why mensa has so many middle class members. What proportion of Mensa are middle class will obviously be linked to what proportion of the overall population are middle class.

My comment on the other hand was how the percentage of high iq children in a class (of 30 say) taken from an area with mainly professional parents will differ from what you would expect if 30 children were chosen at random from the whole population.

And just to be clear again, it's percentages we're talking about. This doesn't invalidate your personal experience or minimise the significance of the working class population with high IQ.

The paragraph from that article which I consider most relevant to this is:
People in jobs requirng high level skills or educational qualifications (e.g. architects or professional scientists) will almost-certainly all have above-average IQs. But a high IQ does not exclude people from unskilled jobs, and there will be a wider range of IQs in Social Classes 4 & 5. It is all a matter of percentages, not clear cut distinctions

If I was picking holes, the thing I would pick up on is that he seemed to use the same standard deviation (15 iq points - ie that of the whole population) to calculate percentages of people with iq >130 in each subset despite later mentioning the 'wider range of IQs in Social Classes 4 & 5' and the lack of symmetry. But that would just shift the numbers a bit.

strawberrybubblegum Wed 11-May-16 00:25:15

And taking a correlation into account when estimating numbers is not conflating the two groups, and nor is it sloppy thinking.

unlimiteddilutingjuice Wed 11-May-16 10:34:37

OK- perhaps I have been unfair on you strawberry. But I do see class conflated with intelligence on mumsnet very often.
Often in quite an unthinking, kneejerk way as well. Sometimes motivated by insufferable smugness.
I've re read your comment and I can see that you have been more careful than that.

Although I'm not very well informed on the subject- I am a bit sceptical of the idea that middle class people are generally more intelligent.

The article I linked to said: "The basic facts on Class and IQ are straightforward and have been known for about 100 years"

That 100 year period is going to include periods of relative class mobility like the 1960's and 70's and periods of almost total class rigidity. I would be very interested to see if there is any difference's in the figures between these periods.

There are many barriers to getting a top job beyond simply lacking skill or intelligence but the extent of these has varied considerably over time depending on wider social factors. I would expect to see a more complicated picture than is suggested by this statement:

"People in jobs requiring high level skills or educational qualifications (e.g. architects or professional scientists) will almost-certainly all have above-average IQs. But a high IQ does not exclude people from unskilled jobs, and there will be a wider range of IQs in Social Classes 4 & 5"

PiqueABoo Wed 11-May-16 14:33:51

"I would expect to see a more complicated picture"

'Intelligence' is a horribly complicated subject, so it really boils down to how much time you've got to tell a story and whether you want anyone to make it to the end. For instance this recent blog covers some of the same territory and each section in that is the tip of an iceberg...

Anyway, I want to go back to the earlier point around socialisation. Based on my extensive sample of one child I think (strongly influenced by genes) personality is a large part of 'like-minded' and although it helps in some places, matching IQs aren't hugely important.

Whizzy DD's long-standing very best friend is academically middling. Her alternative newer very best friend is borderline set 1/2. Her very best friend in top set maths classroom is her boy-equivalent in that subject. They're all quiet introverts.

This is a school with 220+ children per year and it's intake likely is a bit above average so there are perhaps ~10 children representing the national top few percent. But I'm beginning to think there's a correlation between extremes of IQ and extremes of personality because the strength of some of their characteristics can be difficult to get along with. This child is just too competitive, sly and calculating. That child is lovely, but too away with the fairies etc.

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