Who among us has jumped at the opportunity to do group work?
Sensing the crickets via blogosphere, I'm guessing most of us would rather work alone. Group projects present a myriad of difficulties, from scheduling and personality conflicts to leader/follower issues and unstated expectations of others. Throughout my scholastic career, I endured (yes, barely tolerated) many group projects. When teachers announced a group project, I prayed we were at least allowed to choose our partners. (In which case I would choose the best friends I had in the class, at least being able to rely on them more than the average classmate.) I loathed group work because it felt like I ended up doing most of the work (so why couldn't I just work alone?), that everyone else was slacking (thus stressing me and stifling my creativity) and therefore I had to pick up the slack and carry it—while carrying my own load—across the finish line. And then my hard-earned A became everyone's A.
You know the story well. Either you've lived it or your kid complains about it. This is the unavoidable grip of group work in our world. I'm not the only person who has experienced this and these experiences do not cease after scholastic endeavors end with pieces of paper declaring aptitude and capability.
Perhaps, now more than ever, group work prepares us for the real world... especially the smart, innovative, genius-hungry real world.
What I'm suggesting is that even though smart kids tend to despise group work because the other kids tend to either expect (because they're lazy/apathetic) or allow (intuiting that the smart kid wants to be in charge) the smart kids to carry the bulk of the work, perhaps the smart kids should buckle down and realize that this will help them not only be better people ("works well with others" is still a bragging point?), but also grow towards the illustrious genius status.
Lehrer suggests that the current "dearth of geniuses" is because "our modern problems have gotten so hard – so damn intractable, complicated and multi-disciplinary – that we can no longer solve them by ourselves."
So instead of following the models of geniuses that have gone before, today's genius first has to join a group project with a variety of stakeholders with different disciplinary expertise to attack the world's problems. Does this mean that a person is no longer considered a genius but instead a part of a genius? Not that the title means much, but it's likely that the suggestion of genius brings with it some ego, respect, and, today more than ever, earning power.