Maxwell Ericson, an 8th grader at a demanding Manhattan middle school, effortlessly argues in a fashion fit for a president, has ample knowledge of the Roman art of war, and believes that Dante's "Inferno" would be the best horror movie yet. Almost every aspect of Maxwell's demeanor screams, "I am a smart and interesting person." And yet his report card is screaming in mediocrity.
Maxwell's case is not uncommon. Many of those whose intelligence is not reflected perfectly in the way schools grade students go unrecognized, at least in school. Historians say that Einstein was a moderate student, with the average mark on his report cards corresponding to the grade "good," not excellent. This makes an appealing story for all misunderstood geniuses, but not every Einstein gets acknowledged eventually.
We automatically assume that gifted students will eventually find their way, on their own — they're smart, right? But unrefined intelligence is like a muscle. If it's not used often, it will have trouble emerging to its full power. So when schools don't sufficiently encourage personal curiosity, students lose out in the long run, because they will be less able to start using their potential later.