Mensans Making a Difference

Mensa in schools
Mensa in schools

Some see Mensa as an elitist club for people who want to show off their high IQ, and have no better way to do it. Mensa is a lot more than that. Have you noticed how many programs about intelligence seem to be on TV these days? One of Mensa’s goals is to foster intelligence, and it welcomes the sign of society appreciating the talents of each individual in the use of the most marvellous of human attributes – the brain.

Mensa sees its mission as helping stimulate all people in using as much of their brain as possible. When you think about it, in a smarter world, everybody wins! Mensa is a not-for-profit society, the oldest and most well-known high-IQ society in the world. Its purposes are to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, encourage research into the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.

You’ll find all sorts of people in Mensa. But Mensans worldwide have one thing in common: they’re bright. Mensa is an international society with only one criterion for membership: a score on a standardised IQ test higher than that of 98% of the general population.

Mensa offers opportunities to meet people, exchange ideas and make new friends at your intellectual level. Quick minds are welcomed; instant communication and comprehension are the rule rather than the exception. The Mensa network extends beyond Australia, with international gatherings in America, Europe and Asia and a chance to meet fellow Mensans when you travel the world.

Its growth as a worldwide entity can be traced to Victor Serebriakoff (1912-2000), who was born in the slums of East London, the son of a Russian father and a cockney mother. His brains caused trouble early on. ”I was chased home from school every day because I was the kid who put his hand up at every question,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 1986. ”The teachers liked me all right, but the other kids didn’t.”

Victor had to drop out of school after year ten and get a job, as his family was poor and needed his help. He worked as a labourer in a timber processing company. Twenty years later he was the managing director of that company, having developed new ways to process the timber. He also taught himself computer programming. He used to say: “The fact that I didn’t have formal education did not stop me from learning. I read and read as much as I could, until I could talk with anyone about any subject”.

Victor became the president of Mensa in 1982 and he was the one who spread the idea of Mensa around the world, and campaigned for educational improvements for gifted children. Today there are around 134 000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world. There are active Mensa organisations in more than 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica.

In the last seven years there has been a massive growth in young members and the organisation has been putting more attention into young people’s programs. There are workshops and presentations for kids and parents to enrich their minds and help them socialise. There are museum visits, walking tours and science groups. In most of these cases the attendance is open to non-members and everybody gets a chance for a stimulating experience.

Nowadays Mensa reaches out by motivating schools to support programs for gifted children and has established funds for scholarships and grants for researches. More information about membership is available on the organisation’s website – www.mensa.org.au