The Jonah Complex: Why We Are Afraid Of Being Brilliant

Laura McInerney


The ‘lack of wanting to be clever’ problem is something anyone working in classrooms will encounter.

One of the things I learned to ask disaffected students was: what would you have to sacrifice if you suddenly did really well, academically speaking?

This is how the conversation usually went:

  • Me: I’m guessing you don’t really want to get an A because it wouldn’t suit something about yourself, right?
  • Kid: What? No.
  • Me: Really? Only none of the friends I see you with are in the top set, and you seem to like chatting more than working, so… why would you work? If you work won’t you lose your friends and your ability to chat?
  • Kid: Are you trying to, like, reverse-mind me or sumfin?
  • Me; No! [I genuinely wasn’t] I’m just wondering what things you would have to give up to do well at school and if I can see…

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