2. Want to be a Genius?

(I wrote this as one of four essays back in 2015. Some of the data will have changed but my sentiments remain just as crochety. And, of course, I’ve largely stopped working as a freelance journalist and gone back to making pots, which may or may not be meaningful – who knows.)

`While dyslexia has historically been considered a disadvantage, it’s widely believed that many creative ‘geniuses’, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, might today be classified as dyslexic. Twenty-first century artists and designers who are also dyslexic include filmmaker Steve McQueen, architect Richard Rogers and Turner-nominated performance artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.’ (This quote originally came from
http://www.rca.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/rebalancing-dyslexia-and-creativity-rca/ although at the last try this page could not be reached.)

Oh, for goodness sake! Historically dyslexia has been considered a disadvantage because it was, and continues to be, a disadvantage. From the first day you walk into school it continues to be a disadvantage for the rest of your life and, while the above is an impressive list, the truth of the matter is that not all dyslexics are high achievers. For those that are not the constant harping on about the cultural wonder kids is only one more pressure, or so it seems to me. How depressing to be dyslexic and not to excel in the art room or anywhere very much. After all, even dyslexics are allowed to be average. Also, I believe that well-meant statements like the one above can actually be damaging to the long term outcomes of many lives. For while the RCA can speak for its own there is a real danger that some outside the institution may think that their ideas can be applied to a wider context. Or worse still that art is the way out, a way to beat dyslexia.

If you are one of the lucky few who finish up as a post graduate art student at a top art college, you just might find employment. But you will be up against the students who are not dyslexic and the grim reality may be that they will be more efficient at filling in grant and job application forms, self-assessment tax forms and if a teaching job is required endless lesson plans, schemes of work group profiles and all the rest of that stuff.

The genuinely talented, of course, stand a better chance than the others and it is those others that concern me. How many dyslexics find their way into school art rooms where making images offers sanctuary from the tyranny of text. Face it, most are not a Leonardo, Picasso, Steve McQueen, Richard Rogers or Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. Nonetheless, if they can be moved on to an art collage the school can register success, can pretend to have done a good job.

It’s tough being dyslexic. It’s tough being an artist, particularly for those that won’t appear on lists. What you can be forgiven for asking for is a world in which people, particularly in education, don’t behave as if dyslexia were a free ticket to special powers instead of providing appropriate teaching, particularly in the early years because in the 21st century artists, like everyone else need that stuff. As for me, I’m just a writer, but please, please, don’t tell me that I think like a genius. I don’t. I think like ordinary old Me. Do I want to be a genius? Not really. I certainly never wanted to be lumbered with dyslexia. It’s never been an advantage to me and I don’t like being told that it is.