The public school system is often not kind to NP types. So, it leads some to question whether they are intelligent. My youngest son is an ENFP. I’m an INFP and his older brother is an INTP. Both kids have struggled in school, which can become a small black box that mercilessly tortures kids who don’t fit the paradigm. And, it deserves repeating, the paradigm is [super tiny font] small [/super tiny font]. At around 6th grade we decided to pull both kids out of normal school and put them in a home school connect program because neither of them fit the box.
My ENFP son is the single most creative human being I’ve ever met, and I was in the music business for several years working with producers who wrote many of the hits I grew up listening to in the 80s. Just saying, that I’ve been around seriously creative people.
Ever since he was five, he’s drawn one picture after the other, and now he’s into music, so now it’s one song after the other. I’ve never seen anything like it. At first the quality is questionable, well sometimes nonexistent actually, but he learns by iteration. The details gradually fill in and he becomes capable of startling things.
As an example, he’s 16 years old and just showed me this album that he created on his iPad with no formal music education, and no other tools; just pure iPad and 16 year old ENFP intelligence: Cry Sad Boi: a New Age of Aggression.
Hearing this album that he seemingly pulled out of his back pocket, I just sat there in awe. It took him about 4 weeks amid his school work to produce a whole album from start to finish. Of course, there’s no grade for this kind of thing as there isn’t for the vast majority of significant undertakings. Whether you like the music or not, there is a massive amount of complexity going on, and it’s actually catchy and decently produced…by a 16 year old kid with an iPad. Crazy!!! Wow!!!
I bought him an iPad about 1 1/2 years ago. Before that I don’t think he was doing any music at all. Then all the sudden he’s doing music. He’s figured out how to get it on SoundCloud, iTunes (I think), and Spotify. He does all the art work himself. He just figures it all out. I’ve never helped him with any of it.
Another ENFP intelligence story. A few years ago he figured out how to make movies with his phone. Great. And then he figured out how to edit them on his computer. Great. And then he won a national short film contest. What?? And then he just casually mentions it to me one day that his short film (which I thought was awful by the way) was being played around the world by this website called Channel 101. Lately, he’s been consulting with them on their new selections.
This kid is a wonderful creative maelstrom. I’m grateful we’ve learned to just let him go and do his thing, and be surprised by what comes out of him. It’s pretty fun parenting that way actually. Just give him some supplies and watch what happens.
He’s better than I ever was at self promotion. One day a few years ago he made $150 dollars in an evening drawing pictures on the spot for people during a street fair. It was the most incredible thing to watch as he raked it in.
So you gotta ask yourself a few questions here: Why do we send our kids to school? To get a good education. Why? Well, we want them to be able to support themselves and also learn how to be good human beings. Why do we worry about grades? We want them to be successful. We want them to have options. Sometimes we want our kids to go to prestigious schools for the brand name, as these schools often don’t actually offer a better education. It’s just name cachet, like Gucci, or Armani, or whatever.
[Incidentally, I was recently in a workshop with Bessel Van Der Kolk, a Harvard professor and MD. He explained to the class that you can get a much better education elsewhere, but then you don’t have the prestige…so you have to weigh the options. Such honesty!]
What do you do with high school and a kid like this? We've chosen to minimize the damage and look for opportunities. I’ve always told him school is optional and laid out his options the best I could along with the tradeoffs. Recently, he’s chosen on his own to attend public high school and to work at getting decent grades in math and so on. But I don’t hassle him about it. He’s self-motivated. His future is likely not in academia. At some point he’s probably going to be running his own film/music/art studio and I’ve already seen that he can learn what he needs to learn in order to get the results he wants.
A high school diploma or a college degree is not necessary if you’re well loved and have the talent and street smarts that my ENFP son consistently demonstrates. It’s an option that we need to use strategically. Sometimes it’s a system where you need to learn how to play the game. Sometimes there are classes that can truly help you learn and grow in the direction of your dreams.
I think the sooner we can drop the idea that schooling and education are synonymous, or that grades/test results equal intelligence, the sooner we’ll all be able to breathe, be more fulfilled and contribute real value to others.