DON’T FUCKING CENSOR STUDENTS
Public school papers should be allowed to write anything the students want because it is a forum for students to express themselves. Supplementally, they are funded by the government making them protected under the bill of rights. Because of that legal action can be pursued for suppression of speech. Aside from the legality of the issue, not allowing students to publish freely lowers morale and causes a void of creativity, leading to more problems later. Not allowing diverse viewpoints can create an environment that only prioritizes one type of student. Allowing school papers to publish what they would like opens up discussions into difficult topics, and diversifies viewpoints of students. By implementing censorship, the school creates an unhealthy environment, which dangerously affects the school overall, leading to a long term drain on resources and energy.
School papers are routes for students to express themselves. Many students need an area within their life where they are free to be who they want to be. By suppressing creativity and expression, a school is suppressing personalities. Students often cannot express themselves in their daily life. School is an area to learn about the necessary subjects and to learn about yourself. By having a judgment-free outlet, students can create a piece of art that pushes boundaries, which censorship does not allow. Pushing boundaries is not the only reason to limit censorship. Expression is important, and limiting expression is dangerous. Censorship has been shown repeatedly through repressive regimes. While comparing a school paper to a totalitarian regime is a harsh and dramatic comparison, it is necessary to point out the similarities. By repressing certain groups, the school becomes unintentionally favorable to one subset of people, causing alienation to anyone who falls outside of the group. This makes the community even more disjointed, leading to an unhappy student body.
While there are moral and ethical dilemmas, there are legal dilemmas to consider. Not allowing free speech in the US is a crime, and because public schools are attached to the government the reach extends to public institutions. Not allowing students to publish what they want may lead to lawsuits if handled poorly. This is especially apparent in areas where articles critique the school. Censoring students creates a more restrictive environment and leads to students speaking out less. Although there are the aforementioned moral dilemmas, a more concrete consequence is the ability to sue and cause damage to the school's reputation and resources.
Controversy can unify the community, which leads to overall better morale. By improving community strength, it is possible to create better infrastructure and a stronger sense of cohesion within the community. Controversy allows different viewpoints to be understood, allowing the expansion of beliefs. It also increases vulnerability, which strengthens a community. For example, writing a story about transgender rights by a transgender or non-binary person creates a discussion amongst other students. Engaging cisgender students and educating them about trans issues opens the pathway for further understanding between the trans and cisgender communities. Having students showcase vulnerability in a paper allows students to see eachother on a deeper level. By putting a voice out there, the students can create an atmosphere of trust, strengthening the community.
Suppressing creativity in schools limits students, and the cons outway the pros. Allowing students to express themselves is necessary for teenagers trying to find themselves. Diverse perspectives lead to conversations about difficult topics, which unifies the student body. While school is a place to learn, it also falls within the most formative years in life. By encouraging expression, people can learn in class, and learn about themselves and the world around them, creating a well-rounded and priceless experience.
The Connections Between High IQs and Mental Disorders
Intelligence quotient (IQ) testing is a way for neuroscientists and psychologists to test the intelligence of individuals. This testing was invented by Alfred Binet in order to determine people’s mental ages. This test is not used to predict people’s futures or what career and education path(s) would be a good fit for them. People who obtain high intelligence quotients have notable advantages over people with average or below average intelligence quotients. These intelligent individuals have been predicted to have higher levels of education and higher income jobs. However, researchers have also found many connections between high intelligence quotients and mental disorders. Mood disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders have been linked to people with higher IQs much more than any other mental disorders. Researchers have found that people with high intelligence quotients have a higher chance of developing bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and ASD. This can be observed in well-known geniuses that changed the world.
Bipolar disorder is one of the mental disorders that has the highest likelihood of developing in persons with high IQs. A study in Sweden watched two thousand children grow from eight-years-old into their early twenties and found that the children that tested higher on an IQ test, developed bipolar disorder more in early adulthood. Similar studies found that people with high IQs are twelve times as likely to develop bipolar disorder than the average person. Neuroscientists have determined that bipolar disorder is usually caused by prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and cingulate cortex stimulation levels (either too high or too low). Scientists also determined that the amount of gray matter in each of those brain structures can be a cause for Bipolar Disorder. In one study, brain images showed an enlarged amygdala, but only on the left hemisphere, as well as decreased volume in the cingulate cortex. However, the largely unknown pathophysiology of bipolar disorder makes these scientists unsure as to why bipolar disorder is more likely in individuals with high IQs. There are studies being conducted right now that are trying to find out exactly why bipolar disorder is so much more prevalent in people with high IQs than the average person.
Other mood disorders, such as anxiety and major depressive disorder, are also much more common in people with high IQs than those with average intelligence. The American Mensa society found that people with IQs in the top 2% are 83% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and 182% more likely to develop at least one mood disorder. Scientists argue that this is a “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” situation because studies have been performed that suggest that mood disorders can lend themselves to higher IQs and vice versa. For example, a study at Lakehead University showed that individuals with social anxiety tested higher for verbal intelligence than the average person and scientists theorize that this is because the individuals with social anxiety are so focused on their fear of messing up that they make sure their verbal intelligence is perfect before speaking. On the flip side, other studies, like one at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, suggest that a higher IQ leads to the overanalysis of situations, which can then turn into anxiety and depression. Personally, I think that it is the latter. My theory aligns more with that of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center because I think the way a brain with higher intelligence quotient views the world can lead to pessimism and viewing the world much more realistically than one should to remain in a peaceful state of mind.
Along with mood disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) have also been linked to individuals with high IQs. Researchers from the American Mensa Society have explained this similarly to how mood disorders are related to mental disorders by saying this: “The overexcitabilities specific to those with high intelligence may put these individuals at risk for hypersensitivity to internal and/or external environmental events. The rumination and worry that accompanies this heightened awareness may contribute to a chronic pattern of fight, flight, or freeze responses which then launch a cascade of immunological events. […] Ideally, immune regulation is an optimal balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory response. It should zero in on inflammation with force and then immediately return to a calm state. In those with the overexcitabilities previously discussed, including in those with ASD, this system appears to fail to achieve a balance and thus inflammatory signals create a state of chronic activation.” Individuals with ASD and ADHD are both frequently very sensitive to the environment around them meaning that they intake the stimulants surrounding them on a much more detailed and regular basis than the average neurotypical person, so their brain is also analyzing this information at a more intelligent level, then they may have a strong connection between their IQ and their mental disorders. Similar to mood disorders, scientists argue whether the mental disorder affects the IQ or the IQ affects the mental disorder, but the argument is slightly different for neurodevelopmental disorders because they are not formed in the brain the same way as mood disorders. Regardless of which one may have lead to the other or whether they just go hand and hand, it is noted by neuroscientists that people with IQs in the top 2% are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 80% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD (American Mensa Society).
Many famous geniuses, political leaders, and artists have been diagnosed with mental disorders. These people are primary examples of how people with high IQs can be more prone to mental illness. Some of these people include Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Edvard Munch, and Kurt Godel, who all had unspecified mood disorders. However, lots of other public figures were more open about their diagnoses. For example, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill had all been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, also known as depression. Also, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Emily Dickenson had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This has helped scientists come up with their theories of connections between high IQs and mental illnesses. Having these well known examples of individuals with extremely high IQs as well as mental disorders has fueled the studies between these two neuroscientific phenomena.
The connections between mental disorders and high intelligence quotients, though still not entirely understood, are noted by most neuroscientists and psychologists. These same scientists have found that people with high intelligence quotients have a higher chance of developing bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and ASD. They have also found real-world connections of these disorders in well known figures. The more research neuroscientists put into this topic, the fewer questions psychology will have about why there are so many connections between mental illnesses and high levels of intelligence. I personally have many spiraling questions on the topic because of my own experiences with having both an above average IQ and both mood and neurodevelopmental disorders. I would love to see what studies and information are brought to the table in the coming years. The reasons behind connections between mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and ASD and individuals with high IQs are largely unknown right now and I can not wait to watch to see what neuroscientists discover about these connections next.
Bennett, Taylor. “Having a High IQ May Lead to Increased Risk of Mental Illness.” Thriveworks, 12 Oct. 2017, https://thriveworks.com/blog/higher-iq-increased-risk-for-mental-illness/.
Davies, Janey. “Psychiatric Disorders like Anxiety and Bipolar Could Be the Cost of a High IQ, Science Reveals.” Learning Mind, https://www.learning-mind.com/psychiatric-disorders-high-iq/.
Felton, James. “Having a High IQ Puts You More at Risk of Mental Illness, Study Finds.” IFLScience, IFLScience, 27 Aug. 2019, https://iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/having-a-higher-iq-puts-you-more-at-risk-of-mental-illness-study-finds/.
Frangou, Sophia. “The Maudsley Bipolar Disorder Project.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 6 June 2005, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2005.463005.x.
Karpinski, Ruth I., et al. “High Intelligence: A Risk Factor for Psychological and Physiological Overexcitabilities.” Intelligence, JAI, 8 Oct. 2017, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616303324.
“Why Are Intelligent People More Prone to Mental Illness?” Origins Behavioral HealthCare, 3 Oct. 2020, https://www.originsrecovery.com/why-are-intelligent-people-more-prone-to-mental-illness/.
“Why Highly Intelligent People Suffer from More Mental and Physical Disorders.” Big Think, 30 Sept. 2021, https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/why-highly-intelligent-people-suffer-more-mental-and-physical-disorders/.
A Conversation With Sara Ballon
When I was in 5th grade, I had Ms. Ballon as my teacher for Social Studies. Shortly after I left St. Andrew’s, she left too. Her decision was a little different from mine. She decided to move to China and teach there. I was able to have a talk with her while she was stuck in her government mandated quarantine.
Your experience with the virus has been particularly turbulent. Tell me about your last six months.
It was probably around the middle of January when I started to read and hear about the virus. I signed up for alerts on The New York Times and I went about my business. When I went to Hong Kong I was more worried about protests than any virus.
Then Chinese New Year came, and my mom and I went to the Philippines. I was still
reading about this virus but halfway through the vacation, my head of school sent out an email. It said that because of the virus, everything was going to be postponed for two weeks. I was like “oh that's interesting, what am I going to do for the next two weeks?” If I went back I would be so bored. All I had was beachwear. And my mom. A few days later I got another email. “We are postponing the start of school indefinitely.” Since it was indefinite, I decided to come back to that states.
I had to make a decision: was I going to go straight from the Philippines to the US, or stop by my apartment in Beijing first. So I decided to stop back by my apartment before going back to the US. Everything I needed was back in Beijing.
I booked a one-way ticket from Beijing to Austin. I had dinner with a few colleagues. It was like our last supper. There were three or four couples and me. Nobody knew anything about the virus and we did not have a crystal ball. By the end of the night, everyone had booked a ticket to fly home.
We started remote learning and worked remotely from the road for the next six weeks. I spent the next few weeks all over the US. I went to Georgia to visit my brother, I went to New York City, and I went to San Francisco.
At this point, it was the beginning of March and it was right before everything shut down. One of my last stops was going to be LA. The main reason I went to LA was that I have a friend who works for The Bachelor and she got me tickets to see the finale. So my last big public event was the season finale of the bachelor. After that, I knew I needed to go back.
No one wanted to open their homes to me. Anyone who had extra places to stay was using it as a home office, and now nobody was going to work and everybody was staying home. People didn’t love the idea of having someone not family in their house 24/7. It is awkward and uncomfortable. So I decided I needed to go to my mom’s.
In the middle of March, I took one last plane ride to Florida.
April, May, June:
For the next three months, until June 15th, I was living in my mother’s retirement community. With a bunch of old people. In Florida. In my mother’s second bedroom, teaching at night. I am 47 years old. I never thought I would be living with my mother ever again. I would start working at 6 or 7 at night, and I would walk to my Uncle’s place. He wasn’t living there at the time so it was very easy for me to just set up there. I would come home around twelve or one in the morning and then we would watch TV until about one or two in the morning. Then we would sleep until noon. It was really like being a teenager again. It was three months of that.
When school ended, I decided that it was insane to spend my summer in Florida. I knew I couldn’t go back to China though. Anyone with a Chinese Visa got canceled. So no one could enter China starting at the end of March. Going back to China was never an option for me.
I finished school and decided I wanted to spend my summer in Austin. I am so lucky to have so many amazing friends and people who live here that opened their homes and doors to me. At this point, a lot of people were living in their second homes because of the situation. Basically, I house-sat for a while. I would feed the fish and take care of rabbits and supervise things. I was lucky that I had places to stay. No one wants you in the house while everyone is home twenty-four hours a day. I was kind of couch surfing and house sitting until August.
I decided to go back to my mom’s house. I was just waiting to hear back from the school. I wanted to know if I could come back and see if they could procure a new visa. There were 250 teachers that the school needed to get back to China with new Visas.
I got the word around the middle of July that I was eligible to come back. It took about six weeks for me to get my Visa. This included a shut down of the Houston consulate. You have to be approved, you have to have all of the right documentation, et cetera. Then the Houston consulate was shut down by the US government. So I had to send all of my documents to Washington DC.
From the time I heard that I was approved, to the time I got my Visa was about another 5 or 6 weeks. Two days later I was on a plane to get back to China. But there were no direct flights from Austin to Beijing. They were building a COVID wall around them. So I had to get a ticket to any place that I could. In my case, it was Chengdu.
When you get off the plane, there’s a whole maze of testing. Waiting and testing, with nose and throat swabs. It was all a big mess, and took forever.
After all of that, you get on a bus. You have no idea where the bus is going. It just takes you somewhere. I was on the bus for about an hour. Then the bus dropped us off at a random hotel, where I had to fill out more forms. Then they tell you your room number and you go up to your room and stay in the room for 14 days. I am in my hotel room on day 9. [side note: at the time of the interview, Ms. Ballon was on day 9. Currently, she has finished her mandated quarantine and is living in Beijing] They just check your temperature twice a day, and we get nose swabs and blood tests. We are not allowed to leave, choose our meals, or do anything that risks contagion. Then we have 48 hours to get back to Beijing after we finish our quarantine. Then I will be in my apartment and very happy.
Do you have any final advice for students?
Follow your own path. Just do you! I don’t think that what I did has to do with being brave. I think it has to do with this idea that we are bigger than the world we know. As I get older I see the value of roots, and settling down, and living a simple life. That has never been the path that I wanted to take. If I wanted to do something in my life, I pretty much always did it. Live your life how you want to live it.
For The Lovesick Soul
I want you to pick me up in your car, leaning against the side of the tires with a smile and a cigarette pinched between your teeth. I want you to drop it to the ground without breaking your grin and embrace me with every hug we have missed and every kiss that has evaded reach. I want to settle into the cloth as my body relaxes to the scent of musk and tobacco and you. I want to climb the coast with you, dodging responsibility and dropping everything to be with each other. I want to buy two flip phones where our only contacts are each other. I want to ask you to pull over on the side of the road so you can hold me while we watch the sunset. I want to wake up next to you, covered by thin sheets in the bed of your trunk where we can share a coffee, our hands cradling the warmth with our arms wrapped around eachother’s shoulders. I want you to drive me in dizzying spirals through hills that blend together, but that wouldn't matter because I would have you. Even when I have burned everyone else out of my life for getting too close to my ugliness, there would still be you. I could always have you.