Gifted and disobedient
One of the qualities of many high ability people is divergent thinking (see Giftedness characteristics.) But that also can mean divergent values and behavior. Einstein was expelled from school (in 1894) for “undermining the authority of his teachers and being a disruptive influence.”
[From post: Does school encourage or limit high ability people?]
The book Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential by Marylou Kelly Streznewski even declares, “Gifted people are found in jail, just as they are everywhere else. However, they form a disproportionately larger portion of the prison population, perhaps as much as 20 percent… in contrast to the 3 to 5 percent of the general public who are gifted.”
An article in the online publication Quartz comments:
“There is much indignation over the school to prison pipeline that funnels children into the criminal justice system, especially regarding the large number of special education students within this population. As many as 70% of those arrested possess some kind of disability. Lamentably overlooked, though, is the other at-risk population, gifted and talented students. In fact, the gifted may comprise as much as 20% of prisoners, according to Marylou Kelly Streznewski’s book…
“Gifted students need specialized instruction to reach their full potential. However, due to a lack of funding, only 56% of high achievers from low-income families remain successful by fifth grade, according to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Furthermore, high ability students from low-income backgrounds, as compared to their more advantaged peers, are twice as likely to drop out of school. Dropping out triples the likelihood of incarceration later in life.”
From article: How some of America’s most gifted kids wind up in prison.
Huck Finn, Buddha, Luke Skywalker
In his article The Felicity of Virtue, Jonathan Haidt (author of The Happiness Hypothesis) talks about some literary and historical “disobediant” people – including Ben Franklin:
[Jonathan Haidt:] The wisdom literature of many cultures essentially says, “Gather round! I have a tonic that will make you happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise! It will get you into heaven, and bring you joy on earth along the way! Just be virtuous!”
Young people are extremely good, though, at rolling their eyes and shutting their ears. Their interests and desires are often at odds with those of adults, and they quickly find ways to pursue their goals and get themselves into trouble, which often becomes character-building adventure.
Huck Finn runs away from his foster mother to raft down the Mississipi with a runaway slave; the young Buddha leaves his father’s palace to begin his spiritual quest in the forest; Luke Skywalker abandons his foster parents to join the galactic rebellion.
All three reject the security and moral guidance offered by adults and set off on their own journeys, journeys that make each into an adult, complete with a set of new virtues. These hard-won virtues are especially admirable to us as readers because they reveal a depth and authenticity of character that we don’t see in the obedient kid who simply accepts the virtues proposed by adults.
In this light, Ben Franklin is supremely admirable.
Born in Boston in 1706, he was apprenticed at the age of twelve to his older brother James, who owned a printing shop. After many disputes with (and beatings by) his brother, he yearned for freedom, but James would not release him from the legal contract of his apprenticeship.
So at the age of seventeen, Ben broke the law and skipped town… He went on to spectacular success in business.. science.. politics.
From article The Felicity of Virtue, By Jonathan Haidt.