I’ve just read this book: The Spark, a mother’s story of nurturing genius. This book should be mandatory reading for parents, the education establishment and in fact – for everyone with any interest or concern about how we learn, and how we don’t learn.

Not withstanding the incredible story Kristine Barnett has to tell about her own life and that of her children, there’s a much deeper moral in this story.

I’ll save reciting the book, but long story short: a child called Jacob (Jake) Barnett was diagnosed with autism. Traditional ‘special education’ practices were leading him down a prescribed prescriptive path, so his mother pulled him out of the system and allowed him to focus on what he was interested in rather than everything he wasn’t seemingly capable of. The latter being a typical special education approach. I’ll leave you to read the book to find out how, but the result of this decision is that a 12 year old boy, with a higher IQ than Einstein is now heading for a Nobel prize and already has two alternative theories to the Big Bang Theory that we all hold so dear. Quite astonishing.

As I say, the story aside, the book has another important message, one close to my heart. I can’t claim to be a genius by any stretch (honestly – I’m not!), but I do know that for a large part my life I was following the ‘system’, unconsciously drifting along a path prescribed for me rather than of my own making.

I was about 20 before I had the wherewithal to realise the system was doing me few favours, and it was then by temporarily stopping blindly following what I was being told and using my own initiative to work things out and create my own life that my world changed for the better. Immeasurably so.

Many people I am sure, never have this realisation and drift through life being only partially as great as they could be.

I would urge everyone to read “The Spark” Partly for the amazing story it contains, but moreover, use it as a wakeup call to actually think about what you’re doing or want and how to make it happen. I hope too that someone, anyone actually, with any authority to make a change to the current mainstream education systems reads it too.

The world may then have a few more geniuses, or failing that, at least a few more freethinkers.

I am in no way affiliated to the author of this book, I just picked up a copy and read it. I hope you do too.

The Spark