A paleobotanist and a behavioral economist, a medieval historian and an audio preservationist, a research psychologist and an agricultural ecologist, an immigration lawyer and a photographer/videoartist, a jazz pianist/composer and a public health historian/anthropologist. These are just some of the professions represented on the just-released 2013 list of MacArthur Foundation Fellows, or, more popularly referred to by the media as the “genius awards.”
It is truly an extraordinary group, each of whom is awarded $625,000. Said Cecilia Conrad, vice president, MacArthur Fellows Program, in a news release:
This year’s class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity. They are artists, social innovators, scientists, and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage. Their stories should inspire each of us to consider our own potential to contribute our talents for the betterment of humankind.
Still, yet again, there isn’t a K-12 public school teacher in the bunch. There wasn’t last year either. Or the year before. Or the year before. The last time a K-12 classroom teacher was labeled a genius by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was apparently in 2010, and he was Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, Calif., who created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, a school within a school with a rigorous applied science curriculum.
This year, Donald Antrim, an associate professor in Columbia University’s writing program who has been recognized for his fiction and nonfiction, was named to the 2013 genius crew, and there are plenty of other researchers who work at universities. But that’s not the same thing as, say, a second-grade teacher at a high-poverty school who has been recognized for his/her genius at teaching kids how to read.
It’s hard to tell how many classroom teachers have been selected as geniuses since the awards program began in 1981. If you search “education” on the webpage, this is what comes up. Some of the names have no descriptions that explain their particular genius.