The Power of Being a ‘Misfit’

By Ashleigh Wilson on Saturday January 5th, 2019

Image: whereslugo

Nurturing Your Individuality

At the back of the classroom sits a boy, when the teacher calls on him he struggles for words. The teacher informs the boy’s parents that he has no prospects, how could he when he can’t even form a sentence? A few years later, the boy will be expelled for being rebellious and a bad influence on his peers. A ‘no hoper’ in society.

Although this story is generations old, it is not unfamiliar to many in today’s schooling system. In the western world, we are taught we need to fit into boxes–learn only what we need to ace the exams, to get into the best university, and then get a standard office job, following other people’s directions.

If we fall outside the box; if we develop late, learn a different way, or want to pursue our own direction, we are automatically considered a failure.

The boy mentioned above was Albert Einstein, who after being expelled, went on to win the Nobel Prize and become one of the world’s most famous scientists. He even has a presence on Social Media today. But how many other potential geniuses are being left behind by the school system? Could the scientist who cures cancer be the girl floundering in a traditional classroom?

‘Failures’ Who Were Really ‘Greats’

Here are just a few examples of those who were placed into the ‘failure’ box, yet went on to achieve great things.

Steven Spielberg
Due to poor grades in high school, Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California three times. Luckily for the fans of his many hit films, this didn’t keep him down.

Steven SpielbergLike many of the greats, Steven Spielberg was rejected many times before he made his name.

Thomas Edison
The inventor of the light bulb was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.”

J.K. Rowling
As a young, single mother on welfare, the author of Harry Potter was rejected many times, before becoming one of the most loved authors.

Bill Gates
He was a University dropout, yet at 31 Bill Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Steve Jobs
The creator of Apple also dropped out of University. He ended up creating some of the most popular products used today.

Are We Letting Young Geniuses Down?

While being a misfit in school can be a sign of greatness, many are not reaching their full potential, thrown aside by the education system, they fall into the epidemic of depression, loneliness, and suicide that is gripping the younger generation. Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States among teens and adults, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24.

Perhaps the anguish of being put into a box, felt by so many students, is in fact, partly what is fueling the school shooting epidemic.

Are we letting our kids down?Depression has become all too common in schools as kids struggle to fit the box.

Scarlett Lewis, who lost her young son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting believes schools need to start teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). This program aims to “provide children with the knowledge, attitude and skills they need to choose love in any situation.” Surely this is just as important, if not more, than knowing long division?

According to the Choose Love Foundation, SEL has incredible benefits for students and society.

More than 30 years of scientific research proves that children who had access to SEL curriculums grow into more successful and healthy adults. Overall they have a deeper sense of self, commitment to community and learned compassion for others. This results in lower violent crime and incarceration rates, alcohol and drug abuse, and instances of mental illness.

This is backed up by Harvard studies showing self-control and emotional health as the biggest predictors of success. Another ‘alternative’ form of education is the Steiner Schools, which value individuality more than the traditional school system.

The priority of the Steiner ethos is to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment, where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood, rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing. – Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.

Barnehages encourage play and explorationBarnehages encourage play and exploration, helping kids develop better all round.

Similarly, in Norway, children can attend a ‘barnehage’ kindergarten which translates to ‘child garden’. Instead of learning inside, in this system of education, kids spend all day outside, playing and exploring. This type of play has been found to be extremely important for children to develop socially, solve problems, develop creativity and learn to work with others.

As poet and social media star, Prince Ea says, the most commonly asked question in traditional schools is “Is this going to be on the test?” If schools put actual learning in front of memorising the answers, F would stand for ‘find another answer’ instead of ‘failure’. Imagine how many doors this would open!

The Takeaway

Being a misfit can be a great thing, but how much more could these kids achieve if they weren’t placed into boxes at school? How much more could we all achieve if society stopped placing us in boxes?

Share your thoughts below and watch Prince EA’s great video on why we need to change the schooling system and embrace those who don’t ‘fit in.’

Prince EA: What is School For?

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.




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20 Responses to The Power of Being a ‘Misfit’

  1. Teachers should identity their students talents and guide them from an early age on. Sadly, this is lacking and even absent in some cases.

  2. Thank you. This is definitely a start that’s long overdue. I’ve known of teachers who left the field of teaching because they felt not all kids can be placed in a box, and teaching to the test is not fair to many gifted kids who should be taught differently. One even went into the field of Information Technology in order to design learning toys and tools for kids. A church member started a chapter for Moms to pray for every child, preschool to young adult to help replace anxiety with God’s peace, hope, and to transform the human heart of our kids. See Moms in Prayer International (MomsInPrayer.org).

  3. A sixth-grade teacher, saved me when she realized that I could bearly read! She had my mother read the classics to my sister and I at home… While she worked with us to piece together what was missing from our reading skills? Soon both my sister and I were so interested in reading, for our own enjoyment, that we were devouring books. Where ever that Teacher is today, my sister and I are in her debt for the rest of our lives, for the Gift of Reading she gave to us!

    The most important knowledge that every student, should leave school with, is an ability to learn any subject! And the three most important learning skills that you must get from school, or learn on your own time, in order of importance!
    1. Reading, with a strong vocabulary, and comprehension skills!
    2. Ability to research any subject, in a library or online!
    3. Ability to condense unknown knowledge from any media source, lecture, books, videos, etc. Into the smallest amount of notes that convey the Big Picture of Total Understanding, of that New Knowledge for You!

  4. How do we change the education system when no-one will listen?… I sent my daughter to a charter school that was based on physical movement. They Used exercise balls for kids to sit on and work, and they did yoga during the day, also went on half mile runs daily…
    All of these things helped her impulsive behaviors…that got her in soooo much trouble in public school.She was basically shunned in public school……their way of dealing was Implementing reward systems and separating her from the other classmates….
    SMH I still empathize with her childhood.
    Dyslexic – Sure. ADHD- Sure…. but they took her esteem! They took her belief in herself and the light that shines too bright still… Speaking of The leaders of our country – I want to laugh. That’s a joke and the whole world knows it.

  5. Perfectly said!! I am highly creative, and had good to average school grades, but subjects like chemistry, maths physics, are for people with maths brains..not creative.. so really shouldn’t parents and teachers recognise students that thrive in creative, mechanical, maths and science situations, be schooled and encouraged in the aptitude they enjoy and learn in. Teach your kids a lesson or activity on something that you know they like at home, or buy them the tools/paints and things they like and expand their thoughts, and excite them to learn.. the real world is harsh, kids are smarter than U think…belief in themselves, not stupid santa and easterbunny fantasies, that wow, destroys trust, and creates justified lying to the children you love.. so what else are my parents lying about??..school still won’t tell you, they just tell you what to do!! Brainwashed into emotional and social dumbness, systems need changing, parents need to take responsibility to actually teach their kids to be decent people, as integrity to our good selves, and being treated as you would be,is the best way to be greatful and learn to have a good spirit😁 nature, outside we love . Controlled squares, are prison. Get outside the square!!! It’s amazing!

    • I think some of you are focusing on the word “misfit” a little too much and in doing so, you are missing the point that the examples that EA gave, those people stepped out of their boxes to achieve “other” things they were programmed to do from a early age. We are all programmed from the age we start processing information given to us, usually around 2 or 3 years of age, basic example would be, the language you speak, including certain dialects that we use, such as words that have a different meaning than the common dictionary meanings, for examples look into the urban dictionary on Google. Your also programmed by what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior and habits, this usually depends on your family and general environment your raised in, what is acceptable in New York may not be accepted in Mississippi (sociology). What is normal to the spider is chaos to a fly. We are all different in some ways and the same in some ways, keeping a open mind willing to learn and process a different idea doesn’t mean you have to accept it or agree but you can hear them out and creditably think about what they are saying, will greatly enhance your understanding. In school, we are programmed as well, you are “good” if you have A or B grades, you have to study and pass the test but for those who are considered mechanical minded, reading a chapter in a book, highlighting definitions or remembering dates is almost impossible, so they are considered failures. Let’s face it, the last thing any of us wanted in school was to not be able to move up to the next grade with our friends. Extreme examples would be a deaf or blind child, we have special schools for them but not every child has the means to go to those special schools, they don’t live close or parents are too poor to move, what happens to them? Their are kids in traditional schooling now that are just as impaired as those children, it’s just not as visible so we expect them to perform the same as a child that can learn in traditional ways. Another example, a child whom recieved A’s throughout school, might fail in a creative writing class. Someone mentioned Bill Gates’ family was wealthy, typically in those families a college education is paramount to success, so him dropping out of college, at first, had to be a huge disappointment. Keeping a opened mind and enriching our experiences in life will not only add to your overall development but will increase the love your able to experience.

  6. This is a very good article
    While reading one thought came to my mind. Who is actually the misfit? I think those who let themselves be controlled by the system (mostly this happens unconsciously I believe) and adapt to it. I thought how many great talents are wasted because they try to fulfill the systems standards, learn for the grades and measure their self-esteem based on them? This kind of system steals the creativity of the children and puts a lot of geniuses to sleep! However this is how it works at the moment and not everything is bad as well! Hopefully in the future children learn how to follow their hearts and interests and that the system helps to develop those instead of making (mis)fits for the system

  7. You are amazing! Thank you for stating what I have known since leaving in grade 5 but unable to convince others of bc I was not taken seriously as an uneducated person. The doors close all the time. Thank you for putting this video together. The three R’s are all that school should be about and the rest of our days should be about personal and social nurturing.

  8. The term “misfit” already implies you dont fit in and that you are expected to fulfil an expected social norm. Society also has to adjust and accept wider boundaries.Individuals as you say have to build strong social/ emotional understanding, self-esteem,empathy for others-all this is true but not so easily done when the weight of social expectation is consistently weighing you down.

  9. I concur with another commenter and do not think ‘misfit’ to be a worthy term to describe the people in question. Personally, I prefer a term MLK used in his later speeches: ‘maladjusted’. It does not imply that something is wrong with a person as in ‘misfit’, but emphasizes to not being able to adjust to the standard modus operandi the masses adhere to.
    To be maladjusted is a true blessing in a world that is so out of whack. It opens new channels into the real meaning of life, and ‘misfits’ might be highly ‘successful’ in their own terms and perceived as ‘wealthy’, but they are not from a viewpoint of understanding life.

  10. Everyone always likes to talk about all the famous successful “misfits”. But really, sometimes being different does not mean it’s good. Other misfits are/where Ted Bundy, Daumer and you get the point…. I understand that kids needs to be taught love, but this should be taught at home. That’s the parents job. But, unfortunately we have many parents who shouldn’t be parenting children so instead a school system has to do this. Maybe communities should be teaching parents how to do their jobs better.

    • Ever heard the phrase “it takes a village”? Sometimes hearing something from those closest to you never penetrates your thoughts or beliefs, especially if its not practiced. And nowadays such things are only said and rarely practiced. There is a reason the phrase is “monkey see, monkey do” instead of monkey hear, monkey do.”

  11. I honestly have never watched the full 8 minute videos until now but I am going through some rough times in my life and I’d just like to congratulate and just let you Prince EA know I appreciate your movement. Much affection- Christopher James Towery

    • Ever heard the phrase “it takes a village”? Sometimes hearing something from those closest to you never penetrates your thoughts or beliefs, especially if its not practiced. And nowadays such things are only said and rarely practiced. There is a reason the phrase is “monkey see, monkey do” instead of monkey hear, monkey do.” And you’re right differences aren’t all good things. But both of those names are extreme examples, granted so are the-to use your phrasing-“misfits” mentioned above, however, you cannot expect to have one side of a coin without the other, if one exists the other must.

  12. Bill Gates’ parents were already among the wealthy elite. He had business acumen as he bought DOS which was a failed experiment at MIT & went on to develop his empire. My point is that he’s not “self made”in the truest sense.
    This galls me everytime I read it. Do your research please.

    • But, interestingly, if you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, it was only Gates (in his fancy school) who took the time (a lot of it) to pull apart and get to know a massive computer in his school….that is one of the ways Gladwell comes to the 10 000 hour rule…expertise is built on perseverance and hard work. No one can take that away from Gates. And, as Gladwell points out, no one else in this private, entitled space did the dogged work on that old computer which led to what it did for Gates. Entitlement helps ALOT but pure perseverance and intelligence did alot to.

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