American Mensa's 2011 Annual Gathering was held in Portland, Oregon over the July 4 weekend. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

FORT LAUDERDALE – Is an organization devoted to high I.Q.s ready to do something that might seem totally contradictory: lower its standards and start letting in people who don’t fit within the top 2 percentile of Americans with very high intelligence?
For the time being, the answer is no — at least when it comes to the idea of lowering the admissions and testing standards for American Mensa, to make it easier to get into this worldwide organization.
“Not that I’ve heard,” said Mel Dahl, regional vice chair of Mensa’s Region 10, which covers Florida and parts of South Georgia. “You continue to have to show you’re in the top 2 percentile.”
American Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world, for people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on Mensa’s intelligence admissions test.
Over the Labor Day weekend, the Broward County chapter of Mensa hosted its “FLoRanGe ’11: The Working Title Regional Gathering” at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek in Fort Lauderdale. It was a weekend designed for some intellectual pursuits – a discussion on the geographic limits of distribution, another on solving puzzles, and talks about infinity and the history of Central Banking in the U.S. – as well as some fun, including a homebrew beer icebreaker, a Passion Party for women 18 and older, and a cult classic movie night.
The event also featured an “RVC Rap” with Dahl to talk about the state of Mensa today. He was asked at the beginning of the rap whether Mensa was about to lower its standards to attract more members. Dahl said the admissions test remains the same, and there’s been no serious talk about making it easier for applicants to pass.
“We have a staff psychologist whose task is to keep track of all these standards to see who is acceptable for admission,” Dahl said.
That’s still true, Dahl said, even though some local Mensa chapters have been complaining recently that “they were having a problem in their group where most of their people were taking the test and not passing.”
Unfortunately, he said, the exam can’t be redrafted to accommodate those who simply don’t have the high intelligence to pass.
“No, there is nothing we can do about it,” Dahl said.
He noted that Mensa attracted some notice when a three year old took – and passed – the admissions exam, one that was designed for people 14 years of age and older, demonstrating that “a child was able to pass and gain entrance into Mensa,” Dahl said.
Adults who take it and fail, he said, are out of luck – permanently.
“You can only take the Mensa exam once,” Dahl said. “And the rationale behind that is you have seen the questions.”
Thomas G. Thomas, chairman of the Tampa Bay chapter of Mensa, said that high standard actually makes sense.
“There are enough people in the 99th percentile who make you wonder how they got in,” Thomas said.
Dahl also noted that Mensa operates in a different way from organizations that are created to work with, and encourage, the special skills of gifted children.
“There is an organization for gifted children and they define ‘gifted’ differently than what we define for Mensa admission,” he said. “It is two different groups with two different standards.”
One thing that American Mensa has talked about – without actually coming up with a workable solution – is making its membership more diverse and a bit less homogeneous — and making it look less like a monolithically white organization, Dahl said. But targeting that goal and figuring out a practical solution are not the same thing, he added.
“As of now, we have not hit on a plan for how we can achieve that,” he said. “We’ve talked about it, and we haven’t really hit on a solution.”
American Mensa hosts its Annual Gathering every Fourth of July weekend at different locations around the country. This past July, the AG was held in Portland, Oregon, and next July, it will be in Reno, Nevada.
Local chapters have their own Regional Gatherings, as the Broward County chapter did over the Labor Day weekend.
The Central Florida Mensa chapter will host its own RG from Jan. 27-29 at the Marriott Lake Mary, titled “The 2012 Year of the Apocalypse Regional Gathering.” The weekend event is promising a pool party, treasure hunt, martial arts and self-defense demonstrations, Friday golf outing, Sunday Brunch, and more.
To learn more about the Central Florida RG, call Bob Haley at 407-240-9395 or email
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