Skip to content

An Interview with Monika Orski (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/09/08


Monika Orski is the Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden. She discusses: collaboration with other Mensa chapters; other chapters helpful in the development of Mensa Sweden; the trend towards streamlined education; sex differences and similarities in general intelligence; signifiers of giftedness; typical means by which the gifted are punished; the unprecedented flourishing of women; pitfalls and difficulties in a life of writing; and some of the activities, memorable dialogues, and decisions made through the EMAG.

Keywords: chairman, Mensa Sverige, Mensa Sweden, Monika Orski, Ordförande.

An Interview with Monika Orski: Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How does collaboration work with the other Mensa chapters? What have been some of the collaborative projects worked on together?

Monika Orski: There is formal cooperation, to shape the rules that make Mensa chapters around the world all stay part of the federation. Then there is informal and semi-formal cooperation, mostly to create opportunities for members to meet.

Within Europe, there is a semi-formal cooperation around an annual common meeting, known as EMAG (European Mensa Annual Gathering). Formally, it is hosted by a different Mensa each year, but previous and future organizers cooperate closely for every event. I have attended every one since the start in 2008, and they have all been great fun. Also, I was the coordinator when we did one in Stockholm, in 2012.

Within the Nordics, we have a more recent common annual meeting, known as the Floating Mensans, as it is always a cruise between two of the countries. We have done two this far, had good success, and expect this meeting type to continue. We also cooperate to try and help create Mensa groups in neighbouring countries where Mensa is not yet present. In addition, I think all Nordic chairs are very happy about an annual chairs’ meeting, when we exchange experiences and best practices and offer each other support when needed.

2. Jacobsen: How have the other chapters been helpful in the development of Mensa Sweden?

Orski: The very first Mensa group in Sweden was founded in 1964 by a member of American Mensa, Jay Albrecht, who lived in Stockholm for a few years. Without that seed, who knows if we would have the thriving national group of today.

Then, there is always an exchange of ideas. For example, when Mensa Sweden had a large revision of our bylaws around 15 years ago, we got many good ideas from Mensa Norway, who had done a similar revision about a year earlier, but we also picked up some ideas from Mensa Hungary. More recently, we have been able to use experiences from Czech Mensa in discussions about paper publishing or e-publishing of our Mensa magazine, seen some interesting ideas from Australian Mensa regarding young members, etc. We are all part of an international organization, and that is among the key strengths of Mensa.

3. Jacobsen: Some individuals work to reduce the diversity of the possible programs for an individual student’s training. Some recent news items arose in the feed for me. With respect to the training and education earned in various disciplines including the typically higher-prestige and higher-paying jobs mentioned by you, what might shift the emphasis from the siloed education typified in some modern post-secondary education – for a teacher, a psychologist, or an engineer, and so on – to a  broader base? An education for someone with the more plural, life-long intellectual interests rather than the singular professional ones.

Orski: There seems to be a continued development towards more streamlined, and siloed, education. My guess is that it’s mostly driven by short-term economic reasons, but it can also be perceived as making it easier to find the right education for a student with a purpose to pursue a specific profession. It would certainly not be easy to shift the other way, into a broader base.

One step towards such a broader base would be to allow students to start out with two, or even three, parallel courses from start. Let the multi-talented, and the multi-curious, try out several paths without a clear-cut switch between them. Then, let them continue – one path or several – and add more learning, some of which can be from entirely different disciplines.

While I think the general tracks for education into specific jobs also needs to remain there for those who know that one of those tracks is what they want, it should also be made easy to put together the required parts of such a track from the multi-course track, for those who start out there and then want to be qualified for a certain profession. Even within the specific job educational tracks, there should be room for, and time for, the possibility to also take some courses in other disciplines.

Not an easy change, of course. But in the long run, it would benefit all students.

4. Jacobsen: In personal and experience and knowing the data better than me, what differences exist between girls and boys, men and women, with respect to general intelligence? What similarities exist between them too? Do these considerations influence the provisions of Mensa Sweden?

Orski: In short, as far as we know there are no such differences. At least, I have not heard of any serious research that showed such differences and could be repeated.

There are many theories regarding this topic, usually spread along with claims of ”natural differences” that any quick examination will disprove as things that have differed over time and differ between cultures. These assertions are usually made by people with a clear political agenda, and do not merit anything but the quick examination that disproves them.

As far as I know, there has actually been one scientific study that showed a small difference between men and women regarding the spread of intelligence. According to this study, while the average intelligence of men and women is the same, there is a small but measurable predominance of men in the extremes of intelligence – very low intelligence as well as very high. However, the study has been criticized for not having enough subjects at these extremes to be statistically significant, and no one has yet been able to recreate the results.

As I mentioned before, we do see a small but clear difference among those who take our admission test, in that women are more likely to “pass”, i.e. score among the top 2%. But there is absolutely no proof that this shows a general difference in intelligence. After all, only a very small portion of the population take our test, and among those who do there are many more men than women. It seems probable the difference in ”pass” percentage simply exposes a difference in how sure of their own high intelligence women and men need to be to go take the test.

5. Jacobsen: If someone is a layperson and has an inkling someone in their life is gifted, what non-professional observational clue would indicate the various levels of the giftedness of this person in their life? The signifiers, maybe not universal but probably indicative, of the person being gifted, highly gifted, even profoundly and exceptionally gifted.

Orski: The highly gifted usually display some combination of the following traits: thinks fast, asks many questions, quickly infers more information from what they are told, has many ideas, has multiple interests, has more than one profession, likes in-depth discussions, likes to learn new things, has a well-developed sense of humour, learns easily. Many are also high achievers, and set extremely high standards for themselves. Sometimes impossibly high standards, that they would not dream of setting for anyone else.

In children, you can add that they are usually early in many things. Read early, pass intellectual milestones early, develop an interest in world events and adult conversations early. They also tend to be easily bored, and can have some trouble in interactions with other children. Regardless of whether they find other children they like to spend time with, they also tend to like solitary activities.

None of those traits are universal, of course. But if you see several of them in someone, they are likely to be highly gifted.

6. Jacobsen: Regarding punitive educational philosophies and methodologies, what seems like the more typical forms of punishing the gifted for being gifted?

Orski: Holding them back, is my short answer. I know many stories of young children who, when they showed their teachers they had done all the exercises in their textbook, were told to ”do them over again”. As if there could be nothing more for them to learn. And of course, they often get explicitly told to hold back, and try and adjust to the average pace of their classmates.

7. Jacobsen: We watch the unique flourishing of women in most areas of education, especially in undergraduate education in the developed nations. Girls and young women continue to opt into the world of education. Boys and young men seem to opt out more now. Girls and young women had various ceilings imposed on them for a long time, especially in the world of education. Boys and young men did not have the ceilings. Now, though, they seem to have the problem of a motivational ceiling – of sorts – imposed on themselves. Why the gap in education attendance, completion, and performance between girls and boys, and young women and young men?

Orski: I doubt that anyone really has a good answer to this question. As you say, there seems to be sort of motivational ceiling, or motivational deficit. Formal education is considered less important, partially as an effect of the growing importance within our whole society of personal characteristics and certain sets of social skills, at the expense of knowledge. And areas considered less important are usually left to women.

We also need to remember that the exact same behaviour will be assessed differently, depending on whether the person doing it is male or female. We all learn this so early, it is almost impossible to fully counteract it in our own reactions, even when we are aware of it. For some reason, judgements of boys not making an effort to take in the education they are offered seem to be much more tolerant than they are of girls with the same behaviour.

Many boys and young men seem to expect to get good jobs and incomes without having to make any sort of effort. There is such a tendency among some girls and young women too, but it is much less common. At the other end of the spectrum, more boys seem to give up early, and expect nothing more than to gain a kind of respect from their peers by the ability to use their fists, or at worst, the ability to procure and use weapons. But as to why this is so? I have no answer.

8. Jacobsen: What are the pitfalls and main difficulties of a life in writing?

Orski: The first difficulty is to actually sit down and write the text. I have met many persons who say ”I would like to write a book”, but what they really mean is ”I would like to have written a book”. Most of them never even try, of course. I guess someone with very strong character and determination could write a book only driven by the wish to have written it, but most of us need to like the writing itself to do it.

To like writing means to like hours by yourself with your text. There are sometimes good hours of progress, but sometimes also very slow hours when things simply will not work out, until you tried tens of different ways to put your words down. The ensuing frustration and criticism of your own work go with the territory.

Then, there is the obvious difficulty of having it published and, most crucially, read. Today, self-publication is easy, but to get readers without a publishing house to help is very difficult. I would strongly recommend to try and get the help of old-fashioned publishing house publication. Even then, as I mentioned before, only a few writers can make a living out of their writing, especially if you work within a small linguistic region.

9. Jacobsen: What have been some of the activities and memorable dialogues and decisions made through the EMAG?

Orski: Over the years, there have been workshops on improv theatre, math, dancing, geocaching, Wikipedia, singing, martial arts, meditation, creative writing and many other topics. Among the lectures, the topics range from business to science and from art to language studies. To mention a few, this year in Belgrade in August, I heard very good lectures on Behavioural Economics and on Nikola Tesla. I also gave a lecture this year, on leading intelligent people, with a bias towards the challenges and joys of leading Mensa volunteers.

There is also a tourist program every year, a great opportunity to see a town you might not have visited otherwise. But the most important part are the mensans, old friends you see every year and new ones you meet for the first time. I have had very interesting conversations on climate change, EU politics, complex computer systems, health issues, data protection, dating life, education of gifted children, midnight sun, and how to mix a drink – just to mention a few from this year.


  1. Mensa International. (2018). Mensa Sweden. Retrieved from
  2. Mensa Sverige. (2018). Mensa Sverige. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 8, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: