I don’t think …

by Rie

I don’t think I really believe in intelligence. I don’t believe in calling a person smart (or dumb).

It only works to a certain extent and, I mean, praise is good and ‘smart’ is easy to understand.

It’s just that ‘smartness’ implies some sort of inherent trait reserved for the exclusive few. I used to think that was nice. I’m smart. That means I’m better. The thing is, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be better than anyone. It just means you have to make yourself feel better.

That’s a pretty crap concept, too.

I try hard to keep my self-worth attached to my academic achievements by a tenuous string. Kinda needs to be there to keep myself motivated, kinda needs to be detached lest I forget what learning really is about.

My main issue with putting a label on a smart person is that it does nothing for dumb people. Believing that intelligence is entirely genetic is stupid, to be honest. (The adverb ‘entirely’ serves to imply that I have no clue if there are even genetics that control signs of intelligence in a person.)

Anyway, so-called dumb people need to learn. How can I tell my students who perform poorly that they can do better if they believe that they somehow failed at some sort of genetic lottery? (It’s the same issue I had with the phrase, “Good luck.” I use it because I’m lazy to say anything else.) What it boils down to is understanding studying to score well and understanding stuff because it’s good for you.

I’d rather have a world in which people were raised to think and be curious about things than a world in which an invisible chasm separated those who believe they’re smart and those who believe they’re dumb. It’s not like it’s a totally new concept, either. It’s just the basic concept behind education. People can learn if you teach them. They’ll learn better if they’ve got it hammered in their heads that they can get it and that the material matters.

To digress, smart people who think/know they’re smart can be as annoying as dumb people who think they’re smart. Especially when the two collide. Oy veh.