The Definition of Intelligence: Are You Smart?

Michael, after being shown his test score, sat back down in his seat.

“Jeez, I only got a C on that last math test. How’d you do, Nate?”
Nate looked up at the ceiling, and rolled his eyes.“I didn’t do much better, man.”
Joey, who had been silently observing, chose this moment to speak up.“A C isn’t bad. On the bright side, you’re passing.”
Nate let out a sarcastic laugh, “ Really. What’d you get?”
Joey responded quickly, “An A.”
“You always get A’s, Joey,”Michael said. “Of course, you’re like on another level.”

Joey, feeling uncomfortable, looked to the ground. Nate saw this, and commented, “Dude that’s not a bad thing, you’re just a lot smarter than us.”Joey let out an exasperated sigh.

When someone says you are smarter than them, they are putting themselves down. That alone is bad enough, with more social pressures on teens to succeed than previous years, but people fail to realize one important thing. We are all different. Regardless of how many advanced classes one student may be in, the playing field is level. How? We all have unique talents.

Student One may be able to ace every core curriculum class test put in front of them, unlike Student Two. Regardless, Student Two has other things they dominate, unlike Student One. It may not be school related. It may be auto mechanics, sports, or playing an instrument. Students may not excel at the type of writing or history they are supposed to be learning and studying. The most extravagant poet in my grade gets C’s in English. School does not focus on what you are good at; on the contrary, it only measures specific skills. If you’re good at these skills, congratulations, the government rates you smarter than those who aren’t.

If you can’t explain to someone what the pythagorean theorem is or write a good three page essay, this doesn’t mean someone who can do this is smarter than you, despite how it may seem. However, our society says “being smart” is knowing lots of information. This is a problem. Think of it instead as your conceivable ability to learn information. Everyone’s potential exists, but in different areas. So even if you do not have a high capacity for Spanish, you have tons of potential in something else, agriculture possibly, or vice versa. A vast majority of students do not know where their potential lies– including me.

For those who believe they are of lower intelligence than others because of state testing, that’s a notion ready to be purged from your mind now. Whether you believe I am correct or not, taking a test is not the same as applying a skill to your life (most skills in school you will not ever actually use in life). Making your mark heavy and dark, even though it may rhyme and be catchy is not the same as calculating interest on a loan, or living from paycheck to paycheck.

Do not measure your intelligence through things such as IQ tests. Intelligence is a very complex thing, not definable with one definition. As Howard Gardner defines it, there are three types of intelligence; however the one most most bona fide is that “intelligence is the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.” Briefly, a person’s ability to solve a problem. What does this mean? Well, if a astrophysicist is driving to work, and his car breaks down, he’ll pull over to the side of the road. Even though he has a PHD, when he pops the hood of the car open, he might go, “Well. There’s an engine.” In this case is he any better at fixing the car than a child? Not unless he has background knowledge to fix the car. Intelligence is not what you know, it’s what you can do when a problem arises. Next time, whoever you may be, before thinking you aren’t as smart as someone, realize that you can do things they cannot. You may not exactly know what they are, or you may know exactly what they are. We all excel in some areas, while falling short in others. It’s a fact of life.

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