Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Redefining Intelligence

Yesterday I was lecturing to a bunch of awesome UT Students and I was asked for an example of one of 'my' lighthouse principles.  I said 'fairness', because I do believe in fairness; primarily fairness of opportunity.   When I said this fairness principle applies to 'grading', the students were quite happy about that!

A similar value of mine is 'effort'.  That if people will apply enough effort they can achieve anything.

So, how does this relate to intelligence?

Well, two things, a child can be intelligent, but not given equal opportunity (fairness), and thus fall behind others... and specifically fail to learn how to effectively learn (i.e. they might be quick to learn, if they had the opportunity).  Thus when that child does poorly in school, and drops out, and stops learning new things, are they less intelligent?  Society says no... I think the answer should be 'yes'.

Second, and opposite, a child can be considered a 'slow learner', but who puts in maximum effort, and learns how to learn (for them), and gains average grades in school but sticks with it.  This child learns advanced mathematics, science, history, and more... is this 'slow learner' still considered as not very intelligent?  Society says yes... I think the answer is no.  This child is MORE intelligent than the quick learner who (for reasons in or out of their control) does not put in enough effort to continue learning.

Here's what this all means:  I believe that intelligence should be a measure of the knowledge that a person has gained and retained.  This is not how fast or how easy it is for that person to learn new things, because with enough effort, that can be overcome.  This is instead how MUCH that person has learned, whether by whatever amount of effort it might have taken.

The quickness of how fast someone can learn (or memorize or problem solve), is a totally separate trait, barely worthy of consideration (e.g. IQ is useless).  Thus we must not call the lazy quick learner who does not apply themselves as intelligent.  We must not accept the messed up education system that does not give the quick learner enough opportunity.   Even more so, we must not call the 'not as quick' learners less intelligent, instead we must give them 'fair' opportunity to apply effort to gain intelligence.

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