As an educator, I am often thinking about intelligence… I find the topic fascinating and the conversation surrounding the question is even more fascinating. What is intelligence? Can it REALLY be defined?
Years ago there was a perception that students who wore glasses were intelligent. This belief was so widespread and ingrained in the brains of many teachers that I personally have a friend who faked an eye test so that they could get glasses and move to the “smart group” in her school. I suppose she was intelligent if she knew to fake an eye test result to get glasses so she could be in a more challenging group!
Some people believe that intelligence is only defined and determined by a number given on an IQ test. An IQ test is supposed to asses an individual’s capacity for learning. Note – this does NOT mean the individual will apply themselves and actually come close to meeting that capacity. IQ tests only measure the capacity to learn in the traditional, knowledge-based sense.
What about emotional intelligence? Is this important? I know of may individuals who are brilliant but lack all common sense and people skills. Can we label a person with an IQ of over 150 intelligent if they are unable to converse? Can a person be defined as intelligent if they have a high IQ but no “street smarts” whatsoever? Can we label someone with great common sense as smart?
I have known people with high IQs who have literally thrown their lives away doing nothing. I have also known people who would not test high on an IQ test, but who have diligently applied themselves and made great choices that made them huge successes in life. Their emotional intelligence is what served them in their careers.
I find that the longer I am in education the more I struggle with labeling anyone as intelligent, as there are so many different meanings. We can all be intelligent in different ways, and often intelligence as we define it in school is not enough to assist an individual in being successful in life – the “other” intelligence factors, such as emotional intelligence, must be accounted for and integrated into our definitions.
Today, 246 days ’til 40, I am reminded that intelligence comes in many forms. Emotional intelligence is as critical as academic intelligence. Everyone has the capacity to teach us something.