246 Days ’til 40: What Is Intelligence???

20 Jun

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.



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39 responses to “246 Days ’til 40: What Is Intelligence???

  1. mskatykins

    June 20, 2012 at 00:13

    Great post, 400 Days! I know just how you feel. What grates on me is this incessant need for people to be confined to neatly arranged pigeon holes… Just like Education itself, intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. What about those who are street wise and savvy versus the innocents out there… that’s gotta count for something. Intelligence comes in such an interesting and diverse range, that’s it’s just not fair to rank people in these rigid categories.

    Another thought provoking post, I don’t know how you manage it so consistently! 🙂

    • mskatykins

      June 20, 2012 at 01:00

      I’ve nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award. The post doesn’t go live until tomorrow morning. But you’ll find it here:

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:38

      Thank you! Yes, I get so frustrated with these rigid categories which are so superficial and artificial… people do not fit into boxes, yet we are always trying to shove them in. Thanks for the compliment!!! 🙂

  2. Knoob

    June 20, 2012 at 00:18

    Interesting post. I’ve given up trying to define ‘intelligence’, and instead I’ve taken up examining what it is about ‘intelligence’ we value as a society, and why.

    I’ve begun to think the education system in the UK (I don’t know about anywhere else) tries too hard to bring out the academic intelligence in pupils, rather than supporting the development of non-academic skills. I think there’s been a devaluation (within the education system) of other pursuits – artistic, sporting, domestic, and so on – in favour of trying to shoehorn as many people as possible into higher education. At the same time a university education has become a ‘commodity’, and is no longer an indicator of ‘intelligence’ in the way it once was.

    That’s why it’s important to me to think about WHY we value intelligence … I’m worried that it’s become just another status symbol, like a big house or an Audi TT. And I’m not sure if any of that matters to me more than, say, affection, loyalty, and feeling safe.

    (Sorry to post such a long comment …)

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:37

      Thank you for your great comment! I have also starting questioning what we value and I also agree that the shift to focusing primarily on academic achievement has actually devalued our educational system….. I question why we value it and what it is that we really value….

  3. Waldo "Wally" Tomosky

    June 20, 2012 at 01:06

    I once worked for a very large computer company. The cutting edge engineering was done by very intellegent graduate level electrical engineers. However, once that was done they could no longer contribute becuase of their focus on the detail. Many uncredentialed and uneducated brought the product to fruition. What is the bottom line of my comments? We need all people from all walks of life with all different interests and capabilities. That is how the world has kept on going for millions of years. Everyone can contribute. Not all chose to. The two key worlds are “Ability” and “Willingness.” I can not cut the subject any finer than that. Thanks for a great post that inspires your readers to think. Wally

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:35

      Yes, very good point! What I also find interesting is that many of the highly successful individuals out there do not have a college diploma…..

  4. writerwannabe763

    June 20, 2012 at 01:24

    I identified with the fact some can be ‘intellectually intelligent’ and yet do not know how to converse on a casual basis about everyday life….I know someone like that…Diane

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:34

      Yes, I know quite a few people in this category.

  5. Pamela

    June 20, 2012 at 05:26

    I love the last line; everybody has the capacity to teach us something! Wonderful! I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:31

      Wow, thank you so much!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Louise Behiel

    June 20, 2012 at 05:53

    amen, amen and amen. that is so true. emotional intelligence is so important. thx for a great post.

  7. buckwheatsrisk

    June 20, 2012 at 06:06

    so true i find some genus’s i know to be so smart they are bore line in sane

  8. thelastsongiheard

    June 20, 2012 at 10:33

    I think there are different forms of intelligence… mental, tactile, emotional… mental intelligence is something like Einstein… tactile is someone like my dad who can take apart and fix cars or build things… emotional intelligence is someone in the caring profession, like a nurse or a doctor…

    Everyone has some measure of each… but some are blessed with an abundance of one or another… but they usually lack in other aspects. In my experience, smart people usually appear to lack social skills and tend to look for complicated answers when none exist. The only reason why they appear to lack social skills is because they see the world differently and find it hard to relate to other people.


    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:39

      Yes, I have found the same…. some of the really smart people I know also lack social skills and some of the highly social people I know are lacking in some of the intellectual skills that would help them function better.

  9. viveka

    June 20, 2012 at 12:44

    intelligence????!!! Don’t have a clue … nothing i have – I think … done an IQ test many years ago and came out pretty good, but most of it was lucky wild guesses. But I have loads of common sense and I think that is more important. Was very pretty bright in school and I never did my home works .. but I always listen to the teachers, I’m a very good “absorber” – I just suck in information and store it in my motherboard, that start to be quite full now. I don’t think it has nothing to do with intelligence – only that I’m lazy and want to the quickest way out of things.

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:40

      I think you are very intelligent. I scored very high on IQ tests, but I do not do well on standardized tests such as the GRE and GED…. so go figure!

  10. Spider42

    June 20, 2012 at 13:26

    An excellent post that raises great points about the perception of intelligence and it’s nature.

    Personally I find myself trying over the years to adjust my language to indicate different aspects – for example, I differentiate between a person who is intelligent and one who is smart, and even one who is smart and one who is street-smart, or the types of intelligence you point out as well. There are far too many aspects to how the mind works and evolves over our lifetime to narrow it too much.
    I mean, beyond what you’ve pointed out – there are folks who are not high IQ or even emotionally intelligent perhaps, but in a given situation they could unexpectedly have that “eureka” moment where they unknowingly state something dead obvious because pieces just clicked in their brain but failed to make one tiny/critical connection in “smarter” minds.
    Life’s funny that way! 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      June 20, 2012 at 15:40

      Yes, very true! I have found the same – thank you for the great comment!!! 🙂

  11. The Quiet Borderline

    June 20, 2012 at 15:32

    Yeah. I think there’s more to someone’s intelligence than their IQ score.

    Some people, like you say, can be ‘street smart’ and may have experience in many things in their lives which makes them very wise and intelligent in other ways.

  12. saymber

    June 20, 2012 at 17:57

    “Everyone has the capacity to teach us something” – I say this all the time. There is something to be said for the school of life and it’s lessons.

  13. Sumukh Naik

    June 20, 2012 at 21:21

    Great post. About time people started discussing about the importance of Emotional Intelligence.

  14. Roxy

    June 21, 2012 at 21:54

    This is an excellent post. Emotional intelligence is seriously important. My daughter is “forward” for her age in IQ, but emotionally, she struggles. I think that the only way to utilise IQ effectively is to help children emotionally. Unfortunately, what I’ve found happen is this:- child has high IQ, child is segregated and pushed harder than other children, child never gets chance to develop required social skills or emotional intelligence, child grows up and doesn’t have the ability to utilise IQ because they are not confident in their own work.
    Just a theory I have. Keep up the awesome. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      June 21, 2012 at 23:01

      Very interesting theory….. I saw more of this with the old school education….. some private schools have done away with the GATE programs (Gifted and Talented) yet, these brighter kids still seem to struggle socially…. some think they are on the autism spectrum and it has more to do with some sort of predestined wiring…… It brings back the old “nature vs. nurture” debate.

  15. Lela Bonchjela

    June 25, 2012 at 17:11

    I agree with EVERY single word you’ve typed!

  16. narf77

    June 26, 2012 at 00:07

    I have to say that Intelligence is (in my mind) the ability to work with what is in front of you to make sense (order) out of it. It’s what gives someone the ability to take all of the theorum and past understanding and use it to create understanding. I also find that many of the most intelligent people have difficulty dealing with those around them. Perhaps huge intelligence is a mind/body inbalance and not necessarily to be lusted after? I must admit to being happy that being a “nerd” is now something to be celebrated and that intelligence has become another tick in the “must try to be” box thanks to an intelligent counter culture running parallel to mainstream culture. My children are all “nerds” and I am incredibly proud of them 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      June 26, 2012 at 09:45

      I like the way you view intelligence! My children are interesting because they both do well academically, but often lack common sense – I sometimes wonder if our schools are so academically focused that we are forgetting to teach all of those other essential life skills, that are also part of building intelligent, capable adults….

      • narf77

        June 27, 2012 at 23:29

        I get the feeling that sometimes if you cultivate and encourage thought process to the exclusion of common sense you are most definately NOT doing your child a favour. Lateral thinking and problem solving are (to me) MUCH more important life skills than incredible intelligence and will take children further and will allow them to survive and thrive in an ever changing world.

        • 400daystil40

          June 28, 2012 at 19:17

          Yes, I agree! Now, how do we get the schools to agree?

  17. simon7banksS

    July 2, 2012 at 11:51

    Couldn’t agree more. While “intelligence” is a fairly useful concept – if you put forward a difficult idea to a group of people, you’ll probably find some can’t understand it, some understand and accept or reject it and maybe one or two (the Einsteins) ask really awkward questions about it, ANY concept or measurement of intelligence is culturally biased to prioritise the kind of intelligence that culture understands and values.

    In reply to narf, problem solving is very much the kind of intelligence measured by I.Q. tests and valued in most Western education. Where it can fall down in practice is that good performers on problem-solving tests may fail to understand the people around them whose co-operation is essential to implementing the problem solution. There are senior managers like that! I’d also point out that the ability to question and occasinally reject commonsense is incredibly valuable, because commonsense is often wrong. It tells us the world is flat and what most people believe must be right.

    • 400daystil40

      July 2, 2012 at 18:52

      Yes, so very true… and thanks for your great insight!


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