The word of the week is smarter.
That links to the word “smart” but I deliberately chose the comparative form. Here it is in context:
Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?
Forgetting that the show in question tests knowledge and not intelligence, it may seem at face value to be a very silly question to ask in the first place. I would, however, argue that it is completely nonsensical, based on what we now understand about human intelligence. Making glib statements about who is smarter than whom ignores the wide range of ways that people can be smart.
In 1905, Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, created a diagnostic test to identify students who needed extra help in school. It was the misapplication of this test that led to the highly-flawed concept of IQ. Over the past century, the IQ has been used for purposes that range from merely misguided to downright ugly. For more on that, read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.
We really need to get past the idea that intelligence is something that can be ranked in a linear manner. In his landmark 1983 book Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner makes a case for the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the theory that there are distinct and identifiable areas of intelligence that exist in the human mind, that are “independent of one another, and that … can be fashioned and combined in a multiplicity of adaptive ways by individuals and cultures.” Gardner identifies seven such intelligences, though he allows for the possibility that there may be others, and the conversation surrounding various other possible intelligences continues today. His original seven — Linguistic, Musical, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and the two personal intelligences commonly referred to as Interpersonal and Intrapersonal — have gained wide acceptance among learning theorists and educators in the field.
And yet, as a system, we still judge student achievement solely from test scores in literacy and math, and cling to IQ as a meaningful measurement of a person’s intelligence.
After everything we’ve learned about the human mind, we should be smarter than that.