When imagining someone defined as intelligent, what do you envision? Does the image of a college professor come to mind? Maybe a student consumed in a book. In dictionary definition, intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Interestingly, in our current society, the definition is associated strictly with academics. We associate intelligence with grades, standardized test scores, academic rank, college acceptances. Phrases such as, “I wish I was as smart as you” and “I’m dumb, so I have to have help” circulate schools and infiltrate the minds of our students. Why? Have we forgotten the intelligence associated with musical inclination, emotions, kinesthetics? We must enforce these principals, or we will lose the foundations required for many jobs, creative processes, and quite frankly, joy.
It is scientifically proven those who study music, whether it be theory, playing an instrument, or partaking in a choir class, have a reduced level of anxiety as those who don’t. And although this argument is against the importance of test scores equaling intelligence, those who partake in music score higher in core academic classes than those who do not. Let’s think about this here. For example, Ludwig van Beethoven was considered a below average student in his academic years. He was subpar in literature and performed very poorly in mathematics. He considered himself a failure. Thankfully, later in his life, he discovered music. He composed many great works including Für Elise, Symphony No. 9, and many others, which I am confident you have heard of. Tell me, now that you have been made aware of Beethoven’s lack of academic excellence, is he any less intelligent than he was perceived to be before? That’s simple, no. So, why do we currently associate those in the same position as incapable and incoherent?
Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is a topic slept on by many. Its definition refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Although the word intelligence is included in both terms, those considered to be emotionally intelligent do not have to necessarily be academically intelligent. According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same. Let’s apply this aspect to public education and beyond. The sole purpose of public education is to prepare students for success in their chosen careers. What’s interesting to me is the addition of certain EQ tests in job applications. Explain to me how someone who may have performed poorly in school and has a higher emotional intelligence than someone who performed well in school is considered less intelligent after they acquired the job rather than their scholarly competitor strictly due to their EQ test results?
Often times in early stages of educational development, such as elementary school, students are administered a VAK, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, learning styles test. The results of these tests vary, but often show visual and auditory learners lead in commonality compared to kinesthetic learners; the rarity. Kinesthetic, hands on learners, often struggle in the commonly known classroom environment, for it caters more toward visual and auditory learners. Using common sense, it is obvious these students are going to perform lower on pen and paper tests. They cannot construct a model to help them understand! They aren’t allotted the time, nor resources! With this, however, ironically, this group of learners often obtain the most secured jobs known in our market. Trades. Yes, the jobs many look down upon. Plumbers, electricians, and construction workers are essential to our society and way of living, not to mention they often have keen ways of analyzing situations and applications of their skills. Let’s use an example of one that is considered to be inherently gifted academically versus the stereotyped incoherent. The average starting teacher’s salary in the United States is around $40,000, while the average starting salary of a plumber in the United States is equivalent to $53,000. Let’s include the prerequisites to these jobs, as well. To secure a teacher’s position, one must have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. To secure a plumber’s position, one must apply and show up to work. Again, let’s use common sense. To secure a teacher’s position, one must do well in high school and college. The same cannot be said about trade workers. In going to college, teacher’s often drown in debt, while trade workers often float lighter. Tell me, please, although one may have been seen as having greater book smarts for the period of time during their studies, who seems to have a greater common sense ability? Who seems to be more globally and street smart? Yes, public education provides resources to further your understanding in the basics of your career, but these resources are not catered to all. And honestly, that seems quite beneficial to these rare hands on learners.
In conclusion, the societal pressure of doing well academically to achieve the level and title of being intelligent should be stripped of any and all value. There are a variety of different ways to prove one’s intelligence. Everyone was blessed with a brain unique and catered to their own body, a soul catered to uniquely harness their emotions, and a voice catered to emphasize their uniqueness. So, whether your transcript is a pressed line of A’s, or a maze of different letters, your worth, your intelligence, and your ability to perform in this world is no greater nor less than that of your neighbors. Thank you.