Thursday, June 16, 2011

Intelligence--Do You Feel Smart?

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, intelligence is the ability to think and learn: the ability to learn facts and skills and apply them, especially when this ability is highly developed.

The good news is one can get smarter! Intelligence can increase! The bad news is that intelligence can also decrease. For whatever reasons, this is what we’re currently seeing in the classroom and beyond.

Many children are having a hard time learning lately. They seem to have difficulty remembering and/or applying what was taught. Logic and common sense are very rare these days. Problem solving skills are not the norm, either. Could this be linked to the lack of work ethic seen in children these days? Could the plethora of distractions, such as sports, video games, dance, etc. be the culprit? Some people argue that sports, dance, and other hobbies are important for a well-rounded child. However, they do take reading/homework time from children’s lives.

When I was growing up everyone had their IQ tested. This supposedly was a predictor as to future success. It also identified children who might need a modified education. I peeked at my school record once and saw that in first grade my IQ was 121! With average being 100, 121 is pretty high. According to the intelligence charts I’ve seen, it’s considered “superior.”

Well, nobody ever told me. I grew up feeling very dumb. I was a great reader but I thought everybody was. I had a hard time in math and I thought no one else struggled, just me. The memorization of basic math facts eluded me. Flash cards didn’t work. Now I know that I need to write things down and say them out loud to help them stick in my brain.

Back then (1960s and 1970s) education was “one size fits all.” Special education was in its infancy then so children with learning differences got left behind. They stayed back, sometimes developed behavior problems, and often when of age, they dropped out. More on the history of special education:

When I was in sixth grade, the grownups in my hometown came up with what they thought was a brilliant plan. They took all the highest ability students and grouped them in a separate classroom. They were called the “HI-HOs” (high homogenous). I was not selected to be part of that elite group. That further convinced me that I was dumb.

It wasn’t until ten years later as I graduated from Holyoke Community College that I finally realized that learning didn’t come as easily to others—that I was pretty smart—and also very fortunate. But here’s the kicker—recent studies show that we adults should not overpraise kids on how smart they are: That is counterproductive. Instead, we need to praise their efforts. Who knew?

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