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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Born Smart

To distract myself from the aggravation of having read the previously linked source, I go on Facebook and immediately see the following gem:

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. . . The accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

I don’t know whether I was “born smart” or not but I do know that my languages didn’t learn themselves, the books didn’t read or write themselves, and everything I have learned has cost me a huge effort and tons of pain. I still get a headache whenever I remember how hard I worked on my Spanish. All of the theoretical sources I operate with so effortlessly today required endless reading, rereading, copying, looking up words in the dictionary, and not understanding a damn thing again and again. All of the times that I sat at conferences or in class, not understanding 80% of what people were saying and feeling like a damn idiot. All of the times when people quoted authors I’d never even heard about.  I’ve had to look up the word “ontological” at least 10 times until I kind of understood what it meant. And right now? I just misspelled it.

So yeah, born smart, privilege, you did nothing to earn, it’s all a total accident. Fuck that shit from here to hell. I need to go look up ontological again because I forgot what it means for the 11th time in a row.

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13 thoughts on “Born Smart

  1. The quotation makes no sense from either a logical or neuroscience perspective. We know that neuroconnections in the brain are added during life, based in part on what one does. Reading, math, languages add connections — a lot compared to playing video games or watching TV.

    The quote is a throwback to the debunked theory that blacks/Jews/[any targeted minority] has a genetically lower IQ than whites. The theory is an excuse for the non-achiever, and a poor one at that.

    The notion that success is based on intelligence is nonsense. Success is based on what you do with the intelligence you are given (as well as the amount of money your parents give you). One need look no further than Trump to find an example of an overachiever.

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  2. Fie upon this quiet on said:

    Omg. Just one more thing for me to feel bad about. 🙄

    I’m not really that smart, but worked really hard when I wanted to learn. I can’t be inspired to learn something if I’m not interested in it though.

    But Jesus I am sick of the privilege talk.

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    • But Jesus I am sick of the privilege talk.

      Same here. No one in their right mind can endure these perpetual calls for self-flagellation over all aspects of one’s existence.

      What’s next?

      Dimple privilege — those who were born with dimples are privileged in life over those who are dimpleless and thus without dimple privilege.

      Breathing privilege — those of us who have clear nasal passages during high allergy season should feel bad that we can breathe easily because there are those whose noses are stuffy and thus without breathing privilege.

      EBM (easy bowel movement) privilege — those of us who can poo without laxatives or yogurt should feel bad because there are those who cannot.

      Life privilege — those of us who had the privilege of having been born over all the potential people who could have come out of unfertilized eggs and wasted ejaculates, not to mention aborted fetuses or discarded frozen embryos, but were not granted the privilege of life.
      (Yes, the anti-choice movement all but uses this “logic”.)

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    • Alex the Physicist on said:

      “But Jesus I am sick of the privilege talk.”

      I have just the book for you:

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  3. Shakti on said:

    Perhaps “born smart” is more of an American frame?

    Obviously I don’t deny your efforts, but for someone of lesser intelligence those same efforts might not have yielded the same fruit.

    How Not to Talk To Your Kids

    But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

    For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.

    Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

    Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

    Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out….

    In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts….

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    • Psychoanalysts say that if you tell a kid “you are smart”, he will become afraid of disappointing you and will avoid challenges that might cast a doubt on this is image. Praise can be extremely manipulative. Which is pretty much the same as this experiment but in different words.

      Also, psychoanalysts say that it’s best to avoid evaluative praise or criticism with kids. Don’t start sentences with “you” (like you are smart, you are polite, you are good) and instead start with I (I like this, I appreciate it, etc). I can list the sources but only when I’m less beat. This has been a hard day.

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    • Dreidel on said:

      Shakti is right — being smart (high I.Q., etc.) definitely helps!

      That may not be fair, but it’s a fact.

      Like

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