Saturday, October 22, 2005

Intelligence vs Education

I've been wanting to post a comment about this subject for quite a long time. The only reason I haven't yet, is because I fear I will disprove the very point I'm trying to make. Maybe if I keep it short I can get away with it.

Those who read my rants reguarly have no doubt noticed that I often refer to myself as "Your humble friend and uneducated blogger." Most of you have chosen to ignore that phrase in your comments, but ER once asked me why I say that.

I answered him at the time but here is the long answer to that query:

First, I borrowed the phrase from Anthony Burgess's novel, "A Clockwork Orange". Alex, as the first person main character, referred to himself as "your humble friend and narrator". I altered it to present myself more accurately.

Second, I was not fortunate enough to finish college, thus, I am uneducated. The reason that I continue to use that phrase is because I seek to disprove the myth that education is synonymous with intelligence.

When I was in Junior High School (Known as Middle School these days), we were not allowed to know the scores of that test we all take in the 8th grade. That one that tells the administrators our IQ. So, we weren't told what our IQ was. I still don't know what mine is. Was. Whatever. However, one teacher, during a conference, let it slip that I had the second highest IQ in the school, and she told me who had the highest. The next year that kid committed suicide.

So many people seem to be under the mistaken impression that one cannot be intelligent without having letters after their name. I myself have fallen into that trap. In a post I made some time back, I ridiculed same celiberals for calling President Bush stupid while they themselves possessed no more than a high school education. So, yes, I have done the same thing.

I consider myself to be highly intelligent. I am not just bragging. My entire family is highly intelligent. My mother, at 85 years old, is still sharp as ever, and she is a mathematical genius. Once, after purchasing a brand new calculator, I attempted to demonstrate how fast it was. My sister vocalized a math problem ,and while I was still punching the numbers in on the keypad, my mother gave the answer. She beat the calculator!

My brother is a musical virtuoso. He can pick up any musical instrument and be playing it like an expert in minutes, even if he never played it before. He is the only one of my brothers that we know for sure is an actual genius. The others may be, I just don't know it for a fact.

None of my family had to go to college to be intelligent. They already were, they just chose to go to college also. I actually did go to college long enough to be considered a bona fide alumnus at Wichita State University, but I didn't finish. Thus, I am uneducated.

Anyway, this same attitude is part of the reason why Harriet Miers is being judged as not qualified by many conservatives. Some have gone so far as to denigrate her because the school she received her law degree from was not an "accepted" Ivy league school. That is patently absurd. She has a law degree. What makes anyone think that because it is not from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Dartmouth, that it is somehow not adequate? And who can say she isn't more intelligent and better at comprehending the language of the Constitution than those who have degrees from those above named institutions? It is quite possible, in my opinion, that she may not need to have an education at all to be qualified to interpret the Constitution.

I don't have a law degree, but I once represented myself in a lawsuit filed against me by a hospital who wanted to charge me for services they didn't render. I cross examined the witnesses, and concluded my case with a summation that would have made Clarence Darrow proud. I lost the case against the corporate lawyers chiefly because I waited until they brought suit against me to defend myself. In other words, I had never previously objected to the charges, I had simply ignored the bills.

The witnesses I had questioned admitted to me afterwards that I made them nervous because they had no answers to my questions. An opposing lawyer told me afterwards that I did a remarkable job of presenting my case, and if I had been a lawyer, with a law degree, I might possibly have won.

I don't meant to insinuate that a college education is not important. It most certainly is. I know that if I had finished school I would be better off financially than I am now. I know it. I have seen it time and time again that someone who has an education gets preferential treatment, as far as careers, over those who don't. One doesn't even have to have a degree in the particular field in which they are employed to get that job.

One of my brothers has a degree in Graphic Arts, and has a successful career at Boeing Aircraft in a completely unrelated field, but he wouldn't have got that job if he didn't have a degree. Any degree, it would seem, will do. I continually try to pound that message into my son's noggin.

I also don't mean to say that someone who has a degree isn't intelligent. I maintain that one has to have better than average intelligence just to get through college. But education is not a measure of intelligence.

There have been throughout history, literally thousands of great minds who never had a formal education at all. I don't know if Einstein ever received a degree in anything but I know it is well known that he once flunked math.

I have to say, I find it insulting when so-called educated people discount the opinions of those who don't have degrees because of a delusional impression that a lack of education signifies a lack of intelligent thought.

I once worked with a lady who had an degree in education. She wasn't employed at the time as a teacher although she had a valid teaching certificate. She did do substitute teaching when called. But the job she had in my office was as a telemarketer. She had to use multiple lines, with six clearly marked buttons, showing which lines were local and which lines were watts lines. She couldn't grasp the concept.

By the same token I know people who have great intelligence who have never attended college at all.

My father was promoted to the position of engineer at Boeing Military Aircraft because of the sheer amount of knowledge about the product they manufactured. He had no formal training or education as an engineer.

He did have a degree in English.

He once designed an airplane, just for fun, and threw the completed drawing in the trash because he didn't believe that Boeing would even consider the drastic departure from the typical aircraft design of the day.

His design had a remarkable resemblance to an F-16 fighter. This was years before the F-16 was introduced. In fact, jet engines were a brand new innovation at the time.

Anyway, I have made this rant way too long, against my better judgment. So I will conclude it with this statement:

Intelligence and education are not the same thing.


tugboatcapn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tugboatcapn said...

Mark, think about this for a moment.

What is college? Do college students not go and listen to lecture all day by educated people, test in order to prove their knowledge, and recieve their degree based upon how much of that knowledge they can prove that they have retained?

How much talk radio have you listened to over the course of your life?
Is this not lectures on Civics and Government, among other subjects, by the thinkers of the day?

Have you retained any knowledge from all of that?

Have you learned anything by your own research into various subjects?

I would contend that just because you do not have a degree from an Institution of Higher learning, does not mean that you are not educated.

Not being a college graduate puts you in the company of other uneducated failures such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Colonel Sanders, Rush Limbaugh, and in my opinion, one of the greatest minds in the history of the human race, Tugboatcapn.
(That opinion MAY be a little biased, and subject to discussion...)

Education ain't what you did, it's what you KNOW.

Mark said...

Tug. Thanks. the misspelling was a result of blogger spellcheck. I had fixed it before i saw your comment. I must have been fixing it when you commented. I am actually a great speller.

And I meant "formal" education.

tugboatcapn said...

I recently got into a heated discussion with a commentator on another blog by saying that I got my education "the hard way."

This commentator explained to me in no uncertain terms that college was very hard work, and nobody handed them anything. (As if figuring out everything that you need to know when you need to know it over the course of your life is easy, and means that you were handed this knowlege when you were forced to seek out everything that you have learned from whatever sources you could locate.)

Formal Education is a very good thing, and I would encourage everyone to get all of it that you possibly can, but but it is by no means the end-all be-all, and by absolutely no means a measure of intelligence.

How many people are sitting around with a college degree, and are paying off a huge amount of college debt by working in a feild which is totally unrelated to their degree?

Sheila said...

Good Morning Mark,

I too have a very smart family. My older brother and Sister are off the charts. My mom decided it wasn't worth the craziness it costs a child to hear how smart they are without the life experience to back it up so I was not tested until I joined mensa as an adult.

Until that time, I secretly thought I was inadiquate compared to them. I too didn't finish college until just recently. My obligations to my offspring discluded any thoughts of myself.

I just came to a conclusion after considering the great people of history that were "Book Learned" and achieved so much by their belief in themselves.

Today, this nation only encourages people who go to college with higher pay. But the wheat is finally separated from the chaf over time. Their are a lot of people who have college degrees and don't used it.

Their are many many people who are lacking in the "Smarts" department and high IQ's.

Your life experiences plus your "Smarts" should be a source of pride.

My brother and sister have failed to achieve what should have been greatness. I put my nose to the grind stone in all aspects of my life and DID manage to achieve more through shear stubborness.

The reason I finally went back to college was for the better pay check. While I was there, I found out that my life experience certainly added to my grades and I have tripled my pay conpared to my classmates coming out of the gate.

I took a huge risk in my middle 40's. I was dirt poor and a milimeter away from bankruptcy. Go back to school if you can.

At the very least, it's life afirming at our age and it keeps a lighter step in our gate.

Your educated Mark. Your Book learned. That's a sight better than 90% of our population.

Sheila said...

Here's a great bit of encouragement from a profesor I hada.

This required class I took, crammed about six months worth of information into 3 weeks. No joke. We were required to memorize everything taught and each week we got called upon and had to recite. ARGH!

I was called the first week to recite something that for me was exceedingly hard. I couldn't and stated that I didn't get it yet but that I would.

The class snickered and I truned beat red from the knowledge that I was so inadiquate compared to most of my class.

The Proffesor hsuhed everyone with a look and then stated this;

"YOu kids think your so great because you've all memorized the material over night and Ms Stone has not. Well let me state right here and now. Sheila is going to keep trying and I have no doubt she will suceed." The differance between older adults and the young is retention." YOu memorize and lose it as soon as class is over and your grades are in." Older Adults work harder to keep up, but once they get it, it's chrystal in their brain." She'll get it long after you have forgotten it."

That's a great thing to be thankful about and he was right.

Your chrystal Mark. I can see your more intelligent than me. Now go to school and have fun.

Sheila said...

PS....forgive my type O's I'm suffering from brain dead tired. Hense my nagging presence on your blog! :)

Trixie said...

I am going to post on this topic again here even if it puts me at risk again for being disparaged because of a lack of understanding. You did not grasp what I said previously. Anyway, whatever.

You are drawing the wrong relationship between "intelligence" and "education." You are also incorrectly setting parameters around what "education" means.

Look up the definitions. Intelligence is the CAPACITY to learn. You can be exceedingly intelligent and still not know a damned thing. However, you cannot be educated without having a degree of intelligence. "Educated" means having gone through some formal training and instruction.

You could be very intelligent, Mark, but unless that is applied to learning, it is a hollow and meaningless description.

Mark, you are not uneducated and it is disingenous the way you continue to refer to yourself as such. What you probably mean to say is that you are not degreed. That is a choice. You could choose differently.

We are ALL uneducated about many subjects. I don't know anyone in the world who has submitted to training on every single thing there is to learn and know in the world.

Tugboat, again what ticked me off about your previous statements was that you seemed to be wearing your lack of degree as not only a badge of honor, but a symbol of superiority, as though what YOU have learned was earned at a higher personal cost than what someone with a degree has learned. There is nothing easier, harder, or better about either approach. Whether you go to college or not, one still has to figure out how to make a living and function in the world. In most cases, college education is merely a form of vocational training. It just opens the doors to other vocations where a certain set of skills and information are required. Do I want my doctor to be highly educated? You better believe it. But that doesn't mean there aren't MANY jobs where that type of training is unnecessary. Just don't try putting me down because I DID get a degree and we'll be fine.

Mark said...

I know a little about everything, but I don't know everything about anything.

One thing I mentioned but thought better of it and erased it, was this.

Last Christmas, My son 16, and I teamed up in a game of Trivial Pursuit against my genius brother and his son, who is finished with his Doctorate in education at NYU, except for turning in his thesis, and my son and I won. I have never lost a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Trixie said...

Mark, don't mistake inherent "intelligence" to mean "great knowledge." That's not what intelligence is. If someone has the ability to learn and chooses not to, that's no greater talent than someone who could sing, but refuses to try.

Erudite Redneck said...

The most important thing you learn in college is how to learn, which is different from learning how to read, or how to memorize, or how to (fill in the blank).

Not everyone who gets a degree comes out of college having learned to learn, though. And not everyone must go to college to learn how to learn.

Ergo, college teaches you how to learn a certain way -- gives you an important credential.

For example, I learned how to learn like others who studied political science, and economics and journalism -- and as a graduate student, I learned how to learn like other historians. And that is all important for communicating well with others in those disciplines.

And discipline is a key word, too. Learning on your own is fine. But unless one is disciplined, one learns haphazardly -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

But those within academic discplines will discount, rightly in some cases but not in all, those who have not bothered to learn how a certain discipline thinks yet try to participate in serious discussions within those disciplines.

Journalism is more of a trade than an academic discpline, but I get hacked when people who have neither studied journalism nor practiced it are so quick to pass judgment on those of us who do.

Political science? Eh, its an oxymoron, and I've never "practiced" it. Sae for economics.

History? I am a serious historian, although "seriouser" historians -- those with Ph.D.s or who have published boks -- would scoff at my mere master's degree and my journal publications.

It's like trying to play football without knowing the rules. Anyone can throw and catch a football, and tackle and block and run around a field. But you have to know the rules of football to play a football game.


Mark said...

Unfortunately many schools teach students what to think rather than how to think.

tugboatcapn said...

Trixie, I apologize if that is the way I came off.

That certainly is not my attitude, nor is it my intention to infer any sort of superiority based upon what I have, or have not learned.

Please forgive me for leaving that impression.

Erudite Redneck said...

No s---, Mark. That's part of it, too, in most cases.

I for dang sure want my Bird's professors telling her what to think about chemistry, for example. Hell, I wanted 'em to tell her what to think about government and history, too -- and they did, and she being a smart girl, then started to have opinions of her own, sometimes in agreement with her profs, sometimes in disagreement with them.

For a student in college, whether you agree or disagree with the professor usually has nothing to do with whether you do well in a class. (Usually, because there are some exceptions.)

The problem isn't evil professors who have opinions. Of course they do. It's stupid students who want to snooze through class, blow off studying and still pass a class, without learning to think on their own at all. Screw them. They can work at McDonalds.


Anonymous said...

It's not your lack of education that makes people think you're unintelligent. It's what you post! :)

Mark said...

Well, anon, at least I'm not the only one. You demonstrated that nicely.

Lone Ranger said...

College is highly over-rated, especially in this age, when liberal extremists have turned most of them into left-wing reeducation camps. They don't teach you how to think, they teach you what to think. If people were taught how to think, liberals would be an endangered species. The only real reason to attend college is that high-paying employers demand it. That's the only reason I bothered to get a degree. I got this job and am now making a six-figure salary simply because I went to college. My experience and skills played a very small part. But that degree doesn't contribute one whit to my job as a broadcast journalist. If those restrictions weren't in place, your time would be better spent in a trade school or in the military. The primary function of college as to serve as a money-machine for elitist professors, who are more interested in hawking their books than in teaching. If you doubt the tenuous link between IQ, a college education and common sense, all you have to do is see a MENSA bumper sticker next to a Kerry/Edwards sticker.

People with high IQs and a college education do stupid things all the time. Just look at the DNC.

Don't put yourself down because you are "uneducated." I'd rather employ a person with a good head on his shoulders than a person who waves a sheepskin as proof of his competence any day.

Toad734 said...

Bush just proves that education doesn't equal intelligence.

Erudite Redneck said...

Lone, or, er, Ranger, what you wrote says more about broadcast "journalism" than you probably intended. ... Oh, and aren't you in D.C., or thereabouts? That's a six-figure town. Whoopee.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

That brings us to another question: Are we more intelligent compared to people who lived in the times of Jesus? We have more technology today. We know more about the universe, the human body etc. But I doubt we are more intelligent than the average person then. What do you think?

Mark said...

No. I don't think so. Intelligence has to do with the capacity to learn and/or think. We certainly have more knowledge than in Biblical times. But then again, maybe not. Do we know how to weave, or make fishing nets, or make tents strong enough for people to live in? Do we know how to thrash wheat? Do we really know Jesus the way we are supposed to, and not the way religious leaders tell us? I admit to much ignorance in that regard.