Rethinking Smart: Intelligence is Not a Number

For years I knew this to be true and wrote about it here: “Political I.Q.: Intelligence and Athletic Ability.” Here is John Stonestreet writing at Breakpoint:

Are you smart? Are your kids? Well, the short answer is “yes”, if we know what “smart” means. Here’s some new thinking about an old topic.

If you’re a parent like I am, chances are that during at least one late-night homework assignment you heard those frustrating words: “I’m just not smart enough to do this!”

It’s not hard to see how students, not to mention parents and even teachers, get this fatalistic notion about what it means to be intelligent. So much of what we call education—from classes centered on memorization, regurgitation of facts and passing tests, to forcing kids to sit still at desks for hours—favors a certain kind of student while leaving others floundering.

For example, IQ, or “intelligence quotient,” is a single number used to express how well individuals perform on a series of questions and puzzles. If you score higher than 140, you’re allegedly an Einsteinian genius. If you score lower than 75—well.

But a 2012 study of more than 100,000 people—the largest to date—suggested that IQ alone is a poor indicator of overall intelligence. Instead, abilities like short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal agility—all governed by separate brain “circuits”—together comprise that illusive quality we call “being smart.”

Roger Highfield, co-author of the study and director of external affairs at the Science Museum of London, said the findings “disprove once and for all the idea that a single measure of intelligence, such as IQ, is enough to capture all of the differences in cognitive ability…between people.”

None of this surprises my friend Dr. Kathy Koch, author of the new book, “8 Great Smarts.” She’s been telling parents and educators for years that children aren’t just intelligent or unintelligent. It’s much more complicated than that, and as the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., she specializes in exploring and unlocking the different types of God-given learning abilities.

Read more: Breakpoint