onetakemovie: (lidless eye)
[personal profile] onetakemovie
Over on the BW forums there is a fairly recent thread called "Do you ever wish weren't intelligent?" I haven't read it yet, and may not ever get around to reading it, but I'm guessing the missing pronoun between "wish" and "weren't" is "you". And that, along with the recent backlash over Greg Mankiw's comments about sending U.S. jobs overseas being a positive thing and the U.S. population as a whole being too educated for the good of the economy, got me thinking about something I haven't really thought about since I graduated from college twelve years ago.

Where does intelligence get you in life? Is there a point at which others' expectations become so unrealistic as to counterbalance one's potential to the point of undermining it?

People point to Einstein as being an inspiration not just because he was a genius but because he was not recognized as being one early on. Because he "only" received so-so grades in school, they talk as if he possessed some sort of intelligence that is in all of us, and despite nobody encouraging or cultivating it he managed to run with it and develop general relativity, win the Nobel Prize, etc...

Examples like that are few and far between. But it seems like everybody knows somebody of whom they or someone they know says, "(so-and-so) is so smart/has so much potential... if only he/she would apply himself/herself." Maybe it's because they're so commonplace that we instead choose to worship at the altar of the Einsteins of the world.

If this genius is, in fact, inherent in all of us, are we guilty of nudging/kicking/throwing people over the fine line between genius and madness? Are the underachievers among us simply steering clear of that line to avoid crossing it, and if so is it some kind of natural defense mechanism -- avoiding disappointing a society, or a subset of society that might have come to expect more from them than they are aware they can deliver? Wouldn't that make them the truly smart ones?

And really, when you get right down to it, is life nothing more than a great big exercise in managing expectations?

Date: 2004-02-15 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm really interested in your point...but I can't quite grasp it...could you elaborate a bit, maybe, or give an example or something? I think I like what you're saying but I don't fully understand it...


Date: 2004-02-16 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I guess what I'm getting at is that people's expectations (our parents, teachers et. al. early on, our friends, lovers, employers later... ultimately, ourselves) can have such a negative effect on us that we fail to live up to whatever supposed potential they (and we) see in us.

(Sorry if it wasn't very clear. I was just writing things down as they came to me, and went back and did some light editing on it later.)


Date: 2004-02-16 03:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I definitely agree. I know several people who hate school simply because they are under such pressure to succeed. If they had a chance to learn something rather than suffocate under heavy expectation, maybe they wouldn't be on Zoloft.

Date: 2004-02-16 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think people have strange expectations when it comes to intelligence. I was in the advanced program in middle school and high school. Sometimes when we were acting up (or just acting like kids) the teachers would say "Well, I'd expect this kind of behavior from my regular students, but I expected more from you advanced placement kids." I don't know why they expected us to be mature and polite simply because we had a basic grasp of algebra.

So in the same way I can see that society would place pressures on people who are "smart" to act in certain ways or achieve certain things that aren't actually realted to being smart, though they seem to be. I'm sure similar pressures apply to people who have other characteristics, such as athletism, beauty, charisma etc.

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