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Intelligence vs. Knowledge



Intelligence, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations.”Psychologists define intelligence according to their field of study; however, it mirrors Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition very much. According to “Psychology Today,” they tentatively define intelligence as a “construct that includes problem solving abilities, spatial manipulation, and language acquisition.” In both definitions, being able to take action in real world situations while using the tools at your disposal is an indicator of intelligence.

They say knowledge is power; however, knowledge can take many forms. It is not enough to have a list of facts stored away if you do not have the tools to apply these facts to real life situations.

According to Merriam-Webster, knowledge refers to “information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education.” Now, it is simple to “know” something. You have the concept stored away in your moment ready to be recalled at any moment; however, if you cannot apply it or you do not possess the understanding of its relation to other things, what exactly is the point?

Humans are an intelligent species; we have created wonders, and we have created abominations. But I caution you to wonder what we are emphasizing in our schools: knowledge or intelligence?

Standardized tests are the state’s way of measuring the progress and achievement of students and schools; however, do they truly represent the understanding of the presented material? Perhaps, to an extent, but these tests rely on the memorization of facts and concepts that subsequent to the test, the student will forget. Standardized tests are built for students to regurgitate information to prove to the state and federal governments that they learned something, and that the school was doing its job. Some classes are almost entirely focused on test preparation for standardized tests, whether that is for
the recently vanquished MCAS, or the latest failure: the PARCC. These tests do not in any way represent the students’ intelligence; rather, it measures the students’ ability to memorize information, which does not guarantee an understanding of the material or the students’ test taking skills, skills that will not be used again outside of the academic world.

Now, measuring intelligence is not simple. One must have a set definition of the term intelligence first. I define it just as the Merriam-Webster dictionary and psychologists do: as the capacity for an individual to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances with the tools at their disposal. I believe that this should be the cornerstone in which we build our assessments for students. The assessments we give our children should test their intelligence, by the use of projects, essays, and creative activities: effectively applying the material to a real world issue or situation.

The issue is that there is no manner in which one may be able to accurately quantify an individual’s intelligence. Because there are so many variables to intelligence, we can only assess the manner in which the students applied the material in a situation that they have never been in before. These are important skills, skills that students would use for the rest of their life. Why aren’t we doing this?

Internships are where students apply the material taught to them in school to real world situations, and have interactive discussions about philosophy, politics, psychology, etc. These are things that I believe high schools should be doing. Granted, some high schools do, but only in small portions due to the demands of curriculum by standardized tests.

There is a rise in antiintellectualism and the demand for data to measure student progress, resulting in standardized testing in various forms. Teachers cram information into units that are built to mirror the test; the teacher’s curriculum is strangled with an iron fist to cover all of the important information and nothing more.

This ought not be.

There should be a balance between intelligence and knowledge, but neither of these things can or should be measured quantitatively. This debases the art of what these students are doing and studying. It reduces it to mere numbers, which do not represent anything tangible.

Learning for the sake of learning and for the love of learning are nice concepts, and concepts that are viewed as naïve and unrealistic. Instead, one must learn for the sake of occupation, functionalism, and democracy. Standardized testing and the enforcement of fact and knowledge over true intelligence takes the love out of learning, which is a very utilitarian idea.

This isn’t to say that this method is completely without merit; this educational methodology works for many people. But in the end, it produces individuals without the tools or experience to apply their knowledge to the real world—without love for the work that they do.

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