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That Smarts -- Writer's Poke #436

I used to have a simplistic view of what it meant to be smart. If you knew a lot of stuff, I thought, then that probably meant you were smart. Then I started to understand that knowing a lot stuff didn’t mean much. To be smart, you had to know what to do with that knowledge. You had to be able to apply it in useful ways. Knowing stuff, and knowing what to do with what you know – that’s what makes someone smart. 

What if you know a lot of stuff, but you can’t express that you know it? Or, maybe you can even apply your knowledge in unique ways, but not in ways normally acknowledged by standard measures. Can you still qualify as being “smart”?

When we’re in school, how smart we are is generally measured through our ability to test well. Tests are generally in written form, and so as long as you are able to translate your knowledge into standard responses, you’ll be able to demonstrate just how smart you are. 

Actually, I don’t have a problem with this. For the most part, traditional tests probably do an adequate job measuring smartness. Over the past number of years, however, different folks have come along to suggest that our notion of smartness is incomplete. In fact, some people have been labeled as mentally retarded when they actually were smart in alternative ways, as demonstrated through alternative testing measures. 

What does it mean to be smart?

“Be smart, but never show it.” – Louis B. Mayer


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