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Wicked Smaht

2009/10/19

For our non-New England readers: In the Boston area and even down into Rhode Island, a lot of us tend to pronounce our r's as h's (though a Rhode Islander might say "our r's as haitches", but that's a different story).

When I went into first grade, I was put in the Retarded Class. I'm sure that's not what it was officially called, but all of us who were in it knew that's what it was, and of course so did every other child and all the teachers. Everybody knew us. We were the misfits, the dummies, the slow learners, the problem kids. This was early 1950's, so in reality a lot of us were dyslexic or had alcoholic parents or other learning disadvantages and disabilities, but paying attention to any of that just didn't exist then.

The cause for my inclusion was near blindness. Without corrective lenses, my extremely astigmatic vision is 20/400 - which means that what people with 20/20 vision can see clearly at 400 feet away, I need moved 380 feet closer. It meant I couldn't see the chalkboard. That was enough to make me "dumb".

Yes, of course they gave us vision tests. In groups, they'd lead us through reading the lines on a chart. I'd hang back and easily memorize every line read and thereby passed those tests every time. I knew I couldn't see well, but I didn't want glasses because in the Retard Class society I lived in, glasses were a big Kick Me sign. I'd had a hard enough time establishing myself as someone to leave alone (because I'd hit back, hard) and I didn't want to jeopardize that.

Eventually, I got caught. I don't remember whether it was an eye test that I failed or if they caught me with an IQ test, but they caught me.

Oh, those IQ tests. I was always good at those. I'd be the first one done and sometimes teachers would look surprised as I handed in my tests so early. I've taken the ones you aren't supposed to finish, too: I always finished them. Yeah, I'm real good at IQ tests.

So they moved me and my new glasses into a Gifted and Talented class. That was something very new then; I and the other Chosen Ones were only the second such class ever in our very progressive town. There was resistance to even having such a class, but that's a different story also.

According to some, I was the "smartest one". I certainly didn't think so, but that was the rumor and it kept coming up throughout my star-crossed educational career. You might think that's wonderful, but really it isn't.

I was bored. I was angry. I hated school, disliked most of my teachers, and spent most of my time daydreaming and yearning to be "free". I never did much homework, never listened much in class, but of course I got by because I was "wicked smaht". It's easy to get B's and C's when you read a lot and are "wicked smaht".

Throughout my life, I've learned a lot about being "smart". One of the first things I learned is that you don't think like other people. I don't just mean that you come to different conclusions, but that you get there on a different path. The "others" can't follow your logic, and they think you are "strange" because of what you think and how you think it. That would be fine if you were always right, but of course you are not.

No matter how Wicked Smaht you are, you can be wrong. Horribly wrong, tragically wrong. Fortunately I learned that lesson early enough not to be a total dick about being so good at IQ tests. I knew that while that prodigious brain power might matter sometimes, most of the time it doesn't matter at all. Most real world problems are far too complicated for anyone, so while my arguments may seem more cogent, while I might have more "facts" to back them up, I am still likely to be wrong. Brains mostly don't matter.

Being smart doesn't necessarily make you successful, and you definitely don't need to be very smart to reach success. Being smart won't make you good friends, and won't help you fall in love. It won't make you lucky and can't protect you from disease and aging.

Sometimes people won't get your jokes, will miss your sarcasm. Things you say will fly right over their heads. That will always surprise you, no matter how many times it happens.

Being smart won't help you work with groups. Remember, you don't think like they do. You don't like the way they think, they don't like the way you think. You think they are dumb, and they think exactly the same about you. Guess what: they are every bit as right as you are - because for real world decisions, you don't necessarily have any advantage (even though you think you do).

Being Wicked Smaht is a lot less valuable than being nice. It's far less important than being honest and trustworthy, dependable and faithful to your friends. For everything that matters, being smart is unimportant.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier with the Retards. I did end up happy, but that had nothing to do with being "smart". It had to do with controlling my own life and living it with a wonderful woman. Two great children also made me happy. Good friends, wicked smaht or not, made me happy. My sisters, my nephews, their kids - they make me happy. Smart? Who cares?

See Your high IQ will kill your startup also.

Another post I wrote on this subject: Gifted and Talented.



Comments



Sat Feb 6 16:09:40 2010   TonyLawrence

I was thinking about the horrific ignorance and general "stupidity" of the Tea Party movement and that reminded me of this.

I sometimes really wish I could be like them: racist, homophobic, seeing simple solutions to everything. It must be wonderful to be so certain of everything, to think that some heavenly reward awaits you, to feel comfort in the crowd..

I really envy them. And as I said above, we really can't say that it might not be a better world overall if they had their way. A horrible world for me, yes, but overall? Who knows.



Fri Mar 5 15:12:53 2010   TonyLawrence

Interesting discussion in a similar vein going on over at http://blog.cubeofm.com/your-high-iq-will-kill-your-startup

The comments are even more interesting than the post.

Fri Apr 9 08:34:06 2010   anonymous

Thanks for the post. I feel like I can relate, but don't want to offer suggestive anecdotes that try to wrap themselves in your insight or otherwise ride on your coat-tails...but...I will say that I took a darker route with my life, marginalizing myself just to spite my local authority figures. My brilliant father left our family and was replaced by an evil step-father. Wolfram's "New Kind of Science" concept of simple patterns playing out to great complexity over time? Now there's a helpful analogy.

Just in case any young person stumbles upon this with a similar problem, here's what I learned by my mid thirties. It's better to play along and trust yourself to understand why later. Why? Because wisdom and intelligence are two very different things.

Fri Apr 9 11:11:12 2010   TonyLawrence

I think I'd say it *might* be better. Living a lie has its own share of difficulty.

Fri Apr 9 11:55:52 2010   Friar

deepfriar.wordpress.com I was also pretty smart in school. Not necessarily "gifted", but often the smartest one in the class. I consistently got 90's without trying that hard.

But I was also the smallest...which made me the perfect target for bullies.

It was around Grade 8, when I realized I could be the class clown. The bullies were too busy laughing WITH me, than AT me, and the abuse stopped.

It's was a good survival instinct to learn. Which I still use to this day.



Fri Apr 9 13:50:26 2010   BigDumbDinosaur

http://bcstechnology.net But I was also the smallest...which made me the perfect target for bullies.

That wasn't my problem back then. In fact, in eighth grade, I was the biggest kid. I wasn't any taller than the others but was a lot bigger around the shoulders and chest, and weighed about 170. No one messed with me, except the educational system, which wasn't (still isn't) geared to handling students with just a tiny bit more smahts. <Grin>

Sat Apr 10 09:07:07 2010   anonymous

I think I'd say it *might* be better. Living a lie has its own share of difficulty.

Agreed. It has to be up to the individual. Your post helps solve the problem I'm considering because it frames the gifted experience from the perspective of a mature person. I guess I wanted to add a bit of a drop-shadow to your already clear thinking.

Obviously, I chose the double life strategy. I have a stable techie job with great benefits and flex time, which allows me to pursue all the different things I feel passionate about. Outside the office, if I feel like being a dilettante about something, or putting in sustained effort, it and the context are up to me. Inside the office I work hard enough to get all my work done, and after that I tend to stop and think about something else immediately. I like to put myself in the position to get lucky, hoping that the stars will align someday; sadly I'm also finding that a great idea is one of the least important ingredients to this formula.

It's germane to add that deciding if I want to be a dad (or even married) is proving to be quite a difficult challenge and dabbling is not an option. I envy people for whom the choice is obvious, and as you observed, intelligence is not an advantage.