Thursday, June 7, 2012

What an idiot!

There’s a lot of anger out there and much vitriol directed at the “stupidity” of people. We see it in partisan politics, internet trolldom, school bullying… At home, we might experience it in sibling rivalries.

“How dumb can you get?” “You’re so stupid!” “What an idiot!”

Don’t agree with someone’s opinion? He/she’s a bonehead. Somebody is slow to cede the passing lane on the highway? Duh! A student needs some extra help in math? Moron!

It seems people are all too eager to point out what and who’s dumb.

Dumb blond jokes. “Fail” videos. The Darwin Awards (saluting “the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it”… by doing something fatally “stupid.”). The entertainment value of stupidity is endless, right?

Now, some people deserve our anger: the criminally minded, for example. But stupid? This catchall term has gone too far. And if someone truly does possess a lower-than-average IQ, do we really need to judge him/her?

To those readers who might be asking themselves what all this has to do with prevention, I’ll point to the eroding effect being called stupid has on a child’s sense of self worth. It’s a term that tends to get stuck in the craw. Too often, kids take it to heart, come to believe it—and act in ways to counteract the pain or stigma: alcohol, drugs, delinquency, dropping out of school.

Do you know a child who has been told that he or she is stupid? Can’t do math? Has a hard time with directions? Difficulty reading? Share with them the following on multiple intelligences (and remind them that sticks and stones may break their bones, but names can never harm them!).

There are many ways to be smart!

Howard Gardner’s nine multiple intelligences (as described by
  1.  Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what's on your mind and to understand other people.
  2.  Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.
  3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them.
  4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. Think athletes, dancers, actors.
  5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind -- the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world.
  6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward.
  8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It's an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians -- anybody who deals with other people.
  9.  Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.

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