In an incredible intersection of digital connection and modern neuroscience, over 100,000 people recently took part in the largest test of intelligence and cognitive ability ever undertaken. The results might disprove that there’s any one measure, like IQ, that truly captures the broad range of mental talent seen in the world’s population.
Instead of “IQ” or any one component, it took at least three components to rate someone’s mental performance: Short-term memory, reasoning and verbal acuity.
To make things even more interesting, these three components all seem to map out to separate brain “circuits”. You may excel in one and not in the other two, or be balanced among all three. To put it another way, intelligent people are still intelligent, but now we can appreciate our place on that spectrum with greater depth and color. They even peeled back another layer, using their huge sample size to link performance to certain behaviors. Smokers did poorly on memory and verbal components, while computer gamers did well on memory and reasoning.
Anyone who’s looking knows that there’s variation in people’s cognitive abilities and individual “intelligences”, and trying to score that with one number doesn’t seem to do anyone much good. What sort of talents have we accidentally suppressed by failing to stamp people officially “intelligent”? Who have we discouraged by failing to include their intelligence in the “score”?
On the surface, it comes as no surprise. That in a world full of incredible individuals and unique combinations of passions, knowledge and curiosity… all of them powered by a tangled neural web of unparalleled cognitive complexity, that our “intelligence” would not be well quantified by a single measure. It is difficult to distill a rainbow and still appreciate its colors.
Schools rarely teach doing. So here’s my advice: Learn what matters to you. If you want to graduate from high school, go ahead and memorize a lot of nonsense but don’t expect it to matter a bit when high school is over.
In the US, an undergraduate education used to be an option, one way to get into the middle class. Now it’s a hostage situation, required to avoid falling out of it. And if some of the hostages having trouble coming up with the ransom conclude that our current system is a completely terrible idea, then learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as as songs came unbundled from CDs. If this happens, Harvard will be fine. Yale will be fine, and Stanford, and Swarthmore, and Duke. But Bridgerland Applied Technology College? Maybe not fine. University of Arkansas at Little Rock? Maybe not fine. And Kaplan College, a more reliable producer of debt than education? Definitely not fine.
If the advantage of charter schools are that they are smaller,are able to experiment, and do not have to follow all of the mandates..why not just allow public schools to be smaller, able to experiment, and not follow the mandates?
Ads are not meant for conscious consumption. They are intended as subliminal pills for the subconscious in order to exercise a hypnotic spell… That is one of the most edifying aspects of the huge educational enterprise that we call advertising, whose twelve-billion-dollar annual budget approximates the national school budget.
Any expensive ad represents the toil, attention, testing, wit, art & skill of many people. Far more thought & care go into the composition of any prominent ad in a newspaper or magazine than go into the writing of their features & editorials. Any expensive ad is as carefully built as on the tested foundations of public stereotypes or ‘sets’ of established attitudes, as any skyscraper is built on bedrock.
Since highly skilled & perceptive teams of talent cooperate in the making of an ad for any established line of goods whatever, it is obvious that any acceptable ad is a vigorous dramatization of communal experience. No group of sociologists can approximate the ad teams in the gathering & processing of exploitable social data…
… It is true, of course, that ads use the most basic & tested human experience of a community in grotesque ways. They are as incongruous, if looked at consciously, as the playing of ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold’ as music for a striptease act. But ads are carefully designed by the Madison Avenue frogmen of the mind for semiconscious exposure. Their mere existence is a testimony, as well as a contribution, to the somnambulistic state of a tired metropolis.
After World War II, an ad-conscious American army officer in Italy noted with misgiving that Italians could tell you the names of cabinet ministers, but not the names of commodities preferred by Italian celebrities. Furthermore, he said, the wall space of Italian cities was given over to political, rather than commercial, slogans. He predicted that there was small hope that Italians would ever achieve any sort of domestic prosperity or calm until they began to worry about the rival claims of cornflakes & cigarettes, rather than the capacities of public men.
In fact, he went so far as to say that democratic freedom very largely consists in ignoring politics & worrying instead about the threat of scaly scalp, hairy legs, sluggish bowels, saggy breasts, receding gums, excess weight & tired blood.
The army officer was probably right. Any community that wants to expedite & maximize the exchange of goods & services has simply got to homogenize its social life…
When I left high school, I had all my plans to go to college, but I had no money. And I decided then, the best thing for me to do is not worry about getting money to go to college — I will educate myself. I walked down the street, I walked into a library, I would go to the library three days a week for ten years and I would educate myself. It’s all FREE, that’s the great thing about libraries! Most of you can afford to go to college, but if you wanna educate yourself completely, go to the library and educate yourself. When I was 28 years old, I graduated from Library.
Neurologically, information is addicting.
Learning is associated with the release of dopamine, the same as powerful drugs like cocaine. It’s why we are so vulnerable to an Internet rife with attention parasites that leave us worse for the wear.
In a world where every click brings the promise of a discovery, we are all at risk of becoming addicts. The challenge lies in differentiating between questions worth exploring and questions best left unasked.
We seem to be under the impression that you can graft self-esteem onto your children if you just tell them enough how special they are. The reality is that self-esteem comes out of competence. How do you get confident about something? You get better at it.
Maybe I have an advantage over the classically educated. Often, students are encouraged to abandon the problem in the cold and to rush to warm themselves at the table of contents of thick books of knowledge. I cannot stress enough the importance of learning to unknot the problem (I’m tempted to say ‘the streetwise way’) as opposed to focusing on acquisition of the right answer — possibly one major flaw of what I would refer to as a ‘formal education.’
The knowledge I acquired through constant struggle was much more valuable to me than if it had been dispensed by a talkative, didactic professor intending to fill my head.
Today’s education, with its crash courses, its CliffsNotes, its how-to videos, its Internet instant answers and its multitude of shortcuts gives the impression of winning the race against time, but what it really does is spread insidiously the frailties of artificialness.
I have the certitude that although the sum of my autodidactic discoveries took a long time to crystallize, I did not lose any time. In fact, I won; the result remains solidly anchored inside me, and it will fuel my creativity for the rest of my life.
“Many people spend their entire lives doing things they don’t really care for” and “endure their lives” says reknowned creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson in a talk for the School of Life on finding our purpose and following our passion. Robinson—who is known for speaking out against our highly standardized, one-size-fits-all education system that follows a “linear mode of production” and steers workers toward filling slots at companies so our economy can “beat China”—says the problem with this system is that humans are hard wired to use our imaginations and produce new things. When we find ourselves doing things we aren’t passionate about, we are, unsurprisingly, pretty miserable.
Students are still being handed models which are supposed to fit all temperaments, all kinds of intelligence. No wonder we produce better engineers than writers, better industrial experts than painters.
The person who wins the Nobel Prize is not the person who read the most journal articles and took the most notes on them. It’s the person who knew what to look for. And cultivating that capacity to seek what’s significant, always willing to question whether you’re on the right track — that’s what education is going to be about, whether it’s using computers and the Internet, or pencil and paper, or books.
The present education system is the trampling of the herd.