Monday, 15 August 2011

Teach me to think!

I have long maintained that there is a difference between being smart and being intelligent. I'll preface this blog by saying that this is limited to a university experience in the liberal arts.

Smart = knowledge of facts and information.

Intelligence = creative, analytically thinking.

Many people are smart and can become smart. Intelligence is something different entirely. Intelligence is knowing what to do with the smarts.

People think that I'm smart because I am about to begin a PhD. Let me say this is not so in a general sense. I am smart insofar as I know a lot about ONE very SPECIFIC topic. My smarts don't extend to other areas, for example I know next to nothing about science and technology other than what my daily life forces me to encounter. Also despite being a history student, I do not know tons of facts, dates and figures about world history. This is only the base aspect of history, the details that give a structure to much larger events and ideas.

When I began my first degree at Carleton University, I thought I had to learn a lot of 'things'. It was true, but as time went on and I got closer to finishing my degree I began to understand that those 'things' were just to catch me up. The first couple years of university seems to give you the knowledge and basic tools that set you up to learn about intelligence.

Once you are set up on the knowledge part, in your third and fourth years you begin to learn how to think. It is a difficult concept to grasp sometimes, or it was for me because nobody spelled it out. But making this discovery made my grades jump from Cs to As. The question is "What do we do with this knowledge?" It's all well and great to be smart, but to take it to the next level we have to ask questions about that information. This is where intelligent thinking comes into play.

Let's take the recent London Riots for example. London riots took place in early August over the course of several nights. There was a lot of looting, vandalism, arson and assault violence. The riots spread to other areas of the UK and occurred in predominantly lower-middle class communities. The trigger was the shooting and subsequent death of a man by the Metropolitan police.

That is the information. Now we have the knowledge (basic) of the circumstances. Intelligence comes into play when you start asking questions and developing theories. It doesn't matter if you are wrong, the importance is in the practice of actually employing intelligence. The questions:
Why would they riot?
Why is it based around lower income communities?
What were the motives?
Why was it so wide spread?

There are a lot of theories in the newspapers trying to answer these questions. For me I think more sociologically. Clearly these people are frustrated. In times of economic struggle the most disadvantaged feel the strain most, as well they frequently feel their voice is the quietest among the general population despite how loudly they might yell. Frustration leads to anger and just one spark can set the smoldering coals alight. Now everyone is watching, ready to take their plight seriously but also wondering what policies or situations have caused such frustration.

But the details of this debate are beside the point. What I am really trying to say is that as your academic path continues on, ones ability to question and analyse becomes much more refined and astute. So think intelligently and develop theories. Go with your gut, ask questions and listen to what the information is trying to tell you. To make that jump you need to start asking questions and NEVER ever be afraid to ask questions and develop theories and ideas.

Education isn't just about facts, figures and knowledge it is also about IDEAS.

p.s. stay tuned for vlog entries.

No comments:

Post a Comment