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What is intelligence? Creating or absorbing?

November 7, 2011

I found this list (14 websites to make you a more intelligent person) fascinating. When you look at this list, it really defines what we mean when we say “intelligent.” Over half of the fourteen sites deal with “book learning.”  Three more deal with videos.

Is that really what we think? Do we think that if we read books, we’ll be more intelligent? Don’t get me wrong; I love to read. I just think that intelligence is much more than what a person has read. It’s how a person thinks. It’s looking at problems and figuring out where to go from that point. Really, I think (and many scholars would agree with me) that intelligence is not about what you can repeat back; it’s about what you create yourself.

Unfortunately, this article drives home the fact that, despite what we profess to believe about constructivism and active learning, “intelligence” is measured similarly to the absorption level of a sponge. Certainly, an aspect of intelligence is being well-read, literate, and familiar with other ideas. But think of  the most intelligent people of all time: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Marie and Pierre Curie. They are intelligent precisely because of the new contributions they have made, not because they read a lot of books. There must be a leap from absorbing knowledge to creating new knowledge or solutions. That point is the crux of intelligence. And that genesis is what we need in this new and complex time.

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