Have you ever noticed that people cause themselves a lot of stress by calling themselves dumb or stupid or by self-attacks, in which they reprimand themselves for not knowing something they feel they should have known? To me, this behaviour causes far too many unnecessary free radicals to be produced in the body and it needs to be stopped.
For children, this is especially true because having such a negative self-belief is a huge part of the anxiety epidemic currently plaguing children and youth everywhere. The problem stems from the fact that every time we attack ourselves, the body sets the stress response system on high alert and starts pumping out way too much Adrenaline and Cortisol and doing that multiple times every day can make us sick and keep us sick for many years to come.
Maybe it’s time to look at the big picture of dumbness, stupidity, intelligence, knowledge and wisdom.
The World and All Its Knowledge
Let’s start with knowledge… someone once told me that it’s been more than 500 years since it was possible for one person to have all the knowledge that was available in the world at a given moment. I would argue that this has never been possible, but I digress.
Anyways, it was just after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the year 1440 that access to knowledge began to explode in the world once again. I say again because before the printing press and the Renaissance (re-birth of knowledge) period, the world had endured 1000 years of knowledge darkness that began with the fall of the Roman Empire.
It’s my understanding the Dark Ages began when the new state-sanctioned, Christian church decided the people needed to be kept from access to too much knowledge because it was believed that too much knowledge had led to all the problems in society at that time. It was believed that people needed to be taught to trust in God to look after their needs and to no longer worry about anything else.
So, who was this famed person, 500 years ago, who knew all there was to know? Well, it was none other than Leonardo Da Vinci, the inventor, scientist, artist, musician, architect and philosopher, who lived from 1452 to 1512. Mr. Da Vinci is widely believed to be the last known person to have accumulated all the knowledge available to accumulate during a single lifetime and since that time, it has been impossible for one person to have all the knowledge because there is just too much knowledge available.
Now, I don’t know about you, but since it’s no longer possible for one person to have all the knowledge anymore, it seems like a futile goal to even try to acquire all the knowledge in the world. And it seems even more insane to criticize oneself for the failure to know all.
Nevertheless, I come across people all the time who constantly admonish themselves by saying, “Why didn’t I know that?” as if they believe they should know everything. These people seem to fully discredit the often-extensive knowledge they do have in many different areas and they dismiss themselves as if they are dumb or stupid.
Howard Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences”
Now let’s move onto the concept of intelligence. In Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, first developed in the early 80’s, they’re are 10 different categories of intelligence.
In the early stages of Mr. Gardner’s research, there were seven topics that met his criteria to be classified as a category of intelligence, then later, with more research, he added two more categories and recently, because of even more research, he has been thinking about adding yet another category of intelligence, which brings the total number to 10 types of intelligence.
Now, of course, the mainstream public school system, for the most part, only grades students on two of the ten categories of intelligence. These are 1) verbal-linguistic or reading and writing and 2) numerical logical or science and math. And there are a couple of more categories that are touched on a little, but not to any great extent.
And if you look at the list of all ten intelligences, it is plain to see that every person in the world is very advanced in some areas, but not in others. For myself, I am really strong in three, I have two more that I am good at, another 2-3 that are on the weaker side and the last two, for me, are a complete and total fail just about all the time.
And from my experience, that is exactly why the public school system only works well for about 30% of students. These are the ones who excel at the two main intelligences most accepted and supported by the school system. Then another 40% of students get by and finally, the last 30% struggle like crazy with most of these students either dropping out or failing. These are the kids who are left believing they must be dumb or stupid but nothing could be further from the truth. If the school system had the ability and/or willingness to support all ten intelligences equally, then far fewer kids would have stress and far fewer kids would view themselves as dumb or stupid because they would not be forced to fit into a box that just doesn’t match them that well.
Learning Abilities and Disabilities
And then there’s the topic of learning disabilities. It seems we think of some people as learning disabled, while others have no learning disabilities. However, in the early 90s, I had the good fortune of working with a company called SOI Learning Systems, also known as the STRUCTURE OF INTELLECT and this organization broke learning down into two broad categories and each of those had multiple subcategories for a total of approximately 35 to 40 individual learning abilities.
The experts at SOI Learning Systems said it is impossible for any one person to have all the learning abilities equally. What this means is that every single person on the planet is learning disabled in at least a couple or more categories. So SOI Learning Systems prefers to think of people as having learning abilities rather than focusing on the negatives and once again, if the school system could support people to use their actual learning abilities, instead of forcing them be good at using skills, at which they don’t excel, then perhaps this too would end the future stress that comes from believing one is dumb or stupid.
Subjective Grading by Educational Professionals (Teachers/Professors)
And then there’s the issue of subjective critique of knowledge and of student academic efforts by teaching professionals. I have spoken to many people in my life who have related stories of how their academic efforts were graded based on an educator’s subjective opinion as opposed to being graded in an objective and fair manner based on pre-set, measurable criteria. In most of these situations, these opinions were based on religious or political beliefs and values and had nothing to do with current prescribed learning outcomes.
This has happened to me, personally at least three times, during grade school and high school and in my recent MBA program; it happened to my mother when she was in school 60 years ago; it’s happened to at least two of my daughter’s friends just a few months ago; and it seems that for every person I ask, I am told of two or three more examples of when people were graded unfairly in a subjective manner based on someone’s unqualified opinion for academic efforts that formed part of someone’s permanent educational record. So, are these students dump and stupid or are those teachers just not very good at their jobs?
By the way, the word “dumb” doesn’t even have anything to do with knowledge or intelligence at all. It means “inability to speak”. People who are deaf and dumb, for example, cannot hear or speak. The famous Helen Keller was not born with any challenges, but she became “deaf, dumb and blind” after her illness when she was two years old. However, those words are no longer politically correct and so it seems “being dumb” has been stolen and changed to mean something entirely different, which is just one more example of how people tend to take any opportunity possible to be cruel to themselves.
Wrapping It All Up!
Of course, a problem with all of these challenges regarding the theory of knowledge, access to and dissemination of information, understanding of learning abilities and disabilities, subjective versus objective grading practices, etc. is that people, in general, don’t seem to have a good handle on where they fit into all of this and so they are left believing they are somehow dumb or stupid and as a result, they experience a considerable amount of stress and anxiety on the matter.
When it comes to kids, in general, and helping them conquer stress for life, I think it is extremely important to help children understand how their own particular blend of intelligence is of immense value to the world.
When you consider that just one personality typing system can outline dozens if not hundreds of different personality types and if you blend that with just the different categories of intelligence, it creates literally thousands of combinations of creativity and intelligence for children and youth to offer to the world.
And it seems that the only thing stopping them from sharing their immense gifts is they start at a very young age believing they are dumb and stupid and so they keep it all to themselves and strive to attain a goal that has not been possible to achieve since the 1500s.
I think it’s time to change all of that. I think it’s time for young people to be shown that they are not dumb or stupid and that the pursuit of perfect intelligence or perfect knowledge is not possible nor even useful in the world today. After all, that’s why we built the Internet and search engines isn’t it?
Rather, we should be encouraging the kids (and adults) to do what computers and the Internet can’t do and that’s bring their incredible creativity and imagination to humankind to solve the world’s real problems. Then we can all say goodbye to stress and anxiety forever.
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