The Intelligence Gap

We are all born with equal potential. It’s nurture that dictates our fates, especially in our formative years. How many people have never found their stride because opportunities didn’t align to enable their growth? I’d argue each and every one of us.

This is an introduction to an artificially created problem that has engrained itself in the American education system: The Intelligence Gap.

I’ll preface this by saying that I do agree with the notion that “not everyone can be or is special,” an argument coined during the Baby Boomer generation in order to foster a society of efficient workers seeking stability above all. However, I see value in every person who wakes up wanting to be a part of the machine we call human existence as long as it’s not for that existences’ detriment. Who’s to say the dusk ’til dawn recycling facility worker won’t be the person to revolutionize waste disposal? I’d argue he is that person — he just never realized that his input was valuable and that he was even capable of offering it.

Think back to 5th grade. There was a student in that class who always seemed to understand what the teacher was saying. It might even have been you if you were lucky. And then there was another kid twiddling his or her pencil wondering when it would all be over because none of it seemed to make sense. The latter returned home having worked hard for C’s that never made it up on the fridge because his or her parents didn’t believe C-grades were exemplary. It always seemed as though the kids deemed intelligent were those showing growth while the ‘average’ simply remained that way.

Why would this kid believe in his or her true potential? I certainly wouldn’t have. But does natural ability differentiate our troubled student from the star pupil? Maybe in some cases, but the larger issue is a simple one: We all learn in vastly different ways, and the classroom just doesn’t cut it for everyone.

Don’t fault the teachers, don’t fault the parents, even though both have such a huge capacity to alter the direction of a child’s life. Fault our education system where at every turn we hear that one demoralizing word: “Standard.”

There are standard approaches to math problems, standard curricula, standard ways of measuring intelligence, and a standard academic path we were apparently born to take. It’s a standard and system that causes students to fall behind if they don’t fit in, that those keeping up still detest, and that teachers dread and don’t fully believe in. So one must ask: Why keep it around?

Because it’s easy. No one is willing to stand up and say that what “worked” for the past century (the level of that success is still up for debate) is now a misguided pile of government sanctioned studies and criteria resulting in the majority of the population wanting more out of their lives, but feeling at a loss for the capability to do so.

Given that we all have potential, let us accept that it will only be realized through different paths. We’re all extremely different, so why don’t our teaching methods reflect the diversity of our learning tendencies? The intelligence gap isn’t as large as we seem to believe. It’s the approach we take in cultivating intellect that makes it look so vast.

The future isn’t built on people who think like their predecessors. The future is built on those who manage to break the mold.

Stay tuned for my solutions.




2014 Fellow at @ThielFellowship.

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Alex Koren

Alex Koren

2014 Fellow at @ThielFellowship.

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