Friday, October 16, 2009

Everyone’s special ... and smart

~From Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham, page 127:

I am willing to bet you have heard someone say, “Every student is intelligent in some way,” or ask students to identify “What kind of smart are you?”  I think teachers say this in an effort to communicate an egalitarian attitude to students: everyone is good at something.  But there are a couple of reasons to be leery of this attitude.  First, this sort of statement rubs me the wrong way because it implies that intelligence brings value.  Every child is unique and valuable, whether or not they are intelligent or have much in the way of mental ability.


Third, for reasons I describe in the next chapter, it is never smart to tell a child that she’s smart.  Believe it or not, doing so makes her less smart.  Really.

I’m not sure telling a child they are smart necessarily makes them dumber, but I can definitely understand how someone telling you that you’re smart can have an effect on how you compare your intelligence to everyone else’s, as if it can indeed be measured and compared, as if that measure has value, and as if you have some appearance of intelligence that you should uphold.

So ... and I definitely agree with this quote, and I think it’s a good thing to remember.



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