The Atlantic has an article, The War on Stupid People, that provides a great starting point for a discussion on innate ability versus hard work. It brings up several thoughts for me.
One, it’s profoundly difficult to be low IQ in today’s economy. All the low IQ jobs are being outsourced to robots. And to be low IQ is to be mocked. To be medium IQ is to fit in with the majority. To be high IQ is to often feel isolated and to create systems and companies and fill them with one’s own kind.
Two, what creates IQ? Is it inherited or learned?
People have value and worth no matter their intelligence level, so how does everyone participate in the economy, and thrive?
It’s difficult for Americans to realize that we aren’t all equal in terms of ability. We want to believe that anyone can do anything if they just try hard enough.
I was guilty of “equal thinking” myself when I was younger, looking at peers who could not perform complex math or physics, as I could, and wrongly concluding that they weren’t trying hard enough. Yes, there is something to be said for effort, but there is also natural gifted ability that was not earned, not a factor in human worth or deservingness of good things.
(My own ‘aha’ that some brains simply cannot do everything well came from taking a hard look at my own poor spatial awareness and sense of direction. This personal mental weakness broadened my empathy for others considerably! My poor spatial awareness means I’ll never make a living driving a car, but we all find different ways to thrive.)
The Atlantic article posits that not everyone has the mental fortitude to complete four years of university study, and what then? Some human brains cannot do the mental heavy lifting the same way my spindly human fingers cannot grip heavy objects, and no amount of trying is going to alter the underlying biology.
Inequality of ability leads to inequality of outcome. The really hard part is recognizing that ability is both *inherited* and *cultivated.*
I think the answer is in helping each unique person discover his or her gifts and strengths, and to play those cards as best as they can. And also helping people to understand that hard work and determined effort can close a lot of the mental gap.
I also think that mathematical thinking needs to be recognized, early on, as a non-negotiable core strength to be developed and cultivated the same as reading and writing.
In the end, raw intelligence makes life a lot easier on a person the same way beautiful bodacious breasts make life easier on a woman and having a strong jaw and being tall makes life easier on a man. But inherited traits do not equal self-worth. A person might be a bit dim, but his divine spark shines just as bright.
This is not meant to be a political discussion – though I can see how it would be interpreted that way – but a personal growth discussion. A chance to deepen one’s personal insight about the economy, ourselves, and our abilities.
What do you think? What are your natural gifts and how do you play to your strengths? If you happen to be intellectually gifted (probably most of this blog’s targeted audience), what steps can you take to get a bit more humble and empathetic?