Academia: Age of Intelligence


by Kaden Darez, Senior Teen Correspondent for En Tequila Es Verdad.

Author’s note: I was going to save this for a Carnival. Looking over it, I don’t really know if it has a point or not. It was something I typed up a while ago. So I’m posting it.

The age of intelligence. Anyone here hoping to find some deep insight on the time of intellect, you may be disappointed. If you are wishing to read about the trials and tribulations of culture, of arrogant ignorants struggling to come to terms with the concept that there is someone smarter than them, then you’re close but not quite on the mark. This is not about the era of intelligence, but rather the age of the individual in question.

What is the age of an intelligent person?

As a few of you might have realized by now, I am young. I am eighteen years old. A teenager. A run-of-the-mill slacker who won’t stay off the lawn and doesn’t value his education and wears his jeans so low that his pockets are held up by his knees. Right?

I dare you to say that to my face. Not for want of intimidation, but so that you can see my eyes, so that you can hear my words. I am not a faceless individual, I am not just another drop of water in a raging storm. I am a unique human being, and I have as many opinions, as shallow or as deep as anyone else. Oh, and I wear my pants correctly.

Why do we assume that those of young age are not intelligent? Why do we assume that hunched over senior citizens are equally blind to the world that surrounds them? Of course, not everyone does, but when was the last time you sat down with someone with a few generations between you and had an insightful conversation, when you were not trying to prove a point, or tell stories about going to school in the snow, barefoot, walking uphill both ways, but rather, when you were trying to actually learn something?

Certainly, there are plenty of examples amongst my peers of minds so dim they couldn’t illuminate a matchbox, but don’t go pointing out examples of stupidity and ignorance in my generation, when our current president is from yours.

My favorite thing to do at family reunions, weddings, holidays, or any formal occasion with a myriad of adults talking amongst themselves, is to simply engage in a conversation. Often, the scene plays out with them asking me a typical opening line, because I’m family and they have to be nice:

Adult: “So, what grade are you in?

Because of course, admitting that I am still in school, in high school and certainly not the elevated status of a college student, automatically denotes me as inferior, less intelligent, lacking morals and values and appreciation for everything my parents have worked so hard to provide me. So I tell them what year I’m in, which is usually followed by an equally anonymous,

Adult: “What classes are you taking?

Now right about…. there ^ is where the eyes glaze over. They press pause on their expression, keeping that phony smile on their face so they can feign interest, waiting for me to answer with some usual, “stuff” or “I dunno” that is the typical response of my childhood comrades.

If you look carefully, you can see the cogs in their brain spinning freely, not paying attention, no individual gear connected to another one in the context of this conversation. Whatever you tell them doesn’t even get the liberty of going in one ear, before going out the other. Rather, it simply is batted away by thoughts of their next margarita, and my responses usually go cartwheeling right past their ear, screaming indignantly but with all the efficiency of an autumn leaf in a hurricane. Still, I try, and smile and say,

Teenager: “Oh, just a few classes. Twentieth century History and Literature, Theory of Knowledge, AP Biology II, Japanese IV and AP Calculus.

That usually gets their attention, if they have enough brain power to light an LED. If not, then they usually pat me on the head with an, “Oh, P.E., that’s nice,” and make their way to the nearest food source. Still, I have some fairly bright people in my family tree, so I have had the wonderful experience of launching into a conversation, not only about what I’m learning but about what the adult knows, and we end up teaching each other. Isn’t that what learning is all about?

Now, in the post by our wonderful friend NP, she stated that,

“Students today put no value on their education.”

I can only extend my sympathies and sorrows that students don’t realize we have people like NP around, but in rebuttal to her statement, I ask, How are we to be expected to value our education, our intelligence, if adults don’t take us seriously? Sure, our teachers and principals expect us to learn and to thrive in an academic environment, and our parents certainly demand high performance, but when you are taken out of a strictly educational environment, we’re just those damned skateboarders again.

It’s quite a paradox, really, that we are often considered of less intelligence, fewer morals, and wilder behavior given certain trends in society. I will be the first to admit that Myspace and Facebook and YouTube play a part in diluting our gene pool, but those tools can also be used in productive ways. Presidential debates, for example, were posted on Youtube for all to see. Facebook is a wonderful networking tool that has been used to schedule large-scale study groups in preparation for AP and IB tests.

Here’s an example: I have been told by my family how I squander my education, yet if I were to set down my Calculus homework in front of them, none of them would be able to give me a derivative or an integral of a simple binomial equation. If I quiz them about the difference between monocot and dicot plants and how you can tell the difference, I get a blank stare. If I ask them about how the Cuban Missile Crisis was averted, I’d get a few general answers but usually not a whole lot of detail about the role of Kruschev, or why a few missiles in Turkey were important to the concluding negotiations.

Now, I’m just cherry-picking here, but it’s merely demonstrating how most of what we’ve learned in school, our parents have either forgotten or were never taught in the first place. I could go on, but I want to keep this fairly on topic: that youngin’s have the capacity for intelligence, but we’re constantly not taken seriously by the adult community.

We are the future, my friends, whether that is a bright prospect or a looming apocalypse. We are also a product of your opinions, the way you treat us and the way we respond. Give us the chance to prove our worth. You might be surprised what you find.

Dana was.

And everything changes
And nothing is truly lost
-Neil Gaiman

(Still open to ideas about a unique sign-off)

Comments

  1. says

    Some of what you are perceiving in the adults’ questions could be that they are in a somewhat hopeless situation in making conversation with you. That is, you’re quite literally from different cultures.In traditional (which is to say, non-technological) cultures this is not a problem because there is little change from one generation to the next. Which means, the older person is at an advantage; their experience is more meaningful. In our culture, the older person is at a disadvantage; their experience is deemed less meaningful. You have read in a book about missiles in Turkey, and that is a valuable piece of the puzzle to understanding that time. I remember being tought that if a bright flash occurs, don’t wait for the teacher to give instructions, get under my desk now. But I had read John Hersey’s Hiroshima (somewhat geeky kid, you understand, though that term had a different meaning back then) and had thought about where ground zero would be in Iowa city and knew that Lincoln Elementary School was too close for that to help. Having had one second-degree burn I tried to imagine what my whole body being flash-burned would be like. A different piece of the puzzle, that.Someday you’re going to be talking to a kid who will know something about Iraq that you didn’t know, but you’ll know what it felt like to have a relative come home with a brain injury and being furious with the lying sack of fertilizer who sent him there. But to the kid, GWB will just be a historical figure. The past and the present have different immersive qualities.In a sense the years between you constitute different culture, even different nationality, which can make conversation stilted and difficult.So I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be too quick to stereotype the older person with whom you find yourself in conversation. If that specific older person has not said to you “Kids nowadays!…” you might be misunderstanding social awkwardness on their part for disdain.That said, yes; most people work amazingly hard at knowing as little as possible. It isn’t generational. Cognitive parsimony is pretty much the way most humans are. You on the other hand have a fire inside you which by some miracle the public education system failed to snuff out. (Therein lies the real fault, IMHO) So alas you’re always going to find yourself dealing with people who don’t know as much as you do because they’re (not to be unkind or anything) trying to stay entertained with as little effort as possible and pass the time until death takes them. Which explains the popularity of American Idol and Survivor. Sigh…I am not sure intelligence can be reified, and it may altogether be a proxy for enthusiasm.

  2. says

    Dana certainly was! Of course, now I know (or at least know of) quite a few kids and teens who are far smarter than the adults condescending to them, so I’m less surprised than I used to be. Maybe we should start a Meet-up group wherein smart kids, teens and adults get a chance to exchange knowledge. When we’re done doing that, we’ll take over the world. Between all those generations, I think we’ll know enough to do so. ;-)I’d say something a lot more intelligent about this post, but I’m dog fucking tired, and I think my IQ’s gone down by at least 50 points because of it. I’ll just sit back in me nice comfy chair and let you be the smart one, as you so often are.Keep ambushing unsuspecting adults with your brains, my dear.

  3. says

    In the chat rooms Harena and I frequent, we’ve run into a pretty good selection of smart kids who seemed “just like adults” (actually, clearly superior to some of the adults we’ve met in those same rooms), some as young as 12 or 13.And I’m saying this as someone born in the 1960s, with an offsprungen who is 13.(Aside: …and who actually said once “aren’t you going to ask me about my grades? all the other relatives do.” and I basically said no, I only care about your grades if they’re worrying you (or if you’re particularly proud of them, but the implication was clear that I should be Worrying About Anna’s Grades because it’s Vital To Have The Best Grades So You Can Get Into a Good School… never mind that she’s still years and years away from being a senior, and senior grades are pretty much all they look at) and I’m much more concerned about your morale being good, because that’s what killed my academic career. (I thought that being related to me, she just might possibly be vulnerable to some of the same/similar problems I had.) Because basically what they teach you in school is mostly BS, and your real education comes from the stuff you read and find out on your own. End aside.)And really, I think that’s one of the ways in which the ‘Net is also The Great Equalizer. You can’t tell how old someone looks when you first meet them, so they have a chance to make a first impression based solely on how they present themselves verbally.There’s also something of a social stigma attached to hanging out with people who are of a radically different age than oneself; interacting on the ‘net seems to completely suppress that stigma, and you have the chance to build up a relationship online which otherwise would have been killed by it — and then you meet in person and you realize it couldn’t possibly have happened without the equalizing influence of the ‘net, even if you’d been in the same town. (It’s a bit odd finding that one is closer in age to the parents of the people one is friends with, and yet still not having much in common with those parents, usually, though again there are a few.)But I digress.My basic thesis: I don’t know what’s wrong with most people, except that they’re generally content with the status quo and therefore try to reinforce it wherever possible by ignoring anything surprising or unusual (such as an intelligent 18-y.o. — who knew that such a thing was possible! Why didn’t Carl Sagan warn us??).And yeah, Dana, I think an alliance between non-authority-based people of different ages could be a large part of what saves the world. (Hmm, is this a good time to post a link to my idea? I just realized I need to write a third part to the non-technical intro, though, explaining how it actually works… so it’s not quite ready.)

  4. says

    There will always be those who somehow can’t believe that kids are even real people until they’re over 21. As though only experience validates any knowledge, understanding, or quality of thought. Just as there always little bastards who think anyone over 21 are basically walking corpses oblvious to how completely irrelevant they actually are.When I was in high school, I was embrassed by how aboslutely vacuous and uninteresting the majority of my peers were.Now I’m thirty, and I’m downright disgusted by how absolutely vacuous and uninteresting the majority of my peers are. People are people at any age. I pre-judge people on a very primal level. “You have opposable thumbs, I see. Fuck off, eh?”

  5. says

    @all Thank you all for your awesome comments and thoughtful replies!@George; I do see your point, and most of this was aimed at that group of adults who do bicker, “Kids nowadays!” and not so much the rest of the bunch. Times are indeed changing and I think younger people are being taken more seriously in many ways.@Lee I lol’d

  6. Anonymous says

    Many “Students today put no value on their education.”But then, so do many adults, even Presidents.

  7. says

    Thank you for your post. I agree with you that adults play a part in devaluing students’ education, and I wish more students were like you in that they took classes to challenge themselves rather than taking what they think they should, or taking classes to get by until graduation.I’m working on a follow-up to my previous piece that I think will explain my position a little better.

  8. says

    Thinking back, the most exasperating encounters I had with adults who wouldn’t or couldn’t respect a young person’s understanding happened at academic-team competitions. I did the whole Quiz Bowl thing for a couple years, and our team was generally accounted a pretty strong player (twice annual state champs. . . in Alabama). Every once in a while, the official answer to a question would be wrong, and it’d always be a toss-up whether the judge recognized the error. Many times, the teachers running the show couldn’t admit that an answer on the paper was mistaken. The most galling were when the meet was held in a school library; we would walk over to the shelf, pull out a book, point to the right page and say, “Look!” Never worked.

  9. says

    “Times are indeed changing and I think younger people are being taken more seriously in many ways.”I certainly hope so. One of the things I always liked about Fred Rogers is that he truly respected children. To expand on what Chaos Lee said, most adults aren’t even sure other people are real people at all, let alone children and young people.Oddly, one of the biggest challenges in Buddhism is to achieve “the beginner’s mind”. Harder as you get older, but it’s the only way I’ve kept bread on the table all these years.

  10. says

    Ditto what George said.IMO: teens and children are filled with lots of blossoming knowledge and are excited to tell anyone. What they need is not only someone that will listen, but will also engage. I think some parents miss the mark on this one. I feel in some ways mine did. I have memories of being flat out told I was wrong at an early age (also by the occasional teacher). I don’t think any of it was intentional, just an adult not knowing how to connect with someone younger. And since no parents or adults are given manuals on this stuff, I can’t say I can blame them 100%.This is what adults need to steer clear from though. You don’t have to quiz a child or teen, but just engage them and they will talk. I can’t speak for Kaden, but this is what I was missing. Now I’m 25 and I still run into the “You’re the young guy” syndrome. Where I have to prove myself to get people to listen. It’s assumed that because of my young age I’m lacking in experience and because of this I’m wrong. It’s happened at every single job I have ever had. My key now is to do more listening and less talking. That way I don’t get treated as a whipper-snapper and I usually end up learning another way to do what I might have known, or I just learn something new.