When Did Smart Become Unfashionable?

When Did Smart Become Unfashionable?
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

 
 
With grit, determination, a thousand hours of practice, and a growth mindset, you can accomplish anything, they say. All these factors are supposedly more important than brains. Call me crazy, but I want my brain surgeon to be smart. What happened to smart in the success equation? When did smart become such an unpopular concept? 
 
This new anti-intellectual movement has left in its wake neglect—even oppression—of the gifted. To end oppression of one group, is it acceptable to oppress another? Our gifted students are sacrificial lambs to the new agenda, strongly endorsed by the press, that we only differ from each other in how hard we work. Intellectual diversity is as real as any other type of diversity and deserves equal respect.
 
Recently, I heard speakers and administrators in different states recommend dismantling gifted programs because they do not have equitable representation of children of color. In our determination to end discrimination against the economically and culturally diverse, we have decided that IQ tests are the culprit. We are forgetting something. IQ tests find children of promise among all classes, all cultures, all linguistic groups, all genders. Dr. Martin Jenkins discovered many profoundly gifted children of color using IQ tests. Intelligence tests demonstrated that females were equal in intelligence to males. Don’t gifted children of color count? Or gifted girls? Are they just “necessary losses” in our zeal for equality?
 
Intersectionality of minority status and giftedness means that both have a significant impact on identity. If we refuse to identify gifted children, they dumb down to gain acceptance. Gifted girls of color are in triple jeopardy.
 
In previous eras, intelligence testing was a routine part of research studies on numerous variables. Like socioeconomic class, researchers understood that level of intelligence had to be controlled for results to make sense. In current research, we completely ignore the effects of differences in intelligence, and we come to absurd conclusions. We think that a finding with average children applies to all children, regardless of differences in ability. Generalizations based on research with neurotypical children is often harmful for gifted and twice exceptional children.
 
A glaring example was the fad against ability grouping. It was hugely popular, but no studies had been conducted with the gifted. When the rage was ignoring discrepancies in test scores, twice exceptional children became invisible. No one thought about the impact of this new policy on 2e kids. 
 
Consumer beware! Before you buy the latest educational craze, ask, “What research has been done with gifted children? With twice exceptional children?”
 
Let’s become spokespersons for the value of intelligence. Put smart back in the picture where it belongs. Intelligence should not be pitted against effort. Both are needed and both are important.