Intelligence where it comes from and how you can Develop it

Intelligence is a relative concept. In suburban America we assume someone’s intelligent if they’re rich; if their business savvy and good with people; if they score high on their SATs. In other words, they’re smart if they’re good at the things I’d like to be good at.

A lot of people assume the IQ (“intelligence quotient”) is the best measure of a person’s intelligence. But belief in the IQ is based on a limited view of what it means to be “intelligent”. The IQ measures your memory, your ability to concentrate, your math skills, and your vocabulary. It was created by educated white people in Europe and in the United States. Since I come from a rich, white family, it makes sense to think of my intelligence in terms of how I score on an IQ test.

But the traits that make me “intelligent” in white suburbia are pretty useless to kids growing up in poor, inner-city neighborhood. A person needs “street smarts” in order to survive in the ghetto; since I’ve never lived in the ghetto, I won’t pretend to be qualified to design a test that would measure intelligence there. But it should suffice to say that I’d worry a lot more about getting shot than I would about flunking my algebra quiz.

So I have to conclude that it’s impossible to talk about “intelligence” as if it means the same thing to everyone. What is it? Where does it come from? How can you develop it? I can only answer these questions for people who have the same head start that I had. But they’ve already gotten all the help they’re going to need.