We all know that person – the student that flies through school, seemingly with no effort. Living life with their nose in a book, they seem to retain everything they read, their mind full of meaningless trivia and fact that they will only ever call upon while playing trivia night at the local pub.

This straight A student is obviously an example of intelligence, right? Experts are now clearing the air, explaining that there is a distinguishable difference between the book knowledge obtained through tests and studying and real intelligence.

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame explained:

“It’s hard for us in the U.S. to understand what real intelligence is. We have succumbed to the notion that intelligence can be measured by ‘book knowledge’ and test scores. Book knowledge typically separates the world of knowing into bits and pieces, facts and factoids, isolated phenomena. But this super-knowledge of facts is not real intelligence. It’s often not even real knowledge which involves solving real-world problems with what you know. Knowing fact, using logic and conscious reasoning represent part of intellect, a tiny aspect of real intelligence. It is necessary but not sufficient for life smarts or wisdom.”

Understanding this difference, is our education system properly preparing the next generation for life in the real world, or are we setting them up for failure? We can look to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory as an example of the divide between these two different concepts. He is incredibly knowledgeable and book smart; however, the whole show is based on his struggles living in the real world while lacking the ‘life smarts’ that comes with genuine intelligence.

There are 9 different types of intelligence to consider, each associated with a different focus area in the world that we live in. Some individuals will excel in just one or two of these areas, while those with the highest levels of intelligence are well rounded, with a thorough grasp of all 9 types.


These types include:

  1. Bodily-Kinesthetic: Physical
  2. Interpersonal: Emotional
  3. Intra-Personal: Awareness of Self
  4. Musical: Sound
  5. Spatial: Understanding of Symbols, Space, Composition, Etc.
  6. Logical-Mathematical: Numbers and Reasoning
  7. Existential: Life
  8. Naturalist: Nature
  9. Linguistic: Use of Words

The question becomes, is there a feasible way to adjust our education system to better focus on genuine intelligence. Currently, our schools teach a fact-based system. Students are expected to learn and memorize sets of information, and, in turn, recall these facts while being tested. Genuine intelligence, however, cannot be taught from the pages of a text book. To learn, grow and develop these skills once must do so through experience – learning by stepping out of your comfort zone, taking a risk and understanding your failures. Is there a place for this type of learning in our schools? Should this, instead, be the responsibility of parents, and if so, is there a way to better prepare parents?

Ultimately, for the well being of our country, it is imperative that we ensure the coming generations have been adequately prepared to move forward into adult life, taking over the leadership roles in the corporate world and the country as a whole through various levels of politics.

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