For our non-New England readers: In the Boston area and even down into Rhode Island, a lot of us tend to pronounce our r's as h's (though a Rhode Islander might say "our r's as haitches", but that's a different story).
When I went into first grade, I was put in the Retarded Class. I'm sure that's not what it was officially called, but all of us who were in it knew that's what it was, and of course so did every other child and all the teachers. Everybody knew us. We were the misfits, the dummies, the slow learners, the problem kids. This was early 1950's, so in reality a lot of us were dyslexic or had alcoholic parents or other learning disadvantages and disabilities, but paying attention to any of that just didn't exist then.
The cause for my inclusion was near blindness. Without corrective lenses, my extremely astigmatic vision is 20/400 - which means that what people with 20/20 vision can see clearly at 400 feet away, I need moved 380 feet closer. It meant I couldn't see the chalkboard. That was enough to make me "dumb".
Yes, of course they gave us vision tests. In groups, they'd lead us through reading the lines on a chart. I'd hang back and easily memorize every line read and thereby passed those tests every time. I knew I couldn't see well, but I didn't want glasses because in the Retard Class society I lived in, glasses were a big Kick Me sign. I'd had a hard enough time establishing myself as someone to leave alone (because I'd hit back, hard) and I didn't want to jeopardize that.
Eventually, I got caught. I don't remember whether it was an eye test that I failed or if they caught me with an IQ test, but they caught me.
Oh, those IQ tests. I was always good at those. I'd be the first one done and sometimes teachers would look surprised as I handed in my tests so early. I've taken the ones you aren't supposed to finish, too: I always finished them. Yeah, I'm real good at IQ tests.
So they moved me and my new glasses into a Gifted and Talented class. That was something very new then; I and the other Chosen Ones were only the second such class ever in our very progressive town. There was resistance to even having such a class, but that's a different story also.
According to some, I was the "smartest one". I certainly didn't think so, but that was the rumor and it kept coming up throughout my star-crossed educational career. You might think that's wonderful, but really it isn't.
I was bored. I was angry. I hated school, disliked most of my teachers, and spent most of my time daydreaming and yearning to be "free". I never did much homework, never listened much in class, but of course I got by because I was "wicked smaht". It's easy to get B's and C's when you read a lot and are "wicked smaht".
Throughout my life, I've learned a lot about being "smart". One of the first things I learned is that you don't think like other people. I don't just mean that you come to different conclusions, but that you get there on a different path. The "others" can't follow your logic, and they think you are "strange" because of what you think and how you think it. That would be fine if you were always right, but of course you are not.
No matter how Wicked Smaht you are, you can be wrong. Horribly wrong, tragically wrong. Fortunately I learned that lesson early enough not to be a total dick about being so good at IQ tests. I knew that while that prodigious brain power might matter sometimes, most of the time it doesn't matter at all. Most real world problems are far too complicated for anyone, so while my arguments may seem more cogent, while I might have more "facts" to back them up, I am still likely to be wrong. Brains mostly don't matter.
Being smart doesn't necessarily make you successful, and you definitely don't need to be very smart to reach success. Being smart won't make you good friends, and won't help you fall in love. It won't make you lucky and can't protect you from disease and aging.
Sometimes people won't get your jokes, will miss your sarcasm. Things you say will fly right over their heads. That will always surprise you, no matter how many times it happens.
Being smart won't help you work with groups. Remember, you don't think like they do. You don't like the way they think, they don't like the way you think. You think they are dumb, and they think exactly the same about you. Guess what: they are every bit as right as you are - because for real world decisions, you don't necessarily have any advantage (even though you think you do).
Being Wicked Smaht is a lot less valuable than being nice. It's far less important than being honest and trustworthy, dependable and faithful to your friends. For everything that matters, being smart is unimportant.
Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier with the Retards. I did end up happy, but that had nothing to do with being "smart". It had to do with controlling my own life and living it with a wonderful woman. Two great children also made me happy. Good friends, wicked smaht or not, made me happy. My sisters, my nephews, their kids - they make me happy. Smart? Who cares?
See Your high IQ will kill your startup also.
Another post I wrote on this subject: Gifted and Talented.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2010-06-18 Anthony Lawrence