Betty enrolled in Hospice with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when she was eighty-two. Betty was born and raised in Morgan County, Kentucky; “I grew up in a holler. We didn’t have much but mom could squeeze a nickel so hard that the buffalo hollered. Mom broke eggs in water and put a little flour in it and called it ‘egg dumplings.’ Grandma and I used to go fishing in Elk Fork Creek and caught bass and fried them for breakfast. There were muscles and crawdads as big as lobsters that we could have eaten; but no one knew how to cook them. We lived up a holler and when there’s no communication you can’t learn much. We lived in a one room log cabin dabbed with mud with a built-on kitchen made out of slabs. We had a fire place but it got really cold in the winter. There were cracks between the boards in the floor that you could see through. Water froze at the side of the bed and Mom once said her hair was frozen.”
I suggested to Betty, “You should write a book about your life” and Betty replied: “But I’m not very smart. I probably only have about a third grade education. I went to a one room school with only six kids in a class. And I never went to school for a full year. I only went for three months during the first grade. One year the teacher just stopped coming but no one turned her in. I learned the most from my great uncle. He taught the eighth grade and he didn’t just teach me out of books, he taught me about life. He taught me how to believe in myself. He told me I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be. He told me, ‘As soon as you say you can’t do something you won’t be able.’ I was thirteen when my cousin came to visit. She could read but I couldn’t and I was so embarrassed. That’s when I decided to read everything I could get my hands on. We didn’t have access to books so I read Marvel Comics and Vogue magazines that the person we rented from gave us. I sounded out the words until I got familiar with them. I taught myself how to read. I’ve been so embarrassed and lied about my education so many times that sometimes I’m not sure myself anymore.”
I beg to differ with Betty and all those who mistakenly think they’re not “smart” just because they don’t have a diploma or a title behind their names. There’s a foundational difference between education and intelligence. Psychologist, Raymond Cattell, defined intelligence as “… the ability to solve problems or to create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings.” He suggested that there are two types of intelligence, “Fluid” and “Crystalized”. Fluid intelligence is the capacity to reason and solve novel problems, to identify patterns and relationships, to connect the dots so to speak. It depends upon the persons natural or God-given abilities and can’t be obtained or acquired through education, training or experience. It is what we refer to as “street smarts” or “common sense”. Crystalized intelligence is knowledge or skills that are obtained through education, learning and experience which depend upon opportunity and privilege.
Howard Gardner theorized that there are seven distinct types of intelligence (Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1983). 1. Visual-Spatial (picture smarts), 2. Bodily-kinesthetic (body smarts), 3. Musical (sound smarts), 4. Interpersonal (people smarts), 5. Linguistic (word smarts), 6. Intrapersonal (self-smarts), 7. Logical-mathematical (number and reasoning smarts). In Betty’s words, “There are a lot of different types of smarts in the world.”
Betty has “people smarts”; she reads, understands and empathizes with people. She has visual or “picture smarts”, she is an excellent seamstress and quilter, she has “word smarts”, she is avid reader and great conversationalist. My friend, Jerry, doesn’t have a degree in Social Work but I’ve told him for years that I would have hired him over applicants with college degrees if the “sheep skin” wasn’t required. Jerry has “street smarts”, “people smarts”, “music smarts” and “body smarts”. Jerry ranked sixth in the nation in motorcycle road racing. My wife, Susie, has God-given “fluid intelligence”, the ability to figure things out on her own. I may have the college degrees but I frequently rely upon Susie to help me figure things out. Susie has “number smarts”, she manages the finances. She has visual or “picture smarts”; talk about “the ability to create products that are valued”. Susie’s first quilt won first prize at the county fair; she handmade a full suit with vest and bowtie for me, made the girls Halloween costumes, baked and decorated their birthday cakes. Most of the places she’s worked have either begged her to stay or asked her to come back. I could go on and on.
I’m reminded of a line from the song, “The Tin Man” by America: “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that the Tin Man didn’t already have.” In “The Wizard of Oz”, the Tin Man wanted a heart, the lion wanted courage and the scarecrow wanted a brain. But the things they thought they lacked are exactly what each one displayed on their journey along the yellow brick Road. They didn’t need Oz to give them what they already had and a person doesn’t need a diploma or college degree to verify their intelligence. Education is a privilege, an opportunity, but intelligence is God-given; and we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made”. (Psalms 139: 14)
Albert Einstein suggested, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Common sense is genius dressed in its work clothes.” Winston Churchill suggested, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.” And Plutarch stated, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”
I leave you with a line and message from “Winnie the Pooh”. Christopher Robins said to Pooh, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together there’s something you must remember. You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.