I believe in the video-game-character theory of intelligence.
It’s my own theory. It is based on those video games in which you can create a character by giving him or her strengths drawing from a well of points. You might give your character 100 points of agility, leaving nothing for other strengths; or you might spread the points more evenly, creating a well-rounded character.
I believe that we are all born with the same 100 points. They are just allocated in different ways. Based on this theory, we are all equally intelligent, but in our own ways.
Lucky are they whose points have been allocated in such a way that they are excellent readers, or writers, or mathematicians, or athletes, or singers. Their brands of intelligence happen to be those that society has deemed most valuable. These are the people who got straight As or were celebrated in football games and school musicals. It isn’t hard to recognize this kind of intelligence.
But if, as I have theorized, we are born with the same points, then that means that those of us who go uncelebrated are equally as intelligent as those others. I teach in a school in a juvenile detention center. Many of my students read below a sixth-grade reading level, despite being 18 or 19 years old. These are the street kids that have been dismissed by society. The world sees them as ignorant, as dumb. And yet, they have an intelligence that I do not: the ability to endure in horrific circumstances.
I talked with a couple of my students last week about their lives. One told me that he was locked up for attacking his mother’s boyfriend, who had been beating her. No one had visited him in the detention center. He had been hoping to see his grandmother, but he had just found out that she had passed away. Another student had been caught selling drugs. He had been trying to support his invalid mother after he had been turned down for several legitimate jobs based on the neighborhood he came from. The fact that both these young men maintain a feeling of dignity about themselves and retain hope about their futures – the fact that they can endure – is a remarkable brand of intelligence. How many of us comfortable college grads could endure similar situations? I definitely do not share that kind of intelligence.
Two months ago, I gave birth to my first child. Although, like any parent, I am full of thoughts of her receiving academic honors, sports medals, and standing ovations, I also hope to recognize and praise her intelligence, in whichever form it takes.