By Nicole Prozan, Opinion Editor
// Bright-eyed, curious, and diligent, ten-year-old me looked around the 3rd-grade classroom and caught sight of the most notable sign: “no blurting.” In our elementary classrooms, ‘blurting’ (yelling an answer when not called on) was the worst crime one could commit. I remember one horrific instance in which I instinctively yelled out the answer to a simple addition problem. Immediately, my stomach fell and I knew a scolding from the teacher was imminent.
In elementary school, intelligence was equated with quiet, private learning. There were no Socratic seminars, no discussions, only 20 children sitting in a quiet classroom listening to the teacher speak. Despite my aforementioned transgression, I thrived in that environment. And so did most of my female classmates. The so-called “trouble-makers” were boys: yelling out answers, talking to classmates across the room, and attempting at every moment to make the class laugh.
And then came middle school — with the increasingly obnoxious behavior that puberty invites, the definition of smart shifted slowly. While law and order was still strictly enforced by our teachers (out of dire necessity), the once universally understood rules did not carry on. Intelligence, now conflated with a daring approach to speaking and voicing our opinions, no longer meant keeping your head down, being quiet, and working diligently.
Finally, we arrive at the here and now: high school, where once shun-inducing blurting is appreciated, outspoken minds are valued, and discussion runs rampant. Though the gradual change in what intelligence ‘looks like’ may not seem apparent, its consequences are divided and visible.
“Who are the smartest kids at our school?”
I began asking this question to a number of people on campus within the past few weeks, and immediately noticed something odd, but not particularly surprising. Whether I asked teachers or students, the first 4-5 names rattled off were always boys.
“What about the girls?”
Students and even some teachers had trouble answering this question. I know there is not a difference between the academic performance mathematically between the girls and the boys, nor is there a lack of intelligent young women at this school. So, why is it so apparent that women are not perceived to be as intelligent?
Though it may be controversial, I would like to point out one thing: the loudest person in the class is not always the smartest. In fact, I think it is pretty rare that he or she is. Those who sit quietly, do their work diligently fall into the cracks and are not recognized as intelligent. The girls at this school, and at every high school, often fall into that category. In an environment where speaking out is important, some truly brilliant ideas fail to shine.
While learning to effectively communicate remains important to succeed in a career-setting, we must recognize those struggling to be heard. We must combat the fearing backlash, a perception as unintelligent, or not adding uniqueness into conversations. If we can actively fight against these fears, we can create a more equitable classroom, and ultimately, workplace as well.
We fall into a pattern of solely appreciating and valuing one type of intelligence: one that is inherently loud, condescending, and often associated with men.
Inspired by the cover of this issue, I urge students, teachers, and members of this community to understand that intelligence does not take solely one form. Raising a hand often or not raising a hand at all has no true correlation to intelligence. When we begin to value a standardized view of how intelligence manifests itself, we neglect those who do not fit the mold and under value their contributions.