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Four Ways to Build Students Who Are Both Smart and Wise

This fall, I met with a university student over coffee. He has served for two years on his school’s student government association, while maintaining a 3.8 GPA. He’s one smart cookie. The reason we met, however, was that he’s in trouble. He made a very impulsive, emotionally-charged decision that now has him on probation. While I remain empathetic toward this student, who’s likely more intelligent than I am, he remains as still another example of an intelligent kid who’s struggling.

How can such a smart person do such a dumb thing?

Yesterday, I blogged about the question: are humans getting smarter or dumber over the centuries? One would assume we are getting smarter. I mean, just look at the facts:

  • Our inventions, technology and our very lifestyles indicate we’ve improved as we’ve become more educated and civilized.
  • The “Flynn Effect” demonstrates that our I.Q.s go up about 3 points with every decade; a full 30 points higher than a century ago.

I argued in my article, however, that I.Q. tests are only one way to measure smarts.

Is Intelligence on the Decline?

Stanford University School of Medicine researcher Gerald Crabtree published two articles in the journal, “Trends in Genetics in 2012,” proposing that our intelligence is actually declining. In fact, Crabtree believes it peaked between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, based on his assertion on genetics.

Crabtree’s calculation suggests that intelligence is more fragile than it seems. Journalist Stephanie Pappas writes about the study in which Crabtree argues that, “intelligence isn’t as evolutionarily important to humans today as it was when the species was hunter-gatherers. Thousands of years ago, failing to grasp the aerodynamics of throwing a spear when a lion was coming at you meant you were toast—no more passing along your genes to offspring. Modern man rarely faces such life-or-death tests of wits.”

“Another theory holds that humanity’s genetic capacity for intelligence is in decline because of a phenomenon called dysgenic mating. Since the mid-1800s, IQ and reproduction have been negatively correlated, studies have found. To put it bluntly, people who are more intelligent have fewer babies. Because intelligence is part genetic, some researchers argue that, if anything, IQs should be dropping.”

Four Categories to Build Students Who Are Both Smart and Wisegrad-students-16

So, I suggest we keep track of more than academic records and I.Q. scores. We all know graduates who did well on standardized tests, but couldn’t find a job once they finished school. In our work with educational institutions, I have found there are at least four ways we measure a student’s capacity for success:

1. I.Q. – Intelligence Quotient

Cognitive intelligence is how we traditionally measure smarts. We’ve been using it since the late 19th century. It’s one-dimensional. It’s important, but incomplete.

2. E.Q. – Emotional Quotient

Emotional intelligence has been popular the last 20 years. It measures our self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

3. M.Q. – Moral Quotient

This is our moral intelligence, identified by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel: the capacity to understand right from wrong and to behave based on values believed to be right.

4. L.Q. – Leadership Quotient.

This is all about leadership intelligence. It is a difference maker in those who score high in perspective, responsibility, courage and initiative.

Reflect for a moment. Some of the sharpest, most influential people throughout history were not necessarily the ones with the highest I.Q.s. Rather, it was those who were effective in relationships and could see a clear path to a goal. They had the courage to act in the face of tough odds. It involved their mind, will, emotions and spirit. It wasn’t merely about brains. Intelligence was a larger issue.

I don’t know about you, but that’s great news for me.

The bad news is, our I.Q. doesn’t change drastically over a lifetime. The good news is, the other three categories of measurement can grow and develop. We can cultivate robust morals and ethics, strong emotional and social skills, and effective leadership qualities in ourselves . . . and our students.


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Four Ways to Build Students Who Are Both Smart and Wise