Interesting thoughts Jordan. I very much agree with the thoughts that when we consider intelligence to be malleable, we’re much better off. Supposedly our IQ is fixed, but everyone can always get smarter.

I also agree that we typically associate achievement as going to those who work harder and those who have the grit to challenge themselves. Carol Dweck’s studies on the growth mindset and Angela Duckworth’s research into grit continue to reinforce that these mentalities are more critical to success than intelligence alone.

But I wouldn’t discount the fact that kids who start with a higher level of intelligence should be better suited to excel. The ability to grasp concepts is a significant advantage, particularly in early schooling. Which raises the question, why does this initial advantage often fail to transform itself into a long-term advantage?

In my experience, it comes down to how these kids are challenged. While the large majority of teachers I’ve met are great, many are also stretched to the limits of what they can reasonably do. As schools create larger classes with more diverse intelligence ranges, teachers need to bound the range of their attention. So kids that are quick to learn are given less attention because they don’t need it as much as the rest of the class. Intelligence becomes a disadvantage because it’s not leveraged and kids aren’t fully challenged. And without challenge, these kids have little need to develop the grit that comes from struggling well.

At some point they will inevitably be challenged. But they’ve been raised with praise for their intelligence, not their perseverance. They struggle to embrace challenges as that’s a risk to the “smart kid” mindset that we’ve given them.

So the issue is less that intelligence shouldn’t be associated with success, but more that we are doing an inadequate job of ensuring that intelligent kids are better set up for this success.

My two cents. Thanks again for the article.

Writing helps me realize just how little I know.