Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Rich Are Smart; The Poor Are Dumb

It's not an easy topic to discuss, but it's one that not many people stop to think about simply because of the fact that we all live our lives in the ways that we wish to and see ourselves on this pedestal of independence. We either accept the less fortunate or leave them to die; find a way to own the latest cars or spread our wealth among our neighbors.Harshly, we choose to put labels on each other to define not only our intelligence, but the amount of invisible or physical money that we currently possess. In this case, we will use the words "smart" and "dumb", and "rich" and "poor". We will also find that we can easily replace those two words with words that actually define the labels properly for what they truly are. Because, in the end, whether your smart or you're dumb, it's not your fault... to an extent.

Whenever humanity tackles the topic of poverty there's always a fine line being drawn between what it means to be "poor" or "impoverished". Now, while this particular post aims to tackle and highlight why the rich are smart and the poor are dumb, we must also realize, as a species, that we create these socioeconomic and spatial imbalances that lead to, what will be called, "the tipping of the scales." We as a species define the differences between smart and dumb, but it's not to say that we actually use the words themselves correctly. If anything, the word "smart" could be replaced with the word "privileged" and the word "dumb", replaced with "misfortuned". Why? Well, it all begins with how we separate the state of being smart or the state of being dumb.

To be smart in the general public eye is to obtain straight A's throughout your education, to know almost anything and everything within your own close group of friends or family, or to even hold a paper labeled as a "degree". All of these things can pertain to someone who is smart. In reality, one could argue that someone who has achieved very high standards throughout their time in school simply completed all of their work on time and studied heavily to obtain such grades. This then turns into a matter of being self-driven, self-motivated, and focused. This can also be looked at even deeper to the point where one could analyze the amount of free time the particular student had to complete such study and work and whether their own environment played any important part in it. 

So, the questions are raised: 
  1. Is the individual in a quiet setting free of any economic, familial struggle that would cause he or she to have to work(for income purposes) after their school time thereby limiting their ability and time to focus on their school work? 
  2. Does the individual live in a rural or urban area limiting noise levels, heightening focus? 
  3. Is the individual highly social or anti-social? 
The environment of any one individual can change the way their life is shaped in the future.

A research project stemming from the Equality of Educational Opportunity Study completed in 1966 done by various psychologists has shown that "the effect of environment on the IQ of young children can be significant, particularly for children living in poverty. As the influence of poverty decreases, the importance of environmental conditions as a limiting factor on intelligence also decreases. By addressing the environmental issues created by poverty, it may be possible to weaken the link between low socioeconomic status and poor student performance on IQ (and other) tests."

Being "smart" now becomes "privileged". Why? The term "privileged" is used to describe something or someone as having special rights, immunities, or advantages. If you do not believe a student of wealthy parents that is fortunate enough to be able to attend a private school where the education level supersedes any traditional vocational school has an advantage at obtain a better education which can lead him to be labeled as "smart" then you are among the few.

When we begin to actually look at what makes a person smart in our current society it also begins to almost disassemble and turn into an argument of whether or not they "know" things and how it is that they know them. And that's exactly how our own definition of the word smart works to an extent.

The actual definition of smart when looked at as an adjective is:
having or showing a quick-witted intelligence
This is the usual understanding of the word in today's society simply because we take someone to be smart if they have current knowledge about one or many things at any given point in time.

When looked at as an adjective in a different form it, oddly enough, now becomes a word that has to do with your personal appearance which can be argued as having to do with how much wealth one has:
(of a person) clean, neat, and well-dressed.
This begins to link back to the idea that the rich are smart, at least perceptually.

A study from the University of Notre Dame has shown that "people of high socioeconomic status are, on average, rated as more physically attractive than people of lower status." It may sound like a strange connection to make, and it may actually sound like a very superficial point, but how often to do you see someone that looks seemingly unattractive and say, "That person looks smart"? This is because we associate the notion of resembling a "high-class look" to being able to be smart. We immediately make the connection in our heads that because someone, for example, a homeless person that is wearing dirty clothes and has an unpleasant smell, looks poor they may not have had the chance to have a fulfilling education that would lead them to be smart. That is where humanity uses guilt by association to wrongly judge others because there are indeed those that we label as poor to be even smarter than 93% of the population in the U.S. alone. 

Take Maurice Johnson for example. A homeless man with two Master's Degrees.

We cannot choose to link physical appearance or "quick witted intelligence" as being smart because that is simply not the case. We need to stop assuming and start learning. We need to realize that there are those of us out there that are not given the chance to go to a good school where the teachers all themselves come from a place where good education is commonplace. It's a shame that we have to actually buy an education just to get by in the world, because in all honesty if you can't buy an education you will eventually be labeled as lazy, poor, and, yes, dumb. Sadly, it is proven by studies such as the ones I mentioned above that overall wealth does usually equal intelligence.

Do you believe yourself to be privileged? Or does smart still sound like the correct term for you? Leave a comment explaining why.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

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