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Date: 2013-01-02 06:26 am (UTC)
luinied: Wakaba is doing science! (focused)
From: [personal profile] luinied
My experiences on becoming dependent on the "smartness" hierarchy at a young age: it is probably easy to integrate anything into your identity if adults praise you enough for it, but in this particular case it can be so fucking lonely being, for example, one of just a few - or sometimes the only one - in a large group of kids who reads for fun, surrounded by peers who harass and mock you for it. So when you're presented with a worldview that elevates you and "smart" people like you over the "stupid" majority, how could you not cling to it? To a kid who's stuck going to school with the same peer group no matter what and who has basically no power, this is the sort of comforting myth that the truth has a really hard time competing with.

I remember that I did notice some flaws in this theory as I got through middle school and high school, since the sets of peers who I liked, who did well in school or on tests, who shared my geeky interests, or who seemed particularly thoughtful (for any sense of that word) didn't actually overlap as much as the Smart People Theory predicted they would, but I didn't give these observations the attention they deserved at the time. I can't really say how much this was a factor in me ultimately rejecting Smart People Theory - I'd like to think it was significant, but that might be being too generous with my past self.

What I've observed from people who don't reject Smart People Theory, though, is that this distinction that one might originally buy into as a defense mechanism leads to accepting similar-looking but subtly different divisions between The Smart and The Stupid that are really about racism, classism, sexism, etc., because there are so many older, wiser-sounding adults who really talk up these flavors of Smart People Theory. (I know the one I heard the most was Scott Adams variant, the one that ascribes great intelligence to people who are opportunistic enough to game the system, profit heavily, and get away with it - thus one should look on the CEO's salary not with anger but with reverence - while still letting low-level adherents deride their direct supervisors as stupid.) And this is where it gets particularly insidious, because the need to feel superior to people who might harass you for reading in your spare time probably diminishes with age, at least for people who have a reasonable amount of privilege, but all the other bullshit backing those "smart"/"stupid" divisions only gets stronger.
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