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Is the U.S. Education System Producing a Society of “Smart Fools” ?

The distinguished psychologist Robert Sternberg who has studied intelligence testing for decades, is well known for his “triarchic theory of intelligence” which identifies three kinds of smarts: the analytic type reflected in IQ scores, practical intelligence which is more relevant for real-life problem solving and creativity. In his recent interview, he explains that IQ tests and college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT are essentially selecting and rewarding “smart fools”- people who have a certain kind of intelligence but not the kind that we need to make the world in the 21st century a better place and embrace the biggest challenges. What are these tests getting wrong? Tests like the SAT, ACT, the GRE predict a lot of things in life: academic performance to some extent, salary, level of job you will reach but they are very limited. In overemphasing on narrow academic skills, they tend to overlook other core skills like creativity, common sense and wisdom which need to be more highlighted. If you look at the problems we have in the world today (climate change, income disparities, pollution, violence..), it’s easy to think of smart people but it’s really hard to think of wise people. The narrow measures like the SAT or GRE are, in particular, hurting the STEM fields because we get scientists who are very good forward incrementers – they are good at doing the next step but they are not the people who change the field. They are not redirectors or reinitiators, who start a field over. And those are the people we need for the next decades. Read more….

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