My 11-year-old and I pulled up to a stoplight behind a truck which had a bumper sticker. The bumper sticker read, “My Lab is Smarter than Your Honors Student”. My son read it aloud and gave an airy half-laugh and said, “well, that’s stupid.” And I couldn’t agree more. What a stupid sticker.
As I sat, stuck behind the stupid sticker until the magic light would change colors and my view, I became angrier. Not only was it a stupid sticker, but it was incredibly insulting, and frankly, a small, little microcosm of what is wrong with this country.
My son is intellectually gifted. I am gifted. We were driving back from a Destination Imagination practice, which is basically designed for geeky, outside-of-the-box, intelligent thinkers, and highlights the advantages of creativity, STEM, the arts, project management, design, teamwork, and problem solving. And here we were confronted with a bumper sticker that undermined all of that. How was my son supposed to interpret that bumper sticker and what it meant about him?
I am so very tired of the anti-intellectualism that runs rampant in this country. We pride ourselves in America’s inventions and productivity and individualism, but we attack the individuals who actually embody all of these things.
We are so grateful for the Bill Gates’s and Steve Jobs’s and will gladly use their products and the inventions of their teams, but we bully and poke fun at their younger counterparts. It doesn’t take very long for kids to learn that they shouldn’t be smart and they shouldn’t like school if they want to “fit in”. And with adults choosing to drive around with statements like, “My kid can beat up your honors student” (another actual bumper sticker I’ve seen) pasted to their cars, how could kids possibly not understand what’s valued and what’s not only not valued, but frankly despised and hated by a large section of our world.
And I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the “parent of an honors student” stickers, either. High achievement does not necessitate high intelligence and giftedness does not equate to performance of any type. So, highlighting the grade-based, high performance of a kid isn’t my idea of a great message. But, it isn’t violent. It doesn’t put down someone else. It isn’t comparing anyone to anyone else. It’s simply a statement.
Anti-intellectualism takes it to a dark place. It threatens. It compares. It creates insecurity and unsafety. It is directly antagonistic. And it is ridiculous.
The brightest brains should be encouraged and challenged. They should be taught ways to channel that intelligence. They should be able to feel satisfied with who they are and how they were created. They should, at least, be able to pull up to a stoplight without being made the brunt of a joke.
This post is part of an anti-intellectualism series on The Fringy Bit. Check out the other articles in the series here.