Wednesday, December 19, 2007


A bunch of kids from my theory class were trying to weigh the sincerity of compliments. And the validity of standardized testing. We all ought to be confident enough that we're supersmartypants and besides, it doesn't matter. But how do you know if you're smart enough? Compare and contrast.

Pro Con

Your professor thinks you're brilliant. Your professor thinks everyone's brilliant.

You got a good GRE score. Someone in your class complained about a 780.

Your friends love your writing. None of your friends are major journals' editors.

You do some things well. You don't do everything perfectly.


dkm said...

That class was unusual—really unusual, in fact, which explains the enthusiasm. Classes tend to cluster around a center of gravity—the best half dozen or so students—and this semester, that center was killer. It has only happened a couple of times before, and it may not happen again. But when it does, it changes the dynamics of the classroom significantly (the opposite is also true, unfortunately).

The broader question is what really interests me, though: “How can you know if you’re smart enough?” My answer is, “Test your strength and see.” Take the hardest classes. Apply to the best schools. Try—really try—what you thought was beyond your ability, and see what happens.

In my experience, two things happen. You find out what your limits are (and we all have them). And in testing your limits, you move them; sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.

mlh said...

You're right.

That's really the most terrifying thing: what if, then, you ARE that smart? Because then you're responsible for that forever.

Test your limits means that you have to produce and you have to risk, both of which are uncomfortable to do.

Makayla said...

So, are you still taking Kim Johnson's class? ;)

I have some thoughts about the questions/comparisons/issues of this post, but we'll have to talk about it in person. (These thoughts are newly developed, like, in the last hour or so - they are additional to what we talked about two weeks ago.)

mlh said...

Yes, let's, Makayla! Because that was an interesting conversation.