Between Stockholm Syndrome and Lima Syndrome
Part 29: The Importance of Intrapersonal Intelligence
to Curb Self-Aggrandizement and Filter Religious Dogmatism
Homo sapiens' psychobiological instinct to imitate others mindlessly as discussed in Part 26 (Mob Mentality and Groupthink) seems to be the origin of rote learning style that mainly relies on repetition and thus eliminate the development of critical thinking. Plain and simple, to imitate (taking something or following someone as a model, or copying a person’s speech or mannerisms) is basically to repeat (saying or doing the same thing again). Whether we call it aping, parroting, or regurgitating, successful memorization and the holy grail to cookie cutter academic degrees (with all their rights, privileges and honors) eliminates development of critical thinking.
By default, critical thinking (the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment - Oxford) means thinking outside the box, even thinking against the grain, and is the opposite of imitation and repetition. It also functions as a filter to weed out not only paranormal beliefs, but all sorts of mythologies, ideological and religious propaganda, pseudo-science, and misinformation. As concluded in the Skeptic (Vol. 9, No. 3) article, why is there a disconnect between scientific knowledge and paranormal beliefs? Why are students that scored well not able to apply their scientific knowledge to evaluate pseudoscientific claims? As the authors conclude, because students are taught what to think but not how to think!
How in the world can the education system fail so miserably? Since primary and secondary education in many countries are still based on the rote learning system, it is critical to distinguish between education and intelligence. By definition, education (the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university - Oxford), is provided by an external force, usually by teachers, instructors, or parents. Education is knowledge acquired in formal learning environments, usually at schools and colleges. On the other hand, intelligence (the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills - Oxford) is an innate and natural ability that we are born with. Intelligence is one's actual ability to learn, acquire, assimilate, synthesize then apply new knowledge properly. While education is an extrinsic or external force provided by formal education, intelligence is intrinsic and an internal force. While education is acquired, intelligence is inherited. One can be highly intelligent without being highly educated, and vice versa.
Ted Turner (CNN), Steve Jobs (Apple), Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Lauren, John Lennon, Wolfgang Puck, Frank Lloyd Wright and Woody Allen, are all college dropouts. Aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright never went to college. The same with Ray Bradbury—famous science fiction author—because his parents could not afford college tuition. He sold newspapers on the street corners of Los Angeles during the day and immersed himself in libraries at night. “I never went to college. I went to the library.” Though he graduated from the library at 28, his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) became required freshman reading in many colleges. No one would call any of these trailblazers as unintelligent. Formal education is merely a means to spark one's own intelligence.
It's useful to consider the Multiple Intelligence Theory that was first introduced by Harvard developmental psychologist Howard Gardner (b. 1943) in his book, Frames of Mind (1983). Gardner's theory posits that there are seven types of intelligence; respectively linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences. Einstein, for example, excelled in logical-mathematical intelligence, as Mozart did in musical and Novak Djokovic does in bodily-kinesthetic. [While initially Gardner described seven multiple intelligence, in 1994 he added naturalistic intelligence as the eighth type intelligence of being.]
Our current educational system is heavily biased toward an exclusive appreciation of linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. Memorization of phonics (reading), the periodic table (chemistry), multiplication tables (arithmetic), irregular verb conjugation (grammar), anatomy (medicine), even legal cases or statutes (law) is highly rewarded. Those with visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, and interpersonal intelligences are still appreciated, as the society-at-large needs architects, musicians, athletes, and teachers. But what about intrapersonal intelligence, the ability to know oneself, to filter junk information, that is perhaps the most underrated?
The word intrapersonal means 'within the self'. Since this underrated intelligence is pursued through self-awareness or introspection, the student is also the teacher himself (or herself). Thus intrapersonal intelligence can only be developed over time, through independent study, self-discipline, contemplation and introspection. After all, it takes time to be in tune with one's inner voice and synthesize wisdom kernels from multiple sources. Intrapersonal intelligence does not only entail the ability to filter junk information and distinguish between true wisdom kernels and misleading propaganda. Most importantly, it curbs the desire for self-aggrandizement that is the source of religious dogmatism and fanaticism. Arguably Lao Tzu, Buddha, Zen masters, Sufi mystics, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Krishnamurti, and the 14th Dalai Lama have excelled in intrapersonal intelligence.
Thus one can be highly educated, with multiple degrees, a Master's or even a PhD degree; that does not automatically make that person intelligent. There are two reasons why smart people still believe in stupid things. First, education does not guarantee intelligence. The acquisition of information and knowledge acquired in formal education does not necessarily translate into the development of insight and wisdom which are the hallmarks of intelligence. Second, education without intelligence equals brainwashing, because intelligence—especially intrapersonal intelligence—functions to filter religious propaganda and misinformation and curb self-aggrandizement.
[To be continued.]
Johannes Tan, Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter