Archive for December, 2009

“Smart People” my butt.

If this seems utterly depressing to you (or obvious) skip to the end, that’s where the happy stuff is.

One of my college friends had a rule, and quite honestly I didn’t understand just how crazily patriarchal it was at the time (not that he’d admit to that even now, he probably claims this junk is feminist). In any case, his rule was that only smart people should breed, and that smart people should have lots of babies to make up for the dumb people in the world, and really? He’s trying to do that. Back then he’d let you know (particularly if you were a chick) where you were currently on breeder status with him or not. I haven’t been for about eight years now, best I can figure.

The truth is, a lot of people make this argument. As if, you know, we have the right to tell people if they can have kids or not. Or better, FORCE certain women to bear tons of children just because they are genetically superior or really religious or something (insert your own criteria here). “If the stupid people would just stop breeding then the world would be great!” these people say, my old friend included. I was disheartened to see his pictures of his son on Facebook, simply littered with comments about how “at least the smart people are breeding!” which means he hasn’t given this up in the ten years since he first said it.

It really bothers me now, as a more enlightened woman, because no matter what he says to the otherwise, this sort of thing is ALL about controlling women. I mean, his friends were stupid, and I MEAN STUPID. Many of them had every opportunity thrown at their feet and they totally threw it all away, dropped out, harassed and hurt the people they dated, the list goes on…. but the women? They could be stupid or smart depending on his whim.

But there’s something even more that gets me here. That’s this: He didn’t have any clue what intelligence was. He judged entirely on outward signs, stuff he saw.

He wasn’t so shallow to go on looks, but it was pretty close.

If someone was poor? Must be stupid.
Teenage pregnancy? Stupid.
Didn’t go to college? Utterly stupid.
Not liberal? Stupid.
Believes in God? Stupid.
Not utterly positive the world was gonna end soon? Really stupid.

And, you know, there are more: redneck, devout Christians, “white trash,”…. and though I don’t really know how he feels about race (because we never ever discussed it) I can’t think of a single “smart” person that wasn’t white.

So really, for him, it’s all about letting the rich white folk breed (he didn’t consider himself part of this, as his family was lower middle class and he often didn’t have enough money, but that’s pretty much how he judged others). Nice.

But ….

My experiences since college have taught me something about his “stupid” people–they are anything but.

I teach now at a school that ┬áhas a lot of “non-traditional” students, and you know what? They are amazing.

One of my students who is probably approaching 40 found out this week that he isn’t stupid. He got his first A. He aced two of his three classes and got A’s in all of them. I watched him work so hard all term–you know what? That’s smart. If I had tried that hard in college I have no idea what I could have done, but it sure is more than I actually did do. I find that sort of student to be intensely inspirational.

Then there’s one of my students that is going to school full time and receiving chemotherapy. She’s determined not to quit, not to give up, and sure she has to miss some days but she DID keep up and she did get her A and she wrote a paper that was wonderful and thoughtful and therapeutic to her all at the same time. I don’t know many “smart” people who didn’t go to college at 40 after having kids who could pull off what she did.

And lastly (though the list goes on) yesterday my work study called, saying she would be late to work because of a car accident. I thought she meant she was in one, but no, that wasn’t it. She worked previously as a medic on an ambulance before coming back to school. She has years of experience. And so when a car spun out in front of her, went up an embankment, and then came down, ending up standing more or less on its nose, she stopped her own vehicle, told the lady to throw her purse out the window, and then got her out of the car only moments before the car tipped over and could have killed the lady inside. She got her in the car, called 911, and stayed with her till the cops arrived.

Yeah, my work study is a freaking hero.

I’m sure if I told these stories, they’d be named “exceptions,” except I don’t think they are exceptions at all. Lots of people turn their lives around this way. Lots of people are heroes. Lots of people have strength in them that I can’t even conceive of.

So what’s smarter: having everything given to you and either doing mediocrely or getting thrown out, or working your butt off to change your life, saving lives, and refusing to give up?

Yeah, I’d take the people I teach now over any of those so-called smart people. I want these people to decide to have families (or not) based upon what’s possible for them, the same way they are doing school. I want them to have great lives from this day onward because they are just that awesome.

Sure, part of my job is helping them along the way, but I don’t think they have ANY idea what being there for them does for me and everyone else who works where I do. I really don’t have any good way of expressing just how awesome all these people are, except that I truly believe many of them are a lot “smarter” than I am. Some people want their students to be like them. Me? I want to be like my students.


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