Education Opinion

Emotional Intelligence vs. Raw Intelligence

By Walt Gardner — May 25, 2016 1 min read
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The debate about the role that IQ (raw intelligence) plays in school and beyond has been made even more contentious by the introduction of the role that EQ (emotional intelligence) plays (“What is it with our obsession with IQ and raw intelligence in children?The Telegraph, May 21).

There’s no question that success in the classroom is a combination of both IQ and EQ. I had countless students during my 28-year career who had average intelligence, but through dint of determination managed to shine. Conversely, I had some students who possessed high intelligence but because of laziness earned mediocre grades. Given a choice, I would gladly opt for the former. But here’s my point: Mixing low IQ students in with high IQ students is a nightmare for teachers. That’s because it makes it virtually impossible to prepare lessons that won’t bore the brightest and frustrate the slowest.

Only in the U.S. are we so defensive about identifying gifted students and placing them in classes with other gifted students. Such differentiation is considered elitist and anathema to democratization. I realize that children manifest their abilities in unique ways. I also recognize the harm that can be done by rigid tracking early in their schooling. Some say that students with low IQ can manage to reach proficiency if they are surrounded by students with high IQ because of osmosis. I’ve never seen that.

But not possessing high IQ in academic subjects does not doom students. What’s wrong with identifying giftedness in other than academic fields and then giving it the respect it deserves? I see so much talent in those who never graduated from a four-year college. They not only earn substantial salaries but also express great satisfaction with their work. They are gifted in their own right, but we never laud their contributions. It’s time to get real.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.