A degree is not proof of intelligence

A degree is not proof of intelligence

“Im not as intelligent as you – I don’t have a degree”

– um, what!? I often hear people make comments surrounding the presence of higher education as proof of intelligence (or lack there of) and I’m at the point now that I quietly just want to get out my glove and slap them with it, Homer Simpson style.

I sat next to a lady on a bus recently, who was clearly very clever, but she thought that the fact that a colleague went to university meant that he must be highly intelligent, and that because she didn’t – she wasn’t. WTF. University isn’t only for geniuses, it’s just a heck of a lot of work, expensive, and emotionally crippling at times (exhibit A).

Having a university education certainly suggests qualities about a person (namely the fact that they can teach themselves how to learn, can think critically, self directed and get through problems), but intelligence – not necessarily! The number of, how to say this nicely, averagely intelligent people I have met in my years at university who have managed to complete their qualifications and do reasonably well, has surprised me. And yet I’ve met very clever thinkers there too who haven’t finished for one reason or another. Too often we treat achievement as indicative evidence that “they can/they cannot” – where in reality that’s not the case at all, it’s motivation, and in most cases only evidence of “do they want it enough”.

A series of studies show that less intelligent entrepreneurs can compensate for their low cognitive abilities with planning. Entrepreneur “Billy” for example, he’s not so smart but he’s got the wisdom to utilise great planning practices. Now a few years down the track and Billy’s firm is just as successful as a competitor, run by a naturally brilliant German man called Hans, who has six pack abs (just to make the story a bit more interesting for us ladies).

Thus suggesting that if you can control your processes (prioritise planning), all other things being equal your chances for success are as good as the naturally bright people around you.

Lesson #1:

if you’re not that intelligent become a good planner (and work hard) and you won’t do too badly. Obviously there are some situations where this will not apply, but man – if you don’t have a degree, you are not dumb, you most probably can do it if you want it enough.

Lesson #2:

If you think that you can use the presence of higher education in someone’s life as proof of intelligence you’re mistaken. It’s proof of training, yes. It’s proof of critical thinking abilities and motivation for higher education, yes. Intelligence, not necessarily.

Next person to suggest to me that some one must/must not be smart because they do/do to have a degree gets a wet willy in their ear. You’ve been warned. Finger at the ready.

Rant over. Your thoughts?


  1. depending on the kind of intelligence we are talking about my dear 🙂 intelligence nowadays in not a matter of IQ 🙂

  2. I see your point and I believe that my argument stands – despite the type of intelligence we’re talking about (analytic, linguistic, emotional etc). A degree does not prove high levels of intelligence.

  3. of course it doesn’t .. according to theory, to be really intelligent, we shpuld have developed social, emotional and cognitive intelligence 🙂

  4. Hola Carolina!
    About that last point, I think that actually most of the world’s geniuses, those that changed the world, were either introverts, obnoxious, emotionally crazy, with no social skills and so on….
    and yet, extremely intelligent

  5. Ben Ovenden · Works at لەشکری تایبەتی یەک(private bodyguard of president barzani)
    I agree fully, a degree is merely a tool in order to help you find work and sustain a healthy environment financially. Intelligence to me is the ability to take in stimulus surrounding you, process it, understand it and store that information and preferably make it beneficial. And perfecting your survival habitat. At the end of the day we’re animals and like animals humans who weren’t so “intelligent” would simply die, whether it be lack of training, knowledge, ability to adapt. But I guess for this day and age an intelligent human is a happy well fed functioning adult who doesn’t rate their intelligence among others and is happy in mind body and soul.
    Reply · Like · Follow Post · May 1 at 8:42pm

  6. Ok For my part to compliment this debate I would agree broadly with the above. When doing My MA in eu studies pol economy and why aid fails this took me into the international world of banking as one would now realise is clearly corrupt.

    The elite banksters and their institutions are too big to fail, too big to bail out and now too big to prosecute….. They are effectively above the Law in US and UK… as it currently stands.
    Yet during the 1990s this was evident but hidden behind walls of myth mirrors spin and out right deceipt. Even my “learned scholarly” prof s would not indulge in questioning the then hidden behaviour.

    Thus I had a hell of a time writting about what I had discovered.

    Today tertiary educated folk are my biggest challenge as I challenge the myths in discussions. Most myths spewed out via main stream media whether TV or news papers. These myths have imploded but many confused citizenry hold onto them.

    The myth of government , banking, public sector and the most disgusting warmongering elites (In our name) subverting the powerless fractured communities in other lands to thieve their resources for the jack booting oligarchs.

    My experience has been the open minded folk whom are being punished financially now view where the “problems” are. the educated in my experience whom are “ok” ,,… just tend to believ a miracle is around the corner……. ie due to mass media massage. And its MASSIVE focus on sport , personalities fashion etc etc anything to guide folk away from core issues….

    I am hopeful that out of this destruction of social policy thieving from the public purse, destruction of the environment and other things not touched on that an awakening will occur amongst the displaced a leader of competency in the many hurting communities will arise and challenge this self destruction raging around the planet by the violent oligarchs.

    I do hold grave fears for people kind otherwise… yet while I live I will continue to educate folk out of their comfort zones where ever and when ever possible..

    ciao all
    ros anders


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