Is smart or dumb an opinion?


Can we truly define intelligence?

by Raquel Lesser, Political Editor

Many people have differing definitions of what smart and dumb really mean. One person can call someone dumb and the next day someone else can call him/her smart.

Truth be told, no one quantitatively knows how intelligent another person truly is. Intelligence, unlike other biometrically scalable figures like weight or strength, simply can’t be measured — even an IQ test, often stated as the definitive way to weight one’s “intelligence quotient,” can have skewed results if the test taker is tired, depressed, or has test anxiety. Some people with high IQ’S do nothing with their lives. Others who do badly on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the most common IQ test, are ‘surprisingly’ successful.

The most obvious conclusion may be to acknowledge that there are different types of smart, such as creativity, logical, memory, athleticism, etc.  There is not a sole definition for smart or dumb.

People with disabilities tend to be look down upon. Consider that ‘dumb’ is also defined as unable to speak, making the use of the word (for a lack of intelligence) offensive.  Some people even look at those with this disability as dumb, but there are many people with disabilities (such as Whoopi Goldberg, W.B Yeats, Albert Einstein and Henry Ford) who succeeded in life perhaps because of their special needs.

People with disabilities aren’t dumb; they think differently. “The Mental function that causes dyslexia is a gift,” wrote David Ronald, in his book, The Gift of Dyslexia.  Many people with disabilities are talented, as it takes a lot to overcome a disability — these people certainly qualify as smart.


Smart or dumb is all in the perspective of the person; perhaps it is time we challenge the preconceived notions of intelligence.  Consider the words of pretty and ugly — just like smart and dumb are an opinion, so too are they. There are many ways to define smart and dumb but not just one opinion is right.



Davis, Ronald. The Gift of Dyslexia 1997. Penguin Putnam, INC. New York. 3-11.

Oski, Frank. Principles and Practice of Pediatrics 1990. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 606.