We’ve heard the term stupid being used a bit in the public forum lately. If you haven’t well, you’re keeping your attentions in a private world. I often cringe when I hear the debater refer to a single word which can have a meaning take you to two or more distinct understandings. I will try to state my case.
We use a term such as stupid, (and it applies to many other words) loosely. We project its meaning on objects or people or situations which we intend to mean one thing but taken later to mean something else. But the point I would like to focus on is the use and then later interpretation of a word, but more specifically the term stupid.
Let me begin by refining the term to two specific meanings, others may apply but for sake of this blog, lets use these two. The first use applies to the lack of or the capacity to learn. the second use applies to the slowness in which a person can learn. We can inject that the first use includes the lack of logical process or common sense in using knowledge, therefore stupid, and the second could also include the slow application of knowledge they may have on hand, but lets just focus on the more narrow, just to see what I am driving at.
We some times will call an object stupid. Like when we trip over a rock, we may in frustration label the rock stupid. In this case neither the first or the second use of the work actually applies. To call an object stupid implies that there exists a rock which cannot be stupid, or said another way, has the facilities to process information. we know that is not the case. Therefore these objects are not stupid. I can get into projecting the term on object is really avoiding applying the same term to ourselves, but my point is simply, we use the terms very broadly. We all know this is a “stupid” analogy, because through common sense we all know the rock hasn’t got a brain, and we all know that “it’s just an expression.” But we dismiss this analogy much the same when it does make a bigger difference.
We will call someone stupid when he lack knowledge of a topic. Now this is where it gets dicey. Does the person not know the topic because he cannot, or will not learn this subject. Is he incapable of learning this subject or finds the topic difficult to grasp. Then is the difficulty in grasping a topic a mere matter of time in gathering the support material to lay a proper foundation to understand this topic.
I think the above statement lays it out, but lets give some context to the subject. Lets bring in two boys I will name John and Mark. These boys are both taking a math course. Mark is learning at a slower pace. It took him 10 hours to study for an exam and Mark just needed a 30 min review. When taking the test sure enough they both passed the test. But Mark is less stupid than John, or John is stupid while Mark is not, when applying the second meaning. So as the talk goes someone else, say the next teacher hears that John is stupid (this only applied when comparing Mark and John) but the teacher interprets the term “Stupid” in the first way, and thinks that John is incapable of learning the subject and does not care to give his time and effort towards him. Well, John is not incapable, he is even determined to take the next course but is judge prematurely.
We all do this. More generally we call someone stupid just because they do not know a subject or two but this does not mean they cannot if they want to. A person that is not interested in learning is not stupid. In fact this lack of interest is something totally outside this discussion. If I don’t want to become a biologist, but rather be a carpenter, I am not stupid for not knowing biology like a professional biologist would.
But now lets look at the first use of the term. The incapacity to learn. To give this context, lest compare a dog with a man. We think many dogs can learn lot about what we would expect a dog to learn, but if we try to teach a dog to understand and use of algebra, we all know where this will go. Where even to begin. There is no amount of time we can give to this effort that will change the outcome, based on our current understanding of dogs. They are incapable of learning algebra, but they often can communication very well.
There are very few people in the world that fit this category. Humans are not stupid in this way. But we mean that a person is slower at learning or understanding a subject, apply that to all subjects and then fall back to the first interpretation that they are incapable. Don’t we project stupidity on ourselves for this. For by doing this, we just are not using common sense, which is another common way stupidity is used.
Given time and interest, all people can learn. Some learn faster than others. We think of these folks as intelligent. Because intelligence is the ability to learn, those quicker at it are more intelligent, those less quick at it are just less intelligent, but are they stupid. Well some may argue for it, but I think not. Hope I don’t have to explain.