Why I Hate the Word Smart

My son is in the midst of secondary school entrance exams. At 11 years old he is experiencing the cruel world of selection and all that goes along with that. Lucky for him he has a sunny personality and a pretty mature way of looking at the world and the silliness that we subject our kids to. 

I asked my son how he felt he did in his last test? He shrugged and said "fine". He then went on to tell me that there would be kids in his class that would have breezed through the test because they are just SMART.

This word Smart is a word I detest, it holds so much power and is loaded with such finality because if you're in the smart club then life is going to be okay, but if you're not then life is not going to open the same doors. Kids seem to decide pretty early on who's in and who's out. 

What does it mean to be smart and why are we obsessed with labeling kids with this word. I turned to the dictionary. 

Definition of Smart:

Mentally alert

Having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.

To be honest I don't know many 11-year-old boys who aren't all of those things.

My son had to agree that smart wasn't about being a mathematical acrobatic or a fact retaining heavyweight in a test, it is actually about being quick, and bright and funny and emotionally intelligent. Engaging with your fellow humans and actively listening. 

I still hate the word and I still won't use it because I know it's a trigger to unleash low self-worth in many kids, but at least my 11-year-old now feels like he is just as qualified to join that club. 

 


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