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My son, Nick, just finished his sophomore year in college and wrote thoughtfully about it in a post he titled "Degrees of Value." He questions the real value of college these days, as many do. Just look up "higher education bubble" on Google...

Over the last week, there's been much reporting on the Rapture, that eternally someday event for Christians when Jesus returns to sweep his people into his kingdom. The media's approach to this has been a wry "oh really?"

Of course, the small cadre of Christians who really believed that yesterday was the big day - well, it was a small group. But lots of reporting. So the word got out, and nearly everyone knew about the prediction.

Jesus coming back on May 21st, 2011... people should know better, right?

What is it that makes a person smart? What criteria do we use to grant "intelligent" as a label for someone?

The guy who spent $100 million on this ad campaign about the coming Rapture - was he smart? Today, quite a number of people would question that.

But he was smart enough to figure out how to acquire $100 million. Few would question that.

If you look at what people do in their lives, we all have moments of brilliance and other moments of laughable thought process. "What were you thinking?" our friends will ask us.

Look at the recent college graduate who winds up working for $9 an hour, netting somewhere in the vicinity of $18K a year, but now has over $30K in college debt.

Smart? I'll bet many people have used the phrase "idiot" in regard to spending $100 million to market this obviously wrong prediction. Would they also use "idiot" for the college graduate who can't make enough money to pay back those loans?

We all know (again, since he was first wrong in 1994) that Harold Camping is lousy at predicting the return of Jesus. He was working from the template that he believed the bible provided to him based upon his study of biblical numerology.

So is the person who acts upon the well-established template of going to college to obtain a degree (any degree, mind you) but ends up in a low-wage job - is that person smart?

Or how about the Jewish folk in the US who avidly supported Barack Obama - are they smart?

"I believed that then-Senator Obama would be as good as John McCain based on his statements at the time and based on his support of Israel. It turns out I was wrong," [former New York City Mayor Ed Koch] said.

...Exit polls from the 2008 election showed 78 percent of Jewish voters chose Obama over his Republican rival Senator McCain.

"I have spoken to a lot of people in the last couple of days -- former supporters -- who are very upset and feel alienated," billionaire real estate developer and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman said.

Based upon our assessment of a situation and our experience, we act, predicting what we believe is the best possible outcome for us. That's the definition of intelligence: accurately gather the facts, analyze, choose a course of action, and when it turns out favorably as we predicted, we're recognized as smart.

College should then teach us how to do the following:

  1. Accurately gather the facts.
  2. Analyze for patterns.
  3. Predict a best case future outcome.
  4. Embark on a course of action toward our predicted future outcome.
  5. Adapt, as necessary, to continue toward that future outcome - until we learn that our prediction was wrong.
But when college itself turns out to be the wrong prediction, it certainly isn't the right place to go to learn to be smart. At least, not for everyone.

Sometimes, people are eager to attach a high level of respect to those with university degrees. Moreover, they attach an even higher level of respect for those who come from well-regarded institutions of higher learning, such as Harvard.

But while he was a brilliant campaigner, Obama is really bad at predicting favorable outcomes. His economic policy has failed, his energy policy has failed, his foreign policies have only succeeded when he continued Bush's foreign policies...

Is he smart? Does it matter that he came from Harvard?

Look - at times in our lives, all of us are smart. At times in our lives, all of us are dumb.

Dumb decisions happen for all of us. What really measures our intelligence is whether we can adapt to the results we're seeing.

Said another way: we're only as smart as we are eager to learn from our experience.

Which has nothing to do with college, or pedigree, or past success, or past failure...

We're only as smart as we are right now.


by Brett Rogers, 5/22/2011 11:49:29 AM


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