Intelligence – Part 1

The decline in college enrollments had created a concern that a college education wasn’t that relevant in society. A small group of university presidents met once a month for over a year to reimagine the educational needs of future generations. A university education hadn’t changed that much for centuries, and the presidents thought it was time to rethink what it means to be an educated adult.

Joining the presidents was a select group of deep thinkers. The explorations started with the question: “What does it mean to be intelligent going forward?”

There was a quick dismissal of traditional measures of intelligence such as IQ, test scores, GPA, and even degrees. The group decided that skills were still relevant, but they weren’t a description of intelligence. Included were both professional skills and what many called soft skills. These still needed to be taught along with subjects in what have been traditionally thought of a liberal arts education. But something seemed to be missing.

While it was easy to decide what intelligence wasn’t, it was much harder to decide what intelligence meant in the new century and beyond. The breakthrough came when one of the deep thinkers said: “Just think of what we are doing. We sense that higher education must change. That’s awareness. Could awareness be one of the essential traits of intelligence in terms of our surroundings, our relationships, our self-assessment abilities, and our societal roles in general? To me, an intelligent person has an ability to see, think about, and develop insights as they go through daily life.” 

It was a lightbulb moment. Over the remaining series of meetings, the group started thinking. They eventually came up with 7 traits in addition to awareness.

  • Spontaneity     Purpose
  • Judgement      Authenticity
  • Sensibility        Playfulness
  • Visioning          Awareness

As they thought about the traits of intelligence, the group realized that none of these were being taught currently. In fact, they weren’t even sure how these could be taught. They also realized that these traits weren’t virtually exclusive. There was some overlap and that was good. The traits also were thought of as meta traits in that they encompassed other traits as well.

What they decided was to expand the group to include true educators from each campus. The qualification for those educators was their passion for holistic development of students. They wanted to explore how these might be developed. They were also open to modify the traits if appropriate. One common understanding emerged at the end: “We can’t develop these traits in four years of college, but we must start our students on a developmental journey to self-awareness and engagement in achieving their fullest potential as contributions to society.”

They realized that the Intelligence Project was just beginning.  (See Part 2 to continue)

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“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Author)

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