Cognitive Privilege: The Newest Form of Oppression

Many of you may have missed this, but a writer for the University of Iowa’s Daily Iowan took it upon himself to write about a new form of privilege: cognitive privilege. But what does this mean, exactly? I’ll allow the author to explain it himself…

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

*Head meet desk*

I’ll be honest, I don’t know anything about the author of this article, Dan Williams. I tried looking him up on the University of Iowa’s website and couldn’t find anything, and a simple Google search was unfruitful as well. It might have to do with his name not being unique. But that’s beside the point, the objective of his article is either an attempt to bash intelligent people, or is some kind of self-loathing apology piece. There are so many things wrong with his article, that I couldn’t help myself but to write about it.

First of all, let’s discuss the concept of “intelligence.” What exactly is it? Well, for starters, there are two types of intelligence that affect general intelligence: crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence can be most simply defined as the ability to use previous knowledge one has gained over the course of his or her lifetime. Concepts such as driving a car and what traffic signs and symbols mean would fall under this category. Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve novel puzzles and patterns using logic and reasoning. As we grow into old age, our crystalized intelligence grows, but our fluid intelligence decreases. Of course there is a time in our lives when fluid intelligence is at its peak, but crystalized intelligence is much steadier unless of course someone would develop dementia or Alzheimer disease. I’ll give the author of this article the benefit of the doubt and assume he was simply referring to those with high IQ scores as those who benefit from this “cognitive privilege.”

It would be a fair statement to say that those with higher IQ scores have an easier time in school than those without, but the author did not make this statement, he went straight to the complaint of “it’s so much harder for ‘stupid’ people to get jobs now because intelligence is what employers look for.” I find great fault and irresponsibility with this sentiment. In my experiences, intelligence is important, but what far exceeds someone’s innate ability to grasp and use knowledge is work ethic and, to a lesser degree, charisma. Someone could have an IQ 4 standard deviations above the mean, but if he doesn’t want to put forth any effort, logically an employer would see that it would be uneconomical to hire such an individual. Likewise, if someone is very smart but cannot work with others, that person is unlikely to obtain a position, let alone a higher-paying supervisor position.

This notion of cognitive privilege is simply another copout for the left to use for those who fail to grasp the basic necessities of effort and dedication. Anyone can become an expert at anything, it simply requires an individual to make the necessary sacrifices. Some people can simply grasp concepts more quickly than others, but that does not mean such an individual is automatically superior to the other. At the end of the quote, the author says “…you have nothing to be proud of for being [born] smart.” This is correct, no one should be proud at all for simply being born; this goes for not only being born smart, but also being born gay, white, female, or anything of the sort. We should be proud of our accomplishments and being born is not our accomplishment, it is our parents’ accomplishment. To diminish someone accomplishment for achieving a 4.0 GPA by simply brushing it off as “Oh, he’s just smart,” is a slap in the face to the student who works tirelessly and makes sacrifices in order to achieve a perfect grade point average.

The other point I wanted to make by writing this piece is to bring up the dangerous precedent that is set by Dan Williams’ article. His article only furthers the endless victimization crusade the left has been on over the past few years: the attempt to make everyone into a victim of everyone else. First we had white privilege, then we had male privilege, now we have “cognitive” privilege? When does it end? For instance, I’ll admit, I am above average with regard to intelligence, but I suck at basketball. So does this mean that those who are better than me at basketball have “basketball” privilege? Am I being oppressed by superior basketball players, and because they were born with the skills to play basketball efficiently that means they should feel guilty about my lack of those skills? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I’m being serious when I ask, where does it stop? Everyone is better at something than at least one other person, and I thought the left was supposed to celebrate diversity not condemn it.

1 Comment

  1. Its the other way around. Personality and connections are promoted at the expense of high IQ/talent

    Most people are close to average and want to be on top culturally and/or materially. Why do people think that somehow they wouldn’t try to undermine their competition with nefarious tricks?

    This stuff isn’t left/right. Both groups are guilty of trying to install institutional advantage for them selves against their superiors. Right wing meritocratic claims are a facade. Left wing equality claims are a facade.

    I vote lefty. Leaving the rich to take everything will not work out well.

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