Writings: A moment with Derek – Smart people don’t think others are stupid

Something to learn early....
Something to learn early….

Long ago, in my first year of teaching high school in New Orleans, I can still remember writhing with angst (that’s the way I talked then, too) when the kids would ask me something I didn’t know. They would ask, “Well, what year WAS it that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet?” or “Did they make YOU study grammar like this?” or “Why do we drive on the parkway & park on the driveway?”

Once they found out how this made me suffer (I HAD to have an answer! I was The Teacher!), the questions came fast & furious.

Then, in February a week before Mardi Gras, a junior asked something, and I said, “I don’t know.”

It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me up to that point. Wow. Shook loose from the ego-wrap of “gotta know.” Use it all the time now: I don’t know!


Then I started noticing how folks who said someone was stupid or dumb or worse…usually weren’t all that smart themselves. When I read Derek’s take on this, earlier this year, I thought, as I often do with the stuff he writes – yeah.

Here goes:

The woman seemed to be making some pretty good points, until she stopped with, “Ugh! Those (people she disagrees with) are just so stupid!!”

She could have said Southerners, Northerners, Republicans, Democrats, Indians, or Americans. It doesn’t matter. She had just proven that she wasn’t being smart.

There are no smart people or stupid people, just people being smart or being stupid.

It's OK: I don't know.
It’s OK: I don’t know.

(And things are often not as they seem, so people who seem to be doing something smart or stupid, may not be. There’s always more information, more context, and more to the story.)

Being smart means thinking things through – trying to find the real answer, not the first answer.

Being stupid means avoiding thinking by jumping to conclusions. Jumping to a conclusion is like quitting a game : you lose by default.

That’s why saying “I don’t know” is usually smart, because it’s refusing to jump to a conclusion.

So when someone says “They are so stupid!” – it means they’ve stopped thinking. They say it to feel finished with that subject, because there’s nothing they can do about that. It’s appealing and satisfying to jump to that conclusion.

So if you decide someone is stupid, it means you’re not thinking, which is not being smart.

Therefore: smart people don’t think others are stupid.