Luke Wood

I think J Luke Wood’s comments questioning “growth mindset” raise a very important core tension of antiracist Smarts Talk.

In a world where some students and whole groups of students are falsely imagined to be just “smarter” than others, how can we affirm all humans’ equal potential to grow?

In the Smarts Talk chapter of Schooltalk, I urge that educators “actively reject the myth that intelligence is an easily measurable quantity of stuff ‘in the head,’” “say out loud that no student is ‘smarter’ than any other,” “Talk about abilities as grown through interaction and collective effort, not something fixed inside students,” and “say out loud that no GROUP is ‘smarter’ than any other: actively reject the myth that intelligence is distributed differently to ‘groups.’”

I also note that to support young people through a world where folks have argued falsely for centuries that some groups ARE smarter than others, scholars demonstrate that it’s key to support students “to develop fierce belief in their own (ever-expandable!) intelligence AS a member of any social group falsely stigmatized.”

As just one example, a Native teacher designing science curricula around local Indigenous knowledge in Utah told mentor Bryan Brayboy that after years of denigrating interactions in a boarding school, she was determined to teach Indian students that they could ‘be smart and Indian at the same time.’”

This is a key Smarts Talk challenge for educators. We have to challenge false ideas that some kids are just naturally smarter than others, AND validate the “smarts” present particularly in young people who have been told they’re not “smart.”

Our challenge is to communicate that all young people have brilliance to be developed through active opportunities to keep on learning.

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