Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Better Question Would Be "Are You Smarter Than a Random Piece of Trivia?"

I don't watch television very much. Keep in mind, I'm not counting movies, computers, and video games; I use those rather frequently. But as for actual TV, I probably watch about 45 minutes a week...if that.

However, I saw an ad for an interesting, if novel, concept: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? For kicks, I turned it on for about the last 20 minutes of the show, and I watched a couple clips on YouTube. I must admit, I was intrigued by the idea behind the show: are people so prone to stupidity that we dumb down as we grow older.

After seeing the show, I can say that the answer is an emphatic no.

Of course, this isn't the answer that the show wants you to determine. Nay, they're trying to prove to you that, yes, adults don't know things that even 10-year-olds can get. However, after watching the show, I can see how flawed a concept it really is.

The first question I saw on YouTube was the following: How many teaspoons in 5 tablespoons? Once I saw this, I realized I didn't know the answer. I figured there were 2 teaspoons in a tablespoon, and so the answer was 10. The contestant made the same choice. As it turns out, there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, and so we were wrong. I got straight A's from 4th to 12th grade, I was Valedictorian of my high school, I was in NHS and CSF, I got accepted to UC Berkeley, scored in the top 2% of national standardized testing, and have a IQ of 139, and I don't know how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.

Y'know what? I'm still smarter than those little bastards, teaspoons be damned!

There are only two situations in which it would be useful to know the teaspoonity of a tablespoon. The first is if you're a struggling chef who can't even eyeball the amount of seasoning to use. The second is if, for some godforsaken reason, you've lost your tablespoon, in which case you should just buy another tablespoon, if for no other reason that to avoid repetitive stress disorder from flipping a teaspoon so many times.

The capacity of the human mind is not infinite. Except for the greatest of savants, a normal adult brain does not remember everything it has learned. It keeps the more or less essential stuff and filters out the fluff. Why do we learn how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? Not because it's practical knowledge, no, but because it's a introduction to multiplication. For some reason, when you're young, you can't handle pure numbers very well. I'm sure there's some psychology behind it, but regardless, you need to consider things in objects (or, as was often the case in my classes, money). Once you understand the concepts, though, there's no reason to hide the numbers behind the objects. Take away the superfluous knowledge, and this is just 5*3. Teaspoons won't help you in the future. Pure multiplication will. Sorry, kiddo, but that ego trip you got by being "smarter" than the adult, that'll fade, and fade fast.

Part of me wishes I were on this show. Aside from the usual game show promise of winning $1 million (a quick aside: if they asked me what I'd do with the money, I'd say I'd get it all in coins and swim in it like Scrooge McDuck), I'd like to prove to those little punks that they're not so hot just because they remember some disposable piece of information. Though, this desire would probably make me a poor contestant. I can see it now...

Jeff Foxworthy: "So, how many cups in a gallon?"
Me: "I'm going to have to go with 32, Jeff."
Jeff Foxworthy: "You might be a redneck if you get this wrong."
Me: "You've been saying that every single question."
Jeff Foxworthy: "So, Little Johnny, what answer did you come up with?"
Little Johnny: "It's 16. There are four cups in a quart, and four quarts in a gallon. I guess I'm smarter than you, and you're twice my age."
Me: ".......Alright, my erudite little friend, maybe you could tell me what the derivative of three-eks-cubed-over-the-square-root-of-five-eks-squared is! Or how the government can affect the growth of the economy?! Or what the major themes in Paradise Lost were?!!? OR WHAT PARALLAX IS?!?!?! CAN YOU?!?! CAN YOU, YOU LITTLE SNOT!?!?!?!?!"
"We should probably edit this part out."

Truth be told, I'll probably forget some of the answers to those questions in ten years. I probably won't be stupider, though. My knowledge will just be shifted somewhere else, probably to more practical, occupation-specific things. But as long as I continue to indulge my curiosity, I will never be dumber than a fifth grader.

'Course, if one of the requirements to receive a large sum of money is to declare my intellectual inferiority to a 10-year-old, I'm willing to set aside my integrity for one sentence.

1 comment:

Alexander said...

45 minutes? good to know.

your IQ is 139? i thought it was 128-ish? did you re-retake the test?

just because you don't know it doesn't make you stupid. it only make ignorant to that infomation.

seriously how many people do you know can answer, on the top of thier head, how much is in a bushel?

they have a problem with pure numbers because they aren't real. they cant be seen, smelled, heard, touched or even felt. You can't see "three", you can see three apples, but you have never seen three in reality. except for this symbol, "3", we call three. thats why its so difficult.
there's no connection.
I've never felt five before. i've felt happy, lonely, love, sorrow, lost, free; but never 2. its like time. it's not really real.

it fades...
it fades with age. I get it!
it's because they become the adult.

5th graders are freaking idiots! they have no idea how difficult the world is. they can't even comprehend it, with their little undeveloped, inferior brains. they have no history, no theories, no policies, no troubles, no worries, no sadness, no misery...

man, i wish i was a smart as a 5th grader... :(