Jeremy Côté


Being Smart Doesn’t Have to be About Mathematics or Science

Pretty much anywhere I go in the region that I live, people will react to me saying that I’m going to be a scientist with this: “Of course, you have to be smart if you’re a scientist.”

This is the refrain that I hear all too often amongst my friends. While I’m getting my physics degree, they’re busy becoming nurses, learning the trade of construction, or looking to work in agriculture. They all have different lives, yet they all seem to agree that being a scientist requires you to be smart in a way that the others don’t.

As you may have imagined, I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

We assume a hierarchy of information, as if some information is more important than others. Or rather, understanding the information is only available to those who are intelligent. While this can be reasonably accepted, actually classifying said knowledge is more than a little difficult. It’s frankly a ridiculous proposition, and creates this implicit agreement where being a scientist means you’re smarter than the rest of the population. This isn’t true, and diminishes the way we think of other professions, because, if being a scientist or doctor requires you to be amazingly smart, it implies the reverse for other careers.

But this is simply not true. If it were so, then being smart would automatically mean you’d be a scientist or thereabouts. Why can’t we have incredibly intelligent people in other domains of life? If I were to go on a farm, I’d know little about what is actually happening there, yet many of my friends could explain this with ease. Learning about science and mathematics hasn’t helped me in that regard.

It’s the same story for many other walks of life. I don’t know much about law, history, or even literature. I doubt people would call me stupid because of this since I’m educated in science, but these other areas of life can be just as vital to humanity (and even more) than a lot of science. And I can guarantee you that there are plenty of smart people in those domains. Being smart does not necessarily equal being good at mathematics or science.

What I hope for is a larger acceptance of being smart. There are incredibly smart people who don’t need to be involved in mathematics or science, and that’s perfectly fine. If all the intelligent people group up into one domain, what’s going to happen to the others?

As many people have said before me, the idea of “multiple intelligences” seems to be correct. People can be incredibly smart in different aspects of their lives, which ultimately translates to being good at different things.

Let’s push back on classifying someone that does science as smart, as if anything else means one is not.