I have always been intrigued by the subject of intelligence. As a child, my mother considered me “smart”, but I quickly noticed that all parents called their children smart. Over time, I would find that not all children are smart, just like not all babies are cute. If that was the case, we would have a world full of smart, beautiful people – which we don’t have.
Some of us are smart; but not as smart as we think, and others are smarter than it looks, which makes me wonder, how do we define smart? What makes one person smarter than another? When does “street intelligence” matter more than “book intelligence”? Can you be smart and stupid at the same time? Is being intelligent more a direct influence of genetics, or its environment?
Then there are the questions of education, intelligence and wisdom.
What does it mean to be highly educated? What is the difference between being highly educated and being highly intelligent? Does being highly educated automatically make you very smart? Can you be very smart without being very educated? Do IQs Really Mean Something? What makes a person wise? Why is wisdom usually associated with old age?
My desire to seek answers to these questions inspired many hours of intense research which included reading 6 books, hundreds of research papers and countless hours on the Internet; which is nothing compared to the length of study and pioneering research in the fields of intelligence and education such as Howard Gardner, Richard Sternberg, Linda S. Gottfredson, Thomas Sowell, Alfie Kohn and Diane F Halpern whose work is cited in this article.
My goal was simple: to collect, synthesize and present data on what it means to be smart, educated and intelligent so that it can be understood and used by anyone for their benefit.
With that in mind, there was no better (or more appropriate) place to start than at the very beginning of our existence: as a fetus in the womb.
There is a growing body of evidence that consuming iron-rich foods before and during pregnancy is essential for prenatal brain building. Researchers have found a strong association between low iron levels during pregnancy and decreased IQ. Foods rich in iron include lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, seafood, nuts, dried fruits, oatmeal, and fortified cereals.
Children with low iron status in utero (in the womb) scored lower on each test and had significantly lower language skills, fine motor skills, and aptitude than children with higher prenatal iron levels . In essence, proper prenatal care is essential for the development of cognitive skills.
Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities that we use to think, study, and learn. They include a wide variety of mental processes used to analyze sounds and images, recall information from memory, make associations between different information, and maintain focus on particular tasks. They can be identified and measured individually. The strength and effectiveness of cognitive skills are directly related to the ease of learning of students.
DRINK, PREGNANCY AND ITS INTELLECTUAL IMPACT
Drinking during pregnancy is not smart. In fact, it’s downright stupid.
A study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that even light to moderate drinking – especially during the second trimester – is associated with lower IQs in 10-year-olds. This finding was particularly pronounced among African American rather than Caucasian descendants.
“IQ is a measure of a child’s ability to learn and survive in his environment. It predicts the potential for success in school and in everyday life. Although a small but significant percentage of children are diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) each year, many more children are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy who do not meet the criteria for FAS but have deficits in growth and cognitive function, ”said Jennifer A. Willford, assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.