Is Intelligence Inherited or Acquired?

Rosa Martínez

HAVANA TIMES — “You dunce! You’re the dumbest thing in the world, nothing gets through your thick skull!”

“You’re just like your dad, who doesn’t know squat.”

“Turn your brain on, I’m losing my patience! My god, what am I to do?”

I hear these and other phrases often. They are addressed to a nine-year-old neighbor of mine. Her entire family has been telling her she’s as dumb as a mule since she started going to school.

At first, I laughed at what the mother went through to try and teach the girl the colors. I don’t know how she finally managed to learn them – it was a battle to the death in which the mother was always defeated. But she wasn’t offending the child back then.

“Easy, kid,” I would say to the mother, “we’re all different. She’s going to be a dancer, that’s why she doesn’t know anything about colors and numbers. She’s only interested in dancing and singing.” Those words were meant to encourage the mother to be patient and not to lose hope, but, sometimes, they would end up annoying her even more.

It took a whole lot of effort to get Delia, the little girl, to learn to read. She had a lot of difficulties learning to subtract and add numbers, not to mention memorizing the tables.

The girl is already in the fifth grade. Apparently, she’s already resigned herself to the idea that she’ll never be at the top of her class.

I’ve told the mother more than once how damaging it is to offend the girl or call her “dumb”, that it only makes things worse. No matter how much I try to explain this to her, using all imaginable arguments offered by science and general knowledge to warn her of the psychological damage she is causing the child, she pays no attention.

Since kids are always more understanding and intelligent than adults, it was easier to convince my little neighbor that she has a talent, not for school chores, but for arts and other things.

I don’t know whether my conversations with the little girl have had any positive results, we can only wait and see. For now, every time her mother calls her a dunce, she pays no attention and winks at me from a distance, dreaming, perhaps, with that talent we all have and she has not yet discovered.

One thought on “Is Intelligence Inherited or Acquired?

  • What a sad story! The nurture vs nature argument about intelligence has been settled: we inherit a potential which will be either helped or harmed by our environment. The mother is providing a very negative environment which will only harm the development of this child’s unique potential. Yelling at a child and calling her a thick skulled dunce is cruel and abusive. It can cause a great deal of psychological harm to child.

    God bless you Rosa for sticking up for the little girl and trying to find some potential in her to praise and encourage. With your help, she may flourish.

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