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Letter: Intelligence Vs. Cleverness 

To the Editor:

All Americans struggle in some way or another with the issues facing our society — from gun restrictions and gay marriage to climate change and economic justice. Some are able to debate intelligently, and some just resort to being clever when they navigate through these issues. A measure of intelligence is the ability to combine experience and understanding to come up with substantive beliefs and ideas with which others may or may not agree. We match this with what is presented to us by newspapers, books, electronic media and face-to-face encounters. In this way, we are able to go beyond our present knowledge by discussing, searching and trying to comprehend the truth behind issues. Cleverness, on the other hand, does not allow us to expand beyond our present knowledge on an issue and is often self-serving, making us ill equipped to find truth.

As a debate teacher, I see both intelligence and cleverness in the classroom. Admittedly, I have produced my own clever arguments in a debate when backed into a corner by my opponents. These arguments are rarely as satisfying as those shaped by evidence and a clear understanding of the issues presented in a debate. Intelligence is called upon when we are capable, and cleverness when we are desperate. Intelligence is the key in the search for accuracy and legitimacy in a world full of clever distractions. When discussing and trying to genuinely comprehend issues that are vital to our meaning and how we relate to each other, cleverness loses its appeal. We should be wary of cleverness when making important decisions about our future and rely more on intelligence.

James Dixon

Thetford Center