“Canada’s Smartest Person” Should be Called “Canada’s Fastest Person”

My recent post about Jeopardy! has received over 150 hits the last three days thanks to it being featured as an “around the web” on Inside Higher Ed! One comment the article received today suggested that Canada’s Smartest Person might be a better alternative than Jeopardy! because it promotes “the idea of a more complete conception of intelligence.”

I decided to give the show a look and watched an episode on Youtube. In sum, the show almost does well by promoting notions of multiple intelligences whereby every one is “smart” in different ways. Musical, visual, verbal, logical, and other talents are all equal valid areas of human capacity, in brief. 

But, Canada’s Smartest Person takes this theory and uses it ways completely not intended. To win this title, contestants must have strong “intelligence” in all areas (linguistics, physical, musical, visual, social, and logical) as subjectively measured by their artificial, unusual games and in cases, judges. This completely misuses the entire notion of multiple intelligences and the revolutionary and historical importance of multiple intelligences theories. Multiple intelligences embraces and celebrates differences, the talents a person can have, and recognizes that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

This show does not actually measure “intelligence” at all but speed. Those who are fast, physically and emotionally fit, and can work under extreme pressure, for instance, have an opportunity for the, apparently, coveted title.

Therefore, just like Jeopardy!Canada’s Smartest Person, which is fixing to launch its third season, promotes anti-intellectualism. Using the guise of “intellectualism,” the show pretends to promote learning at the expense of actual learning and, certainly, for profit.

Most academics reject that “intelligence” can be measured, especially in any kind of meaningful, accurate, universal way. “Intelligence,” like everything else is a cultural construction that changes. 

Regardless of whether one accepts the notion of “intelligence” promoted by Jeopardy! and Canada’s Smartest Person, true learning and intellectualism–the kind that can make real differences–comes from experience, reflection, perspectives, and discussions. Such shows also promote and confirm (confirmation bias) popularly-held images about what historians do, for example, as partly indicated in the meme below. When society en masse does not know what “true” learning and deep-thinking involve every body is worse off. 

And too I suspect that those who are truly “intelligent” would not partake in such a show. Certainly, they would not introduce themselves, as contestants do, as “I’m Canada’s Smartest Person” with the hopes of giving credibility to their words over a series of unusual competitions.

(Be sure to see “The Original Australian Test of Intelligence.” My students always really love this activity. Plus, they learn that we actually eat water.) 

Andrew Joseph Pegoda