Original. Student reported. Your daily dose of Right-minded news and commentary from across the nation
Op-ed: Intelligence is an example of ‘cognitive privilege’

One’s intelligence isn’t something that’s earned. Instead, it’s received at birth and is a form of privilege.

That’s essentially the argument a University of Iowa columnist makes in a recent op-ed published in The Daily Iowan. In his student newspaper column, Dan Williams argues that understanding the concept of privilege is crucial to furthering social justice.

He writes “it is undeniable that privilege itself is a reality.”

“Any of us could have been born the unluckiest person on the planet, which, by definition, picks out precisely one person. But we all have the privilege of not being that person. We are all privileged by comparison,” Williams says. 

He adds privilege extends well past the popular concept of “white privilege” and even encompasses the intelligence an individual possesses.

From the op-ed:

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

Acknowledging privilege, Williams writes, makes it easier “to talk about the temperature-rising topic of racial privilege.”

He argues pointing out one’s privilege isn’t meant to make an individual feel guilty but rather pushes that person to develop a sense of empathy toward others.

“The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual that they know very little about. The purpose is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are,” writes Williams.

Williams didn’t respond to a request for comment from The College Fix regarding his idea of “cognitive privilege.”

Read the full column.

MORE: Professor teaches students about ‘the problem that is whiteness’

IMAGE: Shutterstock

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Add to the Discussion