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November 27, 2012 / Fantelius

The Great Myth of Language and Intelligence

We have been taught that literacy equals intelligence. This supposed, nearly incontestable, truth forms a pillar of conventional wisdom. It’s bullshit! Argentinosaurus shit!

The literacy=intelligence myth is promoted by the literate. The illiterate have no say in the matter and can obviously not publish any opinions contesting this nonsense.

The illiterate do however have a voice that can be translated into print. Examples of this have displayed both sharp and powerful intellects. The opposite is also true and easily documented; well written absurdities from halfwits, dimwits and nitwits.

The book All God’s Dangers (1974) records the life of Ned Cobb, an uneducated and illiterate black farmer. Although Ned speaks a non-standard dialect, his intelligence shines. His memory proves so accurate, that his figures were used to fill in missing records in official documents. A linguist discovered that Ned had a vocabulary far in excess of most journalists. Here is how Ned answered the question of our free will contra God’s will (I’m quoting from memory):
”God gives me the earth and supplies rain and sun, but he don’t plow the land, weed the crops or harvest.”

Another example comes from the the slums of NYC. Professor William Labov compared the logic of a young school drop-out in Harlem with that of a college educated man.

Confronted with the question about God’s existence and the possibility of his being black, the drop-out used heavy slang and sharp logic to state an emphatic No. The academic man spoke eloquently, said almost nothing and never answered the question.

Are examples of strong intelligence in illiterate and ”poor-languaged” individuals unusual? Yes. But only in documented form. In real life smarts can be found on the streets and stupids can sit in boardrooms.


“Intelligence has its limits, but not stupidity.”
Dartwill Aquila


(Tomorrow: The State Without Love)


Leave a Comment
  1. garyschollmeier / Nov 27 2012 4:36 am

    😀 thank you for the smile.

    • Fantelius / Nov 27 2012 5:16 am

      And thank you. I hope it was an intelligent smile.

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