Are you Stupid, Dumb, Ignorant, foolish or Retarded?
I had an interesting conversation with my children and some teens the other day. I asked them what the following words meant to them: Stupid, ignorant, dumb, foolish, and retarded.
“I believe that you guys are all ignorant of the true meaning of each word I presented you with.”
They all turned to look at me, each with a disgusted look on their face. I asked them “What, what did I say?” My daughter was the first to speak up – “I am not stupid!” As I tried to keep a straight face I asked her “when did I call you stupid?”
“Just now, you said I was stupid...”
My daughter’s friend hastily jumped into the fray “Yeah, you just called us all stupid.” She said with an angry tone.
Quickly I apologized but not in the way they would have expected me too. I apologized for using words they were unfamiliar with, that only brought on more disgusted faces. So I asked them to give me the time, attention, and to actually hear me out, as I go over the definition of each word.
Ignorant: lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular.
Stupid: lacking intelligence or common sense.
Dumb: (of a person) unable to speak, most typically because of congenital deafness.
Foolish: (of a person or action) lacking good sense or judgment (making proper careful choices); unwise.
[* Bible calls someone who does not want to accept sound knowledge or wisdom a fool or foolish]
Retarded: less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age.
After I went over the” dictionary’s” definition of each word and giving them down to earth examples of each definition they all seemed to calm down.
What was my point, the purpose of my exercise? My goal was to help them understand that knowing and understanding are to different things. A teacher once told me that most people are too lazy to use their brain, and therefore they repeat words rather than use a better word in its place, as in the use of the word “like”.
ie. “Like you know dude, like it was a good time, like really awesome man...”
The reason you were offended, I explained, was because you never took the time to understand what each word meant and like most, you lumped them all together – to you they all mean a lack of intelligence.
In basic terms if I say you are ignorant – I mean that you do not have or lack the particular information I require. I did not call you stupid, you just lack the information, and I do not mean that you cannot learn the information - you simply do not have the information per-say.
If I call you foolish, again it is not that you cannot learn – it just means that you refuse to accept proven facts. I say the sun is yellow and you look up to the sky and say no, I think it is green. Or I say, 5 people have walked on this edge and fallen in, please avoid it and you say – no, it won’t happen to me (unwise decision, borderline rebellion).
If I say you are dumb, which comes from the days where the education system was unable (ignorant) to teach people who could not speak and/or hear. What I am saying is – you can’t hear me? Not that you lack intelligence.
I did all this because I wanted to help them understand that one – not knowing something, not understanding something does not mean you have a deficiency and therefore are incapable of learning. I also wanted them to think about the words they use and to consider that the words people use often times are taken out of context or applied lazily because the person does not have a more informed way of communicating there thought.
You asked what good was this, well let me tell you a story.
We were driving in the car and my wife was a bit miffed to put it lightly. My daughter questioned something she said and my wife responded by saying – stop acting stupid. My daughter in turn replied, stupid is a poor choice of words, are you saying I lack intelligence. Of which my wife slapped her hand on the gear stick and said “I didn’t say that I meant your being foolish.” Then my son shouts out from the back seat and says “She is not being foolish. Foolish is hitting the gear shift with your hand while driving knowing that the stick could move to reverse and you could cause an accident. Being foolish is about making poor choices.”
At that moment we all burst into laughter.
So my exercise was not in vain, instead of whining and bursting into tears about how "Mom called me stupid", she cleared the air and had an intelligent conversation, even if my son made us all laugh.