Does knowing things make you smarter?

Today’s generation is an educated lot. The literacy rate is increasing all across the globe, and so, by default, it should be expected that we have more smarter people today, than we had, say, 50 years ago.

While it would be difficult to decide one way or another, it can be safely said that today we have more knowledgeable people than 50 years ago.

But, does having more knowledge make you smarter?

I don’t think so. Having knowledge is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for smartness is what I say.

Here is a little story from the great Indian epic, Mahabharat, to illustrate what I mean:

Yudhishtir, the eldest son of King Pandu, was not the best student in his class but he usually learnt his lesson well, and in time.

One day the teacher was teaching the students about anger.

“Always keep your anger in your control,” the teacher said, and the boys repeated after him.

“This is your lesson for the day and I want you to remember it by heart,” said the teacher, before sending the students away.

The next day, before he taught them a new lesson, the teacher asked the students if they had learnt their lesson.

Everyone except Yudhishtir shouted a loud, “Yes!”

The teacher noticed that, and asked him, “You have not learnt it?”

“No… sir,” He replied.

The teacher was irritated, but he knew that Yudhishtir was a good student and ignored this lapse on his part.

The next day, the teacher asked Yudhishtir again if he had learnt the lesson, and got another “no” as the reply. The teacher was infuriated, and he warned Yudhishtir that he should learn the lesson, or else…

But, day after day passed and Yudhishtir did not learn the lesson. Finally, the teacher got angry at him and one day he beat him up with a stick as punishment, but even that failed to make Yudhishtir learn the lesson.

The teacher had finally given up on Yudhishtir’s learning that particular lesson, so he was surprised when one day Yudhishtir came up to him and said, “I have learned the lesson,  sir.”

“What lesson?” he asked.

“ The one about keeping  your anger in control.”

“Oh, good! But tell me what took you so long to learn such a simple lesson?”

“Oh, great Sir,” Yudhishtir replied, “It was not simple for me, I tried and tried and I was not able to control my anger. Every day you scolded me and I felt anger rising within me. How could I lie to you about learning the lesson when I had not? It was only yesterday that I felt that I was in complete control of my anger.”

Yudhishtir didn’t merely want to know, he wanted to learn.

How many of us today actually try to learn our lessons the way young Yudhishtir did. We know things, but we are not smarter until we practice what we know. We have schools to teach us anything and everything, but not everyone is able to become successful by attending these schools. Success lies in learning, not just knowing.

So, do you think today’s generation is smarter, or do you think it is merely more knowledgeable?

(Image: Eza1992 from sxc.hu)

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