Why being educated does not necessarily mean being smart


Kevin Mangelschots

A common misconception that quite a lot of people have, is that being learned equals being clever.

And while it’s certainly possible to be educated and intelligent, it is by no means a guarantee.

And while there is some correlation between education and intelligence, it does not tell the whole story. Although I would say that the benefits of education are plenty.

Let me explain why being educated does not necessarily mean being smart.

Why being educated is not necessarily equal to being intelligent

Image of a “does not equal sign” symbol.

Education and intelligence are correlated. But education does not necessarily mean being intelligent. Although it is true that generally, the higher the education level, the higher one’s intelligence quotient (IQ) is.

Always remember that one’s level of education does not tell the whole picture and thus, should not be used to make any conclusions.

I know some amazingly smart people who never got an education, and some average to not necessarily gifted individuals who managed to get a high level of education. Managing to get a hard degree does not automatically make you smart.

To conclude, on average, people with a higher level of education have a higher IQ than people without an education. This is at the averages however and is by no means a guaranteed fact!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is education important?

Education can be important since it:

Picture of the word “education” being written with scrabble tiles on a table.

Can give you a head start

Education can be a huge benefit because it gives you a head start compared to those who didn’t or couldn’t get an education.

Though, again, this is not always the case. It depends on your teachers, and your willingness to learn as well.

Teaches valuable life skills

Being educated teaches you various important real-life skills such as how to study efficiently, how to do evidence-based research, how to work hard etc.

Proper education teaches knowledge and wisdom

The words “knowledge empowers you” written on a blackboard with chalk by someone's hand.

That is if it is a proper education. What do I mean by that? Well, a decent college that includes good teachers who are motivated to share both their knowledge AND wisdom.

However, it is also possible that being educated can be a disadvantage in some cases.

Teachers can be biased

A possible education disadvantage is being educated by biased teachers which means that you were subjected to certain biases and, thus, have a wrong view about certain things.

Teachers can be less street-smart than others

Furthermore, well-educated people may be less “street smart” due to relying on their studies.

To conclude, education can be a benefit if it is a proper education given by smart, motivated people AND if you are motivated to learn new life skills. Otherwise, it could very well be wasted money.

Possible benefits of education

Image of a road sign saying, “benefits”.

  • Teaches you how to study

    One of the biggest benefits of education is that it teaches you to study effectively. And while this might seem simple, it’s truly an art. And you would be surprised how inefficient most people learn. School can be a stern teacher that forces you to learn how to properly study.

    Not to mention that some schools offer programs that teach you how to study to learn skills like time management, when to take a break, how and when to make a summary of the subject, etc.

  • Teaches you how to do evidence-based research

    Evidence-based research takes into account important information such as population size, conflicts of interest, the quality of evidence, etc.

    Schools will often force you to utilize evidence-based research to write a thesis. This is indispensable to get the correct information and to reach the right conclusion.

    The internet is a wonderful place, but there’s a lot of misinformation being spread as well. So be careful!

  • Teaches you how to work hard

    Working hard is an essential part of life if you want to succeed, no matter what goals you desire to achieve.

    Working hard doesn’t necessarily have to be taught at school, and can be learned through work, sports, or going through potential hardships, but, learning it early on in school can give you a head start.

  • Teaches you how to persevere

    Similar to hard work, perseverance is also essential to be successful. Because a lot of time, we will run into hardships, and motivation will drop where we will need to push through.

    Perseverance can be taught through a lot of things and experiences, but it doesn’t hurt to learn early on in school that sometimes, you’ll have to hang in there, even when times are rough.

    Acquiring your degree involves doing things you don’t like to do from time to time to graduate from school.

  • Teaches you how to work as a team

    Humans are social beings. And we’ve historically been stronger in a group than alone. This hasn’t changed and still holds today.

    Working together improves our chances of success, and multiple heads together are smarter than only a single operating brain.

    Working as a team is hard, challenging, and sometimes even annoying. The sooner this gets taught the better. And school will always teach you the basic skills to cooperate and succeed as a team.

Possible disadvantages of education

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  • Can subject you to bias

    Since other people are constantly teaching you new skills and passing on their wisdom, this can make you subject to their biases.

    If you’re lucky, the teachers who are educating you are motivated, intelligent, and genuinely interested in drawing out your full potential. At worst, teachers learn your bad habits, project their biases on you, and cloud reality, giving you an unjust view of reality in the process.

  • Can make you less street smart

    One of the possible disadvantages of education is that it makes you less street-smart due to over-relying on your education.

    It is not always the case that well-educated people are less street-smart. But, most people tend to play to their strengths while simultaneously avoiding their weaknesses.

    Not to mention that the school environment can sometimes shield you from the tough outside world that often forces you to become more street-smart to survive and succeed.

Is it better to be smart or educated?

A person holding a question mark in front of their face.

Preferably, it is better to be both smart and educated. But if I had to choose just one, then I would pick to be smart, since being intelligent allows you to become more educated and proficient at whatever you decide to do and pursue in life.

Intelligence doesn’t just apply to education, it applies to literally everything we do in our existence. That’s why having a high IQ is such an advantage in life, even though we typically pretend like it doesn’t because we don’t want to admit that it is such a distinct asset.

Nevertheless, being educated can open many doors as well. An education is typically required to do certain jobs, too. Not to mention that a good, purposeful education teaches you to apply and master skills such as persevering, working hard, performing evidence-based research, and thinking critically.

Is education a human right?

Illustration of people of different skill color holding up signs saying, “every human has rights.”'

Yes, education, just as free speech, is a human right, and not just a privilege.

Education as a human right conveys that everyone has the equal right to receive a formal education without any discrimination.

It means that the right to get an education is legally guaranteed and protected. [1]Understanding education as a right | Right to Education Initiative (right-to-education.org)

Why is the right to education fundamental?

The right to receive education is fundamental because it improves not only the lives of individuals but that of society as a whole as well.

It is vital for personal, social, and economic evolution. It empowers the members of society to contribute more proficiently.

When members of society are motivated to receive the education they desire, they improve their personal lives. This will influence economic evolution since they will be more likely to work harder and more efficiently. Not to mention that it improves social empowerment due to everyone being equal in the capacity to receive education.

Is education a social science?

Illustration of a man scratching their head while holding a yellow question mark.

Education is a social science because it is an inbuilt component of the academic subject area that bargains with society, and the kinship between the individual members of that society.

Social sciences include a large assortment of studies. Some of the most well-known are political science, economics, and psychology.

Nevertheless, some folks argue that education is not a social science since it is a field of study that only gives organized instruction such as in a university, government building, or school.

But, education provides multiple benefits and consequences that result in improved lives at the individual level, and of society as a whole.

Does IQ go up with education?

Image of a young child in school holding a book in front of a blackboard.

It is true that IQ typically goes up with education. Nevertheless, it isn’t always true, and many intelligent folks have never received a formal education.

But overall, the higher the level of education attained, the greater the level of intelligence tends to be.

Still, each level of education will have students who attain their degree with a wide variety of IQ’s. So a higher degree doesn’t automatically mean that a person has a high IQ.

Does education make you clever?

Education does not make you more intelligent than you already were before you started your didactics.

What it does do is make you more knowledgeable and capable of applying certain skills such as critical thinking and performing evidence-based research. Factor in that you’ll probably end up becoming more wise since you’ll gain many new life experiences.

All of this can make you seem more wise and clever during and at the end of, your education.

Can you be smart but not educated?

You can be smart but not educated.
Just because someone is uneducated does not mean they’re unintelligent. It can even be true that an illiterate person is much more intelligent than an educated individual.
Nonetheless, it’s also true that you can be uneducated, but not necessarily bright.
However, not attaining a degree is most certainly not the end of the world and not an accurate indicator that you’re not clever.

Are all educated people wise?

Not all educated people are wise, although proper schooling does tend to teach you many valuable abilities that make you more wise in the process.

Learning to distinguish right and wrong, how to accept different opinions, how to think critically, and how to properly research topics will make you appear wiser. And that’s precisely what good education should do.

Why do some smart people not do well in school?

There are many reasons why some smart people do not do well in school. Lacking confidence, not being interested, and subject matters being too easy are the most prevalent causes.
Lacking confidence means the students are regularly unable to complete the tasks at hand, which means they’ll lose marks. This can also prevent them from taking on and working on, examinations. That’s why we should make it a point to reduce stress as much as possible.
Not being interested in school usually means we will not pay attention, nor work hard to succeed and attain new skills. Needless to say, this will make it hard to acquire the required knowledge to pass.

Finally, subject matters being too easy can cause students to become bored, which means they won’t put in the required effort and time to become truly informed. This is all good and well when the teachings are still easy. Eventually, most smart people get stuck with bad grades since school tends to become harder, and they never learn how to study since they never had any need for it.


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

There is a correlation between the highest level of education and intelligence. But that is only around the average. Just because someone didn’t get a degree for whatever reason doesn’t automatically make him/her less intelligent.

The following study suggests that intelligence has stronger causal consequences on educational outcomes than the other way around.

As always, I would recommend treating everyone with respect and treating them equally. Try to avoid biases and prejudices to give everyone objectively the same chance.

Don’t fret just because you didn’t attain the highest level of education possible. But strive to become the best possible version of yourself.