​PERFORMANCE IN ENGLISH: A TEST/MEASURE OF INTELLIGENCE… OR NOT 

The debate as to how one’s proficiency in or use of the English language is a yardstick for intelligence has been on for a long time. While some believe that an individual’s performance in English has nothing to do with his level of intelligence, others argue that to speak the language – and competently so – is a mark of intelligence. 

In order to avoid any form of ambiguity, we must point out, from the outset, that the measure of intelligence being addressed here is not in reference to only those who speak the English language, otherwise the issue is going to be about how the individual linguistic competence of each speaker of English determines his level of intelligence. Instead, the crux of the matter is how members of the human species in general are rated on the intelligence scale based on their ability to speak English. 

Key words to note from the title are performance, English, measure and intelligence. Once the essence of any one of these terms is lost on the reader, expounding the subject matter of this article will be a futile attempt hence well-delineated references to them will be made to each in the course of the write-up. 

No one needs to be told that English is a language that originates from the English people of the British Isles. However, due to expansion, reach and influence became the native language of the United Kingdom, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and South Africa. The language is the most widely used member of the Germanic language family. It’s adjudged to be the primary working language of the United Nations and the European Union and also the sole working language of the Commonwealth, NATO, CARICOM, and ASEAN (Encarta). Due to its far-reaching influence as the language of literature, entertainment, science and technology, international relations and diplomacy, electronic communication, it has overwhelmingly become the language of global communication and hence a symbol/mark of prestige and social relevance for those who speak it. Having established the relevance of English in today’s world, the question to ask is this: Does the status of English as a global language account for the measurement of intelligence among its speakers and non-speakers? 

Performance, in this context refers to linguistic performance which is concerned with the actual usage of language in concrete (or real life) situations (Chomsky). In clearer terms, it is the ability to produce and comprehend expressions in a given language. When a person makes meaningful utterances or writes in a language, he exhibits his linguistic performance in such. Linguistic performance should however not be confused with linguistic competence which accounts for the perfect intuitive knowledge a speaker has of his language and its linguistic rules. 

The concept of measure isn’t rocket science. Although the meaning is multi-layered, it’s implication for this context is a standard against which something can be judged or a means of evaluating or determining the quality of a thing – a criterion.     

Now, there is the issue/idea of intelligence to consider, especially as it concerns the context of usage in question. One would like to know precisely what the intelligence as it relates to speaking English implies. It’s therefore vital to set forth two levels of intelligence relevant to this discussion – linguistic intelligence  and intelligence in its general sense – and consider what each level has to do with speaking English or any other language.

Wikipedia describes linguistic intelligence as the aspect of intelligence that deals with individual’s ability to understand both spoken and written language, as well as their ability to speak and write themselves. Howard Gardner simply calls it the ability to speak and write well. Against the background of the definitions supplied, one can deduce that linguistic intelligence isn’t language specific, i.e. has nothing to do with English or any language in particular. Once a man has the ability to produce meaningful expressions in any given language, he his linguistically intelligent. 

Empirical evidences have proven the no-language-distinction for linguistic intelligence through the innate essence of language: How that any human, medically fit and in an ideal human community, has the ability to produce language or utter sounds. This assertion is in line with Chomsky’s idea of Universal Grammar, which opines that all humans are biologically pre-wired to learn language at a certain time and in a certain way. However, the written aspect of language has to be learnt. Interestingly, even those who, due to speech defects or other abnormal health situations, still possess the ability to communicate – via sign language, brail etc. Since the ability to use a language (or use different languages) to communicate is common to all, there is no point in using performance in English as a yardstick for linguistic intelligence since it has no language bias.     

General/human intelligence is a different ball game entirely and has various dimensions to it. It has to do with the ability to think, learn from experience, solve problems and adapt to new situations. The Mainstream Science on Intelligence (1994) gives an exhaustive explanation of the concepts:

  • A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings – catching on, making sense of things, or figuring out what to do.

It appears, from the broad definition supplied above, that even the linguistic intelligence is a subset of the general intelligence as a level of general intelligence is needed for linguistic intelligence to operate. 

to be continued…  

Image credit: Sarcasm (Facebook) 

©ayansolaibukun 

The Crutch and the Injured

​The Crutch and the Injured

There is something about the crutch and the injured. 

When a man sustains a leg injury, he his treated accordingly and sometimes given a crutch to assist him in walking for the meantime. He needs the crutch for that period because he can’t place full weight on the fractured leg. If he does, he is likely to do more damage to it. The crutch therefore serves as a walking aid for him pending the time he can gain full use of legs. Once, the leg heals up and is declared fit to be used without support by the medical expert, the crutch outlives its usefulness and is discarded by the user. Just like that! No thanks for the service rendered or thought of the value it added. 

Such is the thankless service a crutch renders. The analogy of the injured and his crutch is instructive and metaphorical. The crutch and the injured are in a kind of relationship, no matter how short-lived. 

One can liken the relationship between the crutch and the injured to a form of friendship that exists between two parties in the real world. 

Apart from the crutch-needing friend (who is our focus), we have the friend for all season who is always there come rain come shine. The fair-weather friend is only available when things are smooth sailing with you. Some friends are merely special interest friend – they are your friends because you have a common interest in something. The toxic friend only pretends to be of help to you but is actually out for your downfall. There are those who you can call the good-time friends – they are only there for stress relief. You may equally have the spiteful kind of friend who is always secretly resentful of your progress and considers you a threat. 

Having taking a look at a number of shades of friends there is, we shall return to our crutch-and-the-injured kind of friendship and examine its dynamic. At the end of this epistle, you should be able to know if you are into one and discern if you still wish to continue with it. You see, the crutch is who I consider as the victim of a relationship/friendship while the injured is the winner takes all. One who in Nigerian pidgin, is referred to as the chop-clean-mouth individual. He breezes in, feeds on its (his) prey and disappears into thin air. 

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff: 

The injured is

a circumstantial appendage – he only attaches himself to the other party in the friendship when the need arises. He is the type of friend that will only call or visit you when there is something he wants from you.

a parasite – always taking from you without giving anything in return

an hypocrite – whenever he available, he will always pretend to be concerned about how you’ve been faring. But don’t let his show of effusion fool you… With/for him, there is always a catch. 

an opportunist – he takes advantage of your availability, generosity, and service to advance his own condition

situational – he suddenly becomes overtly friendly when an event that may be of personal benefit to him presents itself                   

The crutch is however 

readily available – always looking for a way to help even at his inconvenience 

dispensable – done away with once the reason for its need is accomplished

always at the receiving end – ever seen what the tail end of a wooden crutch looks like after its period of service elapses?

often gullible – easily deceived and used

A friendship relationship is essentially designed to be symbiotic – the parties involved adding value to each other. Also, while the need to seek help from the other party is a giving in friendship, it should not be a basis on which the friendship exists. The crutch-needing friend (the injured) is all for self-aggrandisement. His purpose for establishing a friendship relationship with the other party is solely for what such a one can do for him. He is a shameless individual who has no sense of propriety. Friendship with such a fellow is a race without rewards.         

When you have so-called drop-by friends who only check on you when they need a favour, who are ‘Oliver Twists’ – never putting anything on the table but always ‘asking for more’, whose displays of effusion are always for the catch, here is a free advice for you: Weed them out of your life cos they can be up to no good!    
Image Credit:WikiHow

©ayansolaibukun 

 

  

CUTTING SINGLE PARENTS SOME SLACK

Yes, I am a product of single parenting; and no, I turned out just fine!
While it’s fine to emerge from a typical nuclear home, it’s not a crime to be trained by a single parent. After all, the world is filled with examples of successful people who are products of single parenting. Ask Barak Obama, Angelina Jolie, Price Williams, Jane Fonda and even the biblical personage Timothy.

Thanks to the amazing worldview prevalent in the African and especially Nigerian society, single parents, who are often times single mothers, tend to be victims of stigmatization. This situation isn’t all together strange as it’s easy to cast aspersions at people when one has never gone through their kind of experience. After all, only he that wears the shoe knows where it hurts most.  

The Single Parent 

Who exactly is a single parent? One who is saddled with the sole responsibility of nurturing/training a child or children from the early stages of life to maturity without support (or little support) from the other party – either man or woman. The single parent plays the dual role of a father and mother in the life of his or her child(ren). Such parent is one the child turns to whenever he/she has a need.

One should point out the fact that there are two categories of single parents – the unintended single parent and the willing single parent. The unintended single parents are those who, due to unforeseen/unplanned circumstances, happen to train their kids in the absence of the other party/parent. Such cases manifest when one of the parents die, when the need for divorce arises, due to divorce, and also as a result of unpleasant unforeseen occurrences e.g. war outbreak. On the other hand, just as the name implies, the willing single parents set out to raise kids without the support of the other party. This set desire to have kids but do not wish to raise them in a nuclear-family-setting. Most of the people in this category are women. They get to achieve their aim through different means: Some simply adopt children and raise them, some engage in sexual intercourse and plan to take full/sole responsibility for the child that results from the encounter, while others search for sperm donors and go for artificial insemination. Most lesbians prefer the latter means.

I find the unintended single parenting to be the ideal case in point and intend to expound my view of single parenting from that perspective. 

My Single Parenting Story 

The first personal encounter I had with my father was when I was eight years old. Before then, I only had an idea of who my father was from the accounts given of him by my mother – most of which were positive. I grew up knowing my mother as my only parent. In this capacity, she served as my sole provider, private tutor, spiritual mentor, life coach, and personal adviser. Being a low-income-earning civil servant (a teacher), she didn’t have ample resources with which to meet my every needs. To make matters more interesting, she was the first born of her family hence zero luxury of having older siblings to fall back on. Nevertheless, she gave me the best possible. A quality albeit unsophisticated academic background, three-square meal of whatever the Lord provides, a moral cum spiritual upbringing, and fair supply of my material needs. I can remember her telling me how my school fee – per term – in primary school was almost the same amount she earned as monthly salary. Life was pretty hard for low-income-earning civil servants during the military era. 

I’ll have to write volumes of books in order to share accounts of sacrifices she made just for me to have a good life. There were occasions where she had to do without a meal just so I could eat feed well. In those occasions, she had to lie that she was not hungry or something. What she wasn’t saying was that whatever meal there was was barely enough for one person. Many at times, she had to be strong for me although she was either ill, depressed or emotionally down. She was understandably protective of me and was extra-careful about who I mingled with or stay with. Funny and good enough, I didn’t have the luxury of much extra parental circles. Whenever I wasn’t with my mother, I was either with her siblings who lived together at the time or with a family friend whose children I grew up with. My mother’s siblings – all males – were father figures in my life. Interestingly, I shared facial semblance with them and people often confused me to be a son or much younger brother to either of them. The children of the family friends provided me the peer-group platform where I could relate with children of my own age. 

It Took some Doing 

Was the parenting process a walk in the park for my mother? No! It was an uphill task. There were moments of ups and downs. Now that I think of it, I believe the most trying period to train me was during my teenage days with its manifestations of youthful exuberance. At that point, a child feels on top of the world and feels he is free to do what he pleases. I didn’t make her already difficult task less easy for her at different points. Sometimes, I was wayward; at other times, I was unruly. Yet, in all this, she persevered, through fervent prayers, constant counsel, and appropriate disciplines for offences. 

Would I have turned out better under the ideal nuclear family setting? I don’t think so. Perhaps there are some life lessons I could have learnt or family-life experiences I could have garnered – perhaps. But the idea that there is a gap that could have been filled if I grew up with both parents is most unlikely. To be candid, it’s my opinion that my manner of upbringing was a blessing in disguise. 

Different Strokes For Different Folks 

My familial case is just a drop in the ocean in the scheme of things. Other cases come in varying shades and degrees. While I think I grew up under a hard economic condition, my experience was nothing compared to what some others went through as children from a single-parent set up. Conversely, quite a number of children were lucky enough to be nurtured by parents who were financially buoyant to take care of their every need. 

The Bulk Falls on the Woman 

Research has shown that women bear the responsibility of single parenting the most, which is naturally because they are considered to be the primary care givers. Except in cases where the father becomes a widower and is left to take care of the children, most men shy away from being singlehandedly responsible for the children’s upkeep. The female gender is said to be more tender hearted and affectionate towards their issues. They are therefore most likely to want to keep the children when the man is avoidably/unavoidably absent. This is the reason why the image of single mothers readily comes to mind whenever the name single parent is mentioned.       

The Single Parent Stereotype

It’s common, in this part of the world, to hear people say that children from single parents always end up being recalcitrants and social menace. This stereotypic notion is prevalent because the African worldview detests the idea of single parenting. The nuclear family is seen as the only ideal setting where healthy children can be raised. Anything short of this standard is an anomaly. For instance, hardly had a couple been bereaved than he/she is ‘counselled’ to remarry: You can’t train these children by yourself, they’ll say. You need a helping hand. Since men are considered to be sacred cows in most African societies, women who are single parents are often scape goats and end up more to be the victim of stigmatization. Most of them are considered self-willed, immoral, and unworthy of respect.  So much is the stigma for single parents that it is reflective in the way adverts and movies are scripted. Hardly will you find an advert where the lifestyle/activities of a single parent/mother are esteemed. Every advert relating to family has to revolve around the father, mother and the children. In most cases where the storyline of a movie revolves around the single parent, the child/children turn out to be recalcitrants and street urchins.

To say that all issues from single parents turn out fine is to tell a big lie. Some end up becoming hooligans and personae non gratae. There are instances of children who, no matter what length the single parents went to meet there needs, ended up making a mess of their lives. In the same vein, to say that every child brought up under the ‘ideal’ nuclear family setting turn out fine is to be miserly with the truth. Countless numbers of ‘proper parents’ products roam the street as miscreants and reprobates. Loving and caring parents bring some of them up. Others happened to be raised by ‘proper parents’ who were always at loggerhead, fathers who physically or psychologically harass the mother and perhaps the children, couples that fail to cooperate to train the children as a unit. Bottom line, just as children from single parents have the tendency to go wayward, seeds from ‘proper parents’ can end up worse.

If what goes for the single parent also goes for the ‘proper parents’, it stands to reason that how a child turns does not necessarily have to do with the singularity or plurality of the parent who brings him up. A child who is unruly or immoral does not have to be a product of single parenting. After all, instances of outstanding products of single parents have been given earlier. There is much more to how a child turns out than whether he his raised by a single parent or ‘proper parents’.

What it Takes to Raise a Child 

The issue is not the number of people that raise a child. Rather, it’s about the personality of the people involved, whether single parents or couples. In essence, the attitude of the caregiver or givers to parenting is what determines how far the offspring will go. Just as two loving and forward-thinking couples will do a good job at parenting, a single parent/single mother who is determined to give her child the best will do same no matter the daunting task. Conversely, it’s sometimes better to be trained by a single parent who can go the extra mile for the child than by couples who do not have a sense commitment and responsibility.

The Summary of the Whole Matter 

While I do not advocate the practice of single parenting, I also do not appreciate the stigmatization of unintended single parents who are doing their best to give their issues a good life. After all, not all couples in a nuclear family setting are responsible enough to do what is right and needful by their kids. For all its worth, they deserve to be respected and treated fairly. The attitude and sense of responsibility of the individual(s) in charge of the upbringing of a child should be the yardstick for according respects and social recognition and not the status of the individual(s) as a single parent or ‘proper parents’/couples. 

It takes a strong and enduring personality to take on the duties meant for two people and accomplish it successfully. The amount of emotional, physical, psychological, and material input the single parent puts into raising children is so much that one cannot afford to relegate them to the background in the scheme of things. The responsibilities of juggling maintaining a job, caring for the children and keeping up with household chores is overwhelming enough for them to be ostracized .     

Image credit:Titus Single Parent Mentoring          
©ayansolaibukun 

        

 

CHRISTMAS: THE WORD MADE FLESH 

God’s ultimate desire was (and is still) to draw all men unto Him and be unto them a father. 

Therefore, when he created the first man Adam, he did not Lord it over him. Rather, he established a relationship with him. God would come in the cool of the day and share His mind with him. To show the extent of His affability, he gave him freewill. It turned out that Adam chose to use that freewill against God’s will and wish. As a consequence of his inaction, he – and by default the whole of mankind – fell from grace. But God is merciful. He would not live humanity in the state of hopelessness for long. So he made a way of escape – a sacrifice as atonement.     

However, the sacrifices of goats and rams wouldn’t meet this end. No man on earth could also stand in the gap (for all have sinned…). Seeing the fix that man found himself, God spoke forth concerning the incarnation and redemptive work of His son: that seed will bruise the serpent’s head. 

It was concerning his birth and more that the elders of old spoke (in Sundry times and divers manners). The prophets prophesied his birth from their perspectives. God depicted Jesus to Noah in the form of an ark; to Abraham, the symbolic figure of Isaac. Even the Israelites drank of him in the wilderness…

His Excellency made himself of no reputation, and came in the likeness of a man. Nobility emerges from a lowly birth. Yes, he was manger-born. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Heaven kissed earth and behold a great swap of right and privilege: The son of God became the son of man that the sons of men may become the sons of God. 

Did he come because there was no room enough for him in heaven? Or was it because He wanted a kingdom of His own? No! For he thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Rather, he came to destroy the works of the devil – to give us life and that more abundantly. This is the essence of Christmas. It’s not a fanfare but a conscious reminder of God’s – and indeed – Christ’ love, faithfulness and uncommon sacrifice.     

Hence, the need to share with others the significance of his birth and the crux of his ministry (the ministry of reconciliation). He came to give us a relationship with the father not a mere religion.

Men should not just partake in our rice and hampers. As nice as that is, it doesn’t relay the message. Let’s communicate God’s love to everyone by bringing Jesus to them. By so doing, Christmas will make much sense.

On this day and always, we thank the Father for giving us His son, and much more His spirit – till His work on earth is done. 

Merry Christmas!

Image Credit:Shutterstock

©ayansolaibukun