Essentially, at some point in my life, I saw intelligence as some measure of moral value. Not grades (although they were correlated in my mind), but general knowledge. Knowing something AFTER the test, after there was an extrinsic reason to care, connecting it to other subjects, talking about it in a way that clearly showed that they knew the material.
Yet even after admiring the extreme intelligence of these people, I didn’t have the motivation to work as hard, especially when the bare minimum was just to get my homework done and get good grades. (Instead, I found it worthwhile to type out to an internet.)
At some point, I realized that the people I was around influenced the amount I cared about a class. I never really saw myself as a victim of peer pressure, but . If my debate partner didn’t want to put in the effort to prep, I wasn’t willing to do all the work. If the people around me weren’t reading the books, why should I? (Then again, I didn’t realize that this was a reality until it was too late.)
The amount I cared about a class strongly correlated to the amount that the people around me cared. As the years passed, this generally meant how many friends I had in my classes.
If I stopped paying attention in class and began using class time to self study, it generally meant I felt like I could learn the material faster and/or better if I taught it to myself. If I stopped paying attention in class to do other stuff, it generally meant that realized that I couldn’t care about the subject and still pull an A in the class. Neither of these cases would happen if I had a friend who genuinely cared about the subject in my class.
90% of the reason I did so much math during middle school was because I had 3 other people who cared about it just as much as I did and were willing to sacrifice their lunches along with me.
Maybe this is a form of operant conditioning– before, bad grades would be the only consequence of not caring.
As I keep thinking about why I’m going to college (as opposed to taking a gap year), the people I’ll be surrounded by is the best answer I can come up with. And not just in terms of intelligence – people who can help me navigate various situations, people with interesting background experiences, people who [INSERT STUFF HERE]. And as I, I kept admiring their intelligence
Personal note: I’m sure this idea had been floating around in my head in various forms before I wrote it out, but this is the closest I’ve ever come to reaching an epiphany in the middle of writing.