“Stupid is as stupid does”: what does Forrest Gump teach us?

“Stupid is as stupid does” is certainly one of the best-known quotes from the film "Forrest Gump", which allows us to reflect on the theme of stupidity. The phrase that the protagonist uses to defend himself from the attacks of those who offend him conveys a profound meaning: people are not stupid, but it is their behavior that makes them so.

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His words reflect a radical change of perspective with respect to the theories supported by medicine and psychology of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the early 1900s, Dr. Henry H. Goddard proposed a classification system for intellectual disability based on the concept of mental age. According to this classification, individuals who showed mental retardation were divided into:

  • Idiota (idiots): if their level of mental age level was less than three years;
  • Imbecille (imbeciles): if they had a mental age between three and seven years;
  • Deficiente (deficient): if their mental age was between seven and ten years.

The term "idiota" was used loosely to refer to people with an IQ below 30 IQ, and was originally determined by dividing a person's mental age, as determined by standardized tests, by their actual age. According to this obsolete medical classification, people with profound mental retardation with an IQ of fewer than 20 years were even called "subnormali".

These words, initially considered scientific and the prerogative of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, pedagogues, turned into offensive epithets in common language and for this reason, it is preferred not to use them today, even in the scientific field, as it is believed that they express a derogatory attitude.

The same happened to the term "mongoloide", once used to describe people with Down syndrome. The term derives from an article written by the English doctor John Langdon Down in 1866 according to which what is called "idiozia mongoloide" represents a degeneration of the white race towards the asiatic one. Hence the emergence of the word "mongoloide" and "mongolo" (Mongolian) to indicate in common language people with Down syndrome and the degeneration of the term in common language as an insult.

Fortunately, these words are no longer used in the medical field, but unfortunately they still remain in the common language. We hope that knowing its history will make us all more civil and as Forrest Gump teaches us, there are no stupid people, only inadequate behaviour.

Scuola Leonardo da Vinci Turin

The Leonardo da Vinci partner School is situated in the Crocetta residential district of Turin.
The welcoming friendly atmosphere of our school will make you feel at home and you can relax with your classmates in the small gardens of the adjacent pedestrian area.