What Are You, Stupid?
Outskirts Press (2009)
Reviewed by Ali Neshati for Reader Views (11/09)
Though it may not be the definitive guide to human ignorance, “What Are You, Stupid?” by Henry Shephard is still an important piece of the big, dumb puzzle.
Shephard, who holds degrees in both Psychology and Counselor Education, clearly has lots of experience dealing with this book’s subject matter. His fatherly, conversational writing style is very engaging and will no doubt appeal to young adult readers and their parents alike.
The book begins with a brief introduction to stupidity and its global relevance. “Countries are still competing to stamp out ignorance by focusing on education,” Shephard writes. “However, [education] pales in comparison to the need to address stupidity.” Rarely has such an extreme position been so hard to dispute!
Shephard goes on to propose a working model of stupidity, arguing that it can best be understood as part of a “stupid–intelligent” continuum, which he then contrasts with an “ignorance–knowledge” continuum. Overall, I found his views on intelligence quite practical. For example, he suggests that a stupid person may be very knowledgeable in their area of expertise, yet not intelligent enough to apply that knowledge consistently, while an intelligent person who lacks knowledge and experience can nevertheless manage to be more successful in their endeavors than a stupid person.
Sadly, “What Are You, Stupid?” loses its steam around the halfway point. One chapter, titled “Stupidity/Ignorance: Samples and Clues,” is intended to provide examples of stupidity in action, but is little more than a hastily-compiled collection of silly anecdotes (e.g., “At the fried chicken eatery, the man was about to give his order to the young lady at the register. But before he could make up his mind, she said: ‘We’re out of chicken.’”). He includes laundry lists of behavior that may or may not be characteristic of true stupidity (e.g., stupid people “habitually have issues,” “share their belch as a joke,” “wear sagging pants while trying to run from the police,” etc.)
The concluding chapters are where this book truly shines, with Shephard providing humorous and helpful strategies for interacting with (or, in certain cases, completely avoiding) stupid folks of every variety. Included is advice for handling stupid parents, stupid spouses, stupid children, stupid bosses, stupid pastors. . .even the issue of stupid pets is addressed.
In conclusion, “What Are You, Stupid?” by Henry Shephard is a quick, worthwhile read that pulls no stupid punches and leaves no stupid stone unturned. It is recommended for the stupid and the non-stupid alike.