Joseph's CoatOne of the measurable facts about S.A.T.s, I.Q.s and most other standardized tests is that test subjects can have their scores improved by 10% or more if they are allowed to intensively study for 6-10 weeks, take repeated practice tests and be coached on the keys (i.e. the tells) for the test. That is why cram schools have become a multi-billion dollar business.

When I asked Dad why he hadn't invested in cram schools for I.Q. test as he had for the other standardized tests, his answer was that I.Q. testing already had a limited market because people mistrusted the results; if they learned how malleable the results really were, it would ruin what little demand there was. Then he laughed and said that the irony was that the tests were not to be trusted not because study and hard work would change your score but because they diminished the actual range of difference in intelligence; like school itself they pushed people towards the social middle, when the reality was that there was as much distance between a genius and a near-genius as there was between the near-genius and "handicapped" child.

I had far more arguments with my father than I am happy to remember; and he was as capable of folly as any genius, but he knew the reality, practice and even the theory of standardized testing better than anyone. The vast majority of his customers wanted to believe that "intelligence" was a measurable quantity, like height or the atomic weight of copper. Many of them needed that belief to buttress their neo-Darwinian assumptions about the poor being poor solely because they were stupid.

By the end of his life, as the child of an illiterate, Dad felt more than a little disappointment and even shame at the fact that few, if any, curricula were founded on the assumption that intelligence came in as many shades as Joseph's coat and as many forms and rhythms as nature itself. A few months before his death, when the pain had begun to make him more than usually cranky, he gave me his last word on the subject: "There has always been a lot of talk about each child's reaching his potential; but the potential better be something that could be measured in 40 minutes and scored on a Scantron." Some shadows on the wall are produced by the sun shining on rocks that can be kicked; others are the pure projections of the faulty assumptions of social (sic) science.

Nigel Davies adds:

Byrne/FischerHaving hung around a lot of high IQ people for most of my life I think your Dad was spot on. Some have evident trouble with things like shoelaces. And they don't necessarily make the best chess players, which at first seems really baffling when one considers that a nice closed environment like chess should be perfect for someone with a high IQ. But when you play against these guys you start to realise the issues they have.

A common trait, for example, is for them to look at chess as a kind of mathematical puzzle in which their brilliant brain will eventually work out a solution The problem with this 'pure' view of the game is that it can make them highly predictable, so all you then need to do is find a problem with one of their lines.

Their solution based view also makes them highly vulnerable to provocation should you play a line which might be considered inferior. They'll want to punish your move (in their paradigm it is incorrect) and start to lose their objectivity. And then the problem is that they won't easily be able to pull themselves back from this state of mind because of a belief that their 'brilliant mind' is not capable of anything but objective, pure analysis.

De Bono also mentions the 'intelligence trap,' which is the tendency for people with high IQs to show off how quickly they can see something. This manifests itself as bad thinking habits, for example a failure to consider alternatives. So in chess someone with a high IQ will often calculate a single variation very quickly, but fail to consider alternatives along the way.

There can of course be advantages to high IQ, but I suspect that other talents also need to be in place to make it work for someone. And the problem may be that these may actually be inhibited during their development.

Sushil Kedia extends:

MensaI believe a number of Daily Spec readers are members of Mensa.
There is a serious problem with Mensa India. Some who have catapulted themselves to be the managers of Mensa India have not been letting it grow at all. The last several years there have been no examinations done to let in new members. Forget about elections to the management bodies, new people can't get in now.

If you check the Mensa India website and call the phone numbers listed there they tell you for the last two years that the number of Mensa has changed and Ms. Sudha Tendulkar (she is a secretary to an Indian industrialist who has manipulated Mensa) will always tell you that in a few days the new numbers of Mensa India will be put on the website.
Requesting all readers who are also members of Mensa if they will kindly escalate it through their local chapters to the Mensa worldwide management that Mensa India needs their attention.


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