I’ve recently begun reading some material related to topic of intelligence as a human trait: it’s definition, it’s relevance, and the 20th anniversary of a book that set off a firestorm about the topic as a whole. In particular, I want to critique the perspective expressed in this paragraph which basically sums up conventional wisdom against the idea that IQ is anything tangibly important:
“Intelligence is a bankrupt concept. Whatever it might mean – and nobody really knows even how to define it – intelligence is so ephemeral that no one can measure it accurately. IQ tests are, of course, culturally biased, and so are all the other “aptitude” tests, such as the SAT. To the extent that tests such as IQ and SAT measure anything, it certainly is not an innate “intelligence.” IQ scores are not constant; they often change significantly over an individual’s life span. The scores of entire populations can be expected to change over time – look at the Jews, who early in the twentieth century scored below average on IQ scores and now score well above the average. Furthermore, the tests are nearly useless as tools, as confirmed by the well-documented fact that such tests do not predict anything except success in school. Earnings, occupation, productivity – all the important measures of success – are unrelated to the test scores. All that tests really accomplish is to label youngsters, stigmatizing the ones who do not do well and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that injures the socioeconomically disadvantaged in general and blacks in particular.”
The bold emphasis in that paragraph is mine. I highlighted those particular segments because I intend to do a few blog posts explaining why those assertions are wrong. This week and next week I will do posts on defining intelligence, the validity of IQ as well as why it’s not “culturally biased” (whatever that means), and finally do a post on a book in particular that created quite the firestorm two decades ago simply by being flat-out misrepresented.
During the past couple years, I’ve become convinced that the idea that we can shape any human being we want into whatever vision we wish to impose on them is pretty inhumane at the least. Parents, educators, society at large, even disadvantaged individuals themselves have been blamed for shortcomings that nobody really has much control over at this point.
Consider these posts a series on social science – as if empirical evidence mattered.