Monday, January 29, 2007

I.Q. And Success

Intelligence and it's affect on culture is one of the scientific "unspeakables". It's just not politically correct to acknowledge the scale of smart to less-than-smart even though most people know that the I.Q. scale mean is 100--meaning that half the population is above this mark and half below.

I.Q. understanding is vital to me personally because my high-functioning autistic son is on the receiving end of different I.Q. analysis. The results mean everything for his classroom placement, curriculum choices and life-course. He has been pegged as everything from mentally retarded to above average depending on the testing situation and the assessment tool used. Guess where my husband and I view may son? Guess where the school puts him?

My mom sent me a series in the Wall Street Journal about I.Q. and future individual and societal impact of giftedness. Several great points were made including:

  • Why must all kids go to college when only about 10-25% max of college students will benefit from this education?
  • Why aren't the skilled trades more emphasized when a skilled worker can own his or her own business, make over one hundred thousand a year and have the satisfaction of creation?
  • Why do employers look for a degree in jobs that don't need it? I wondered this myself when a friend told me that his construction company won't hire a foreman unless he has a college degree. My question was why?
  • Why is so little invested in the gifted?
  • Why aren't the gifted challenged more to show their areas of weakness introducing humility into their education? (This humility came for me in spades in chiropractic college. Biochemistry--the subject and the barely intelligible Egyptian teacher who taught it--nearly undid my future. I got a gentle-woman's "C" and was happy to receive it, thank you very much.)
  • Why isn't the notion of obligation to those less intelligence-endowed introduced to gifted students? I'm not sure about this needing to be sanctioned. The Honor's Society in High School, the School Senate, and college elite social groups tend to emphasize community service. Well, at least mine did.
I think the over-emphasis on college education is silly. Some kids simply aren't cut out for that road and shouldn't be penalized because of it. Parents should recalibrate their expectations. For example, should my son (whose I.Q. is the subject of dispute) end up "average", I may encourage him into a business where he can succeed, be financially independent and not need college.

Family friends did just this with their daughter who had struggled through High School. She went to college, cried many tears of frustration and finally shared her dream of owning a hair salon. Guess what? They put her in beauty school and the rest is success history. They were wise enough to allow her to follow a path to success not to frustration.

When ten percent have I.Q.s above 125, which is generally considered the cut-off for success as a doctor, lawyer, CEO, engineer, etc., and 90% don't, two things must happen:

One, the 90% shouldn't be shamed for finding alternative educational opportunities. These alternatives (two year trade schools, trade certifications, etc.) should be encouraged. Employers should look for certifications instead of degrees. One of the benefits of the industrial revolution is that an average person got to participate in the creation of something great. Maybe a guy couldn't make a whole car, but he could turn a wrench and have the satisfaction of participating in creating something important and exciting. To me, home building (framing, foundation, dry-wallers, etc.) falls into this category. These people always whistle while they work. It's fun creating something and using a skill to do it.

Two, the 10% should be challenged far more and invested in heavily. I know a guy with an IQ easily over 160 who runs a metal-works plant. His boss is lucky to have such genius working for him for so little. Society, however, is missing out. He had a full-ride to a college out of high school, screwed up and got lost for a few years. Guys like him need to be found, educated and put to work applying their gifts. I'm not sure how this could be done, but I do wonder why a college willing to educate this man at one point, wouldn't give him another shot when he gets his act together.

I.Q. needs to come out of the cultural closet. America risks too much wasted talent, if it stays in there.

9 comments:

carol said...

"a friend told me that his construction company won't hire a foreman unless he has a college degree. My question was why?"

It's crazy but it seems to be a stand-in for some sort of character/aptitude test. You want someone who isn't a flake, who will show up, who can read and write (maybe!) and can cipher. You just can't count on that with the average HS grad now.

kman said...

I think society should be capitalizing on our intellectual super stars better. The education system is not designed to handle them. One "solution" I see in several families I know is to drug them and "dumb them down" to everyone else's level. The parents can't deal with their kids energetic curiosity so they get them a prescription.

The school system should encourage kids to climb to whatever level they can and bring back the trade schools. At some point kids can choose the trade or college track. Of course we all need a big national reality check first. We all know some parents aren't going to let anyone tell them their kid can't be a doctor even though his/her IQ is 85.

To start though you would need to get rid of the "self esteem is everything" doctrine and encourage true diversity. We all have different gifts and thats a good thing. Of course not all gifts are as valuable as others and thats just the way it is. The goal should be to live a happy and fulfilling life, not to make the most money, be the smartest, or have the most power.

Anonymous said...

No one wants to have their kids "tracked" into the trades. Or, at least, the schools do not want to be accused of tracking minorities into the trades.

I think we should ALL be tracked into trades by default, unless we really show what it takes for college. Instead, everyone is going to college by default, college is dumbed down to accommodate them, and millions of people then wander from job to job complaining "this isn't what I wanted to do with MY DEGREE!"

Dr. Melissa said...

Anon,

Agreed. But colleges are big businesses and don't mess with tenured professors. They'd rather teach a class full of dull-wits than lose their profession.

A classic liberal arts education in public school would help, too. My son and daughter are learning all sorts of science that I didn't learn until High School. I see this weird push to teach a little bit of everything at age 7. Why?

A child needs to read, write and learn mathamatics. If a child can read and think--almost any topic can be learned. I feel that public education has the cart before the horse.

Carol,
The unfortunate thing is that many qualified people are eliminated because requiring a college education is easy, but no guarantee either. Roughly 50% of all hires are bad hires no matter the industry. 25% in higher management. A college education is hardly a guarantee of a good fit.

Aptitude testing would also help. For example, a person may have a 100 I.Q. but they have a gift for depth perception say--maybe a good fit as a radiological technologist.

The danger of this sort of thing is that people can become self-fulfilling prophecies and a kind of classist society like Britain shows up (of course you can have the I.Q. of a sea sponge there and if you are born under the right family crest, it works out okay for you).

In America, there are a lot of overachievers who shouldn't be doing as well as the numbers might indicate. Then again, I'll bet there are less of those stories in reality.

David said...

"I know a guy with an IQ easily over 160 who runs a metal-works plant...Society, however, is missing out"...are you sure? You don't say how big the plant is, but there are metalworking plants with thousands of employees, representing hundreds of millions of dollars of invested capital. If he winds up running such a plant someday, and does it well--with good returns for investors, good pay for workers, and a satisfying work environment--isn't that as valuable to society as if he had become a college professor or an industrial research scientist?

Dr. Melissa said...

Not a very big company. And by "run" I mean that he's the foreman there, not the owner.

True, if he's personally satisfied, great.

Another aspect of this issue, is (brace yourself) self-esteem. There are a lot of people with untapped potential who don't believe they can do more.

Then there are those who think they are the best and go on to achieve way more than their raw talent and ability would seem to indicate. I played basketball with such a girl. Her parents thought she was the next star, she believed it, and she overachieved compared with her talent. Let's just say she used every little bit of gift she had, while those with more raw ability used a fraction of it.

Potential is just that--unused energy/information/talent. Sometimes a catalyst will get the potential started. Sometimes nothing can light the fire.

carol said...

"I see this weird push to teach a little bit of everything at age 7. Why?"

I did a lot of looking into this last year before running for office in my state..apparently the progressive ed crowd thinks they're somehow "priming" the kids to learn higher math and science later, or teaching them "concepts" so they can supposedly think for themselves and solve problems without having to practice much. NONE of these approaches have been proven to work.

I think the kids do a lot better if they learn the basic skills and gain a sense of competency first. They can learn the *concepts* later. In fact, I can remember as a kid being very annoyed whenever the teacher tried to get too advanced--eg talk about imaginary numbers or whatever. In the early grades you want things more straightforward.

I have a theory that conceptual learning is sort of like teaching by analogy. You think your analogy is so cool but instead it just confuses people, unless they already understood the concept anyway.

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ThePrimate said...

To succeed in college (we call it University here in Canada) you need an IQ of about 115+ and I have heard some figures lower of 112+. Of course a Masters and Doctorate require more. I recently talked to a former Principal here and they are apparently admitting ordinary iQ's of 100 to University. I think that particular Principal was out to lunch. That is just a setup for failure, these kids should be in 2-3 year Technical courses in Community College, there is no way they are going to pass 4-5 year Engineering courses with Multi variable calculus.