THE VIRTUE OF IQ MEASUREMENT March 15, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Growth.
Measuring human beings can be a deeply flawed process and often more so when it is qualitative in nature, which often deeply affects our sense of ourselves and our best possibilities. This effect may be exacerbated by social class. Facetiously here, I use George Walker Bush as the example, although I think had he had an appropriate education, he would never have sought, or been led, to be president.
To educate means to draw out, or at least this etymology makes sense when you look at the word. As a legacy of religious instruction and the institutional needs of the Church, and the subsequent late nineteenth century incorporation of the factory model of mass production, education became a process of stamping and sealing. The abstract noun “education” often had little to do with the process it sought to describe, or else in the description as happens the process was forgotten. Then there are those incorrigible ones, I suspect a minority, who through gifts of observation and independent thought, did learn engage in significant learning as they churned through the sausage machine.
Charles Dickens, I believe, was on to the futility of rote learning, and I would hate to admit how much of what I studied was in effect rote learning, prepared for exams and then forgotten. The thing that bugs me even now is the use of rote learning of the times tables, when other methods could be used. For example, I have just noticed this evening, and humility overcomes me, that if for example, you run the sequence:
Then reverse the series:
And then combine them so that the second precedes the first you get:
Which might be recognized as the nine times table. Now if you combine these numbers in another way, they always add up to nine. Now, I claim had this mirror image around the mid point been pointed out to me at an earlier age, the chances of sparking my interest would have been greater than the mindless repetition of numbers.
It seems to me, and I am guessing, when general anthropological evidence is considered, whether the Ancient Greeks, or the Maori, and others without the artifices of modern life, those with strong memories are valued as the guardians of folklore, and as potential leaders. And other less war-like societies, perhaps such as many Australian Aboriginal nations the environment is the story book of the world, and memory is the direct lived experience.
Of course too, in criticizing the education process, I ought to remember that sending children to schools was a far better option than setting them to work in factories, mines and farms, and that schooling made an appreciation of a wider world possible for many people, and perhaps even in my case. And that, I think, raises the question: Is the institutionalization of the process of educating the problem? Or is it simply inevitable and necessary.
Still I can report that despite obtaining some modest certifications, it is rare to all but unknown for any employer in my experience to notice them, and by doing so have made them irrelevant of getting and earning, which I would claim is not the purpose of life, despite a widespread assumption to that effect. It may be described as the lesser purpose rather than the greater purpose. To those you assume we should be necessarily subordinated into corporate profit, or other utilitarian purpose, I would associate myself in company with Thomas Jefferson and affirm “pursuit of happiness”. I take this to be the end of education.
The purpose of IQ testing, in my view, leaving aside its social class effects, if not intentions, has always been the measurement of the “educatibility” of its subjects, whether they were the French school children of interest to Alfred Binet, or the First World War American army recruits. There may be 20% of the population for which IQ testing is simply irrelevant been pointless in its execution for contrary reasons. But that means that 80% of the population were reduced to a single number as far as their potential cognitive abilities were concerned, and furthermore that this number was wholly determined by genetic endowment, as for example eye color might be.
The growth paradigm would at least call this presumption into question and invite closer examination of the otherwise compelling twin studies and raise questions as to whether the comparative environments of each twin were significantly different as to effect the result. To me it is common sense to suppose that Mozart would not have realized his potential without the influence of his parents, particularly his father.
I have not a clue how musical ability could be measured, and I am certain that I would not do very well, even if musicality was given higher social value, but I can observe this ability in far greater degree than I do. Now I suppose that the path to happiness for these people is to develop there talents to the greatest degree possible, and so for those with other abilities. However, at this point our society with its regimentation and utilitarian values has determined to cripple people and deny them the possibility of fulfillment and happiness by in effect denying the possibility of education.
My intuition is that the hidden purpose, and unconscious paradigm is manifestation of a military society. For that reason, I suggest, environmental values, regardless of their urgency and logic, are difficult to accept. To accept anything other than military solutions, for example the so-called “war on terrorism” and as I am advised the revival of “cadets” in some schools would be conflict with our social genetic code.
When I left school, my headmaster wrote that I “had academic ability somewhat above average.” And my response was I do not think so, and what does it mean anyway, without appreciating that he was in a good position to judge these matters in a qualified way notwithstanding. Similarly, when I got results from an intelligence test I took, which was good for my self esteem and therefore sense of possibility, similar and greater scepticism was aroused by the suggestion that my intellectual type is “visual mathematician”. I am to admit that as soon as geometry became part of the syllabus, I started to do better at mathematics, but I assumed that was true for everybody.
I would attempt to argue that quantitative IQ measurements are more useful, even if the vexed questions of validity and reliability can be set aside, to the extent that different skills are identified and compared. A long time ago, before the daily degradation beset me, it would have been of strategic value to have indicated what I might be able to do better. For example these results suggested that I scored higher than 80 – 90 per cent of people who took the test on the mathematical scale, 90 -100 per cent on the visual spatial scale, 70 – 80 per cent on the Linguistic percentile, and 60 -70 percent on the logical scale. Obviously, I have a problem with logic, but I think that is universal too.
Naturally I do not believe a word of it, but I have the picture. It seems to me that IQ testing may be appropriately used as diagnostic tool for cognitive skills, but not as a social definition by a single number.