Saturday, 8 May 2021

People should not be defined by their IQ

and it upsets me when they are.

There was a migrant to this country who set up a pie business. He died recently - after a failed lung transplant. His family believe he would still be alive if he had been able to get the transplant sooner. He was initially rejected on the grounds that  he had an "IQ" of 84 and was showing early signs of Alzheimer's.  (IQ - intelligence quotient - supposedly a measure of "smart" you are.)

Now this man was running a multi-million dollar business and had built it up from nothing. It would seem to me that the assessment of his ability was not terribly accurate.

IQ tests worry me. They have worried me for years. They may give an indication of the ability to learn but they are not an accurate indicator of someone's ability to succeed.

When my parents first moved into this street there was a family living two doors down from us. The father was definitely someone a teacher would say had learning problems. His ability to read and write was very limited. He relied on an elderly neighbour to read his mail because his wife could not read at all. When the elderly neighbour finally moved into aged care I took over the responsibility of helping this man with his mail. It was that way I found out he owned the house. He was not in debt to anyone. He paid his bills in full and on time. He had money in the bank for his retirement. He had worked all his life in the same job at a car manufacturing plant. It was not well paid but he had managed his money well. He told me that, apart from the house, he had never bought anything he could not pay for outright. Was he a success? I would say, "Yes!"

I have known other people like him. They have been slow to learn but they have persisted.

I know a highly intelligent man in his thirties. He didn't finish school and has never held down a job for more than a few weeks. He uses drugs and too much alcohol. His IQ is supposedly somewhere in the top 1% of the population but is he really intelligent? He queues for unemployment benefit and does the minimum amount of job-seeking required to keep getting it. He knows how to work the system and is an expert at getting what he wants from other people. Lazy? Yes. But I think it is something more than that. He lacks some sort of basic intelligence and the ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. 

And there is the cultural and linguistic issue. I once taught a child to read. He was supposedly profoundly intellectually retarded as well as severely physically disabled. Testing a child with a severe physical disability is a challenge. There are items on an IQ test - or were as it is a while since I have conducted one - that require physical manipulation. If you can't hold something and place it in a precise place then there is a problem. Children who are unable to move independently have a different way of seeing the world too. P... was tested by a psychologist before I ever met him and deemed to be "profoundly retarded". He wasn't. Quite apart from the fact that he was hearing Greek at home and English at school he couldn't hold anything. He could barely hold his head up when I first met him. It soon became obvious to me though that he was quite able to learn. He would laugh at little jokes. He was obviously listening intently to what was going on around him. I could ask him a yes/no question and he would look at the ceiling for "yes" and the floor for "no".  He had things he wanted to tell me.  These days he reads Greek as well as English and uses eye-coding to communicate an extensive vocabulary - but he failed that IQ test.

That's just three examples but please don't define people by how well or badly they do on an IQ test or by what someone tells you about their ability to learn. It's a lot more complicated than that.


jeanfromcornwall said...

It is my opinion that IQ test results just tell you how good a person is at doing IQ tests. There are so many other sides to any person's make up and character, and most of them are more interesting and useful.

catdownunder said...

And how good they are at doing the test on that particular day.