Perhaps never in our country's history have we been so aware of our schools, so well informed about the problems our schools face, and so deeply concerned with raising the quality of public school education.
Yet in spite of our general information and concern, one of the key factors in the education of our own children continues to be a blind spot, a shibboleth, and an old wives' tale.
One has only to mention the words "IQ" among parents of school-age children to produce a number of immediate, revealing, and poorly informed responses:
"IQ? My Bobby must have a pretty high IQ. He's bright as a button, always asking questions, and I'm sure he'll make out all right."
"IQ? Well, IQ isn't so important with girls, you know. And Marsha's such a pretty little thing she's bound to get married."
"IQ? I don't care about Jimmy's IQ. I love him just the way he is."
Of course it's admirable to have confidence in your child, to want to help your child, to be realistic about your child's future, and to love your child just as he is; but, these reactions are not enough. For a child's IQ is no matter for pride or ineffectual worrying or contented ignorance. Its importance must not be underestimated, though it certainly should not be overemphasized, especially in the presence of the child. The IQ should be treated for what it is, a not too reliable statistic that has a continuing and often unfortunate effect on the child's life. For example:
Bobby, who is as bright as a button with an IQ of 89, is placed in a slower class and will follow a watered-down curriculum, while Jimmy, whose IQ is just one point higher, is placed in a brighter class and will follow a normal curriculum. At the end of two years, when they are tested again, the chances are that Bobby's IQ will be somewhat lower and Jimmy's somewhat higher as a result of the different education each has had. Tests will continue to reflect the discrepancy in their education throughout their school years.
Marsha, the pretty little thing who is bound to get married, has an IQ score of 128 but will be denied admittance to a Special Progress class because her score is two points below the minimum 130. Thus this bright youngster will miss the opportunity of working in the stimulating atmosphere of the children and curriculum that make up this kind of class. She will also lose the chance of doing three years' work in two years.
The pattern may persist in the use made of the IQ by the military services.
Bobby's IQ (or AGCT as it is called in the armed forces) is three points below the fixed minimum for this specialty, and so he will be rejected for training as a radar technician.
Jimmy will not be eligible for officers training because his AGCT score is a few points below the required minimum of 110.
And in private industry, Marsha, still unmarried, will not get the research position she applied for because her IQ is two points below what the company considers the minimum for this job.
These IQ scores played a limiting role over a period of time, and a relatively small increase in them would have opened up many new opportunities for each individual. And these examples are neither farfetched nor uncommon. In the January 20, 1957, issue of The New York Times Magazine, David Wechsler, one of the foremost authorities on the IQ, estimated that half the population of the United States has been given I Q tests at one time or another. Undoubtedly all the 85 million who have taken a test have been influenced to some degree by their score; and it is likely that those who have been adversely affected by the lack of a few crucial points number in the millions.
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