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On Having The Right Attitude To IQ Scores

Aug 17, 2007
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, intelligence or achievement? (By achievement we mean the ability to perform basic skills in reading, arithmetic, writing, and the like.)

Consider Joey, for example, who is in the sixth grade and reads on a fourth-grade level. Is he a slower reader because his I Q is 88? Or is his I Q recorded as 88 because he is a slow reader and this curtails his performance on his I Q test? Which comes first, the chicken of achievement or the egg of intelligence?

Now Joey's I Q is relatively low at least in part because he does not read as well as the average child of the same age. If he were given remedial reading instruction and his reading level improved as a result, it is very probable that his I Q score would be higher if he were retested.

But Joey's chances of getting remedial reading instruction on an individual basis are probably slim, for most schools and school systems do not have the funds and facilities required for extensive programs in this area.

Joey's reading is probably considered satisfactory: that is, he is over a year behind what is considered average for his age, but he is also somewhat below average in intelligence. Given his intelligence, the schools reason, we should expect no more of him; therefore, his reading is satisfactory.

But for Joey, whose reading trouble might very well be the result of factors other than his intelligence, this should not be a satisfactory answer. He might be capable of profiting from an enriched curriculum. He might have abilities which could be developed only when exposed to the curriculum being enjoyed by the brightest class in his age group.

Indeed, he might have the ability to score well above average on an IQ test. If his IQ were higher he would get a better education. It is also true that if his education were better he would have a higher I Q. But Joey, whose below-average I Q traps him in slow classes, has little chance to extricate himself from the vicious circle in which his I Q adversely affects his education which adversely affects his achievement which adversely affects his I Q-and so on.

The school, having classified and grouped the child on the basis of his I Q-and, in some instances, with the aid of such related factors as reading ability and arithmetic level-begins to expect and accept of the child the kind of performance his I Q indicates as most probable.

The parent, usually placing confidence in the school's superior experience in evaluating the educational progress of children, begins to accept the school's general picture of the child's strengths and weaknesses.

And the child, always to some extent unsure of his ability to go beyond a familiar level, and normally preoccupied with the more exciting everyday aspects of growth and life, develops a self-image that is strongly shaped by the attitudes of his parents, his teachers, and his fellow schoolmates.

Even though the school does not identify the average, bright, or slow groups in any way, it does not take long for the children themselves to sense the I Q-based distinctions. The teachers, of course, know of the differences, and this knowledge affects their conscious and unconscious attitudes toward the children of each group.

The parents, whose attitudes toward their children's abilities are so highly colored by the school's evaluation, often betray their attitudes to the children. Thus, though in many thousands of instances the school is underrating the potential of individual children, the child will develop and reinforce a self-image that incorporates many unreal limitations. And once these limitations become part of the child's self-image, they operate just as if they were real.

And so another vicious circle is begun in which the child is directly and indirectly penalized by a conception that originates with the I Q.
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