Problems with IQ
Over the last few days I’ve been doing some reading about intelligence and IQ scores, trying to get some other perspectives on the ideas in Real Education. What I’ve found has colored my thoughts about intelligence testing quite a bit. I stress that this is about testing because variations in intelligence are real, but it’s tough to test it universally.
If you check out the average IQ in the US, you will see, with (presumably, based on my brief search) no exception, that it is 100. It ranges from 90-110, but 100 is the official mean. That’s because IQ scores are based on “norms”.
Tests are given to groups, and the scores are divided by age. The analysts use a formula to find the average score, then norm it to 100. The rest of the scores are normed right along with a standard deviation of 15 or 16 points.
“The IQ test was invented in France in 1904 by Alfred Binet to determine which children would not benefit from more schooling. He tested children at different ages to determine the average scores for each age group on vocabulary, arithmetic, abstract thinking, and verbal comprehension. The average total score for children at each age then gave him a basis for comparing a child’s individual score. The formula was Mental Age divided by Chronological Age times 100 equaled Intelligence Quotient (M.A. / C.A. x 100 = IQ.) A ten year old child who scored the same as other ten year olds received a quotient of 100. A ten year old child who scored the same as the average eleven year old received a quotient of 110. A ten year old child who scored the same as the average eight year old received a quotient of 80.
“Binet’s quotient predicted lack of success in school fairly well. A high IQ score, however, did not predict success as well because so many other factors determine success in school. (These factors include presence or absence of desire to learn, encouragement from others, good study habits, persistence, self-confidence, and distracting survival concerns.)”
Al Siebert, Ph.D. – Darwinistic Elitism is Idiotic
If you spend enough time looking at IQ scores nationally and internationally one thing will stand out: the darker your skin, the lower your scores. That is, unless you are East Asian. In the US, the scores have gone consistently in this order over decades: Asian, White, Latino, Black. And internationally: East Asian, European, Middle Eastern/North African, Sub-Saharan, Aborigine. Looking at these scores, I was pretty discouraged about some things. Who can deny the numbers?
Apparently, it’s not that difficult. Dr. Siebert says later in his essay, “So the norms are the issue, not your actual test score, and here is where ethnic groups lose out. The deck is stacked against them. Their scores are compared to many people not like them and they receive a lower number. Did a 47 year old black man raised in Birmingham have the same schooling experiences as a 47 year old white man raised in Boston? No. But the statistical tables treat them the same.”
If you look at the international tests, you may notice that the countries with higher scores have larger urban populations than those at the lower end of the spectrum. Any comparison between the cultural environment tribesman from Papua New Guinea or Swaziland and even the poorest students in Tokyo, Helsinki, or Philadephia is laughable. But they are given the same tests, and scored against a global norm. This is patently unfair, and the results have lost their weight.
Siebert’s essay also contained some frightening ideas from Charles Murray’s earlier book, The Bell Curve. Apparently Murray argued from evidence similar to the scoring disparities referenced above that ” a ‘cognitive elite’ will and should ‘run a custodial state’ for an ‘underclass’ of people with lower intelligence that is ‘disproportionately black.'”
The racial component isn’t the major issue here, but the “will and should” (which is, incidentally, Siebert’s language, but he read the book and I didn’t…). In Real Education Murray makes a point to say that, though he believes the future of society depends on the education of the gifted, he doesn’t believe it should be so; he’s simply being realistic. He doesn’t advocate, as he did previously, for “a high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian reservation.” He encourages the effort of all to achieve, welcoming the exception to predictions of success based on IQ. But the reality is that the intellectually gifted are the ones who, based on merit, will dominate the upper levels of science, medicine, philosophy, politics, and business.
He and his co-author do make a racial offense.
Herrnstein and Murray argue that African-Americans consistently score about 15 IQ points below Euro-Americans on intelligence tests largely because of hereditary factors, not socio-economic or cultural differences or from biased test items or from unfair normative group comparisons.
On the other hand, when studies show that Asian-American children consistently obtain IQ scores 11 points higher on intelligence tests than do Euro-American children of similar socio-economic backgrounds, the explanation is that cultural differences and child rearing practices account for the difference. Herrnstein and Murray see no evidence of hereditary advantage when other ethnic groups do better than whites on intelligence tests. Nor do they remain consistent in their logic and assert that Asian-Americans should oversee the activities of the Euro-American “cognitive elite.” (emphasis mine)
This amounts to a major inconsistency. I didn’t notice any inconsistencies this significant in my first read of Real Education, but I’ll be looking for them as I go back through.
I’m prepared to forgive these offenses, because they were written almost 15 years ago, but I’ll be looking a bit more closely, and more critically, at his latest work.