Thursday, June 10, 2021

IQ/EQ Further Update

The discussion is good under the previous update and I recommend it. As with many other topics here, I receive private emails from folks who do not want to become embroiled in contention, but want to mention something to me. In this case, a friend notes that the discussion seems to go too quickly to looking only at excellence, at genius and high accomplishment. But the advantage of desirable skills is that they also raise the floor, so that a person who has a lot of one necessary ability for a particular task is not a complete washout even if s/he has not quite enough for the others.  To continue the basketball analogy, Tacko Fall is the tallest person in the NBA at 7-5.  He is below-average but not terrible in coordination.  He did not start playing basketball in Senegal until quite late. He works hard and is extremely likable.  As an illustration, when he came to the Boston Celtics he was invited to be guest conductor for the Boston Pops for one piece, and was not quite keeping the rhythm accurately. Almost. But the crowd loved him, he tried hard, and he wasn't embarrassingly bad, so long as you weren't expecting an actual conductor. 

He will never be a starter, let alone a star.  He is improving, and at his peak may become a "rotation player," someone who plays 15-25 legitimate minutes of a 48-minute game, and even some minutes in the playoffs. If he was a jerk he'd be gone.  If he didn't work hard he'd be gone. But mostly, if he was average height he would never have even been under consideration, because his coordination and early training are not excellent. I should mention as a humorous aside that he is also very smart, 1440 on his SAT's despite English being a second language and Senegalese schools being...unremarkable.  I don't have the breakdown, but his math ability is apparently very good, so likely approaching a perfect 800 there.

This is the same for any other ability. There are jobs that require that you endure a moderate amount of danger and remain clear-headed, such as a diver.  Or jobs that require you keep your temper under provocation, such as...well, anyone who works with the public, frankly. I have already mentioned beauty, or resilience, or diligence, or charm, or trustworthiness, or tact, ...or IQ.  If you have a lot of anything, you can at least make your way in the world and carve out some niche, even if you don't set the world on fire. That is very valuable, not only for you, but for the society around you. 

I plead guilty, that I was one of the people falling into that error, and further admit that I often fall into that error. Even when mentioning that I was not focusing on individuals but on group success, I failed to take the next logical step and remember that success does not only mean "some people who do really well at this," but also "lots of competent people," and "very few people who we just can't find a niche for."

To return to a frequent theme, yes, it is irritating when one of those people who has a high IQ talks like they are some sort of success when they are actually just being endured because they provide some value while falling short in other areas, but that is true of all abilities.  Attractive people think the initial approval they receive is their deserved level.  People who have degrees or other credentials can show inordinate entitlement. Even the salt-of-the-earth, hardworking folks with diligence, resilience, attention to detail, and the like can display those resentments of "I've got so much of this, why doesn't anyone appreciate me?  I'm better than them." It is true of all abilities, it's just that certain ones just get us torqued off more.


Cranberry said...

Well, but...

For many years, IQ tests or their proxies, have been used to gatekeep access to opportunity. I think New York has been particularly bad at the effort to keep children out of gifted programs. That's a long diversion, but to make it short, competitive parents were apparently doing things like hiring psychologists to coach their toddlers on how to ace baby IQ exams to get into the "best" kindergartens and public schools.

I think IQ tests can be very useful, but I think the gatekeeping has been used as a strategic way to control school budgets, rather than as a way to foster educational excellence. If you know you (or your children) are more intelligent than those who are permitted to access a better education, that would have to feed bitterness.

Over the years, I've found a magic way to stop discussion of how terribly the parents of gifted children have been treated by school systems allowing lesser children into the programs. (yes, sacrcasm) I just observe that it would be a Good Thing if children were permitted to be challenged more in the classroom, but that they wouldn't get any grade bump or special recognition for that. So, a kid could choose between AP bio or regular bio, but the AP bio course wouldn't bring a automatic increase in standing for the AP bio kid.

Oh, and I would allow children (and their families) to opt in to more challenging courses, rather than require them to visit a private psychologist.

dmoelling said...

Tests become a tool for bureaucrats (petit and other) to avoid making judgement calls. Of course this is most prevalent in public employment and education. When I was in high school in the 1970s (a good suburban Chicago school district) I took some drafting and metal shop courses instead of all honors options figuring they would help me in future engineering school. I did well in both and the instructors asked me to enroll in more as I could help them move other students along. But I couldn't fit that in. It did impress on me that certain parts of any subject were easy for me but others were more difficult compared to my classmates. The trick is for the faculty to be able to mix up students for a good optimum without boring some.

Thomas Doubting said...

I think a part of this is grade inflation. It used to be (or so I'm told -- I haven't done the historical legwork to check) that C was an average grade. Few students got As and you had to actually excel to do it. Now, we have classes where the average grade is B, and someone who puts in just a little more effort can make an A. So we seem to need something extra to challenge extraordinary students, whereas before just getting As was challenging enough.

That is certainly not the whole story, of course, but I think it's part of it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If a school is relying on baby-IQ tests you are already screwed. There are brighter children and it can be detected young, but it is so variable as to be mostly useless.

As someone else mentioned earlier, the tests were originally designed to include poor kids or disadvantaged kids in, not out. You can coach kids up somewhat, but the paid courses that promise to do that disguise the fact that kids are going to do better when they are a year older anyway, and not much of that is test prep. You take some practice tests so you know how they work - which every kid in America has been doing since elementary school anyway. You can coach them on how not to panic if you hit a problem, giving them possible strategies for calculated guessing or marking it and coming back at the end. These help a little, but less than what you are paying for.

Consider: If you take a formal IQ test like a WISC, the scoring is different for different ages. The raw score you get when you are 14 is worth less when you are 15. This is because you are going through normal development and your abstract reasoning is just getting better, whether you take a prep course or not. You are encountering words and ideas in your environment and improving your ability to use them without any formal test training. It's the same with the SAT, but the prep courses hide that.

The school tests are matched developmentally. College bound kids are likely taking math K-11 or 12, and the curriculum is founded on building year over year. Critics have a point that few people will use much math above a certain level, but math is supposed to train you in logical thinking. Measuring how far you can stack up that house of cards if you stick with it is an excellent measure of abstract reasoning, even if it is artificial for most and they will forget it shortly. Unless you work with math, most adults would do poorly on the math sections now. Vocabulary and the synonym/antonym, reading comprehension types of tests are the opposite. Most adults would do as well or better on those once they are out of school as their vocabulary grows and they hear or use words in various ways. Those kids who score well when younger nearly always have higher math than verbal scores.

So the SATs would line up with IQ tests mostly in that sense, of being designed to measure differences in a narrow age range, and are best around the low-average to superior range. They don't tell you much below the range of IQ 85, for example, or the aptitude of a recent BA in English who hasn't had much math since highschool.

Linda Fox said...

Raw IQ will only get you so far - the ability to be someone that others will want to be around is a major part of success, as well.

How has Biden gotten so far? A lot of it is that he is a bit of a dim bulb - the guy who gets an idea in his head, and, unfortunately, gets it a bit wrong. But, he is useful to you, so you overlook the fact that he really doesn't fundamentally understand complicated concepts.

Add to that, the fact that he is at ease in a variety of social situations, and will convey that sense of comfort, even though those around him are saying, "Really, Joe?"

Like that time during the campaign when he pulled that biker chick into his lap, right in front of her boyfriend. It made a hell of a photo op, and probably got him a few votes from soy-boys who wanted to think they were voting for the bad-ass that was going to take down Trump. And, some grudging respect from a few bikers.

He's lost a lot of that likeability - his mental slowing has cost him that quality. He's just not sharp enough anymore.