The Unexamined IQ. Of David Brooks, Shafir & Mullainathan

unexamined iqMANILA - There is this essay "The Unexamined Society" published in the New York Times issue of 07 July 2011, date as declared, but the unexamined URL says it was published 08 July 2011. Lawyers will figure, but figures don't lie.

I can say that the author of that unexamined entry, David Brooks, is good at induction, I mean, jumping to conclusions. That is a behavior that I must assign to The Unexamined IQ, not the least that of David Brooks and of Eldar Shafir of Princeton and of Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard. Boys of a feather flock together.

For all its length, Brooks' 805-word essay (including his byline) makes much of the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, which belongs in the dustbin of psychological history and the trash can of educational theory. Your intelligence must be questioned if you insist that the IQ test is a good measure of mental capacity, creativity, and common sense.

IQ is a wrong measure of intelligence; the truly intelligent know that. In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould says (pages 24-25, quoted in comcast.net, in italics):

The argument begins with one of the fallacies, reification, or our tendency to convert abstract concepts into entities (from the Latin res, or thing). We recognize the importance of mentality in our lives and wish to characterize it, in part so that we can make the divisions and distinctions among people that our cultural and political systems dictate. We therefore give the word "intelligence" to this wondrously complex and multifaceted set of human capabilities. This shorthand symbol is then reified and intelligence achieves its dubious status as a unitary thing.

Why, Gould is asking, do you insist on a single measure of a complex phenomenon? Intelligence is not that simple. If it is, I Frank A Hilario will ask you, "So why is it that only 10% of us can think creatively? Why is it that 90% of us can only think critically?" You don't need a year-long study to gather data - if you are in the Philippines, read 100% of the Manila newspapers and you will see what I mean.

Once intelligence becomes an entity, standard procedures of science virtually dictate that a location and physical substrate be sought for it. Since the brain is the seat of mentality, intelligence must reside there.

Since we have concluded that intelligence is measureable by the IQ test, then we argue that the brain is the seat of intelligence.

We now encounter the second fallacy, ranking, or our propensity for ordering complex variation as a gradual ascending scale.

Now therefore, since intelligence is in the brain, if we measure intelligence, we are measuring the mental capacity of the human being and, therefore, we can classify human beings according to their intelligence. We then go ahead and rank people as to their intelligence, from Dumb to Genius.

… The abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups - races, classes, or sexes - are innately inferior and deserve their status.

To explain, let me take the entrance exam - no pun intended - given by the University of the Philippines, the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). The UPCAT has 4 subtests: Language Proficiency, Science, Mathematics, and Reading Comprehension (up.edu.ph). The UPCAT is administered to all desirous high school graduates from Aparri to Jolo, with varying amounts of data and information in their brains, depending on the quality of education they have received. Since the urban schools are of higher standards than the rural, the UPCAT is stacked for the City Boys against the Ruralites - that's what you call silent but invidious intellectual discrimination.

The UPCAT is an IQ test, plain and simple. It doesn't measure the true intelligence of the high school graduates - it measures only the true intelligence of those who insist on administering it.

If not the IQ Test, how then do we measure human intelligence?
We don't!

Instead, we measure human intelligences, plural. We have been left behind by history. Some 28 years ago, in 1983, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner came up with his myth-shattering Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) as he published his book Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences (howardgardner.com). In that book and subsequent other books, Gardner argued for the following 8 multiple intelligences (with my brief description):

(1) linguistic - skill with language
(2) logical-mathematical - skill in analyzing problems
(3) musical - skill with harmonious patterns
(4) bodily-kinesthetic - skill with whole body or parts
(5) spatial - skill with patterns in space
(6) interpersonal - skill in relating with others
(7) intrapersonal - skill in understanding oneself
(8) naturalist - skill in understanding nature.

It's interesting to note that Brooks did notice something in that direction and said, "People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don't depending on context." That's a brilliant deduction. That, in other words, is exactly what Howard Gardner is saying! Language is a context, and so is music, and so is space etcetera. Unfortunately, Brooks didn't pursue his idea any further.

To say the least, "Howard Gardner's work around multiple intelligences has had a profound impact on thinking and practice in education - especially in the United States" (Mark K Smith, 2008, infed.org). Since Shafir & Mullainathan ignored Gardner, it only goes to show that some scientists cannot be trusted in a science other than their own.

As it turns out, it's a Harvard Professor versus a Harvard Professor. I'd deny my limited IQ and instead enjoy all my multiple intelligences.

The IQ is The Unexamined Lie. What the IQ test measures, if you insist, are only the first 2 of 8 intelligences: linguistic (in the UPCAT, Language Proficiency and Reading Comprehension), and logical-mathematical (Science, Mathematics).

But, if Brooks, Shafir & Mullainathan insist on the measure of IQ, I'll measure theirs like this, based on Gardner's MI; I shall be very generous and assign from a maximum of 100 pt:

07 pt for linguistic intelligence (max 12.5 pt) - since their background research is insufficient, their premises are imperfect.

07 pt for logical-mathematical intelligence (max 12.5 pt) - since their assumptions are short, their arguments are shot.

75 pt for the rest of the intelligences (max 75 pt), even if they don't think they have those.

So, their IQ is all 89 pt out of a max 100 pt. Not Dumb; it's High Intelligence actually - but certainly not at the level of Genius.

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