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The HISTORY of IQ: One number that changed the world…
If you listed the 10-most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century such as DNA, atomic energy, or flight, would "IQ" make your final cut? Many think it should. Created to quantify a person's intelligence, the IQ score and an unfortunate French-to-English translation changed the course of education for a hundred years.
In 1904, Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to develop a test to separate intellectually normal from inferior students. The purpose was to send lesser children to special education. At the time, he cautioned the test wasn't suitable as "a general device for ranking all pupils according to mental worth."
Just like today, some at the turn of the century believed intelligence was fixed, but Binet vehemently disagreed. "We must protest...[their belief] is founded on nothing."
If the inventor of the IQ test never intended IQ to be a comprehensive picture of intelligence—and he knew it could be modified, what happened?
In 1909, H.H. Goddard translated the Simon-Binet (IQ) Test into English. He considered intelligence "a solitary, fixed, and inborn entity." His bias shaped the translation and led people to accept IQ . . . as a definitive, permanent representation of a person's quality.1 American schools used the intelligence scales, but ignored Binet's warnings.
By the 1920's, the test's importance grew into a multi-million dollar industry. Popularity escalated, and according to the Mental Measurements Yearbook, 2,467 tests measuring some form of intellectual ability were in print by 1974. Five hundred million tests were given in one year in the 80's alone!
What's the problem? Intelligence tests are unreliable predictors of performance, and are inaccurate (sometimes varying by as much as 15 points from test to test.)
If Goddard's position were true, IQ should obviously predict reading. However, there are clearly individuals with a low IQ who are good readers.1 In another injustice, IQ tests are of inflated importance for people with learning disabilities. Most have deficiencies in one or more component skills that are part of the tests (such as word attack) and may lead to underestimating the real intelligence of that person.2 The IQ score may be lower than someone who doesn't have these problems, even though they have identical reasoning and problem-solving skills.3
IQ tests measure what can be done now, not what can be done in the future [potential].3 Parents are wise to seek testing designed to find out what exactly gives their child difficulty, not general intelligence.
Binet knew that the false notion that intelligence is unchangeable was dangerous thinking! Identify and train the weak skills and you allow the student to reach higher goals. Potential is much too powerful and important to waste on a misinterpreted IQ score. Get a child the training he needs, and see what happens!
1 Strydom, Jan, Du Plessis, Susan. IQ Test: Where Does It Come From and What Does It Mean? http://www.audiblox2000.com/dyslexia_dyslexic/dyslexia014.htm
2 Das, Dr. J.P. Measuring a Child's IQ is an Obsolete Way to Determine Intelligence. Child Health News. 18 October 2004.
3 Siegel, Linda S. Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
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