Do IQ tests really reveal a child's intelligence?

Alan's picture
by Alan
Professor Peter Saunders wants to have a serious debate about social mobility. He states, on average, the lower socio-economic population have a lower intelligence. Apparently, evidence from IQ testing underscores this fact: “ America, accountants and lawyers have average IQ scores of 128, compared with 122 for teachers, 109 for electricians, 96 for truck drivers and 91 for miners and farmhands.”

Despite these data, farming continues while all else in our economy appears to fail. From deduction, one would assume that there is more to intelligence than just being good at maths, that other factors are involved, such as rationality and being able to use self-control.

It is difficult to understand how intelligence can be quantified without first establishing what it is that is actually being measured. IQ tests are ineffective measures of imagination, curiosity and perseverance, whilst on the other hand they appear to be good predictors of skills and abilities acquired in school.

To get the debate rolling...

I believe that social justice should be about fairness of opportunity. Educational ideologies and theories about intelligence get in the way of securing an infrastructure for allowing children to fulfil their true potential. If, as Saunders states, many working class children are bright enough to do well in school and go on to well-paid jobs then surely education is a good place to begin breaking down barriers.
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Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 04/02/2011 - 23:01

I watched the television progamme the other night and found it almost as irritating as the one produced by Andrew Neil. The agenda seemed to be that social mobility was falling because working class children were not only penalised by not attending a private school but in the (unlikely) event that they did manage to secure decent exam grades wouldn't get the right advice to pursue the correct course at a suitable university. But if by some chance they did, they wouldn't be able to afford the course/tuition fees, nor have the networking contacts enjoyed by more privileged students and couldn't subsequently undertake work as unpaid interns without parental financial support.

While, I agree that being socially and financially worse off than their peers is disadvantageous in the labour market I think if a working class student has made it to a good university on merit and has the motivation to attain a good degree I think he/she will also have the drive to procure a professional career.

And I largely agree with Professor Saunders findings that people who are in higher occupations are there on merit because they are intelligent. I also think that their children are more likely to follow them in that career path not because they have been the beneficiaries of any exclusive private schooling (although it probably helps) but because their genes have determined that they've inherited a higher IQ.

That was why I sent my children to the local comprehensive rather than a fee paying school because I felt pretty sure that their academic outcome was a done deal by virtue of their family pedigree rather than the calibre of the school, as long as I kept a hand on the tiller to steady their educational journies.

Alan's picture
Sat, 05/02/2011 - 10:43

To expand on breaking down barriers, I meant to include that IQ testing, for the purpose of education, proves only one thing, that children have been exposed to a particular culture, psychology and development that is highly conducive to following particular educational pathways, which in their current form, favour those best able to support themselves. In order to move away from this unacceptable social Darwinism of the education system, surely a multi-faceted approach that encompasses, not only an ability to pass rigid examinations, but also, the ingenuity that is innate in all children, is the only system that can claim to be fully inclusive. The Government’s free school initiative might just provide the diversity and imagination required to accomplish this aim, albeit from a non-selective position.

Jonathan Isworth's picture
Mon, 07/02/2011 - 18:15

I think IQ is measuring something indirectly here. The correlation between high IQ and jobs could be measuring the 'intelligences' required to do those jobs. If we say the people in these jobs are there on merit, or in other words have a particular skill set suited to that job, we are defining intelligence in terms of skills broadly specific to a certain set defined areas, for example literacy and reasoning. IQ tests for people in these jobs will be high because you are only selecting people for those jobs with those skills shown up in IQ tests.
An interesting question then is to look for a causal link between parental and child high IQs. Genetics may be plausible, but doesn't seem to be the whole story. I would strongly suspect that it is the environmental factors that parents of certain employment backgrounds bring (the nuances of culture and style of professions) that it is a major factor in determining entry. This also comes from specialised knowledge of education and workplaces not necessarily open to parents from less affluent backgrounds. Compare it with the stock market; it is the assymetry of information that gives some people a greater chance of earning from investments than those 'less in the know'.
IQ is a convenient tag because it can suggest that the intelligence and therefore life chances are fixed, allowing us to avoid looking at some of the more fuzzy reasons for success that may be more important.

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