A QUESTION OF INTELLIGENCE: The IQ Debate in America by Daniel Seligman


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A real hot potato, as a columnist for Fortune defends IQ tests and their unavoidable message: that not all people, nor all groups of people, are box with equal mental abilities. According to Seligman, the current distrust of IQ tests is unfounded, a result of the wishful thinking of the 1960's. In fact, he reports, almost all experts (psychologists, educators, laboratory researchers) believe that IQ tests ""do indeed measure mental abilities that might collectively be thought of as intelligence."" Moreover, most believe that the tests are not culturally biased. The problem is, well, that some people seem to be smarter than others, which violates the cherished American belief that everyone gets an even start in life. This matters because IQ ""has enormous predictive power in real-world situations"" and correlates closely with future economic status. What's worse, different races score differently: East Asians (Chinese, Japanese) score consistently higher than whites, blacks consistently lower. What's even worse, experts agree that IQ is largely inheritable, so there's no immediate way to rectify the imbalance. The long-term solution, Seligman delicately suggests, may be eugenic planning. But first IQ must be acknowledged as a useful tool, especially for educators who need to identify students requiring remedial help. Seligman writes sympathetically of Cyril Butt and Arthur Jensen, two researchers who faced the wrath of the anti-IQ lobby. He sketches the history of intelligence testing; contrasts the high scores of Jews and Japanese (Jews excel in verbal portions of the test, Japanese in math) to demonstrate the multisided nature of intelligence; ponders the future (American kids have fewer high and low scores than in generations past; we are grouping together in mediocrity). He even takes an IQ test himself, but refuses to reveal his score. Is Seligman an unwitting racist or a hero breaking the code of silence? Either way, it doesn't take a lot of brains to guess that his levelheaded presentation will stir up a storm.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol