Looking at IQ and learning if the level of intelligence has anything to do with success in life: Part 1 of 3

18 Jan

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Over on Diane Ravitch’s Blog, a site to discuss better education for all [highly recommended to discover what’s going on in public education in the United States], I left a comment for one of her posts that mentioned an author’s lecture I attended back in the 1980s. The comment was about a memoir written by the father of a son who was retarded [the father/author’s words not mine]. The son also had learning disabilities.  After more than thirty years, all I remembered was the basics and I think the father said his son had an IQ of 80 [I could be wrong. It might have been lower]. I’ve forgotten the name of the author and his memoir. I once had a video of the lecture but loaned it to another teacher who loaned it to another teacher and I never saw the video again.

Anyway, the anonymous person who replied to my comment didn’t think the kid was retarded with an 80 IQ, and it turns out this anonymous commenter was right.  He also said 80 wasn’t far from average—also correct.

I attended that lecture more than thirty years ago, and the son did have learning disabilities severe enough to land him in special education classes. The parents had to fight to get him in regular classes. They also unplugged the TV at home and stored it on a shelf in the garage where it sat until both of their children were in college. The TV was replaced with family reading time. The result, the son ended up at Harvard and graduated with a degree in engineering.

The Stanford-Binet Fifth Edition IQ Classification [it’s obvious that the language has been changed to placate critics of IQ tests—check out older versions of IQ tests to see what I mean]:

40-54: Moderately impaired or delayed
55-69: Mildly impaired or delayed
70-79: Borderline impaired or delayed
80-89: Low average
90-109: Average
110-119: High average
120-129: Superior
130-144: Gifted or very advanced
145-160: Very gifted or highly advanced

There’s also the Current Wechsler IQ classification; the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities; the Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test, etc.

I don’t want to spend much time on learning disabilities [LD], because I want to focus on the small fire that I seemed to have started when I brought up IQ on Ravitch’s Blog. But  LD’s should be mentioned because they may affect children with even high IQ’s. The home environment, lifestyle, health, diet and exercise also play an important role in a child’s ability to learn.

LD’s are a group of varying disorders that have a negative impact on learning. They may affect a child’s [or adults] ability to speak, listen, think, read, write, spell or compute. The most prevalent LD is in the area of reading, known as dyslexia, and as  child I had severe dyslexia; so did my older brother, but the education experts didn’t know what dyslexia was in the early 1950s. Instead, my mother was told that I was so retarded I would never learn to read or write. Years later when I took my first IQ test, the results said I had an IQ of 135, and it’s obvious that I overcame the dyslexia and learned to read and write, but my brother didn’t.

It seems that one politically-correct camp in the United States and maybe Europe—because I have no idea where the critics of IQ live—believe we shouldn’t use IQ to measure a child’s intelligence. In fact, this politically correct group wants IQ removed as a way to measure intelligence probably because it might hurt the child self-esteem. In fact, the politically correct self-esteem movement would like to do away with all competition, grades and GPA ranking. They’ve had some success in this area—one of the causes of dumbing down the schools in the United States.

Continued on January 19, 2014 in Looking at IQ and learning if the level of intelligence has anything to do with success in life: Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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7 responses to “Looking at IQ and learning if the level of intelligence has anything to do with success in life: Part 1 of 3

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    January 18, 2014 at 13:53

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong

    January 18, 2014 at 19:07

    I was a genius as a kid, but I seem to have gotten increasingly stupid with the years. Or, as my psych teacher used to say — “IQ tests test what IQ tests test.” Which may or may not be intelligence.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      January 19, 2014 at 06:21

      Discovery Channel has a good description for “Exactly what does an IQ test measure?”

      “Short for an intelligence quotient test, an IQ test measures a person’s cognitive ability compared to the population at large. It’s a standardized test, and 100 is the median, or average, score. That means a person with an IQ within 10 points or so of 100 is of average intelligence compared to the rest of the population. A person whose score is below 70 may have developmental delays related to intelligence and a person whose score is above 130 is typically exceptionally smart.”

      I think the key words are cognitive ability—and ability is not a guarantee of anything. It’s sort of like telling our kids they are all equal when in fact they aren’t because if they lay around doing nothing but watching TV and never read a book; fail all their classes and decide the only thing they want to be in live is a Victoria Secret model or a pitcher for the Mets, the odds are those kids—no matter how high their cognitive ability—aren’t going to achieve much in life.

      Sharp says, “Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties are brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the sim­plest to the most com­plex. They have more to do with the mech­a­nisms of how we learn, remem­ber, problem-solve, and pay atten­tion rather than with any actual knowl­edge.”

      All an IQ does is measure that cognitive ability, but if we do nothing with it while someone with a below average IQ sets goals, reads thousands of books, does their homework, etc. we know who’s going to win that race.

      It’s sort of like the fable of the tortoise and the rabbit. We could say the tortoise has low IQ but has something the rabbit doesn’t have: persistence and discipline to not kick back and take life for granted so the tortoise works harder. The tortoise probably had better parents too and wasn’t a couch potato.

      For instance, after Vietnam, I was stationed at Camp Pendleton training the reserves and we had this guy who had an IQ of 180. The Marines kept assigning him to training that required a lot of skills—cognitive ability—but he wasn’t interested in any of those jobs and failed miserably. He finely found his niche when he volunteered to be an MP (military police) and was quite happy to direct traffic, stand guard at one of the camps main gates or drive around in a jeep all day on patrol. This Marine had the cognitive ability to be successful at just about anything he set his mind to but he wasn’t interested in anything that would challenge his higher intellect. I recall that he was incredibly lazy and slovenly.

      Just because someone is blessed with no learning disabilities and a very high IQ at birth doesn’t mean they will take advantage of it.

      That’s where setting goals, persistence and discipline kick in and this is probably where parents make the most difference. OF course social (SQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) are also important factors.

      With that said, I think if you pit two people who have the same level of SQ and EQ, the same set of known goals, persistence and discipline in competition with each other and one has an IQ of 150 and the other an IQ of 80, the odds probably favor the one with the higher IQ by a wide margin.

      So that brings me back to this question: Are we all born equal? I think the answer to that is no, because we don’t all have the same parents, IQ, SQ and EQ. We also don’t have the same DNA.

      In addition, some of us are born into a socioeconomic level that is rich with the kind of stimulation that isn’t often found in poverty.

  3. Lorie Crane

    January 24, 2014 at 21:32

    In education, “learning difficulties” is applied to a wide range of conditions: “specific learning difficulty” may refer to dyslexia , dyscalculia or developmental coordination disorder , while “moderate learning difficulties”, “severe learning difficulties” and “profound learning difficulties” refer to more significant impairments.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      January 25, 2014 at 07:21

      That’s true. Thanks. Learning disabilities are not all the same. There are also methods that will allow one to manage or overcome learning difficulties. And it can be hard and frustrating work for a child calling for a parent who works much harder than average—one who is not afraid to say “NO”.

  4. Lenora S. Oneill

    January 25, 2014 at 22:00

    Intellectual giftedness is a difference in learning and can also benefit from specialized teaching techniques or different educational programs, but the term “special education” is generally used to specifically indicate instruction of students with disabilites. Gifted education is handled separately.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      January 26, 2014 at 08:21


      Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This means education that is individually developed to address a specific child’s needs that result from his or her disability. Since each child is unique, it is difficult to give an overall example of special education. It is individualized for each child.

      Advanced placement classes is the placement of a high-school student in a course that offers college credit if completed successfully. These courses offer curriculum material and tests provided by the College Entrance Examination Board to high schools, giving students the opportunity to complete college-level studies.

      Honors courses are classes which offer more rigorous and in-depth coursework to especially talented and driven students. They are classically offered in the high school environment, and they are usually open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

      Honors courses are not the same thing as advanced placement (AP) courses. Advanced placement courses are classes which are tailored for students who intend to take an advanced placement exam. These exams are used to allow students to skip over basic prerequisites in college by demonstrating that they know the material. These courses are taught at the college level, and are sometimes even taught by college instructors who act as guest teachers.

      Then there are ESL classes for students who do not speak or read English fluently.

      There are also reading labs for students who read far below grade level. Students who need these classes will also be taking grade level English so they have at least two hours a day with some reading instuction.

      Back before the early 1990s, there were different levels of English classes: basic English for those students who read far below grade level and then regular English in addition to AP and Honors English. At the high school where I taught, the district administration forced the English teachers against their will to do away with the basic level level of English and put those kids in a grade level English classes with grade level textbooks and material but these kids could be reading as low as second grade.

      Doing away with the basic English track was a result of the parenting self-esteem movement that was dominating the country then and still is. The concern was if a child was taking a basic English class because they read below grade level, it would hurt their self esteem and they would feel inferior. To this day, I’m convinced this has hurt kids who read far below grade level more than helping them.

      The best way for a kid who reads below grade level to catch up is to read books, magazines and newspapers outside of school at least an hour a day seven days a week. The problem is that kids who grow up in homes where parents are not readers do not value reading. Getting them to shut off the TV, turn of the music, ignore the video games, etc and read outside of the classroom is almost impossible. And even in the classroom, many who read below grade level don’t understand what they are reading when the material in the grade level textbook has too much vocabulary way ahead of their reading level. Those kids tend to feel lost and either retreat into silence doing nothing—passive aggressive reaction—or act out and disrupt the learning environment—aggressive, rebellious reaction.

      Aggressive rebelliousness in the classroom hurts everyone even those who read at or above grade level because it’s difficult to impossible to pay attention and work in an environment where a war is being fought between the teacher and a dysfunctional student.


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