For years, educators have grappled with the importance of the IQ test. Does the test help identify and encourage potential in kids, or does it assign a label they’ll never be able to shake? If the story of Scott Barry Kaufman is indicative of everyone’s experience, it’s looking much more like the latter.
Kaufman, author of the recent book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. The Truth About Talent, Practice, Creativity, and the Many Paths to Greatness, relates his personal story of going through school after being labeled with a low IQ. After taking the test and scoring in the “seriously learning disabled” range in the third grade, Kaufman was demoralized and started to give in to self-doubt. For years, he tried to convince his special education teachers that he didn’t belong in their classes, but they put their faith in his two-digit IQ label instead.
Kaufman finally persuaded a high school teacher to give him a chance outside of the special needs classroom, and he eventually went on to get his Ph.D. from Yale. Unfortunately, not all kids escape these flawed designations. It can be extremely difficult to get rid of a label once you have it, right or wrong. It’s a road that goes both ways, since kids who are deemed “gifted” with a high IQ often feel the pressure to succeed and live up to high expectations – a task that’s often as difficult as Kaufman’s.
While the teachers in Kaufman’s case failed to take into account how intelligence can change over time, or the different ways kids can be taught according to their needs, the root problem was still the original score. Much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, once enough people believe you can or cannot do something, it’s very hard to undo those beliefs. “Gifted” kids are still given opportunities that “learning disabled” kids aren’t, and while labels often work as a starting point, they should never be permanent or all-encompassing.
What are your thoughts about IQ tests and labels? Does your school make kids take an IQ test? Let us know in the comments section.