For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Just another number

Dh and I had a conversation tonight that has left my brain rumbling around in different directions.  Which leaves me up and writing past 2 am.  Well, that and my chronic cough is keeping me up... :-P  So if I tend to ramble off in this post, chalk it up to sleep deprivation.

The subject of our conversation was intelligence and what it means.  I've thought of myself as a reasonably intelligent person, but no more than anyone else.  I did do an IQ test about a dozen years ago.  I don't even remember who did the test.  I just did it, got the result, and went on my merry way. 

The reason it came back to mind was a recent status update from someone on my facebook friends list.  It was a comment on Jim Morrison, and how he was so much more than people assumed.  Having read a biography on him back in high school, I knew he was quite intelligent and had a photographic memory.  I didn't remember reading any IQ, but it's just not a detail that would have stuck in my mind.  What caught my attention was someone's response, saying he was really smart and had an IQ of 140.

I remember looking at that and thinking, "is that high?"  I had no idea, but I wouldn't have thought so, since my own result was 143.  As I've never thought of myself as being smarter than anyone else (and definitely less so than some), I figured it was average.  So I went and looked it up.

It turns out that, depending on which test is done (and that far back, I don't even know if there was more than one available), I am either a genius/near genius, very superior or highly intelligent.

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Well, lah dee frickin' dah.  Who'd have thought that?

Apparently, my husband did.  When I mentioned this to him, he told me he always knew I was smarter than him.  Really?  I had no idea.  He then pointed out something that I did at least already know; I come from a very intelligent family.  My parents may have almost no schooling at all and my mother might have a mental illness, but they are both very smart in their own ways.  I recall one of my brothers telling me about when he was building some stairs and was using trig. to calculate how many stairs to fit in and what their measurements should be to do the job right.  My dad?  He just built the stairs.  How did he get the calculations right?  I have no idea.  I remember helping him build a desk for me and watching him write out some quick calculations on a piece of paper.  Whatever method he used to do math, it wasn't anything like what I'd been taught in school.  It was also faster, and he did most of it in his head.

I can't do that.

Oh, and the brother that shared this with me?  Something else I'd forgotten about.  He's a card carrying Mensa member.  Or at least he used to be.  I don't know that he's kept up his membership, as he got it more than 20 years ago.  Thinking about my siblings, they're all quite intelligent in their own ways.  My sister, the farmer, designs houses and other buildings freelance for extra cash. One brother has forgotten more about computers than most people will ever know.  Another brother is in demolition's and understands forces and mechanics and all sorts of things you'd expect from a trained engineer.  If they don't have a piece of equipment for a job, chances are pretty good he can invent it.  Even the brother that, had he been the school system today would be considered learning disabled is an aircraft mechanic with a gift for understanding everything about airplanes, whether it's a little Cessna or a Boeing 747.  He can barely read a menu, but can understand some of the most technical textbooks I've ever tried to wrap my mind around.  All my siblings, as well as my parents, are artistically gifted, even though only my sister has developed it to any extend.

But are they all "near genius" or "very superior" intelligence?

I hadn't thought so.  Most of our neighbours were much the same.  I don't think I came from a town of unusually smart people.

To me, an IQ score is just another number.  Like the BMI.  Useful for the purpose of organization, but you can't judge a person's knowledge by their IQ any more than you can judge a person's health by their BMI.  The numbers are really meaningless - but many people put great store on them.

Personally, I think intelligence is something that's malleable.  Sure, we all have aptitudes and skills that are either there, or not.  My husband, for example, could do the calculations for navigating a ship in his head faster than his fellow officers could on calculators.  He can look at a bunch of computer code he's never seen before and understand what it does.  I can't do either, but I can look at a 2 dimensional object and mentally convert it into a 3 dimensional object.  I can flip it around in my head, or even turn it inside out.  My skills are in spatial reasoning and pattern recognition.  My husband can't do these things.  That doesn't make either of us smarter than the other.

As far as I'm concerned having a high IQ tells only part of the story.  It says, first and foremost, that a person can take a test and do really well on it.  Some very intelligent people lock up when faced with a test, no matter how thorough their knowledge may be.  Plus, just because a person is smart in one thing, that doesn't mean they're smart in all things.  There are some really stupid smart people out there.  Heck, Albert Einstein may have been a genius, but he held some rather unfortunate notions, too, and he sure wouldn't have been someone to turn to for relationship advice! That magic number doesn't confer infallibility.

I also feel that, given the opportunity and desire, anyone can be as intelligent as they choose (barring any physical problems that might prevent this, of course).  Use it or loose it, is how I see it.  As long as we are constantly learning new things, asking questions, exploring concepts, and thinking critically, we can develop our intelligence.  When we stop questioning, stop learning, and just accept what those around us tell us, I feel our intelligence suffers.

Which is why I kind of wish I never looked up what that 143 of mine actually means.

You see, as I get older, I find myself a lot less patient with what I see as willful ignorance.  It seems that, everywhere I turn, people unquestioningly accept whatever steaming pile of bovine feces fits their preferred viewpoint without digging any deeper.  I've found myself wondering how so many people can be so, I'm ashamed to admit this, stupid.  I don't really think they *are* stupid, which is why these behaviours confuse me so much.  It irritates me when I see people I know are smart, accept such dumb things.  With this number of mine defined, I might have to resist the temptation to think that maybe, just maybe, they really aren't that smart.  I know better than that, and I don't ever want to start judging or looking down on people on such a perception.

It's also why I find it so condescending when someone insists on dumbing down information for the masses, because they just don't think we, the great unwashed, could possibly understand such complex issues.  Screw that!  People are smart.  They can figure things out.  They can ask questions.  They can learn.  Having some grand high mucky muck from on high telling people what they think we should be thinking bothers the heck out of me.  They assume people are too stupid to understand.  Sadly, too many people have been convinced that they're really not as smart as the grand high mucky mucks, so they have no right to question those who decree from on high. Instead, they not only accept these decrees, they embrace them, and defend them against any who might question them.

My habit of delving to the core of various claims and being able to counter a lot of these cherished beliefs can make some people rather angry.  My concern is that, now that I know where that meaningless number puts me on the scale, the next time someone condescendingly asks me, "who do you think you are, that you question these really, really smart people," I might start thinking, "I'm the one with the IQ of 143, what's yours?"  Because I don't ever want to use a number instead of an explanation.  It's a lazy cop out.

Who do I think I am to question the grand high mucky mucks?  I'm the one who believes that we all are just as worthwhile as the grand high mucky mucks.  I'm the one who believes we're all just as smart as they are, just as capable as they are, and just as deserving of being treated with equal respect.  Their titles, their letters after their names, their status; these things do not make them better or smarter than me.  Or you.  They just give an idea of what sort of training they might have, what schooling they've had, or maybe it shows that they've kissed a lot of butt to get where they are.

Their number on the scale is every bit as meaningless as mine.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Drop me a line...