Thursday, August 24, 2006

Is President Bush Stupid?

As I made lunch I thought about Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man and the general US preference for alleged measures of academic ability over academic achievement.

As Gould points out this preferrence was historically motivated in large part by racism. Far from being 'culture neutral' as proponents claim to this day IQ tests are both learnable and have marked culture biases. I know from first hand experience that it is possible to increase your IQ score by practice. Entry to the Senior school at King's was by public examination. Pupils at the junior school like myself practiced taking IQ tests every week. By the end my score had improved by at least a standard deviation despite the fact that the tests got harder towards the back of the book.

The insufficiently remarked upon corrolary of the claim that IQ tests measure an innate unchangable quality is that it precludes any possibility of improvement. This is especially ironic in view of the fact that the original purpose of the tests was precisely to tract the response of mentally deficient patients to remedial therapy.

So now we have Conservative commentators asking the same question Liberals asked eight years ago, is George W. Bush an idiot?

Since 'idiot' is a clinical term the answer is clearly no. But the US debate then goes on to ask if someone can be intelligent despite displaying no intellectual curiosity.

Mental capacity is just like any other human capability, it is not possible to acieve peak performance without training and frequent practice.

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