Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bye Bye, Honey Boo Boo - Can We Grow Up Now, Please?

     Are you aware that the range of intelligence as measured by standard IQ tests is greater among the top 2% than it is in the entire rest of the population? 
     Think about that for a minute.
     The implications are enormous.
     The top 2% is measured as two standard deviations above the mean. Since the mean IQ is taken to be 100, two standard deviations renders an IQ of 130. (By way of context, two standard deviations below the mean, or an IQ of 70, is considered by the DSM-5 to be the threshold for intellectual disability, contextualized by what the DSM-5 refers to as the severity of impairment based on adaptive functioning.)
     Since this leaves a working range of 70-130, with a difference of 60 points, and since IQs can be measured to be upwards of 200, you can see the variability as easily as you can see the variability in the leaves of the plants in the photo.
     Is it any surprise, then, that  you may feel a little out of step? That your gifted adolescent may be having a little difficulty locating his or her peers, even when attending schools that cater to gifted children?
     I know that for every mention I make of IQ or any other type of measurement of intellectual capability, there is a legion of individuals who would prefer we not use such language, since it is elitist or because an IQ doesn't represent the whole person, or for an entire host of other irrelevant - and often wrong-headed - reasons
     Therefore, I am going to skip past these objections completely, while acknowledging that they exist, and here's why: no matter how you talk about it, or which terms you use to describe it, there is a kind of intellectual precocity that is very real. Dismiss it semantically at the peril of the individuals whom I am describing as intellectually gifted.
     Every gifted individual is not Sheldon (of The Big Bang Theory). Every gifted individual is not a geek. Every gifted individual is not single-minded. Some are bright, well-rounded, funny, talented, and even good-looking. Let the stereotype demolition begin!
     When the day comes that the most intelligent among us do not feel marginalized by a society that would be better served by honoring and promoting its intellectual riches the way it rewards athletic prowess, changes unimagined by us now will rain down upon our culture.
     As Shakespeare's Hamlet said to Horatio, his buddy from Wittenberg University:

            There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
            Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  -Hamlet (1.5.167-8) 

     Who is going to bring those things to light, when the individuals capable of doing so are confined to the sidelines of American education and society, because it's elitist to help anyone who is smart enough to figure everything out by him/herself? 
     And don't you think it's interesting that individuals at 70 or below are entitled to accommodations? If people could walk in the shoes of the intellectually gifted for 24 hours, they would be less quick to dismiss this comparison, and more able to understand that there are qualitative and quantitative differences in the ways gifted minds work. A little help and support for them in the existential domains would go a long way.
     I am confident that this is just a passing phase, this anti-intellectualism in which American society is nearly drowning. Honey Boo Boo's show was cancelled. That's a sign of progress, right?