Thursday, 25 February 2016

Birdkill And The Gifted Kids. So What's Your IQ?

An illustration of Spearman's two-factor intel...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She tried her luck at testing Hamilton’s assertion there was absolutely no fraternisation between the research and teaching staffs. ‘Oh. Do the research staff not join us?’
Archer looked as if she had just enquired after the health of a dead relative. ‘We don’t really, well, talk to each other. It’s not encouraged, you see. They do their jobs, we do ours and the general consensus is we’re both better off not influencing the other.’
‘I see.’ Robyn made sure it was clear she didn't. ‘It seems odd to meet for drinks on a Thursday. Most schools I've been to; they wait until the end of the week.’
‘Oh. Right. I would have thought Lawrence would have explained that to you as well. We have a four-day week here. You get to spend Friday planning your lessons. We often have an informal staff meeting in the afternoon to share any issues or ensure we’re coordinating properly. That’s on top of the Monday co-ordination meeting, of course.’
‘Of course.’
He glanced up at her to see if she was laughing at him and smiled thinly. ‘It works well; you’re not going to be teaching a primary or even secondary curriculum. Most of the kids are at university level, some are capable of taking a decent Master’s. But their emotional development is very mixed indeed. You’ll be dealing with kids who have an adult’s learning with a child’s experience. Believe me, you’ll need the planning time.’
The kids in Birdkill are part of a program of research into battlefield augmentation, filing off to the Hamilton Institute's mysterious domes at night to have their brilliance harnessed and turned into weapons. Robyn, her mind already stretched by managing the trauma in her past that has triggered her selective amnesia, has to try and manage a class of these brilliant young things - particularly difficult with Martin leading the charge to oppose her. As she fights for stability, he tries to push her over the edge. She struggles with her guilt at fighting for shallow victories over a mere child, but he's beyond a child - and he's vicious.

These kids are more than extra-ordinary. They're savants. Off the scale intelligences whose minds are able to do things we can't quite grasp. But what IS intelligence?

I've long held that IQ tests measure our ability to do IQ tests. They don't measure creative intelligence at all and tend to favour logical thought. I've often confronted tests that have more than one possible answer, too, which is annoying.

I will never forget (or forgive) my primary teacher holding up a square piece of paper that had been torn in two diagonally and asking me which half was bigger. I looked carefully and the left hand one had been torn so the ragged edge had slightly more papery prominences than inlets. The left hand one, I told the teacher, who then gave me her scorn. Two halves are the same, numbwit. I burned with impotent rage. They're not. The left one was bigger. They're not.

When it comes to a measure of intelligence, there are better models than logic tests, specifically those based on Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences - that intelligence might be a number of capabilities or aptitudes and measurable only on multiple scales. For instance, Gardner's eight abilities: musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. The last wasn't one of the original set, Gardner later added the intelligence of the naturalist, which is fascinating - an ability to manage the natural world with unusual 'intelligence'.

That's a long way from 'complete this number line' testing.

But when you have people of exceptional capability in an educational environment, wherever that capability may lie, you're failing them if you don't 'differentiate' - that's the technique teachers use to plan a lesson in multiple streams: these kids can do the simple task, these kids can be stretched further, these kids can be really pushed. It's an incredibly hard job, herding 25 cats into three or four groups all doing something different.

And then there's Johnny, who can do all this work with his eyes closed and who, despite being in the top set all the time, is bored and behaves badly because he is frustrated. He might not be a great mathematician, but he's a way better artist than the other kids. Or he may be on a spectrum, a numerical whizz who has absolutely no people skills or ability to interact or manage interaction but who can manipulate numbers in a way a talented adult would struggle to match.

We're too used to pigeon-holing people based on IQ. Have you taken an IQ test? What's yours? Do you care? Did you care enough to join an organisation like MENSA so you could celebrate your success at taking an intelligence test? Did it make you feel good? I'm honestly, genuinely interested...

1 comment:

Andy said...

You might well be interested, but seeing as this is the only comment on the last 10 (very long winded and egotistical I might add) posts I bothered to scroll down, it seems nobody else is.

As someone who claims to be able to consult on digital communications it's amusing that your blog is akin to the endless ramblings of a schizophrenic.

People actually enjoy fake plastic souqs, unlike your fake plastic blog, so perhaps you should go down there and beg them to buy your books in person.

Sorry, but I won't respond to egotistical maniacs who talk endlessly to themselves about themselves.

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