The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!


The book, “The Bell Curve”, by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein has generated great controversy.  Most reviewers do not accept their conclusions as valid.  These authors in effect say that intelligence is substantially inheritable and that the IQ test is an accurate measure of this intelligence.

If intelligence is mostly inheritable, then it helps to have been born into a rich family.  Money does talk and it says I want only the best for my child.  That means the best teachers, the best equipment and facilities, the best books and libraries, the best and smallest classes, including tutors if necessary for one to one instruction.

It also says my child will have the best food, the best medical care, the best clothes, the best nurturing, and never want for anything.  He also will never have any fears that will come to harm because he has the best, secure house.  He will also be taken on the best trips and see the world under the best of circumstances.  He is going to grow up intelligent and get the best job and make the best money.  And the reason this is so is because I passed on the best genes to him because my family has had only the best.

The authors of this book seem to conclude that the reason some groups of children score low on IQ tests is because their genes are basically inferior to the child described above.  Before that conclusion is reached, we have to give all children living in poverty the same advantages as the children living in great wealth.

If the group paper and pencil IQ test is an accurate measure of intelligence, than it behooves all parents to teach their children how to improve their scores by learning test-taking skills.  Once the child gets a high score he may never have to accomplish another thing because he is going to be labeled very intelligent whether he ever does anything to validate that title or not.

There are many books in the library on how to take tests but here are just a few pointers:  All students should time themselves in order to answer all the questions.  They should not spend too much time on one question but save the hard questions until last.  They should read carefully to be sure they know that the question asks.  They should practice taking tests.  If the test is multiple choice and most of them are, they should learn the rules:  The longest answer is usually correct.  If guessing, choose by the process of elimination.  Eliminate the obvious wrong answers first.  In essence, help the children relax and feel confident in themselves when taking these tests.

Another way parents can help their children to score well on IQ tests is to improve their vocabulary.  This can be done by reading to the children and by encouraging children to become readers on their own.  Set a good example by looking up words in the dictionary that you do not know.  Play games like Scrabble which help with vocabulary.  Work on your own vocabulary and your use of the English language.

The fallacy in the “The Bell Curve” is that the authors base their conclusions on a flawed measure of intelligence.  Intelligence is much more than a score on a group paper and pencil test.  Many children score well on these tests and are labeled very intelligent, but would have difficulty surviving in poverty in an inner city ghetto.  Other children, labeled unintelligent by these tests, have used their wits and, yes, intelligence to survive.  As a matter of fact, just surviving takes so much brain power that there is little time and inclination left for filling in the blanks correctly.  Let us not give up on these children because of wrong conclusions from a flawed study.  We need them and they need us.





Posted in Behavior, Getting the Most For Your Child, Labeling, Parenting, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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