Why are we still so insistent on our methods of measuring intelligence, when we know that it is flawed? How is it possible that we can accurately assess intelligence if there is so much disagreement over how it is defined, and what qualities make a person “smart”. Generally, people think of intelligence as how much a person knows and is reflected in a person’s academic career. This implies that a person who does not do well in school or pursue academics in the future are not intelligent, and may face challenges formed by stigmas against poor-performers. But we shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who don’t do well in school because their tests only seem to reflect psychometric forms of intelligence, which includes linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial. This means that you are only evaluated by 3 of the 8 forms of intelligence. You can be successful and never go to college. There are other important skills necessary to life that don’t have anything to do with regurgitating information from a classroom. Reading a room, understanding a person’s body language, being able to predict scenarios and plan for them, making art, so many things can never really be measured and graded because there are things so important you can’t put a numeric value on it.
It’s also important to note that how well a person performs on an exam is largely influenced by numerous factors outside of their control, and even day to day or moment to moment. Factors such as sleep or mood can drastically lower a person’s score, even if they can recall information later. Socioeconomic status and race can also give people major disadvantages because those who typically make the tests are constructing them with unconscious biases that can set students up for failure. If you evaluate someone from the “out-group” by the standards of the “in-group” it only reflects how well they would do in that particular environment.
One of my family’s favorite shows to watch for the past several years was Big Bang Theory, and it’s main character Sheldon is a prime example of someone who is extremely gifted in mathematics and science, but completely fails to be a human being when it comes to other basic tasks. For example if asked, he would be able to define what the definition of sarcasm is, who it can be used in a sentence, the linguistic origins of the word, etc. But he is not able to detect someone’s sarcastic tone of voice which tends to get him in trouble, as well as his inability to understand what is considered rude or identify behaviors that cross people’s boundaries. In the prequel series Young Sheldon, which follows his childhood, season 2 episode 5 shows Sheldon and his twin sister Missy volunteering in a study about intelligence and how it is related to genetics and environment. Sheldon performs extremely well on the psychometric section of the exam while Missy struggles. Later on, the test administrators show them images of scenes that they need to describe (separately). Sheldon was able to describe the objects within, but not how they are related to another, and general tones/feelings or dynamics within, while his sister aces this section in flying colors, even stating that she “wasn’t finished yet” and pointed out several more things. Sheldon gets frustrated and asks to go back to other questions like before and protests when the administrator states that there are multiple types of intelligence. I don’t watch the show anymore, I lost interest after season 1, but I like this scene because it showcased how their family had been inadvertently overlooking Missy and what she has to offer just because her brother was a prodigy and needed special attention.
That being said, does this mean that we should just throw all forms of testing out the window? No, I don’t think that it’s fair to those who work hard and do well to just have all their efforts ignored. Also, it is still important to evaluate ourselves and teachers to make sure that people are given the quality education they deserve and provide additional help to those who need it. However, I think that we should be doing more to make sure that a student’s self worth isn’t tied to a number, or multiple numbers. There are deeper qualities to a person that may never be defined or standardized and we are not a stagnant species. We are forever fluid and changing, and a test cannot capture that.