I have a sneaky feeling that IQ must be one of the least understood terms in psychology. It is said that those with high IQs are better able to manipulate, process and analyze information. The first intelligence test was devised in 1905 to help children when they started school. By the 1950s, everyone measured their IQ scores both at home, at work and especially at parties; all this, of course, before the advent of television quiz shows elevated irrelevant information to Nobel-Laureate levels.
According to some, one’s IQ changes very little after stabilizing at the age of 16, perhaps increasing a little until the age of 30, and thereafter decreasing. Note that a person with a high IQ is not necessarily a great student or high performer. People with high IQs tend to have a “bad” memory, which is where forgetful scientist cartoon characters come in.
According to studies in more than 80 countries conducted between 2002 and 2006 by a British Professor of Psychology and a Finnish Professor of Political Science, the highest IQ scores seem to be found in Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand where the average IQ is 105 points. European countries, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand come in at 100. South Asia, North Africa and the majority of Latin American countries have an average of 85. African countries in general and the Caribbean have an average IQ below 70.
Max Fisher from the Washington Post compiled statistics of all Nobel Prize winners since 1901. Perhaps not surprisingly, 83% of all Nobel laureates came from Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Africa had 16 Nobel laureates, while Asia, the most populous region in the world, claimed only 49 Nobel prizes. The Caribbean, Central and Latin America had only 39.
To my mind, people are born equal the world over, but what life offers them from the moment they leave the womb basically seals their fates, despite countless cases to prove that people can rise from adversity and succeed. Since antiquity, scholars have discussed racial differences in intelligence, personality, and behaviour. Around 200 A.D. the Greek physician Galen, which incidentally is Swedish for crazy, wrote that black Africans are less intelligent than Europeans. In the 13th century the Persian geographer Nasir al-Din Tusi asserted that black Africans were less intelligent than apes, which was going a bit too far even for an ancient Iranian. Sir Francis Galton in his 1869 ‘Hereditary Genius’ concluded that Classic Greeks were the most intelligent people to have walked the earth; lowland Scots were slightly brighter than the English; sub-Saharan Africans were unintelligent, and Australian Aborigines the least intelligent of races. Galton considered the Chinese to be highly intelligent. In an 1873 letter to The Times he wrote, “The Chinaman is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race though it has stunted the development of each member of it by a rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a crime.”
Bu despite the high IQ of Orientals, ‘Europeans’ pioneered the industrial revolution and made virtually all the intellectual advances in science, mathematics, and technology in the last 500 years or so, while from around 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1500, the Chinese were more advanced than Europeans. When Europeans were still living on subsistence agriculture, the Shang dynasty was sustained by domesticated millet, rice, pigs, cattle, sheep, water buffalo, and chickens in towns with substantial buildings, bronze utensils, and glazed pottery turned on a wheel. They used cowry shells for money and devised a written language that formed the basis of today’s Chinese characters. Later, the population of the Han dynasty of China and Korea lived in cities linked by roads and canals; they built the Great Wall and manufactured iron ploughs, cooking stoves, tools and weapons, silk, carts, and ships. Mandarins were the administrators. A system of competitive written examinations was introduced to recruit an intellectual elite for the Mandarin class. For some 1,500 years the curriculum for these examinations comprised astronomy, mathematics, Chinese literature, and Chinese history. In the early 14th century the Mandarins responsible for the curriculum decided to drop astronomy and mathematics. From this time onwards the ‘Mandarinate’ consisted of men with literary interests but no knowledge of astronomy, mathematics or science in an authoritarian state opposed to economic and intellectual progress.
The lesson from all this is clear: Curriculum reform is something that cannot be undertaken lightly. What our children learn in schools today determines the future of our nation. End of sermon!