Whatever it is you value, intelligence seems to be intimately connected with it. When experts are asked to define intelligence they come up with an unhelpfully broad and diverse range of definitions. Although we all tend to know what we mean when we describe a person as intelligent it’s surprisingly hard to nail down a pithy description. However, as long as you’re prepared to accept a description that isn’t at all pithy, we can make some progress.
In this chapter I look at intelligence as being composed of a range of traits, some of which seem fixed (such as mental acuity and speed of processing) and some that appear more malleable (like habits of mind, attitudes, memory and knowledge of the world.) Of these, knowledge is the aspect of intelligence that is more straightforward to increase. I arguer that it is the quantity and quality of what children know that makes the most difference to their ability to act upon the world.
Next, I review research findings which demonstrate the positive correlations between IQ scores and pretty much everything else that we value as a society. Having a higher IQ doesn’t just mean you’ll do better in school, it also means you are more likely to be a creative and conscientious employee, an effective leader and a productive member of society. What’s more, you’re more likely to be happy, healthy and secure throughout life.
Many readers will find themselves feeling sceptical about these claims and that’s partly because there’s a of myths and misinformation out there about what IQ and intelligence mean. For this reason, I discuss several or the most prevalent and unhelpful myths:
- IQ and intelligence are the same
- There are different kinds of intelligence
- Intelligence cannot be increased
- IQ tests are unfair
- IQ doesn’t matter in the real world
My hope is that after reading this chapter you will be somewhat more open minded about what intelligence might be, what value it has in the world, and why it might be a worthwhile educational endeavour to make kids cleverer.