Point System

November 01, 1994|By GREGORY P. KANE

Washington. -- As one who was the victim -- er, uh -- rather, subject of an IQ experiment some 30 years ago, I claim to have a unique perspective on this matter of race and IQ. When I entered Harlem Park Junior High School as a seventh-grader in the fall of 1963, the classes were divided up by IQ, not on previous academic achievement in elementary school.

The school had -- as it does now -- four subdivisions called units A, B, C and D. Thus class 7A1 had the 30 or so students with the highest IQs. The numbers went down into the 30s, presumably for those students too stupid even to tie their own shoes.

I was in class 7D2. I eventually made it to 8D2 and 9D2, but classes 7,8 and 9A1 -- with whom we were always compared to our disgust and dismay -- were always there to be our nemesis.

I got a little taste of revenge when they combined the classes to take French. The front seat of the class was usually reserved for the student with the highest test score. That seat was more often than not occupied by me. Those listening closely could probably hear me giggling gleefully at having beaten the higher IQs in the A1 class.

My eighth-grade year I won the spelling bee by knocking off a girl from 8A1. Her classmates were seated in the front row of the auditorium, and I remembered the dejected look on their faces when I spelled the word she missed -- ''centennial'' -- and then was given the word ''chaos.'' They knew it was over, and so did I. My classmates cheered me when I got back to the classroom. We'd chalked up another victory over those higher IQs.

It was in the eighth grade that our class also lost some members who had not performed well academically and gained some from lower classes who had. One guy came from 7D19 and must have really done poorly on the IQ test.

But he eventually went on to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and is now a computer programmer. It was then that I had my first doubts about the validity of IQ tests.

The doubts were strengthened years later when I joined the Air Force. I had heard, ad infinitum and ad nauseum, about the 15-point gap. But I met one white guy so daft I figured that by himself he could bring down the average white score by five points. Either someone's skewing the numbers for white folks or 15 points is really not that much of a difference, I figured.

Two years ago, Daniel Seligman, a former editor of Fortune magazine, published a book called ''A Question of Intelligence: The IQ Debate in America.'' He informs us that John Kennedy had a measured IQ of 119, Richard Nixon one of 143. Mr. Seligman wondered why Nixon didn't do better in the 1960 presidential debates against Kennedy. The debate, of course, was a matter of preparation, not IQ; the 24-point difference in IQ between Kennedy and Nixon was, in short, not a hell of a lot.

Mr. Seligman came out for eugenics, but admitted that the top Nazi leaders tried for war crimes all had high IQs:''Hermann Goering tested at 138; Franz von Papen, at 134; and Albert Speer, at 128.'' We can assume that Adolf Hitler's IQ was even higher than theirs -- proving that a society with ''intelligent'' leadership is not necessarily a good one.

That point is lost on the IQ brigade. The not very subtle gist of their argument is that America will be a better place if the birth rate for that nettlesome underclass -- the 1990s code word for black -- were restricted or eliminated by either forced or voluntary sterilization. They would do well to consider that today's proponents of such ideas could well be tomorrow's victim's of them.

Gregory P. Kane is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

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