Do you know what your IQ is? Do you feel it is the most important thing about you? Would you want your entire life to be judged by that one single number? Does it accurately describe your personality or your temperament? Should your opportunities or choices be limited by your test results? Would you want others to think less of you if their IQ was higher?
These are the issues faced by a segment of the population that has been categorized as intellectually disabled. For some, their lives have been unfairly limited by this one particular measurement. The weight it has carried has, in some cases, determined the direction of their lives. Often it has been the overriding factor in decisions that may or may not have been correct or in the best interest of the individual. The power of that one number cannot be overstated when dealing with the lives of the men and women who are at the mercy of professionals who make judgments and recommendations based on the results of this data.
No one should have their life adversely affected just because of how they performed on a test. We do not all fit into neat categories. Many people do not endure the stress of the testing process that well. For some, a simple lack of focus can skew results. Others do not feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings creating anxiety which produces less than accurate scores. This is not an attempt to make excuses for how people do on these exams, but it is an effort to point out that the results can be affected by a variety of factors.
In the world of intellectual challenges, IQ tests play a prominent role in determining possibilities, predicting outcomes and in setting realistic goals. Of course some people place more emphasis on the number than others. State agencies often use test results as part of the criteria for deciding who is eligible for aid and services. Health providers use it as a screening tool to help them focus more clearly on the ability of an individual to function at a certain predetermined level. In both of these cases the test results are used as part of a plan to improve the lives of those who it is felt could benefit from extra levels of care and support.
However, some in the general public view a lower IQ as a basis for intolerance, prejudice and neglect. Individuals who are perceived to be below a certain level of intellectual capacity become targets for exclusion, cruelty and abuse. But what does it say about the abuser’s own intelligence if they lack the ability to feel compassion and respect for those who deserve to have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else? What good does it do to have a higher IQ if your behavior is still guided by ignorance and insensitivity?
I am constantly amazed by how some people believe you cannot interact or, more importantly, be friends with someone whose IQ is significantly different than yours. Why not? You have far more in common as human beings than any differences that might exist. Friendship is built on trust and respect. It thrives on non-judgment and acceptance. It develops through tolerance and understanding. These are qualities we should all be seeking. The world would be a much better place if we would all embrace these truths and apply them in each of our own lives.
When we examine the true significance of measurable intelligence we must consider how it relates to our humanity. Do we honestly believe that it is the most important factor in determining the value of a person? Certainly it can be an indispensable tool in delivering the appropriate supports to a particular individual, but we can never allow ourselves to lose sight of the human being represented by the test score. Each person must be viewed in total and must not be reduced to a number that cannot provide a completely accurate representation of who that man or woman is or what they can achieve.
That is why it is so critically important to remember what IQ does not measure…It does not measure how kind you are, how generous you are or how forgiving you are. It does not measure your sense of humor or the acceptance you find in friendship. It does not measure your enthusiasm or your determination. It does not measure the joy you have for life. It does not measure your ability to dream or to help others find their dreams. It does not measure your honesty, your gentleness or your courage. It does not measure the happiness you bring into this life. It does not measure your sense of wonder, your sense of adventure or your imagination. It does not measure the impact you can have on the world. It does not measure your ability to love and be loved – and most importantly – your IQ does not measure your worth as a human being.
We can never forget that each individual in our society, regardless of a test score, is a completely equal member of the human family. We all have the same rights and deserve the same respect and dignity. No one, under any circumstances, should have their life defined by a single number.