The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

IQ tests for all Presidential candidates, please.

It is time for American politicians – indeed, I suggest all politicians seeking high office – to have mandatory IQ tests administered to them. This would save America – or indeed any other nation – from electing that particular breed of charming, persuasive, self-confident, but ultimately empty headed type that politics too often seems to attract. (I am sure you can think of a few who fit that description, without me naming them). Such mental lightweights do not have the cognitive resources to make the best decisions, or to think with a long term enough vision, to guide any nation to long term security, success, growth and stability.

So, I propose that an independent, international body be established to administer IQ tests to all current or prospective politicians, of all nationalities. I am sure that there would be some interesting revelations were such an examination to be performed. This IQ information should be made publicly available, and be searchable online. It should also be reported in the mass media. Were this to be done, I am sure there would be very interesting consequences. The electorate would have to hold, in its collective mind, a measurement of the basic mental capacities of each candidate. The electorate would also have to make a judgement as to whether a particular level of cognitive capacity was enough for the job. Though, of course, there could be a mandatory minimum level imposed. In such a world, a politician who was dumber than the base threshold – say an IQ of 130, perhaps – would be debarred from being a politician at all. However, it would be probably be more interesting – though perhaps less safe for the country – to leave that decision up to the collective mind of the electorate (though the IQ of that, is not particularly high).

A system of mandatory IQ tests for all prospective politicians, particularly for Presidential candidates, would allow for much greater understanding of the true intellectual power of the people in question. Until now, the intellectual reputations of politicians, particularly Presidential candidates, have been established through canny media campaigns, which resemble consumer goods branding exercises i.e. the statements and promises made often bear no relation to reality or truth. The campaign for Senator Barack Obama’s run for Presidency is a case in point. The media made him out to be a genius of the highest order. He was praised for an intellectual power that was deemed unprecedented. I saw absurdly high estimates of his IQ floating around...ones that would have made him among the smartest of people anywhere. Yet, a close look at the intellectual achievements of his life, reveals a perturbing thinness of evidence. If he is truly a great intellect, he hasn’t done much to show it. In fact, he has done less to show it than many men of fairly average intellect do. This does seem to suggest that his true intellect, is actually much closer to that fairly average impression. For instance, he became President of Harvard Law Review, essentially through affirmative action by all appearances. (For those of my readers who are not familiar with “affirmative action”, this is the practice of selecting people on the basis of race, not merit, or innate ability. Typically in such “affirmative action programmes”, the threshold for a minority race applicant is much, much lower than for a majority race applicant. This leads to obvious problems with the performance of such people, on the job.) Now, as President of Harvard Law Review, one would have thought that there would have emerged from the young Barack Obama, a fount of articles, to be published in its previously august pages...not so. The young Barack Obama published nothing in the Harvard Law Review, apart, perhaps, from his own name. It seems that was the extent of his writing abilities at the time. This fact is very strong evidence that the young Barack Obama was short on both ideas and writing ability. Both facts are not indicators of any high degree of intelligence. Yet, still, the media made him out to be some kind of genius for being “the first black President of the Harvard Law Review”. In actual fact, his conduct as President of the Harvard Law Review reveals a very modest intelligence at work.

The most effective way to stop the mass media being used to create false impressions of the intelligence of candidates is for their IQs to be made publicly known, having been verified by an independent body, external to the United States, with no ties to any one competing nation. Perhaps this could be an all nation effort under the UN.

Were President Obama’s IQ made known, I really think there would be a lot of surprise in many quarters. For the first time, people would have objective knowledge of the quality of his mind – and I am certain that his supporters will be very disappointed by what that objective measurement reveals. However, it would be unfair to imply that President Obama, alone, is probably not as bright as his “genius” marketing made him out to be. It is just that, in his case, the disparity between legend and truth is likely to be greater than for most other politicians. This is partly because his intelligence has been exaggerated more – and partly because he is probably not as bright as certain other recent politicians, despite all the positive press about his mental powers (as if he were some sort of Marvel Superhero).

Other politicians, too, would surprise the electorate by the essential mediocrity of their minds. This is a good surprise, for the people deserve to know the quality of the people they are electing. Some might think that it is enough to know where someone was educated, to gain an indication of their intelligence. This is fallacious thinking because it assumes that all candidates for admission are treated in the same way. They are not. Some politicians – indeed, many – come from very privileged backgrounds and gained admission to prestigious schools on the basis of family connections and the wish for said institutions to curry favour with their families – or repay old benefactions and the like. So, admission to a prestigious school, for people of such privileged background, may be no indicator of talent at all. However, it is an indicator of a kind of political influence, which is not the same thing.

Another point to bear in mind: a person’s educational history bears the same correlation to their innate intelligence, as does their appearance. This correlation is 0.381, if I remember correctly. Thus, candidates boasting about their education, is no more significant than saying: “I have got a pretty face!”.

No. The only way to settle all the uncertainty about the mental abilities of political candidates is for them ALL to have MANDATORY IQ tests performed, under controlled, observed, videoed conditions (to prevent cheating), by an independent body. Until then, politicians will do what they always do: lie about their intelligence and abilities to convince the electorate that they have some special, or at least adequate, ability to govern.

That being said, if anyone has any inside knowledge about the IQ of any politician please comment below, with your evidence and source. Thank you.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:05 AM 


Blogger Fendaril said...

If you think you could do a much better job, then why don't you become a politician. You COULD do anything. You are a gifted individual capable of many things. You can generate the most unique of ideas.

Unless I am completely wrong and you do not possess the abilities required to be a true leader.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. I could do many things. The thing is, though, I have to consider whether any particular thing is worthy of my time, and makes good or hopefully, best, use of my time and energies. So far, I haven't considered politics as a good use of my time and energies. It is an arena which doesn't, at this time, seem particularly interested in creative thinkers...but more interested in those able to manipulate others to their will, in various ways. Men of ideas don't seem much prized in this domain.

I have many other tasks to occupy me - and, even if I did enter politics in later life, I would not be of much use to Americans, being non-American.

So, America will have to find a way to save itself from dumb politicians without my assistance, at any time!

12:40 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

It's a nice idea but I don't think this will make much difference.

If I remember correctly, during the Bush-Kerry election, both candidate's SAT scores were widely known. Though both were around the bright/moderately gifted level and were relatively close to each other, the minor difference was exploited by supporters... 'See, Bush IS smarter than Kerry! Ha, this PROVES Bush should be president.'

You see people were happy with scores in the 130s.....By nature of the IQ distribution, most people found this score to be quite high actually.

This brings back the whole Leta Hollingsworth's IQ gap for leaders which I believe you have written about previously.

Thinking back to Obama's 2008 run for President, a lot of the liberal media was extremely enamoured of him at the time. They spoke of how intellectual, educated, eloquent,etc. he was.

Even though you (and I) are, um, *rather* doubtful as to the accuracy of such statements, this was the prevailing opinion at the time.

The conservative response was immediately....Oh, he's elitist.

Now, if someone who is moderately gifted can appear elitist to the general public, what must someone who is highly gifted or above seem like? Even more so when IQ scores are known? I feel there would possibly even be a backlash against any candidate with a revealed high IQ.

So, I think you are underestimating the distrust that the public has against the educated and experienced.

Indeed (in a sort of reverse situation), in response to conservative criticism that Obama lacked the necessary experience to be a good leader, there was even a terrible Obama apologist Time magazine article on the topic of 'how no experience can actually be good experience' (Anyone with any executive experience whatsoever is old, set in his ways, and part of the established broken system.) Insanity. I thought the article was completely ridiculous, and I was over 40 years younger than the writer.

Although I do not think IQ tests will make a difference, your blog post does inspire me to think of other ways that society could ensure better quality leaders. Rather than IQ tests, I feel that candidates could possibly undergo a testing phase that is televised. This would involve basic questions about world politics, geography, world history, the state of affairs of critical societal problems (population,energy...) and fundamental questions about the constitution and laws of their country. This wouldn't even be asking their opinion/interpretation, but merely a direct short-answer fact-based sort of trivia style situation. (Sadly, I think most modern politicians would fail such a fundamental test that I believe any Jeopardy contestant would pass. Just see David Cameron's lack of knowledge about the Magna Carta).

Part Two of the 'testing' would involve written essays about certain select questions that are to be written only by the candidates (no speech writers/no coaching by political advisors) and to be placed available online to be freely viewed by the public.

Lastly you would have your traditional political debates. However, this would be a much more fair process. So far I have rarely seen any fair moderators. They either lean very right or very left and give unfair advantages to their preferred candidates.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Safireau,

It is a pity that the American populace are so distrustful of intellect: that is an attitude which will prevent them from ever having a truly gifted leader - one capable of PERSONALLY solving some of the problems the nation faces. Would not such a leader be a boon?

Anyway, I note that some countries try to select smart Singapore. I am fairly sure that the "IQ" of Singaporean leaders will be higher than that of American leaders. I leave it to you to judge whether this has helped Singapore or not.

As for Obama...any truly bright person can see, rather quickly, that he is not very bright. There are several reasons why he was seen as "brilliant" in 2008. There are obvious race related reasons why his achievements may have been appraised more highly than was justified. Then again, the people who praised him so, could not have been very bright themselves. The problem people have with judging the bright is that they themselves are usually not very bright - and so aren't equipped to make a good estimate.

I like your idea of getting them to write an essay. That would really show them up, since being an effective writer tracks pretty well to intelligence. I recall reading once that a cohort of "famous" writers had mean IQs in the 160s...which is considerably higher than a moderately gifted 130 - and on the order of thousand times rarer. So, yes, that has the potential to be a good test.

I wonder if any testing regime will ever be implemented?

10:46 AM  

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