Episode Information

CMS: The Genius in All of Us
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In this episode:

David Shenk explains why everything you've been told about genetics and IQ is wrong.


Episode Audio

49:30 minutes (23.76 MB)
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This is sort of a horrible story.

When I was entering a new school in the 7th grade, we were given IQ tests and somehow, by accident, the results of those tests were left in a folder that was handed to my parents. Not just my results. The whole incoming class.

My mother was exactly the wrong person to receive this kind of information. I happened to have a very high IQ the day they administered the test, and, for the ensuing six years, any time another boy excelled over me, she would say, "He's not as smart as you are."

She never showed me the list. She just used it as a secret holy text of aptitude. Over the years, it became clear there were three or four -- or maybe five -- boys in my class who were better at pure academics than I. They started pulling away in the total GPA Derby.

"They're not as smart as you are," my mother would say.

That's how I know IQ is a lot of BS.

You can join the conversation. Is intelligence inborn? Are IQ tests accurate? Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

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Listener E-mail from John

Great to hear this show.

I have two hats - at Talcott Mountain Science Center and on the board of the Ct Assoc. for Gifted.

I just got David's book for review - looking forward to it.

We've done  a lot of work with Gifted kids in science, there are great resources in the state, but once high and now non-existent support from the state.

Kids in CT need to create a mix of support from things like Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis' lab at UConn, enrichment programs and parents as advocates.

Interesting trend - that kids below secondary take advantage of lots of these, but the tendency for secondary kids is to rely on scores alone.

LOADS to talk about...

Listener E-mail from Caroline

What is the difference between intelligence and common sense?  Can the latter be measured?

Listener E-mail from Jane

Boy, did your story trigger some memories! I worked in the guidance office all through high school (early 60's), and had access to not only my I.Q. numbers, but everyone else's. I was fortunate that my parents never learned of this, but I still suffered the humiliation of seeing lower-scoring classmates zoom by me in the GPA race. I got accepted at the best colleges, though. I also recall that my scores got better each time I was tested -- twenty point jumps, in some cases. Clearly, I learned the art of taking I.Q. tests.