I’ve read a few journals and articles by hard scientists (and I must admit a couple of YouTube videos, too) claiming that people of African descent inherently have a lower IQ compared to other races.
As an African, I’d be honest, I was perturbed by this. On the back of this, I decided to read counter-arguments by other hard scientists and experts on the other side of the spectrum, so to speak, in the same fields of study.
What I found was interesting. Since I am also no expert in the field of neuroscience or child psychology, you may find this article somewhat visceral but I’ll try to remain objective and scientific. That said, before I get on with it, let’s define concepts so that we move together at the same pace.
What is the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) test?
The IQ test has four scales on it. When an expert says you or your child has a 100 IQ score, they are talking about the overall IQ score. However, that overall IQ came from four scales, which are:
1. Processing speed: that’s how quickly you can solve problems.
2. Working memory: how one can hold information in their mind and execute upon it.
3. Non-verbal reasoning: this is how well you can solve problems for which you’ve received no previous education.
The three tests above are universal scales. On average, everyone scores equally good on these scales if they don’t have a serious challenge.
The fourth scale is what counts for, what I would call, the racial bias, and that is the verbal comprehension index scale. What is verbal comprehension? These are the words, concepts, ideas, and definitions that are normally foreign to the black kids’ vocabulary even if they are middle class.
The problem is when the IQ test results are discussed, they are not demystified so that the ordinary person can understand. They just say something along the lines of, African people are 15 points “dumber” (for a lack of a better word) than, say, Europeans. So. it follows that the Africans must be intellectually deficient. They don’t tell you that on average Africans do as well as anyone on the 3 universal scales and that the only scale that they struggle on is verbal comprehension. With the fourth scale (test), it is often conducted using English as the language of instruction. You get the picture
Now, let’s go into the history of the IQ test. The IQ test comes out of Germany during the rise of Hitler. It was a German man called William Stern that created the IQ test for population extermination reasons.
The first IQ test ever used in the world comes out of France. A French man, Alfred Binet, at the request of the French government, was asked to design a test which allowed the government to group students based on how bright they were and identify those who they felt were not going to be successful in school.
After that, an American named Henry H. Goddard, of the American Eugenics Society went to France, got a copy of the Binet scales, brought them back to the States, made copies of them and distributed them to everywhere in America… except to people of African descent (and other minorities). That said, in his own words, Henry H. Goddard said something along the lines of, “with this tool, we will accomplish our eugenicidal ends“.
In my estimation, from the beginning, the IQ test was never meant as an objective standard to see how smart Africans were. I reckon it was used to justify access to opportunity, population extermination and racial control.
If I may, let me go off tangent a little bit, generally speaking, Africans are not familiar with the glorious history of their people. The history they know about themselves is that of slavery and oppression. They don’t see themselves as Imhotep (the first Physician and described by Sir William Osler as ‘the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity’).
They don’t see themselves as Queen Nzinga (the monarch of the Mbundu people in Angola – a resilient leader who fought against the Portuguese and their expanding slave trade in Central Africa).
They don’t see themselves as Hypatia, a Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. She was a prominent thinker of the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy.
We know for a fact that the concept of ‘genius’ has always been in Africa because everywhere you go on the planet you see the African genius whenever it’s left to its own accord.
With that out of the way, why do we have only four types of intelligence in the IQ tests anyway? Why not more intelligences? This leads me to the final section of this article that deals with other types of intelligence that are equally important.
Howard Gardner, a Professor of Cognition and Education at Howard University, thinks that there are more types of intelligence. According to the esteemed professor, there are about 8 types of intelligence and the first two are the kind which the IQ test and other kinds of tests tend to have. Those two intelligences are Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical intelligence.
Linguistic intelligence deals with the use of language. It is the kind of intelligence that poets, writers, journalists, orators, etc have.
Logical-Mathematical intelligence. As the name implies, this is the kind of intelligence that mathematicians, scientists, etc have that allows them to do mathematical proofs, scientific reasoning, and experimentation.
Linguistic intelligence is usually displayed by poets, writers, journalists, orators and many others.
It is great to have language and logical intelligence because most tests really focus on those. And as long as you stay in school, these two types of intelligence are key. However, the moment you step out of a school setting and walk into, say, a yoga class, sporting field, theater, the woods, it will quickly emerge that they are other types of intelligence that are equally important.
So, that leads us to other forms of intelligence that are important albeit not included in the IQ and most intelligence tests;
Musical intelligence; this is the capacity to appreciate different kinds of music, to produce the music by voice, an instrument or to conduct music.
Then there’s spatial intelligence. This allows human beings to work in spaces that are close by. A chess player and surgeon would have spatial intelligence. There’s, however, another variety of spatial intelligence which human beings use for much broader navigation.
Similarly, the 5th intelligence is bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. This one comes in two flavours; one being the ability to use your whole body to solve problems and make things. Athletes and dancers, for example, would have this. The other flavour enables us to solve problems using certain parts of our bodies. This is the kind a craftsman or craftswoman would have.
The 6th and 7th intelligences have to do with human beings.
Interpersonal intelligence; this is how you understand other people, how you motivate them, how you lead them, how you work with them, how you cooperate with them. Anybody at any workplace would need interpersonal intelligence.
Intra-personal intelligence; this is the 7th form of intelligence and it is difficult to assess. It’s an understanding of oneself. If you go back in history, knowledge of yourself really wasn’t that important because people did what their parents and their grandparents did and that may have been being a hunter, fisherman, etc. However, times have moved on and the world we live in now requires a certain knowledge of oneself.
There are other types of intelligences that are important but don’t have the time to discuss them now. I think that if we live forever, we could probably develop each intelligence to a very high degree but life is very short.
So, the big question is should you play to strength or should you work on your weakness? Do you want to be a jack of all trades and be very well rounded, or you’re dead set on really getting to the top of some particular heap? That’s a value judgment that you’re going to have to make.
To end it off, do not view yourself based on a label that you’re given by the world. Specifically the IQ test. As you go through life, you’ll understand that there are other types of intelligences that are absolutely key to the survival of the human race. Work on your strengths and weaknesses.
Also read: The Miseducation Of The Black Child
Segun is a budding, freelance writer for Newslibre. He loves football, basketball, books, music (all things Birdie and flirts with a bit of Jazz), Philosophy and is an ultra-marathon runner.