Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Indignity of Indifference

I was ambling around the Web this morning and came across this chart which linked IQ to the various professions:

140 Top Civil Servants; Professors and Research Scientists.
130 Physicians and Surgeons; Lawyers; Engineers (Civil and Mechanical)
120 School Teachers; Pharmacists; Accountants; Nurses; Stenographers; Managers.
110 Foremen; Clerks; Telephone Operators; Salesmen; Policemen; Electricians.
100+ Machine Operators; Shopkeepers; Butchers; Welders; Sheet Metal Workers.
100- Warehousemen; Carpenters; Cooks and Bakers; Small Farmers; Truck and Van Drivers.
90 Laborers; Gardeners; Upholsterers; Farmhands; Miners; Factory Packers and Sorters.

Of course, the list is not rigorous; it's based upon statistical expectations and thus doesn't allow any deviation from the norm. (Stating that policemen tend to have an IQ of 110, for example, doesn't take into account that there numerous departments dealing with numerous issues within the police force, gaining superior roles requiring intellectual vigour upon promotion, etc.) Nor does it state what happens to those with IQs below 90, below 80 and indeed, below 70. 

But it really does make one wonder what the hell Labour's been playing at in trying to get 50% of kids into higher education.

Looking at figures borrowed from the same website:

IQ Description                   % of Population
130+ Very superior                2.2%
120-129 Superior                   6.7%
110-119 High average           16.1%
90-109 Average                    50%
80-89 Low average               16.1%
70-79 Borderline                  6.7%
Below 70                             Extremely low

So 25% is above average, 50% is average and 25% is below average. Which technically implies that 75% should be taking apprenticeships, earning City & Guilds, NVQs, language, technical and other qualifications, whilst the top 25% should be going to university.

This isn't elitist - although I do fervently believe in justified elitism; I think one should have something to strive for - but practical. If Labour really wanted to 'help' people, they would make the standard of primary and secondary education so superior that those gifted children who would typically fall through the net because of their social background would be identified and given the opportunity to go to university: the DH Lawrences of this country, if you will. Offering university as some kind of socialist 'sop' is immensely harmful and, in some cases - like the Surf Management course offered at Newquay which had to be dropped - grotesquely ridiculous.

I am reminded of what Karl Popper said about Utopia and the desperate need for prudence of action so as not to cause human misery on a grand scale:

"It is infinitely ... difficult to reason about an ideal society. Social life is so complicated that few men, or none at all, could judge a blueprint for social engineering on the grand scale; whether it would be practicable; whether it would result in a real improvement; what kind of suffering it may involve; and what may be the means for its realization... [The piecemeal politician] will be aware that perfection, if at all attainable, is far distant, and that every generation of men, and therefore also the living, have a claim; perhaps not so much a claim to be made happy, for there are no institutional means of making a man happy, but a claim not to be made unhappy, where it can be avoided."  (The Open Society and Its Enemies, pp 158-9)


  1. ...And you're a medical professional... how is it fair for NuLab ('Lab' being the operative word in this context) to let a person with a 95 IQ think they should be able to go to medical school? Or a hundred IQ to become an astronaut? This 'you can do anything if you put your mind to it' leaves me pondering the definition of 'mind'.

  2. Politicians like Prescott are superior then :) duh!

    I don't know what mine is (programmer?)... pretentious crap as far as I'm concerned..

    Profession is also sometimes dictated by lack of opportunity rather than Intelligence quotient!

  3. The original intention of the IQ measure, as developed by Alfred Binet, was not to identify someone's fixed level of ability but to identify those who may need extra help during their education. That was quickly forgotten.

    Only, er, a fool, would deny that people differ in their intelluctual capacities and aptitudes but we should beware of inferring too much from IQ scores, especially those in the mid-ranges. Some people may suddenly bloom when they find something that resonates with them of which they were previously unaware.

  4. An excellent measure of how stupid Labour are. I suspect their voters can be measured in the 20s seeing as how 28% of them reckon to vote Labour whatever. It would seem to me voting for these idiots is like choosing who you want in your firing squad.

  5. Henry North London said...
    I have an IQ of 134

    I, myself, personally, have an IQ of at least 782, and that's on a bad day. On a good day it even exceeds the size of your ego.

    Difficult to believe, I know.

    I tend to agree with Sue and Mr ge-something, this IQ navel-gazing should not be regarded as a reliable predictive tool for the abilities needed in life.

    The destruction of our educational system, for entirely ideological reasons, is the worst of all the many crimes committed in the past 50 years; impacting, as it does, so adversely on the life-chances of millions of children. There is nothing, including even the EU, which enrages me more.

  6. IQ scores measure success in answering IQ tests, and should be approached with a long spoon, particularly when dealing with mean scores.

    Having said that, the mean IQ of theoretical physicists will, of necessity, be higher than that of dustmen, if for no other reason than the ability to do theoretical physics correlates strongly with the ability to solve IQ puzzles; and similar correlations will be seen for other traditional university courses.

    Unfortunately, those top civil servants, with their very superior IQs, fail to appreciate that most human activities have little to do with the sort of mental activity that can be measured with an IQ test. In fairness, this is generally understood when it comes to, say, professional football: would anyone seriously suggest that David Beckham work towards a degree in soccer skills?

    By encouraging degree courses in equine studies (say), these policy-makers demean by their ignorance the very knowledge they seek to accredit. To understand horses requires a lifetime of being around horses; that understanding cannot be gained in a lecture theatre. The knowledge possessed by a good groom is passed from Head Groom to stable lad: it is “knowing how”, not “knowing that”.

    But we never have been good at accrediting “knowing how” in this country, it is just too expensive and time consuming. Secondary Modern schools were hopelessly underfunded and Technical Schools priced out of existence; Polytechnics were sniffed at by the established universities and ultimately destroyed themselves by aping them.

    Those young people with apprenticeships from wealthy companies such as Rolls Royce or BAE Systems are fortunate indeed.

  7. An IQ test is an indicator of how good one is in answering tests, certainly; as an indicator of intelligence it is doubtful. But it is a failproof way in which to demarcate a nation: through dehumanising individuals by reducing them to a percentage, or a percentile. Their ability to reason from cause to effect is reduced to whether they can spot the pattern in a random series of squares and ellipses. Yet it is that which is trotted out again and again to demonstrate in that infallible, 'science says' way, that everyone is 'capable' of 'something', even the 'average' who should then be encouraged to 'strive'. (What is the point of striving for *anything* if one doesn't have to work for it?)
    Yes, indeed. At the risk of being fired out of a metaphorical (not literal, as he doesn't know where I live) cannon by ex-apprentice, I took two run-of-the-mill IQ tests yesterday. One came out at 96, the other at 181. Which proves bugger all.
    IQ tests were never intended, harrumphs various societies, to measure intelligence but to gauge mental agility. But now they are being used to gauge both, together with psychometric tests - because, as you know, there are only a handful of 'types' of individuals out there; any statistician will tell you its only worth questioning 1000 people to understand how the entire country thinks.
    I suppose the point that I was trying to make is that it is devastating to a nation and a nation's future (as Popper says) to wipe the slate clean and give everyone the 'same' opportunities based on the logic that because people are equal in some respects, they are equal therefore in all respects; that all, because they possess minds, have equal intellectual potential. And shows like Big Brother merely complicate matters by elevating those who lack the self-respect to keep their private lives private to positions of national importance.
    -Great recapitulation of Hard Times, Mr Natural....

  8. Mr Natural, your comment is one of the most clearly thought-out and sensible things I have read in a long time.

    The lie is emphatically given to IQ tests by the fact that the more you do them, the higher goes your score.

    And if senior civil servants are so bloody clever, why is the country in such a mess?

  9. Ah my troll followeth me here

    I have a verbal IQ of 150

    Ex apprentice why art thou pursuing this offensive line

  10. I've spent a lifetime working with people with developmental disabilities. Most have few skills of any kind, and the extent of their knowledge wouldn't fill half a page on an old school blotter - if they can write that is. I work alongside very smart people with lots of degrees attesting to their vast knowledge and extensive skill set. Some of the former are real good people, while many of the later are failed human beings.

    So what does it matter where your IQ falls? Well the folks with low IQ's are generally dependent on folks with higher IQ's. It's the folks with higher IQ's that make the rules, and plan our collective future - even if they are total shits.

    BTW - my IQ is 127 - my kid's are higher - this pisses me off.

  11. "Ex apprentice why art thou pursuing this offensive line"

    "What sayest thou? Hast thou not a word of joy? Some comfort, Nurse."


  12. "At the risk of being fired out of a metaphorical (not literal, as he doesn't know where I live) cannon by ex-apprentice,"


    Wouldn't dream of it, dear MM.

  13. Mike Spilligan8 March 2009 at 10:06

    The NuLab desire to get 50% into university was really a requirement to get the jobless total down by around 500,000.
    A similar trick with the £30 a week to stay at school after GCSEs; which means that they zoom round this town in shared "hot-hatches" for most of the day.
    I've got a relative who was advised to take a 4-year legal degree. I was amazed as she didn't seem that bright to me - but at the end of the third year she was told she'd failed to pass exams sufficiently well to go on to the final year. I think that there were other reasons; in addition unemployment figures, maybe it improved the "uni's" funding in some way; or some other fraud.

  14. Mike,

    Universities are indeed under pressure to accept quotas of students as their funding is calculated, to a great extent, according to the numbers of their FTE (full-time equivalent) students. Many point out that their entry requirements remain as stringent as ever. Whether the exam results that meet those requirements mean as much as once they did is another question enirely.

  15. Yes, Mara, thank you for reminding me; I had completely forgotten Blitzer’s “definition of a horse”:
    ”Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. ……….”

    a nice example of “knowing that”; compared with Sissy Jupe’s “knowing how”.

    Thank you, Dennis, for your kind remarks.

    There is a relevant piece in today’s Sunday Times Lecturers reveal watered-down degrees


Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison