24 June 2014

More about the threat of intelligence

text of a letter to an academic

I have written to you about the IQ test that I did when I was ten, and in retrospect I realise that probably my father’s initiative had little to do with it; more likely the educational psychologist was set on by the local authority to spy on me and work out how best to damage my education.

I was very much in the dark at the time, and it was only in 1956 that a book* was published which discussed reading at two as indicating a mental age of six to seven, and thus an IQ of over 300. It was only then that I realised that the test score obtained by the educational psychologist could not very well have been less than 200, although I was told, via my father, that my IQ was 180.

In fact, it appears possible that all the new legislation concerning the ages at which external school exams could be taken, which was created at the time of my education, was made with me in mind, and affected me very badly.

When I told you how early I learnt to read, you quoted an official opinion to the effect that there are so many variations in early development that (by implication) anything of this kind is not meaningful.

No doubt this is what everyone wanted to think, even at that time (i.e. in the 40s). When the post-war Labour landslide occurred in 1945, the minimum age for taking the grammar school scholarship was raised; and if I had not taken the scholarship in the last year before it became the 11-plus, I would not have been able to take it for another two years.

However, I slipped through the net, although not without attracting attention. When, still aged ten, I was interviewed for entry to the Ursuline High School, the Reverend Mother told my parents that I had been one of the youngest candidates, and had got 100% on every paper of the grammar school scholarship (English, arithmetic and intelligence). She had clearly got this information from the local authority, and it was obviously accessible to the government as well.

So the local authority probably set their educational psychologist to spy on me and find out whether they had any grounds for attacking my father. Allegations about his pushing me were already circulating, and did not stop doing so when the educational psychologist could find no grounds for them.

I had been relatively inconspicuous between the ages of two and nine in a private preparatory school, from which I frequently stayed away, my parents paying the fees for the term and squaring it with the headmistress. This inconspicuousness did not last once I became exposed to the state educational system.

* C.W. Valentine, The Normal Child and some of his Abnormalities, Penguin, 1956.