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The Intelligence Of Retarded Children Usually Overestimated

One of the most common errors made by the teacher is to overestimate the
intelligence of the over-age pupil. This is because she fails to take
account of age differences and estimates intelligence on the basis of
the child's school performance in the grade where he happens to be
located. She tends to overlook the fact that quality of school work is
no index of intelligence unless age is taken into account. The question
should be, not, "Is this child doing his school work well?" but rather,
"In what school grade should a child of this age be able to do
satisfactory work?" A high-grade imbecile may do average work in the
first grade, and a high-grade moron average work in the third or fourth
grade, provided only they are sufficiently over-age for the grade in

Our experience in testing children for segregation in special classes
has time and again brought this fallacy of teachers to our attention. We
have often found one or more feeble-minded children in a class after
the teacher had confidently asserted that there was not a single
exceptionally dull child present. In every case where there has been
opportunity to follow the later school progress of such a child the
validity of the intelligence test has been fully confirmed.

The following are typical examples of the neglect of teachers to take
the age factor into account when estimating the intelligence of the
over-age child:--

_A. R. Girl, age 11; in low second grade._ She was able to do
the work of this grade, not well, but passably. The teacher's
judgment as to this child's intelligence was "dull but not
defective." What the teacher overlooked was the fact that she
had judged the child by a 7-year standard, and that, instead of
only being able to do the work of the second grade
indifferently, a child of this age should have been equal to the
work of the fifth grade. In reality, A. R. is definitely
feeble-minded. Although she is from a home of average culture,
is 11 years old, and has attended school five years, she has
barely the intelligence of the average child of six years.

_D. C. Boy, age 17; in fifth grade._ His teacher knew that he
was dull, but had not thought of him as belonging to the class
of feeble-minded. She had judged this boy by the 11-year
standard and had perhaps been further misled by his normal
appearance and exceptionally satisfactory behavior. The Binet
test quickly showed that he had a mental level of approximately
9 years. There is little probability that his comprehension will
ever surpass that of the average 10-year-old.

_R. A. Boy, age 17; mental age 11; sixth grade; school work
"nearly average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
Test plainly shows this child to be a high-grade moron, or
border-liner at best. Had attended school regularly 11 years and
had made 6 grades. Teacher had compared child with his
12-year-old classmates.

_H. A. Boy, age 14; mental age 9-6; low fourth grade; school
work "inferior"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
The teacher blamed the inferior quality of school work to "bad
home environment." As a matter of fact, the boy's father is
feeble-minded and the normality of the mother is questionable.
An older brother is in a reform school. We are perfectly safe in
predicting that this boy will not complete the eighth grade even
if he attends school till he is 21 years of age.

_F. I. Boy, age 12-11; mental age 9-4; third grade; school work
"average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average"; social
environment "average"; health good and attendance regular._
Intelligence and school success are what we should expect of an
average 9-year-old.

_D. A. Boy, age 12; mental age 9-2; third grade; school work
"inferior"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
Teacher imputes inferior school work to "absence from school and
lack of interest in books"; we have yet to find a child with a
mental age 25 per cent below chronological age who _was_
particularly interested in books or enthusiastic about school.

_C. U. Girl, age 10; mental age 7-8; second grade; school work
"average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
Teacher blames adenoids and bad teeth for retardation. No doubt
of child's mental deficiency.

_P. I. Girl, age 8-10; mental age 6-7; has been in first grade
21/2 years; school work "average"; teacher's estimate of
intelligence "average."_ The mother and one brother of this girl
are both feeble-minded.

_H. O. Girl, age 7-10; mental age 5-2; first grade for 2 years;
school work "inferior"; teacher's estimate of intelligence
"average."_ The teacher nevertheless adds, "This child is not
normal, but her ability to respond to drill shows that she has
intelligence." It is of course true that even feeble-minded
children of 5-year intelligence are able to profit a little from
drill. Their weakness comes to light in their inability to
perform higher types of mental activity.

already mentioned the frequent failure of teachers and parents to
recognize superior ability. The fallacy here is again largely due to
the neglect of the age factor, but the resulting error is in the
opposite direction from that set forth above. The superior child is
likely to be a year or two younger than the average child of his grade,
and is accordingly judged by a standard which is too high. The following
are illustrations:--

_M. L. Girl, age 11-2; mental age "average adult" (16); sixth
grade; school work "superior"; teacher's estimate of
intelligence "average."_ Teacher credits superior school work to
"unusual home advantages." Father a college professor. The
teacher considers the child accelerated in school. In reality
she ought to be in the second year of high school instead of in
the sixth grade.

_H. A. Boy, age 11; mental age 14; sixth grade; school work
"average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
According to the supplementary information the boy is
"wonderfully attentive," "studious," and possessed of
"all-round ability." The estimate of "average intelligence" was
probably the result of comparing him with classmates who
averaged about a year older.

_K. R. Girl, age 6-1; mental age 8-5; second grade; school work
"average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "superior"; social
environment "average."_ Is it not evident that a child from
ordinary social environment, who does work of average quality in
the second grade when barely 6 years of age, should be judged
"very superior" rather than merely "superior" in intelligence?
The intelligence quotient of this girl is 140, which is not
reached by more than one child in two hundred.

_S. A. Boy, age 8-10; mental age 10-9; fourth grade; school work
"average"; teacher's estimate of intelligence "average."_
Teacher attributed school acceleration to "studiousness" and
"delight in school work." It would be more reasonable to infer
that these traits are indications of unusually superior

Next: Other Fallacies In The Estimation Of Intelligence

Previous: The Necessity Of Standards

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