Intelligence Tests Of Superior Children

The number of children with very superior ability is approximately as great

as the number of feeble-minded. The future welfare of the country hinges, in

no small degree, upon the right education of these superior children. Whether

civilization moves on and up depends most on the advances made by

creative thinkers and leaders in science, politics, art, morality, and

religion. Moderate ability can follow, or imitate, but genius mus

the way.

Through the leveling influences of the educational lockstep such

children at present are often lost in the masses. It is a rare child who

is able to break this lockstep by extra promotions. Taking the country

over, the ratio of "accelerates" to "retardates" in the school is

approximately 1 to 10. Through the handicapping influences of poverty,

social neglect, physical defects, or educational maladjustments, many

potential leaders in science, art, government, and industry are denied

the opportunity of a normal development. The use we have made of

exceptional ability reminds one of the primitive methods of surface

mining. It is necessary to explore the nation's hidden resources of

intelligence. The common saying that "genius will out" is one of those

dangerous half-truths with which too many people rest content.

Psychological tests show that children of superior ability are very

likely to be misunderstood in school. The writer has tested more than a

hundred children who were as much above average intelligence as moron

defectives are below. The large majority of these were found located

below the school grade warranted by their intellectual level. One third

had failed to reap any advantage whatever, in terms of promotion, from

their very superior intelligence. Even genius languishes when kept

over-long at tasks that are too easy.

Our data show that teachers sometimes fail entirely to recognize

exceptional superiority in a pupil, and that the degree of such

superiority is rarely estimated with anything like the accuracy which is

possible to the psychologist after a one-hour examination. _B. F._, for

example, was a little over 71/2 years old when tested. He was in the

third grade, and was therefore thought by his teacher to be accelerated

in school. This boy's intelligence, however, was found to be above the

12-year level. There is no doubt that his mental ability would have

enabled him, with a few months of individual instruction, to carry fifth

or even sixth-grade work as easily as third, and without injury to body

or mind. Nevertheless, the teacher and both the parents of this child

had found nothing remarkable about him. In reality he belongs to a grade

of genius not found oftener than once in several thousand cases.

Another illustration is that of a boy of 101/2 years who tested at the

"average adult" level. He was doing superior work in the sixth grade,

but according to the testimony of the teacher had "no unusual ability."

It was ascertained from the parents that this boy, at an age when most

children are reading fairy stories, had a passion for standard medical

literature and textbooks in physical science. Yet, after more than a

year of daily contact with this young genius (who is a relative of

Meyerbeer, the composer), the teacher had discovered no symptoms of

unusual ability.

Teachers should be better trained in detecting the signs of superior

ability. Every child who consistently gets high marks in his school work

with apparent ease should be given a mental examination, and if his

intelligence level warrants it he should either be given extra

promotions, or placed in a special class for superior children where

faster progress can be made. The latter is the better plan, because it

obviates the necessity of skipping grades; it permits rapid but

continuous progress.

The usual reluctance of teachers to give extra promotions probably rests

upon three factors: (1) mere inertia; (2) a natural unwillingness to

part with exceptionally satisfactory pupils; and (3) the traditional

belief that precocious children should be held back for fear of dire

physical or mental consequences.

In order to throw light on the question whether exceptionally bright

children are specially likely to be one-sided, nervous, delicate,

morally abnormal, socially unadaptable, or otherwise peculiar, the

writer has secured rather extensive information regarding 31 children

whose mental age was found by intelligence tests to be 25 per cent above

the actual age. This degree of intelligence is possessed by about

2 children out of 100, and is nearly as far above average intelligence

as high-grade feeble-mindedness is below. The supplementary information,

which was furnished in most cases by the teachers, may be summarized as


1. _Ability special or general._ In the case of 20 out of 31 the

ability is decidedly general, and with 2 it is mainly general.

The talents of 5 are described as more or less special, but

only in one case is it remarkably so. Doubtful 4.

2. _Health._ 15 are said to be perfectly healthy; 13 have one or

more physical defects; 4 of the 13 are described as delicate;

4 have adenoids; 4 have eye-defects; 1 lisps; and 1 stutters.

These figures are about the same as one finds in any group of

ordinary children.

3. _Studiousness._ "Extremely studious," 15; "usually studious" or

"fairly studious," 11; "not particularly studious," 5; "lazy,"


4. _Moral traits._ Favorable traits only, 19; one or more

unfavorable traits, 8; no answer, 4. The eight with

unfavorable moral traits are described as follows: 2 are "very

self-willed"; 1 "needs close watching"; 1 is "cruel to

animals"; 1 is "untruthful"; 1 is "unreliable"; 1 is "a

bluffer"; 1 is "sexually abnormal," "perverted," and


It will be noted that with the exception of the last child,

the moral irregularities mentioned can hardly be regarded,

from the psychological point of view, as essentially abnormal.

It is perhaps a good rather than a bad sign for a child to be

self-willed; most children "need close watching"; and a

certain amount of untruthfulness in children is the rule and

not the exception.

5. _Social adaptability._ Socially adaptable, 25; not adaptable,

2; doubtful, 4.

6. _Attitude of other children._ "Favorable," "friendly," "liked

by everybody," "much admired," "popular," etc., 26; "not

liked," 1; "inspires repugnance," 1; no answer, 1.

7. _Is child a leader?_ "Yes," 14; "no," or "not particularly,"

12; doubtful, 5.

8. _Is play life normal?_ "Yes," 26; "no," 1; "hardly," 1;

doubtful, 3.

9. _Is child spoiled or vain?_ "No," 22; "yes," 5; "somewhat," 2;

no answer, 2.

According to the above data, exceptionally intelligent children are

fully as likely to be healthy as ordinary children; their ability is far

more often general than special, they are studious above the average,

really serious faults are not common among them, they are nearly always

socially adaptable, are sought after as playmates and companions, their

play life is usually normal, they are leaders far oftener than other

children, and notwithstanding their many really superior qualities they

are seldom vain or spoiled.

It would be greatly to the advantage of such children if their superior

ability were more promptly and fully recognized, and if (under proper

medical supervision, of course) they were promoted as rapidly as their

mental development would warrant. Unless they are given the grade of

work which calls forth their best efforts, they run the risk of falling

into lifelong habits of submaximum efficiency. The danger in the case of

such children is not over-pressure, but under-pressure.