Right now I’m reading Justin Menkes’ Executive Intelligence. Menkes points out that many top businessmen aren’t competent and fail basic management objectives, and wonders how the screening process failed to winnow out the bad executives. He defines executive intelligence, shows examples of exec-intelligent CEO’s who lead their companies to success, and proposes ways to screen for it that would be better than our current measures. I’m reading it because I think the SAT is a crappy, racist test, and I want to see what tests Menkes proposes and if they’d be good for high school seniors.
By far the heaviest hitting part of the book was when he talked about the difference between knowledge and intelligence, and how we confuse the two.
“The distinction between knowledge and intelligence is frequently blurred. For example, most people are familiar with the popular television show Jeopardy!, on which contestants are rewarded for the amount of knowledge they possess of a wide variety of topics. Often the winners are referred to as “exceptionally smart.” But the truth is that they are exceptionally knowledgeable. Successful Jeopardy! contestants haven’t really proven anything about their intelligence…[Joseph Fagan, chair of psychology at Case Western] has done research focusing on racial differences in test scores, and his experiments found that measures that required certain kinds of academic knowledge, such as vocabulary or complex math, yielded significantly different scores between racial groups. But tests focused on reasoning or processing skills, such as picture and spatial pattern recognition, showed no such differences.”
I generally score well on IQ and SAT tests and people call me smart, but I don’t think my ability to take tests well is any measure of ‘intelligence.’ I run my mouth when I shouldn’t, run in with cops when they have the power to detain me, and sometimes fail to grasp the rules of simple social situations. What I can do, I think, is aggregate information, discard the useless parts, repeat things other more intelligent people say, and use my fantastic memory to recall information and arguments at will. If we are going to rely on tests as much as we do as a society (just look at No Child Left Behind), we need to make sure the tests are measuring what they’re supposed to measure, and that we want to rely on test measures to determine success.