An interesting debate broke out last week when some egg-head claimed that there is a direct relation between IQ and social class. Specifically, he said that the reason why few working class types get into the best universities is because..
higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes
Read his comments here. This debate interests me for several reasons. First, as a working-class hero myself, I like to know what people think of me. But, as a critic of traditional IQ testing, I want to make a comment.
All sorts of politicians and left-wing types immediately plunged in to take a swipe at the naive academic. There were the usual shouts of prejudice and privilege. But among the furore that ensured, no-one asked the two most obvious and important questions:
Obvious questions number 1: Is it true?
Obvious questions number 2: Does it matter?
Truth versus political correctness is one of the perennial face-offs of our day. I won’t bore you with it here. Suffice to say, I judge the simple question of whether something is factual to be at least as important as whether it is appropriate.
But more importantly, as an Emotional Intelligence evangelist, I feel duty bound to point out that there is little correlation between success and IQ. Success in life and business is more likely to flow from a mixture of EI behaviours (resilience, optimism and empathy) than the ability to solve an abstract puzzle within an arbitrary time-limit in artificial conditions, i.e. a traditional exam.
That’s good news for working-class heroes like me who didn’t get into Oxbridge but are committed to a programme of life-long learning. For EI, unlike IQ, can be developed and grown over time. And 30 seconds or so in the business world should convince anyone – even an academic – that success has little to do with little bits of paper with grades on them or letters after your name. I speak as someone who holds a PhD.
So the question isn’t, Do working class people have lower IQs than the middle classes?
The real, the best, the transforming questions is, Why are we so hung up about IQ at all?