Trump v Khan: the trouble with intelligence

Homer the genius: This formula is said to predict the mass of the Higgs Boson particle.

Donald Trump, who wants to be US president, challenged the mayor of London to an IQ test, which measures intelligence. What are IQ tests, how do they work and what do they truly mean?

What’s happening

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump, who is trying to become US president, have had an argument. Khan called Trump ‘ignorant’ over his views on Islam. Trump then challenged him to an IQ test to show his intelligence. This comment missed the point, but showed how much IQ tests are valued.

Find out more

IQ tests are widely used today: by schools to test pupils’ learning progress and difficulties; by employers to test people who apply for jobs. Judges sometimes decide that people with low IQs cannot be tried for crimes.

But the tests are disputed. They were developed over a century ago to measure intelligence. But some experts are unsure if that can be measured with a number, or if it even exists. Psychologists Alfred Binet and Howard Gardner were among those to point out there could be more than one form of intelligence.

Most now agree that IQ tests measure specific skills. And the ability to do these things may be the result of good education and upbringing, as well as ability. This is why IQ test scores have increased since the 1930s.

Some say…

We should stop using IQ test scores. They mislead us and can be dangerous. They reward things like range of vocabulary, where rich, educated people have the advantage. This then gets called ‘intelligence’ when it is not. It can wrongly make people believe some races and classes are naturally superior. We design something more appropriate instead.

Others think…

IQ is not everything, and people need to work hard and fit in if they are going to be successful too. But it helps to measure important skills and the tests can be useful: for example they help teachers work out if pupils need special assistance in some areas. There is no reason to give up the tests — they are not perfect, but they are useful.

You Decide

  1. Are tests important?

Activities

  1. Try this test to measure your own IQ.

Some People Say...

“Intelligence involves more than just getting good marks at school.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Ignorant
Uneducated and unaware, describing someone who does not know or understand about — who ignores — things.
IQ
Intelligence Quotient. Quotient is a word for a result given as a number.
Employers
People who hire people for jobs.
Disputed
An issue that is not agreed so people argue over it.
Psychologists
People who study the way the mind works.
Upbringing
The way people are brought up.
Vocabulary
Collection of words.
Superior
Better.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.