The ‘Intelligence Potential’ Factor

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That the educational institution is presently in serious disarray cannot be doubted. In particular, there seem to be few workable answers regarding the problem posed by a generation of more or less feeble and deficient students. I believe that many of them, perhaps a majority, are truly lost and cannot be salvaged by any means we may have at our disposal, even the most sophisticated. They are the terminal victims of a vast and pervasive cultural betrayal suffered at the hands of the school and the home. As much as this may offend our cherished egalitarian sentiments and samaritan proclivities, their condition is frankly irreversible. The “window of opportunity” for these unfortunates closed a long while back and we are the ones who closed it. Trying to help these students recover what they have lost or rather have never even been introduced to at the proper times in the cumulative course of their intellectual growth—curriculum, after all, means “race course”—is a self-defeating proposition.

They suffer from structurally the same predicament as Third World nations striving to accomplish in a few decades a social and industrial modernization that in Europe took centuries, with all the attendant ills, tumults, failures, and absurdities that come as an effect of such belated recuperations. For a frightening proportion of this generation of novices and probationers, the race is over before they have approached the starting gate. But at the same time I believe that a substantial minority may conceivably be “redeemed” if we are willing to acknowledge what I somewhat casually term the IP (or Intelligence Potential) factor—that quick of natural smarts crying out to be shaped and cultivated.

The IP is a far more important category of mental performance and behavioral response than the relatively static IQ. The latter tends to discourage our efforts toward the intellectual retrieval of our students by virtue of its very perdurance or perceived fixity. We are tempted to assume that, whatever our investment of time, energy, and hope, IQ won’t change significantly. Or we tend to believe that IQ is really a political category, a measure of class privilege or a function of racial conspiracy, and thus ignore or derogate it altogether. But the IP index is crucial to the activity and engagement of teachers since it strongly implies the real possibility of a certain “upward mobility” in the cognitive potentials of students. The fact that IP is not amenable to statistical distributions and that it resists numerical techniques of correlation argues powerfully for its viability as a category of scholastic application. It is a qualitative, not a quantitative factor, and it derives its authenticity from actual experience, not from tests and questionnaires (always value-laden), graph-like tabulations, bell curves and standard deviations, and all the other components of a clumsy and repressive administrative apparatus.

Every teacher is acquainted with students whose academic performance is poor or mediocre but who give evidence of a kind of residual “native intelligence” that remains embryonic and untapped. These are the students for whom the window can still be opened. The potential is there, slippery, truant, and unquantifiable, yet somehow palpable and unmistakable. Though it may not show up on tests and charts, it is clearly recognizable through a host of flexible or idiographic indicators which one would be hard put to specify and itemize but which would include such qualities as humour, vulnerable defiance, unexpected willingness to struggle with new material, sudden astute remarks, a demonstrable capacity for being reached, a sort of active passivity, even something as objectively intangible as what I sometimes call “eyelight”—what in the spiritual optics of earlier times was known as lumen ocularum—or as subjectively convincing as the restorative sense of surprise and delight one feels when a timid or unlikely student first speaks, like listening to a tenor who is not Pavarotti. Sometimes it is just a general radiation of affect or a kind of unexpected tentacle-attentiveness one divines or construes in the otherwise unprepossessing figure before one slouching toward the hour of release.

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  • PhillipGaley

    One science fiction theme in occasional recurrence has it that, at some age, the mental powers of each of the youth must be "capped" in subservience to the "authority".

    Then, there is this in life, which is often in affect: the tendency to defer to, and to advance that force which sustains one. So that, in the everlasting struggle for administrative supremacy—the world round—than that which they have, it is fairly assumed that, those otherwise lively teachers who would see any decrepit but young mind come to some larger self-awareness or sense of purpose, can transpire no more.

    And it this way—despite the peeps of sunlight just here and there—as representative of the larger Society, "gov't schools"—the students with their teachers—must remain forever "behind", . . . because, by administrative fiat, they are required to dwell in that intellectual territory of spiritual hopelessness.

    The stop against the inevitable and necessarily dour prognostications for mankind, is of course, true religion—that little stone which Daniel mentioned, which, even today, is snowballing throughout the entire globe, becoming a mountain of holiness, filling the earth. . . .

  • guest666

    This all sounds like a bunch of PC BS. People will do anything to avoid admitting that some kids are simply stupid.


      But kids are malleable because their brains are still developing.

      The hope is that that their stupidity can be reversed and they become intelligent adults.

  • rbla

    A lot of gobbledygook couched in scientific language whose intent is to deny that there is a significant genetic component to IQ.

  • Charles Teachout

    As the father of 2 depressed young adults, victims of a neglectful and vindictive mother when they were small children, I have seen them fail in the PC school environment, but succeed in the job environment. I am happy that they have "native intelligence", but not, at the moment, academic intelligence. There are 2 factors that lead me to believe there is some hope of their recovering the latter. At present, they have rejected the Catholic Orthodoxy of their father and step-mother. The moral and salubrious life engendered there has been of great inspiration to my own academic skills. Secondly, we may be able to afford their going to a private institution that respects and encourages religious piety, and an orientation on academic truth. The current PC academic institutions are deadening to the IP. The opposite is true of such a private institution. Unfortunately, my academic underachievers will have to make a fundamental choice to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives, and they may not have it in them, to be frank. I have hope for their IP, but I am also a realist.

  • Vintage

    A rose by any other name is still a rose. Calling innate talents IP or IQ makes a difference only in our crazy PC world.

  • Webb Cook

    Worse still, in the future a student's predictive "Social Influence" score will be weighted heavily by admissions committees and scholarship committees. In other words, students will be rated by their use of, appearances on, and contributions to social networking media like Facebook. What will be created is an uberclass of politically correct drones with the most superficial of personalities. Schools don't even care that the kids can't do math. The solution to that so-called problem is simply to reduce the standards. Both IQ and IP are becoming irrelevant in this culture devoid of action, but long on endless negotiation, apology, and appeasement. So, sadly, there is no longer any point in trying to redeem anyone who didn't learn to be a social butterfly.

  • Tanstaafl jw

    The difference between successful and unsuccessful students – good parents.

  • SwampFox

    As I see it the public square has been religated to substandardization in education. The new caste system of America ensures certain classes of people will have access to the necessary information to educate the next generation of elites. Those in the welfare caste and diminishing middle class will never obtain the necessary intellectual tools to move them into an equal status of those controlling the system. Information is power and those with it are not going to share it with the masses.

  • crypticguise

    Me thinks perhaps that this particular article on IP is much BS. We simply have to eradicate as much as possible the "feeling" that liberal culture is "cool". It isn't; liberal culture accepts nonsense as true; it's pathetic.

  • Schlomotion

    I would like to see case studies of how Mr. Solway maximized "Intelligence Potential" in his students and read about lesson plans or approaches he took in the context of school curriculum in order to "activate" students that he deemed to be in possession of untapped intellectual reserves.