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
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
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
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
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;
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.