21 octubre 2008

IQ, intelligence, and taxes

formatted by bold print! italics! (parentheses!) links! enlarged text! and "thought" breaks to belie the many, many words contained therein...

thought one: reflections on a 1st grade IQ test

so i "monitored" for a 1st grade IQ test today. [it was the oral vocabulary and verbal reasoning portions.] there was a row of 4 simple images with a small answer bubble underneath each one. the teacher read a description (once) and the student had to bubble in the right answer.

as i was walking around noting those small gray bubbles so often in the WRONG places, i was struck by two things.

firstly, if you have been learning Inglish since K-5 and you are now in 1st grade, you have a hard time matching descriptions to simple images. some kids would repeat (quietly) what the teacher had just said in a charmingly native accent, but there was no synapsis connecting the words to the right answer bubble.

secondly, propositionally, IQ tests (like the one i observed anyhow) don't measure intelligence, they measure knowledge. [i'll define terms in a second.] you could be a smart cookie among smart cookies, but if you have never heard the words "edge," "furry," or "mane" before, your little pencil lead has only a 25% chance of finding that one and only right bubble.

this is public school, so all munchkins present should have gotten the same school exposure. the test was not cumulative, which would have assessed how much they had "gotten" from the curriculum. the only "difference" between the kids would be brute smarts and vocabulary from home. "brute smarts" were sometimes inaccessible due to language (or better put, were limited to word familiarity) narrowing down the difference almost entirely to just how many of the given words were put into them from their home.

basically, the test i observed this morning (verbal reasoning) measured not the kid's capacity for reason or learning or problem solving, but instead assessed the amount of vocabulary the child's parents had exposed him to. is that all intelligence is? input (and modeling of interaction) from family in the early years of your life?

can you be intelligent despite your family? (i wouldn't know.)

which leads me now to wonder... what exactly is intelligence? pure memory and speed of connection? where does critical thinking come from? asking a question because what is given is not enough... does not satisfy what you want to know. how do you know what you're supposed to want to know?

are knowledge and intelligence the same thing?

thought two: lets get some wiki.

per la Wikipedia, intelligence "encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn." there are "multiple intelligences" theories, a big concept in education that i'm not getting into at the moment, and there is also, more historically, the concept of "general intelligence." the Darwinist Francis Galton thought it to be a biological thing that could be measured by "reaction times to certain cognitive tasks."

[hence the famous middle school put-down, "you slow, man, you real slow..."]

the "intelligence quotient" idea comes from the Frenchman, Alfred Binet, who believed (as far as i can tell from a line in wikipedia) that intelligence wasn't a "thing" but an average of "numerous dissimilar abilities."

"Intelligence comes from the Latin verb "intellegere", which means "to understand". By this rationale, intelligence (as understanding) is arguably different from being "smart" (able to adapt to one's environment), or being "clever" (able to creatively adapt)."


QUOTE TIME (from American Psychological Association, 1995):

"Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex
ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to
engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought.

Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never
entirely consistent
: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on
different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria.
Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set
of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no
such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions
and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different

[oh. well, that helps me somewhat, i guess.]

i will return to this... but first, a break for pseudo-ADD activity... known professionally as "multi-tasking."

thought three: Joe the Plumber

".... Mr. Obama's statement to Joe the Plumber, that some people should pay higher taxes, not because they need to shoulder a fair share of the burden for building things that contribute to the common good (although, as it's been pointed out in many places, the lower forty percent of tax filers are paying no federal income tax at all), but simply because some people in power believe that it would be a good thing merely to take money from Joe and give it to Ed.

Joe, in their august determination, has money to spare, and Ed would like some of it. At which point one wonders, morally, what the difference is, if Ed simply decided to cut out the middleman, to spare the taxpayers all the red tape, and maybe even to save Joe a little money too, by robbing him outright of, let's say, half of the money that the revenooers would have taken from Joe (while skimming their take from the top, for the laborer is worthy of his hire)."

[huh. but that's what redistribution of wealth tries to avoid, right, the cruelness of leaving the element to desperate measures?]


Blogger axegrinder said...

i am annoyed when people say presumptuous things like "you are where God wants you" or "God has you there for a reason." instead, i will say you are doing an admirable job thinking through the implications of the things that are going on around you.

As far as socialism goes:

It is far less cruel for one man to steal from another man than for the state to steal from one man and give to the other man.

If a man comes to steal from me, at least I have a chance to defend myself and shoot him in the face. (I know, it's a harsh way to put it, but bear with me.)

When the state comes to steal from me (which they do all the time in the form of income tax, property tax and death tax) there is little I can do. I must open my pockets at the end of the barrel of a gun. The system is so geared toward plundering it's citizens that my vote does little or nothing to stem the tide.

One of the things the states steals from me is my ability to do charitable works. I am disconnected from those in need. The Nanny State keeps me from being able to care for the poor, takes money out of my pocket, encourages a wicked, entitled attitude in one and resentment in another.

martes, 21 octubre, 2008  
Blogger berekkah said...

not to miss the gist of what you meant or anything, but is it the saying, "you are where God wants you" or the concept of it that's annoying? i'm not sure i have the courage (?) to contemplate being in this world, on this continent, in this life solely because of chance and my more-or-less Bible-governed will. does God care where and what and how? is He in the details or no? if He has a "worse" or a "better" scenario for each day (/each moment/ each decision), couldn't He have a best? if He does, is what He wants knowable? does He have a specific purpose or is it just up to me to do the best i can with what i've got?

it's not like i would have to know WHY right now or even any time soon, but gee, it'd be nice to think there is an overarching design to my life.

regarding socialismo: you have a point; if someone comes to steal from you, at least you have the chance to give to him your tunic also. the IRS, being cold-blooded, doesn't need your tunic. all they want is 20+%.

i'm not sure i would agree the state takes away your ability to be charitable, but it sure ups the sacrifice. if you were prepared to tithe and give 15% of your net pay to charity and the state takes another 20%, that means you're down to living off of 55% of your income... doable in the U.S., but obviously frustrating.

...especially when you think about how much better you could give that extra 20%. [see, i just avoided making my point using all caps. i'm growing up...] i wonder how much of us would just outright give it away, but it'd be nice to have the option.

[i speak theoretically, i must admit, not making enough for the state to keep the money it withdrawls each month. to tell you the honest to goodness truth, i'm looking forward to tax season.)

lastly, to end this entry-like comment, i totally and completely agree with the "Nanny State... encourag[ing] a wicked, entitled attitude in one and resentment in another." but my word the sense of entitlement that permeates so many gets me irate. who wants to give, especially sacrificially, to somebody who thinks they ought to have it anyway?

almost in conclusion, i'm not sure how feasible "no taxes" are in our country. is there any example of a tax-free civilization?

but very lastly, seriously this time, let me not forget to maintain: taxes are a small price to pay to live in the U.S. very small. and i'd maintain that even living @ 50% of my income...

viernes, 24 octubre, 2008  
Blogger axegrinder said...

God's will:

I have been involved in a study at church that involves knowing God and doing his will, so my comments are coming out of things that are fresh on my mind.

I suppose looking at the Scriptures regarding God's will is helpful. What do we know? He wants us to be holy. He wants us to love him and our neighbor. He wants us to avoid sin and do good to other people. He wants us to be like his Son.

There are examples of people receiving very specific direction as to what they should be doing, such as some of St. Paul's experiences in Acts. There are also examples of more general directions, such as the command for Abraham to leave his home. Does everybody get direction like that? Are some of us left to simply do the good things we know to do in Jesus' name?

I have seen at least two things happen to good people when they push a certain way about knowing God's will. One gal despairs because she is always plagued with a feeling that she is somehow missing it, even though she is living a pious life. Another guy reads the Scriptures as saying that he will get very detailed instructions as he waits upon the Lord. At times he acts with an attitude that comes across as bravado and presumption.

Often we are called upon to make choices. For us, the hard ones are the times when we have two options that both involve doing good things. For example, I can go to seminary or I can go on the mission field. We will often not know if we made the better choice. We will only know if good came out of the choice we make. God is with us either way, causing his goodness to follow us all the days of our life.

I know the nuances can be frustrating. These thoughts come out of observing others, listening to smart and godly folks, reading the Scriptures and books, both good and bad, and trying to make decisions myself. I have much to learn.

sábado, 25 octubre, 2008  
Blogger axegrinder said...


1. The issue is not whether or not we have a better situation in America, even with the immoral tax system, than other places. "Well, it's still better than just about any other country." So what. We also have more freedom of speech, should we not be concerned about how those rights are being eroded by things like the Patriot Act.

Also, I do not advocate no taxes. Limiting taxes to only a sales tax would do a number of positives. A sales tax would base things on actual usage. It would protect the poor. It would allow people to own land, rather than leasing it from the gov't (If you can't pay property tax, the gov't takes your land away; you never own it.) Those with more money would still carry the tax burden.

2. Before making life and death decisions based on Mt 6:38-42, I would advise a little more reflection, investigation and study. I won't make assumptions about your life experience, but, being robbed at gun point took away any delusions about noble interactions with gun-wielding criminals who threaten to kill me. The passage you referred to talks about being sued and having someone ask you for something. There is nothing in there about someone threatening your life. Also, that passage is full of culture-applicable stuff. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between that passage and our circumstances, although there are still things for us to learn there.

3. "taxes are a small price to pay to live in the U.S. very small. and i'd maintain that even living @ 50% of my income." That's called kissing the chains that bind you. Thank you, Uncle Sam, for allowing me to live in your country and only taking a fifth of my income." Wrong. It is not the State's country. It is the citizens' country. We had a revolution a few years back over being taxed in this manner.

4. It is wrong for the State to take your money and give it to someone else. It does not matter if it is for a seemingly noble cause. The State's job is to provide for the common defense and maintain a very limited oversight of some goods and services (not including schools, libraries, welfare). Everything else is left up to the citizens. Will some people be poor? Yes. Will some people be selfish? Yes. That is no different than how things are now. Will some people give charitably, volunteer their time and skills and sacrifice for the betterment of others? Yes. Only they will have much more freedom to do so.

sábado, 25 octubre, 2008  
Blogger berekkah said...

this is a bit scattered, but an initial response:

~ i was being smart aleck-y with the luke reference. sorry for the rabbit trail. ...but since you followed it... i think a New Testament is a noble enough substitute for a tunic in a nerved-up state.

~ i don't think the principle of living in America as outweighing the tax burden is irrelevent. (obviously.) i and the majority of tax payers i know were educated in public schools funded by property tax. whether or not the gov't is the most efficient, moral, or even appropriate provider of education, it has worked well enough to get more than a few of us to college and on the road to burgeois-hood.

maybe, having truly benefited personally from the American tax system, i simply don't have enough distance to unbiasedly evaluate the situation. i'm trying though...

~ sales tax/ fair tax- sounds good. tax spending, not earning. i initially wondered how it could not affect the poor, having their/our grocery bill shoot up like that, but wiki solved that question.

~ "The State's job is to provide for the common defense and maintain a very limited oversight of some goods and services (not including schools, libraries, welfare). Everything else is left up to the citizens."

...and if the citizens vote to elect officials to vote to make the federal gov't "take care" of that "everything else" for a ittybitty chunk of our paychecks, what then?

i thought the revolution was over tax representation. we can vote. we can be represented. if our ideas can convince enough people, we could change things, too. i guess the unfairness simply reflects a flaw in democracy: what is moral, rational, and efficient is not always convincing enough to rule.

lunes, 27 octubre, 2008  

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