The lavish attention devoted to intelligence (raising it, praising it, worrying when it is low, etc.) seems wasteful in light of the fact that we choose to virtually ignore another set of mental skills with just as much social consequence—rational thinking mindware and procedures. Popular books tell parents how to raise more intelligent children, educational psychology textbooks discuss the raising of students’ intelligence, and we feel reassured when hearing that a particular disability does not impair intelligence. There is no corresponding concern on the part of parents that their children grow into rational beings, no corresponding concern on the part of schools that their students reason judiciously, and no corresponding recognition that intelligence is useless to a child unable to adapt to the world.
Keith Stanovich, What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, New Haven, 2009, p. 197
[D]eification of intelligence can have a truly perverse moral consequence that we often fail to recognize—the denigration of those low in mental abilities measured in intelligence tests. Such denigration goes back to the very beginnings of psychometrics as an enterprise. Sir Francis Galton would hardly concede that those low in IQ could feel pain: The discriminative facility of idiots is curiously low; they hardly distinguish between heat and cold, and their sense of pain is so obtuse that some of the more idiotic seem hardly to know what it is. In their dull lives, such pain as can be excited in them may literally be accepted with a welcome surprise.
Milder and subtler version so f this denigration continue down to the modern day. In 2004 author Michael D’Antonio published a book titled The State Boys Rebellion about the ill treatment of boys in the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded and how a group of boys residing at the school rebelled against this treatment. Disturbingly, however, reviews of the book tended to focus on the stories of those boys who later were found to have normal IQs. The The York Times Book Review (June 27, 2004) titled its review “A Ledger of Broken Arms: Misdiagnosis and Abuse at a School for the ‘Feebleminded’ in the 1950s.” We might ask what in the world does “misdiagnosis” have to do with the issue of highlighting the ill treatment in these institutions? The implication here is that somehow it was less tragic for those “properly diagnosed”—whatever that may mean in this context. Shades of Galton, and of the dark side of the deification of intelligence, are revealed in the reactions to this book.
Keith Stanovich, What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, New Haven, 2009, p. 53