Ever since Alfred Binet carried out a 1904 commission from France s minister of public instruction to devise a means for deciding which pupils should be sent to what would now be called special education classes, IQ scores have been used to label and track children. Those same scores have been cited as "proof" that different races, classes, and genders are of superior and inferior intelligence.
The Menshes make clear that from the beginning IQ tests have been fundamentally biased. Offered as a means for seeking solutions to social problems, the actual measurements have been used to maintain the status quo. Often the most telling comments are from the test-makers themselves, whether Binet ("little girls weak in orthography are strong in sewing and capable in the instruction concerning housekeeping; and, all things considered, this is more important for their future") or Wigdor and Garner ("naive use of intelligence tests . . . to place children of linguistic or racial minority status in special education programs will not be defensible in court").
Among the disturbing facts that the authors share is that there is mounting political pressure for more tests and testing despite a court trial in which the judge stated that "defendants expert witnesses, even those clearly affiliated with the companies that devise and distribute the standardized intelligence tests, agreed, with one exception, that we cannot truly define, much less measure, intelligence." The testing firms have responded to this carefully orchestrated need with new products that extend even to the IQ testing of three-month-old infants. The authors stress that, if the testers prevail, there is little doubt that these and similar tests would be used "ad infinitum to justify superior and inferior education along class and racial lines.""
Elaine Mensh and Harry Mensh are independent writers in New York City. They are the authors of The IQ Mythology: Class, Race, Gender, and Inequality, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for books on race and diversity.