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“The Facts Must Be Faced”: Intelligence Is Destiny

"There is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ,“ declared psychologist Lewis M. Terman in 1922. To the extent that this is true, it is in large measure because of Terman himself and the opportunity that World War I afforded for the first widespread use of intelligence testing. The army’s use of intelligence tests lent new credibility to the emerging profession of psychology, even as it sparked public debate about the validity of the tests and their implications for American democracy. Psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard suggested that intelligence testing proved that socialist ideas were ”absurd" and Americans too democratic. In Human Efficiency and Levels of Intelligence (1922), Goddard argued that social and economic inequality were good and necessary because some people were smarter than others. He furthermore concluded that people were happiest in their proper social and economic places, as decreed by their differing mental endowments.

While we all believe in democracy, we may nevertheless admit that we have been too free with the franchise and it would seem a self-evident fact that the feebleminded should not be allowed to take part in civic affairs; should not be allowed to vote. It goes without saying that they cannot vote intelligently, they are so easily led that they constitute the venial vote and one imbecile who knows nothing of civic matters can annul the vote of the most intelligent citizen.

Before passing to a discussion of education according to mental levels, we may perhaps be permitted to apply the principle to another problem that looms up rather large at the present time, namely, socialism and especially its extreme form of Bolshevism. Most of the arguments used by the more intelligent members of these groups are fallacious because they ignore the mental levels. These men in their ultra altruistic and humane attitude, their desire to be fair to the workman, maintain that the great inequalities in social life are wrong and unjust. For example, here is a man who says, “I am wearing $12.00 shoes, there is a laborer who is wearing $3.00 shoes; why should I spend $12.00 while he can only afford $3.00? I live in a home that is artistically decorated, carpets, high-priced furniture, expensive pictures and other luxuries; there is a laborer that lives in a hovel with no carpets, no pictures and the coarsest kind of furniture. It is not right, it is unjust.” And so in his enthusiasm for the supposed just treatment of the workman, this gentleman who has been converted to socialism will go on pointing out the inequalities which he considers unjust. As we have said, the argument is fallacious. It assumes that that laborer is on the same mental level with the man who is defending him. It assumes that if you were to change places with the laborer, he would be vastly happier than he is now, that he could live in your house with its artistic decorations and its fine furniture and pictures and appreciate and enjoy those things. Or if it is admitted that this particular laborer could not enjoy it, your gentleman socialist is apt to fall back upon the argument that it is due to the fact that he has not been brought up right, his environment has been poor and so he is accustomed to such conditions and could not enjoy anything better. Therefore we should take the children and educate them to these ideals.

Now the fact is, that workman may have a ten year intelligence while you have a twenty. To demand for him such a home as you enjoy is as absurd as it would be to insist that every laborer should receive a graduate fellowship. How can there be such a thing as social equality with this wide range of mental capacity? The different levels of intelligence have different interests and require different treatment to make them happy, and we are committing a serious fallacy when we argue that because we enjoy such things, everybody else could enjoy them and therefore ought to have them.

As for an equal distribution of the wealth of the world that is equally absurd. The man of intelligence has spent his money wisely, has saved until he has enough to provide for his needs in case of sickness, while the man of low intelligence, no matter how much money he would have earned, would have spent much of it foolishly and would never have anything ahead. It is said that during the past year, the coal miners in certain parts of the country have earned more money than the operators and yet today when the mines shut down for a time, those people are the first to suffer. They did not save anything, although their whole life has taught them that mining is an irregular thing and that when they were having plenty of work they should save against the days when they do not have work.

Socialism is a beautiful theory but the facts must be faced. One of the facts is that people differ in mentality and that each mentality requires its own kind of life for its success and happiness.

Source: Henry Herbert Goddard, Human Efficiency and Levels of Intelligence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1920), 99–102.

See Also:"The March of the Psychos": Measuring Intelligence in the Army
In Defense of IQ Testing: Lewis M. Terman Replies to Critics
Debunking Intelligence Experts: Walter Lippmann Speaks Out