by Deborah L. Ruf, PhD
Everyone knows that the reason we put children in school by age for their instruction is that there are centuries of excellent research that proves this is the most effective way for children to learn, right? Well, no, actually, there is no such research at all. I think it had something to do with following the Henry Ford factory efficiency model and no one ever seemed to think of questioning its validity for the schooling of generations of children around the world.
In the "olden days" of mass public education, we had the one room schoolhouse. It worked quite well. Students proceeded through the curriculum at their own pace and worked with anyone else, of any age, who was ready for the same material and production. My goal is not to give a history lesson here but to point out that we no longer do this in schools. Whether you are ready for more or not, it is not allowed because the student will get ahead and, "What will we do with her next year?"
Here is a little IQ lesson, though. Whether or not you approve of the concept of IQs or IQ testing, the research shows that IQ results correlate with all kinds of real-life outcomes. The average IQ in the US is 100 and regular standardized tests that most people take in school (or when they enter the military) all start as low as around 50 IQ and as high as about 150 IQ. Yes, there are some other kinds of tests that have different scales, but that's not what I'm talking about now.
The average IQ difference between people who choose to marry each other is 12 points. Basically, they get each other's jokes. That old magic feeling of someone thinking we're amusing! The genetic mingling of the parents genes gives them children who will usually be within 15 points higher or lower to their parental average. Same with siblings—only 15 points between them on average. Most people know that there is a bell curve shape for most human qualities, and IQ is no exception. There are more average people than there are very low or very high IQ people.
American school classrooms are set up by age. Kindergarten screening tells the schools which children are most ahead and most behind others their age. The principal stacks the kids by ability and then considers gender, behavior, ethnicity, and socio-economic background, and then deals the kids out to the four different kindergarten classrooms so that every class has the same number of each kind of kid. This means that the four most advanced children will all be in different classrooms. No one will get their jokes except maybe the teacher! The typical IQ range in such a classroom is 70 to 80 IQ points, but we are generally comfortable with and drawn to people who are within about 12 points of us. Then we tell the kids that they need to learn to get along with their "peers." But peers might not be age-mates unless they—by some stroke of luck—are fairly close to us in intellect and get our jokes, get us.
School is not a very happy time or place for many, many bright children.