Your IQ doesn’t mean jack shit

Schools should give up on standard measures of intelligence.

Jessica Wildfire
8 min readMar 12, 2018


Photo by Hernan Sanchez on Unsplash

The girl’s dad told me I was a failure as a teacher. He demanded to know my IQ. When I refused, he threatened to have me fired. Good thing we were on the phone. He sounded kind of stabby.

The problem? His daughter had earned a B on a paper. That had never happened to him before. Emphasis on him.

Throughout grad school, I survived the lean summer months by working for gifted education programs. Like the ones run by Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern. Which one? That’s classified. I’m not trying to get sued here. Besides, they’re all the same.

Almost every gifted education program exists for the same reasons. To recruit students for their host university. To educate. And to make money while doing it. The parents believe sending their kids to us every summer increases their chances of acceptance at top schools. Not always Ivy League, but one tier above public land grants. Maybe this strategy works for some. For others, I’m sure summer programs for smart kids have the usual benefit of making them even smarter. But a handful of parents just don’t understand.

Every summer, some of them always asked me the same questions. “Are you a Harvard professor?” No.

“Did you at least study at Harvard?”

No, I didn’t.

But I’ve seen Harvard. With my own eyes. Does that count?

Most of these parents make more money than a professor like me ever will. Drop-off day is a parade of Bentleys. One time, a dad tried to tip me $50 for helping him lift his kid’s luggage out of the trunk.

What I’m trying to say is there’s a certain degree of privilege.

You don’t want to mess with these parents. They’re about to leave their offspring in the hands of lesser beings for a month. They’ve been known to make adult staff members cry in public.

Gifted education is a little bit of a hoax. The average gifted kid population is almost exclusively white, upper-middle class. Some programs have made an effort to increase their diversity. But not much.