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Volume 8, Issue 2 (1979)

SOMPA - "Ignorance" Versus "Stupidity" - The Basic Disagreement

pp. 218—223

I differ with Jane Mercer on two basic issues (among other, less basic, ones): the acceptability of SOMPA as a measure (even a rough measure) of a child’s basic intellectual potential; and the suitability of SOMPA for use as the principal instrument in classifying children for educational purposes. First, although properly critical of the reification of “intelligence”, and of the notion that the standard IQ test measures a child’s biological capacity to learn, Mercer, nevertheless, believes that it is useful to attempt such a measure and that SOMPA succeeds, at least approximately, in providing one. Second, she maintains that it is this rough measure of basic potential, rather than any measure of current functional level, that should be used as the principal basis for grouping children in school. I, on the other hand, believe that neither SOMPA nor any other grouping of tests can tell us a child’s basic biological potential and that, on balance, it is more dangerous than beneficial to pretend that we have such knowledge, even approximately. I further hold that for most educational classifications, current functional level is a more relevant datum than basic potential,even if the latter could accurately be measured.

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