What Is Intelligence?
First lets address the issue of intelligence which in some ways relates to job skills. I say in some ways because job skills also reflect personality and interest patterns. One definition of intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” – whatever that means. What it has often meant was the score received on an intelligence test.
The most commonly used tests when I was doing testing was the Wechsler which was available for adults and children. These tests had originally been developed because people wanted ways to assess scholastic ability. Up to a point it served its purpose. Over time we also used it to assess if there were learning disabilities. Again, up to a point it helped.
Another matter is what kind of intelligence a person has. Some people are highly analytical, some suppositories of information and some can regurgitate material fed to them without any true understanding of its meaning. The latter are sometimes found among people who graduate from respected institutions but, to be blunt, seem stupid.
I think you get the point. It is highly variable and discussion cannot be simplistic if the aim is to design a remedial system.
In What We Call the Real World
The point here is to not do an in-depth presentation about intelligence. In fact, the point relates to the changes needed in our society to prepare people for the employment future. And there is evidence of that future changing rapidly.
The Wechsler tests were designed with a Verbal and a Performance section. Verbal suggests what the word means and relates most closely to academic abilities. But they also included Performance which generally seemed to reflect abilities of “working class” people. A plumber needs different abilities from an accountant.
The conventional, professional wisdom was that if the Verbal I.Q. was 20 points below the Performance I.Q. meant there was a learning disability. Well, not quite. I tested people from all walks of life and often found that discrepancy. But gradually I came to see something. The people with higher Performance skills often came from working class households. In fact what I was seeing was a pattern of talent not disability. Such a perception was very useful when job issues were considered.
The point is that we cannot approach the future of our workforce in a limited fashion.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Change
Vocational rehabilitation is at issue for a variety of reasons. People get injured in a variety of ways and need to be retrained so they can be productively employed. But we had to play some games. The counselors often came to me saying they needed a disability to develop a retraining program which they could pay for. One of the things that meant was that I had to define a disability for women who were getting a divorce and had not worked outside the home previously.
Yikes! I knew exactly what they meant. Sometimes people suddenly have a change in their lives which needs to be addressed and they may not have the expertise or money to pay for it. So we went to work.
But, of course, there are other kinds of disabilities and needs for retraining as we are presently experiencing. Job categories disappear or shrink and we have to figure out what to do with the people who are no longer needed.
But something unfortunate happened. At one point when budgets were constricting. the rehab people had to work harder to justify what they were doing and they turned to the severely disabled. Sometimes that mean spending a lot of money on people who showed little if any promise for employment.
That is just one story. What we have to do is adapt to change in productive ways.
Designing for the Future
Our national dialogue in many matters is being shaped by partisan and idealogical conflict. What we really need in a society which is facing rapid change is an eyes wide open exploration of what the people in our society need.
One of the things I saw was that the people with Performance abilities had an interesting set of abilities which might not need to be applied in plumbing or electrical work. In fact, if we broaden our scan we see that their abilities can be applied in information technology work in an office. But what we need to do now is to evaluate our viewpoint and begin to study how we can approach the needs of people to be employed in the postcapitalism world. We need vision, flexibility and new thinking.