Sample column 2

Smarty Pants

How would you like to fail a test because you're too smart? That happened to Robert Jordan in New London, CT. I've also heard of it happening at one of the major employers here, but won't name the company. In Jordan's case, it was a police department. They didn't want to waste money training someone who may get bored and quit the job. To a smart person, that implies dumb cops, boring jobs, and unimaginative supervisors.

There are many different kinds of intelligence and they fit under many different social, moral, and employment preferences. Mensa, an organization of people in the top 2% of intelligence, includes as expected scientists, doctors and professors. But it also includes truck drivers, factory workers and janitors. Intelligent people make lifestyle choices based on many criteria, just as anybody does. Some people don't like mathematics or talking to people or taking classes or driving vehicles or don't care about careers at all and only take jobs so they can support their preferred hobby. In fact, many intelligent people become lawyers, politicians, or regular criminals. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber and math professor, would probably score too high to become a cop. There is no such intelligence restriction for terrorists and other disaffected people.

I was in Mensa for awhile but got bored with it. I had a job stacking paper on pallets that I didn't get bored with: I wrote songs to keep my mind occupied. When stacking rocks for walls, I contemplate the mysticism of mathematics or practice Zen meditation.

Ralph J. Monaco, New London city attorney, said they don't want people that are "not going to be challenged by the job." Seems to me that people who are always challenged by a job could get burned out and quit, wasting the $25,000 spent on training. Assuming someone will do something based purely on their I.Q. is just as accurate as assuming they'll do something based on race or sex or age. Not all women like to shop. Not all men watch football. Not all crooks are dumb.

The attitude expressed by the administrators of new London seems like a caste system based on brain power. In fact, Charles F. Wonderlic, president of the company that creates and sells the test, said Jordan's I.Q. of 125 would be expected of a chemist, electrical engineer, administrator, or computer programmer. I suppose a smart person who doesn't like chemicals, calculus, or computers could always get a job as an administrator. Yet I've had many bosses and doubt that intelligence per se is a true requirement for administrators. But saying they have brains is a skillful sales technique for selling useless tests.

A cop needs street smarts: the cunning to innovate in an awkward situation, the knowledge to avoid dangerous predicaments, the confidence to assert authority.

A cop needs people smarts to empathize with a victim, outtalk a con artist, and unnerve a liar.

A cop needs to know how to handle a possible suicide with a loaded gun, a belligerent drunk waving a knife, and a bored bureaucrat wielding paperwork. I suspect Jordan didn't get tested on any of these skills. The administration probably figured he'd learn all but the last one at the academy. Perhaps that's why they don't want intelligent people: the paper pushers couldn't handle them. Jordan has filed a discrimination suit in Federal Court. Hopefully, he can make the New London cop shop and other businesses across America open their eyes to the possibilities in people instead of closing their doors to those who are too smart or too different.