What do we value about intelligence? Why do we tend to overlook intellectual diversity in our equality initiatives? Valuing individuals according to intelligence is ubiquitous in our culture—think about IQ tests and standardised educational or occupational exams—but also the ways in which colloquial speech denigrates undesirable things as ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb.’ There is a long and storied history of trying to quantify the worth of individuals based on some metric of intelligence. This presents an ethical dilemma. If opportunities are linked to intelligence, and intelligence is variable across individuals, then policies that attempt to ‘level the playing field’ on the basis of ability are limited in how they can solve that inequality. Are universities mass producing inequality by educating only those with intellectual potential?

Have a look at some of these resources before the meeting:

Facilitation Notes

Discussion Questions
  • Is discrimination on the basis of intellectual disability (a clinically determined category) something you are comfortable with?
  • Is discrimination on the basis of intellectual ability (educationally determined categories) something you are comfortable with?
  • Is offering opportunities (e.g. qualitifications, jobs etc.) on the basis of aptitude something you are comfortable with? Is this any different from the above?
  • Why is society tend to be uncomfortable with the concept of intelligence being heritable?
  • If we were to stop giving opportunities to people on the basis of their assumed intellect, what would universities look like? What would society look like?
  • To what extent does discrimination on the basis of assumed intellect perpetuate other biases that we find problematic?
Resource Personalisation
  • You may consider recent job advertisements from your organisation that showcase discrimination on the basis of assumed intellectual ability.
  • The forum post contains a lot of responses, some of which are offensive. You may want to find an alternative to this. If so, can you find any resources on discrimination according to different levels of intelligence?

Culture Club.