Whiplash: High IQ Love
I'm determined to beat my addiction. I took the Mensa license plate frame off my car, I boycotted that Meg Ryan/Tim Robbins movie, IQ, and I've started a recovery group for reformed IQ worshippers (we're reading The Bell Jar instead of The Bell Curve). This is a big step for me, coming as I do from one of those genius-infested gene pools in which swim people for whom the SATs are pencil aerobics, GREs are a sleepwalk, Latin and Greek are LIVING languages, and science is breathing. You need a dictionary, a copy of Gray's Anatomy, and Alex Trebek at your elbow if you want to survive my family reunions. It's taken me several decades of genuflecting at the altar of intellectualism to acknowledge that being a good test taker might be irrelevant to everything except being a good test taker. My son, at age 2, already heaved into this cerebral Keno by virtue of developmental idiosyncrasies, flunked portions of the toddler IQ test. He didn't, when asked, pretend to feed a stuffed bear, and, told to point to the "smallest" item on a page, he chose the minuscule page number rather than one of the three items in the center. He didn't identify a cow's nose, but no one asked him to choose Saturn from among a group of planets or draw a spiral or point to insect antennae or locate Greenland on a map or play octaves on the piano. Galaxies, hexagons, molecules, and petunias he knows; cloth animals and ruminant proboscides he seems not to. Neither info base is more important than the other; in fact, none of it seems to me to be of any particular significance. Yet into my face they crow: "Don't worry: His INTELLIGENCE is normal." As if intelligence had anything to do with normalcy. As if normalcy had anything to do with the culture in which my kid is growing up. I'm trying to program myself to think of IQ ardor, my lifelong affliction, as merely another form of recreation, like square dancing or collecting coins. And doesn't Marilyn von Savant prove just how meaningless a high test score is? Why does my newspaper tear so neatly on the vertical and so exasperatingly jaggedly on the horizontal? --Ripping Reader Newspapers, like bed sheets and societies, have "grain." The wood fibers go onto the presses in pulp form, and the newsprint dries there on the cylinder. Printing machines line up the fibers in one direction to protect the integrity of the sheet while the press is churning (the newsprint must NOT rip during printing, so the grain runs the same way the press runs). I keep scissors near where I read my newspaper (which means I keep them on the floor, by the couch, in my car, under the piano, beside the treadmill and next to the bathtub). It's just too frustrating trying to extract a neat strip of Mother Goose and Grim or a crisp square of Calvin. Where did the name "Kinko's" originate? Does it have anything to do with the deviant sexual practices of the people who started the business? Or is it some stupid inside joke? --Midnight Photocopier Not a joke, exactly: It's the founder's nickname. "He has very curly hair," said a company rep. Incidentally, there are now more than 750 Kinko's sites, including locations in Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. The photocopying Goliath turns 25 this year. I think the name was a good choice; if the founder had used his given name you'd be doing your copying at "Paul's." I am having a problem at my university. I need to take classes in "diversity." This is like forced political correctness training. I feel plenty diverse already. I've had black friends, gay friends, women friends, I've lived in Chicago, St. Louis, D.C., L.A., Seattle and Portland, OR. I know these classes are aimed at white males; there are no classes on any white male issues (not that I would take them anyway). So what does diverse mean? This is going to cost me 10 weeks and $1100. --Strapped Student There are no courses on "white male issues" because the country in which you live is a full-time, finals-every-day, no-Cliff-Notes classroom in white male issues. The classes you describe are an attempt to ensure that those white males, and the people who tumble in their orbit, stay alert. Forced political correctness? Whatever your term, there is not nearly enough of it, not when we see "flesh-colored" Band-Aids that are the color of only one kind of flesh; not when we read that all newborn infants are "pink," not when few Americans speak more than one language or hear more than one ideology. If elementary schools had their acts together, we wouldn't need damage control in college. But the training is not, as you deduced, aimed at white males; it's aimed at all of us. At those who worship white males, those who resent white males, those who ignore white males and emulate white males and marry white males and gestate white males. And just what does "diverse" mean? Perspective, man, perspective. It could be worse -- what if you were required, instead, to study mesenteric lymphadenitis, glomerulosclerosis, or the Contract with America? Contact Whiplash by Email (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (503-297-6620) or slug mail (822 S.W. 10th, Portland, OR 97205).