Discrimination, IQ, and Stupidity

I have a co-worker who is best described as having lower than average intelligence. She's not retarded or obviously mentally deficient. It just takes multiple attempts to communicate fairly basic information to her. I bring this up because she seems to be reasonably competent at her job, however in spite of this, there are already rumors and speculations flying about my workplace regarding when and how she is likely to get fired.

This made me start to wonder. While I have heard that it is possible to improve one's IQ (or at least to improve one's score on IQ tests), presumably one does not chose to have a lower than average intelligence to begin with.

So if your intelligence limits your capacity to grasp certain concepts with any reasonable speed, and limits your ability to communicate effectively with co-workers and customers should you be fired for a trait you have no control over, specifically if you can competently do your job?

Generally it is considered to be discrimination to not make reasonable accommodations for someone who has a disability if that disability does not make them incapable of doing their job. Low intelligence kind of strikes me as a disability. Presumably it merely takes longer for a person of low intelligence to learn things than someone with average intelligence. So if the only accommodation necessary is greater patience then surely it would not be ethical to fire such a person.

However in my limited experience with not-so-bright people it seems like they are much more prone to stupidity than the average person. I am operating on the premise that stupidity and low intellect are different things. Of course I have known multiple highly intelligent people who often did stupid things. So I have to assume that having a high IQ is no guarantee that a person will have "common sense" and therefore not do stupid things.

On the other hand if a person has a low enough IQ then their capacity to grasp basic concepts would be more limited, or at least take longer than it would take the average person. Which is why I think people with lower than average intelligence are more prone to stupidity than everyone else.

I worked at McDonald's in high school and I found myself regularly saying "surely that person knows better than to... (dump water in a hot fryer, honk into a drivethru speaker, drive through a narrow drivethru with a boat attached to their vehicle, mix clorox and ammonia etc.)"

The last few weeks at my current job have felt very similar to those high school days. Probably because of my experience at McDonald's I have always felt that stupidity is necessarily a fire-able trait. Specifically because it is too dangerous not to be.

Or as Heinlein put it:

Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

Low intelligence does not guarantee stupidity either, and the reality is that how patient you can be with a non-stupid-low-intellect person usually is directly relate to how expensive their limitation is. Which is likely how other disabilities would be treated as well if non-discrimination via "reasonable accommodation" were not mandated by law.

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Fascinating Reflection

Hello, Rainbough.

This is a fascinating and sensitive reflection on intelligence in the workplace. For any work that can be measured by performance, it would seem not to matter whether poor performance results from lack of application or lack of raw ability or intellectual capacity.

You mention intelligence training, though, which makes me wonder whether in future an employer wouldn't be expected to give an employee access to such training before deciding whether to fire them.

If you haven't seen Jaeggi's study on Training Working Memory (PNAS), you should check it out. Jaeggi's team recorded increases in mental agility (fluid intelligence) of up to 50% after 19 days of focused training with a dual n-back progressive method.

I was so impressed that I developed a software program using the same method so that anyone can achieve these improvements at home.
(IQ Training Program)

mind evolve, llc

education inflation

60 years ago maybe 70% of the available jobs or apprentice programs could be handled by a high school grad. These days 2 years of junior college are needed to get a high school education because half the high school grads can read or write or follow instructions.

The entry level jobs, themselves, require much less actual book learning than did the jobs 60 years ago. When I was a kid, a store clerk had to write the purchases on a sales slip, total them in is head, and make change.

40 years ago a GED was sufficient for a police officer. Still should be but the cities want trained social workers, not police officers.

When ever person with an IQ over 80 has a high school diploma, then high school will be a requirement for driving a garbage truck. Maybe 2 years of college. The job will be called "recycle tech," something like that.

There are people who have an

There are people who have an IQ in the low 80's, yet have law degrees from Harvard.

Barack Obama for example.