In response to my list of 35 myths about human intelligence that my upcoming book tackles, I have had people ask me what intelligence myths didn’t make the cut. It is a fun thought experiment to think how the book would be different with a different mix of incorrect ideas to address and correct. [Update: The book has been released.]

There were several incorrect ideas about intelligence that I considered putting in the book but decided against. For example, one is the idea that standardized tests are only appropriate for “standardized minds,” i.e., for people who all think alike. A good example of this thinking is found in the following quote:

Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.

Diane Ravitch (source, see update at bottom of this post)

In reality, the standardized portion in standardized testing exists so that people’s individual differences can be more apparent. By giving everyone the same testing environment, instructions, scoring procedure, and question pool, the differences in scores is much more likely to be due to individual differences–and not the idiosyncratic experiences that occur in a non-standardized testing environment.

Additionally, the original purpose of standardized tests in education was to customize schooling for each child. This is apparent in a cartoon that appeared in the April 1922 issue of The American School Board Journal:

In the 1920s, standardized tests, including intelligence tests, were seen as a tool to individualize education for students. Image Source.

Tests today are still used for individualized educational planning, especially in the diagnosis and accommodation of educational disabilities. Contrary to what the testing skeptics say, standardized tests are not only appropriate for “standardized minds.” In fact, it’s because people are individuals and different that we need tests in schools at all!


My original version of this post stated that the quote about “standardized minds” stated that the quote’s source was anonymous, but often attributed to Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education. But I could not find the source of the quote. Alert reader Joseph (who did not provide his last name) found the source of the quote, which was a 2015 speech Ms. Ravitch gave in New York City.