The original expression was: “That and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee.” Inflation crept in and now it would be more appropriate to say: “That and $2.55 will get you a latte at Starbucks.” The meaning remains the same, i.e., minus the 50 cents (or $2.55) the thing itself is worthless.
I’ve been told I have an I.Q. in the 98th Percentile. That and 50 cents has always gotten me a cup of coffee. While not expert in standardized intelligence testing, I think I get the gist of it. It is a measure of ability in the comprehension and manipulation of cultural symbols. One source claimed the ethnic group that consistently scored highest in these types of tests were the Polish Jews. Understandable, since Jews are big on arcane learning, but, and more importantly, that Poland, being as it is both a physical and historical crossroads, having been invaded many times by new Peoples from north, south, east, and west, would naturally be a virtual cauldron of exotic ideas.
But the people who always, always score highest on these I.Q. Tests are those who actually write the damned tests. It is an exercise in vanity. Ah Ha! I’m smarter than you! I knew the answer before I even asked you the question!
I.Q. Tests have their share of detractors (including yours truly) who disparage them as being woefully culturally biased. Cultural Bias in I.Q. testing is this: Suppose we were to test one of those barefoot and naked natives of Borneo. We give him the test booklet, the answer sheet, and a #2 pencil, and plenty of time. What would he do?
Since he has never seen any of these items before I suppose he would try to make something useful of them. After carefully scrutinizing and puzzling over the (to him) indecipherable text and symbols both on and in them he might decide to roll the test booklet and answer sheet into a penile sheath and then use the #2 pencil as a decorative element and pierce his nasal septum with it. The #2 pencil is, after all, a lively shade of yellow.
Because he has encountered neither paper nor pencil before, he would obviously fail the test in the standard time allotted. To some, (according to his scores), he might be assumed to be stupid. Not so. And that is hardly the case. Just standing naked before you, what he represents is a culture and a line of ancestors who, in countless generations, successfully propagated their own kind in that particular geographic area and clime.
In a reversal of roles, we drop you (by imaginary parachute) into his jungle lair. You would not know where to find either potable water or food. You would not know what was edible or poisonous. You would not know what to expect or how to protect yourself from inclement weather or hostile neighbors. One misstep could very well mean the death of you. You would be found dehydrated and starving, scratched and bitten, bedraggled and exhausted by a bunch of naked and curious children who have lived and prospered there all of their lives.
While this barefoot and naked man may be at a distinct disadvantage in reading and writing, or simply wielding that #2 pencil of yours and making proper use of those symbols with which you are so familiar; when you’re in his backyard – you’re the dumbass.
Never underestimate native intelligence.
As for myself: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a Genius. I’ve never met one. I don’t believe I am one. As for my test score peers, I’ve never actually met them either. It’s all very flattering to be told I have a high I.Q.; but circumstances have left me drowning in The Great Sea of Stupidity.
Material success depends almost entirely on luck. Winning the Lottery is pure luck. Inheritance is pure luck. Being in the right place at the right time is pure luck. A chance encounter is just that: chance. And if you would purposefully rub elbows with the rich, the famous, and other such successful people in this world, you’d better make an appointment.
I don’t look proudly at how many books I’ve read. I look at how many books I haven’t read – and am humbled.