Let’s play a game, and through it I’ll prove what I mean.
What is this thing we call “IQ”? It is the capacity to learn new material.
What governs the ability to learn? Understanding.
What governs understanding? Vocabulary.
Logically, if you consistently work to build a strong, flexible vocabulary, and make it a habit to ALWAYS look up words you see used in your reading materials that look weird, strange, or unfamiliar – look them up in a proper dictionary (after all, that is the authority on what words mean) – then you will have a strong capacity to understand what you read and learn new material.
The stronger your vocabulary, the higher your IQ. It actually is a cause-effect relationship (as near as I can tell).
I am a case study in this. When I was a child, still in primary school, I was not a genius. Average would be more appropriate. The town I grew up in was the very definition of “small town” – if you mapped out a 100 square mile plot with that town at the exact heart – your square on the map would encompass the homes of about 800 people. Well, 800 at the time I lived there. Almost every lesson was brought around to it’s application to farming, in some way or another. At least, that was how it seemed to me.
Problem was, I knew even then that I was not going to grow up to own a farm or ranch. I was the smallest, and physically most frail, kid in my class. Even the smallest girl was bigger and stronger than me. If I had any hope of finding a place in the world, I was going to have to leave that town. Until I left, I spent great amounts of time reading. I read everything I could lay my hands on in the school library, then went to our town library and read everything there – then went back to the school library and showed them the (definitely NOT age appropriate) materials I was reading from the town library and persuaded them that I could handle reading things above my grade level. By the time I started Junior High (grade 7) I had read everything in town and had library cards for libraries in 3 other towns.
My imagination, combined with a few VERY strict teachers who forced the entire class to use a dictionary every time one student didn’t know the meaning of a word in the textbook, led me to a wonderful insight on the world. Everything was interconnected. Farming and ranching were just one end of a large chain of consumerism. The birth ward at the hospital, the local grocery store, and the funeral home were all connected. So were the fire department staff, the ambulance staff, the police, and the military. Humanity perhaps has the veneer of intelligence, but as a whole it functions as a small part of the global eco system.
When I started to take my initial strides out into that eco system, I found that my insight served me very well. My first job training school in the US Army was helicopter repair – and because I could see the entire system in my head and map out how things fit together and what they gave to the whole, I found it easy to learn how to fix a malfunctioning ‘chopper. The challenge was learning to use the tools.
The bone tumor in my left leg derailed that. You can’t remove, repair, or install malfunctioning rotor units with a physical limitation of “no pushing, pulling, or lifting over 30 pounds”. When I told the captain of my training unit that I wanted to stay in the service if possible, he arranged something that was supposed to be less physical.
I was sent to school to work in the secretarial pool. All that paperwork – you had to learn what form to use for what.
And I got another insight. This wasn’t just paperwork. It was the internal communication that made it possible for the organism to survive. Orders, requisitions, transfers, inventories – it all kept the Army functioning. Unfortunately, new regulations (another form!) on the qualifications for that job disqualified me before I completed school. I couldn’t carry a 30 pound manual typewriter AND a full field pack on my back at the same time. Once again, I was offered a discharge, and asked to stay.
This time I was sent to school to train as a field medic – where I had another powerful insight. The systems of the helicopters, the paperwork of the military – those were like the systems of a LIVING BODY. If things don’t flow when they should, or move where they should, disease and decay take over. Communication (nerve signals) rules every human body. In the same way that a PFC in the Pentagon can receive orders from a General, type them up, and forward them to a unit in Europe with the expectation that the unit will understand and follow the order, our brains direct all that goes on within our bodies. Well, that was how I saw it then.
The point is – vocabulary made it possible for me to learn those different types of work. I was good at my jobs, too. As a medic, working a dispensary in a field artillery unit in Europe, one of the cases I saw was a man who had been written off by everyone. He was called a malingerer. He was on sick call every morning, and nobody wanted anything to do with him. I asked a specific question, ordered some non-standard (but legitimate) tests – and in 1981 caught one of the US Army’s first documented cases of HIV. Well, I didn’t know what to call it – I just ordered the right tests and the right referral to get it diagnosed correctly. The point was – he had nothing to gain from torpedoing his career, because he wasn’t getting discharged for coughing.
When I was in primary school, my IQ was probably (though not tested at that time) around 124. Not stupid, by any means, but not gifted either. By the time I left the US Army in 1982, my IQ was 132 – at that time it was considered “genius” by some. Ten years later, with more study, more words defined to where I could comfortably use them correctly, my IQ had climbed to 149. We’re not talking about the cheap internet websites, either.