A Test Cannot Measure My Mind

General Testing

Christopher Dickerson, a fifth grader at Daroff Elementary School in Philadelphia, won first place (elementary) for this speech in the 16th annual citywide African American History Month Oratorical Competition sponsored by the Philadelphia Board of Education.


Stand in your place boy! How dare you try to learn! Is this the harsh voice of a slave owner trying to make blacks think that they were inferior human beings? Once some people used whips, guns, and laws to keep us enslaved. Today there are scientists trying to convince us with statistics that we are an inferior race. Ever since blacks were forced into slavery, some people have looked for reasons to believe that we are inferior. Once we were told that the Bible said that slavery was acceptable. Now we are expected to believe that an IQ test determines our destiny. This is another example of how some people interpret statistics to fit their racist beliefs. Once our ancestors were denied an education because some people wanted to keep them ignorant, so they wouldn t revolt against slavery. Today, there are people who are still trying to keep us down by stating that IQ scores show that we are not capable of doing well in school. They believe that there is a superior race. They want us to doubt ourselves.


Despite what the recent book The Bell Curve says, African Americans are not permanently doomed by their genes to welfare, poverty, and crime. No one can tell me that we cannot benefit from any help, especially an education.


It is true that our society is divided, but this is not so because of IQ differences. It is true because there are not equal opportunites for jobs and education. It is true because some scientists think that good nutrition, housing, and caring homes do not matter. These people try to discourage us from helping ourselves because they think that it is in our genes that we cannot achieve at high levels. Lucia Herndon in the [Philadelphia] Inquirer described the truth about this attitude when she wrote, . . . to raise the notion that IQ is the great dividing line between not only smart and dumb, but the rich and poor, the employed and unemployed, the black and the white, is not only wrong but dangerous . . . After all, inheriting grandpa s millions sure beats inheriting his IQ.


A person's future depends on many things. What about determination? What about common sense? What about honesty? What about curiosity? What about opportunity? And what about caring for others?


When I hear news about race, class, and intelligence, I am scared to think that a test could be the true measurement of who I am! I refuse to believe it when someone tells me that I cannot achieve because of my genes. My will is more important than my IQ.


Reprinted from OERI Bulletin, Summer 1995,

US Department of Ecdueation