Plato devoted a book to the problem of spotting genius at birth and developing it to full potential. Today, America is trying a new solution to the lack of able brainpower--spending millions of dollars on universal education.
Free public education is supposed to locate the able students, and by rewarding them with high academic achievement, channel them into higher education and bring them to responsible positions. Unfortunately, this process too often fails, because many students, especially those from uneducated or lower class families, do not show their abilities in the classroom.
In order to solve the problem, educators must either adjust the classroom situation to stimulate the currently unmotivated, or adjust the student to the classroom situation. The major efforts have recently been concentrated on spotting the able students. If he can be found, and both he and his family made aware of his potential, he can often be induced to produce where he was formerly apathetic.
Until recently, most such talent searches had been too little and too late. There is no infallible universal testing device to measure potential, and even where useful devices exist, they are seldom applied before the student's attitude has been irrevocably set.
Iowa has, however, a program which attempts to eliminate these inadequacies. By administering IQ tests from first grade on, and comparing scores with classroom achievements, the educators can discover the student who is unmotivated. While IQ tests are very imperfect measures of ability, they can show who has ability and is not working.
Once the student is spotted, the more difficult task of motivating him begins. Teachers and principals talk with parents and student, trying to stimulate the youngster who previously got no attention; who was able to get by, but unwilling to work.
Such a program cannot eliminate the social obstacles which are now keeping many students out of college, but it will do more than the present emphasis on on increased scholarship funds. The major problem is finding somebody willing to sponsor such tests.
Testing does not make very good publicity for the inrustrialists who are looking for talent, and educators are apparently too concerned with their present insolvency to inaugurate new programs. The only agency which can apparently undertake such a program is the Federal government. It seems likely that Washington would use its money better if, as well as building new schools, they tried to get students to do something in the old ones.