I have taken notice of the attention being put on Cordarrelle Patterson and others such as Tavon Austin that have supposedly received low scores on their Wonderlick tests, and because it is being brought up by sports writers and fans as a possible issue, I would like to shed a little light on this subject. I'll say from the start that this test is a form of measurement, yet there are assumptions that have to made by the tester in order that it is considered an accurate test of measurement. My experience with intelligence tests has shown me that though they are a measurement of a certain type of intelligence, they can also completely miss measuring the true gift of the test taker. I will use an example of what I mean by a story.
When Helen Keller, (a famous blind and deaf woman in American history) was a child, she influenced her family as an out of control wild animal would. She was deaf, blind, and couldn't speak, yet she controlled her parents, manipulating and bullying them with outlandish behavior that embarrassed them in front of others. She was believed to be a mentally handicapped child, and except for her parents being both tolerant and wealthy, she would have ended up living in chains in an asylum as many people did in that generation that were "touched" in the head. Enter Annie Sullivan. Annie was hired to try and reach Helen, and the first thing she had to do was regain control of the household that Helen had been terrorizing. She insisted on absolute control of how Helen was handled, and though Helen's parents first objected, Annie began to use classic behavior modification to change Helen's outlandish behavior. In the end Helen turned out to be a very bright and gifted child who as a woman made a tremendous impact on the rights of the handicapped in this country. Helen was believed incapable of learning, yet she was able to learn quickly using Braille and sign language. She was creative and insightful, and became a powerful speaker as she learned the spoken language. Yet the only reason this happened was that someone was willing to discover her learning style, and ignore the impossible standards of others.
First appearances can be deceiving. Test measurements do not take into account all of the factors that influenced the test taker at the time of taking the test. Imagine a young athlete sitting down to take a test. Perhaps he has attention deficit disorder, perhaps he can't read well. Perhaps he is easily distracted by the other things going on in the testing room. Perhaps he has test anxiety and panics as soon as he realizes he doesn't know the first question. Perhaps he grew up in a place where he was gifted at surviving, yet the things he was taught in school meant little to him because they had nothing to do with his staying alive when he went home. Perhaps he went to school tired during the day, and worked at night to care for his other brothers and sisters who did not have a father. Success is a subjective thing. To get good grades in school for a white middle class boy or girl is a good thing because they will go on to college and get a decent job. For a young African-American boy, who must learn to survive on the street, grades and college transcripts can mean little. His only hope at success is in how well he can play ball, his teachers know it, so they let him through his classes though he has failed, until that day he sits down to a Wonderlic test, and realizes he doesn't know the answers. Does it mean he won't succeed with his physical talent alone? It depends on whether there is an Annie Sullivan.
Intelligence tests are measuring tools, and are designed to measure what individuals have learned. The Wonderlick in a form of intelligence test. It used by businesses such as the NFL to discover whether the athlete has the aptitude to learn what pro players must learn to be successful in their profession. However, Intelligence is no longer seen by many psychologists as simply being the ability to retain information through hearing or seeing. Public schools are a testament to this, as many students, including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, did not do well in a type of learning environment where they were forced to retain vast amounts of information through oral or visual means, and then use this learning in practical ways.
The military has used a form of training that has been adapted for many young men with physical skills, who haven't done well in traditional educational systems. It is hands on training, first showing, then doing. Vocational schools are designed the same way for mechanically gifted students. Artists, musicians, athletes, actors, most are right brain dominant, and learn by seeing and doing, or hearing and doing, or feeling and doing. It is a scientific fact that right brain dominant people can only sit and listen for a certain amount of time before the brain shifts, and they begin what has been called day dreaming. Day dreaming on the field of battle, or on the basketball court, or the football field is when the brain is taking in everything it sees, hears, feels, smells, and tastes. It is an heightened sense of awareness that not all people experience, yet the best athletes do. It is why Cordarrelle Patterson can run through a field full of tacklers and has the awareness of where he is, and how he can miss everyone trying to grasp him. He can see the hole before it's there, he can anticipate what the field will be before it has formed. It is a super awareness. It is this super awareness that also distracts him as he sits in a classroom.
There are many forms of intelligence in modern theory, retention of information by reading or hearing is only one. The intelligence of a gifted athlete is hard to measure, often it's only seen when the game is on, and the athlete has moved into the "zone" where anything is possible, where the magic happens. What is so ironic about this new encounter with Cordarrelle and the system he has entered, is that he is unpredictable in a system that wants to be certain of his future success, He could become another Adrian Peterson, if, and only if, the Vikings are willing to walk this walk with him until he finally gets it. When he gets it is all up to the coaches and whether they can be Annie Sullivan for Helen Keller, and help him become the genius he is, despite his Wonderlic score. The thing that makes football a great game, is that the field isn't determined by tests, but by men's hearts. Some athletes you would think would become great never do, though the stats say different. Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, many believed they weren't worth the gamble, and now look at what they have done to make this game great. So many athletes that came out of nowhere, with so much against them, became great because someone once told them they could do it, and they never gave up. I see men like Cordarrelle as courageous because they defy the odds, and prove the ones who live by test scores have something to learn themselves. Greatness comes not by how we test, but not quitting even when the naysayers say we should. It's about heart.