And Finally

Not a smart idea

Intelligence tests for kids prove controversial

Searching for the next Bill Gates

Could their toddler end up coding software like a young Bill Gates or play the piano like Lang Lang? It’s a question many parents will occasionally ask themselves. And in China some kindergartens say they have a service that can give the answer. Or rather they were until last week when provincial officials in Shanxi banned the use of “palm reading” tests for children.

Three kindergartens in the provincial capital Taiyuan were found to be offering the “dermatoglyphic intelligence test” at Rmb1,200 a pop, China’s state run news agency Xinhua reported.

Dermatoglyphics is a controversial branch of medicine that studies finger prints for clues about a person’s intelligence, genetic makeup and health. Founded by a doctor from Mississippi in the 1940s, the use of dermatoglyphics as a diagnostic tool was soon subsumed by more sophisticated testing such as magnetic resonance imaging and genetic analysis.

But Shanxi’s Dao Meng Culture Company has now repackaged the practice as a “scientific” assessment of personality traits, as well as a gauge of aptitude for academic subjects.

A spokesperson for Dao Meng was quoted by the Beijing News as saying that the test – which works by scanning an imprint of the child’s  fingers – can detect mathematical, musical and linguistic aptitude in children as young as three months old.

The benefit? On hearing that their child was a budding genius, parents could then sink – with far greater confidence – even more of their savings into piano classes and maths tutors for their little darling.

The government was less impressed by Dao Meng’s techniques. Traditional fortune-telling practices were banned by China’s Communist Party soon after it came to power, being viewed as unscientific and evidence of feudalism. But old habits die hard, it seems.

The Times of London notes that even state-owned companies still choose to locate their offices at auspicious addresses (using feng shui) or launch projects on “lucky” dates.

Chinese netizens reacted with opprobrium to the news that the schools were offering the dermatoglyphics test, dismissing it as “fake science” and further evidence that parents today were putting too much pressure on their children.

“It takes a long time to nurture talent. How can parents nurture a mentally healthy child if they rush so much? It’s our human nature to raise the young, it’s not an investment,” netizen Tampo wrote on his weibo account.

In a long editorial, the Workers’ Daily said it was part of a wider uber-parenting phenomenon which includes Tiger Mom and Wolf Dad (see WiC issues 92 and 130).

“Parents have high expectations of their children but that often makes them blind to the laws of education and a child’s mental and physical growth,” it said.


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