Litigating Intelligence: IQ Tests, Special Education, and Social Science in the Courtroom

Litigating Intelligence: IQ Tests, Special Education, and Social Science in the Courtroom

Litigating Intelligence: IQ Tests, Special Education, and Social Science in the Courtroom

Litigating Intelligence: IQ Tests, Special Education, and Social Science in the Courtroom

Synopsis

Are IQ tests racially and culturally biased? That was the controversial question in two landmark lawsuits: the California case of Larry P. v. Riles (1979) and the Chicago case of PASE v. Hannon (1980). Litigating Intelligence is a detailed analysis and comparison of these complex cases--the background, evidence, testimony, arguments, and surprising outcomes. It is also an important case study of the role of social science testimony in the courtroom and the role of the courts in setting social policy.

Excerpt

No more troubling examples of the inadequate union of law and the social sciences can be found than those presented in this book. That two reputable judges can reach opposite conclusions from essentially the same evidence presents the dilemma in stark outline. Where do the Constitutional issues prevail, and where are the social science results relevant?

As the author notes, the first hearings in the cases were separated by eight years, so that the Chicago pase case occurred in a climate of less hysteria about affirmative action than the California Larry P. case. But the witnesses were the same adversaries, and the legal issues were the same contest between psychological prediction and school placement. Yet, the decision in Larry P. was for the plaintiff, a decision that barred the use of iq tests in the assessment of black children for placement in special education classes, whereas the decision in pase was to permit the Chicago school district to continue to use iq tests, among other assessments, to assign minority children to classes for the mentally retarded. Professor Elliott provides a detailed comparison of these cases -- the background, evidence, testimony, arguments, and surprising outcomes.

In the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the segregation of black students into "separate but equal" schools on the basis that separate cannot be equal. But references to psychological studies of black children's self-esteem muddied the Constitutional issues. in Brown there was no reason to refer to social science evidence about the psychological effects of segregation on black children, because such effects are not relevant to Constitutional issues. Even if racial integration has harmed black education (and there is some evidence that it has), the Constitutional demand for equal treatment under the law must dominate other considerations.

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