The Good Dr. Caldwell

“Ker-plink HUH-HUH HUH-HUH Ker-plink HUH-HUH HUH-HUH Ker-plink”  With that sound of heavy breathing and an oxygen tank slowly being rolled down the aisle steps, everyone knows that Dr. “dead man walking” Caldwell has arrived for his Psychology 105 class.  He is accompanied by his wife of three years, Emmylou, a young, sprightly Filipino woman in sweatpants carrying his notes.  Because of his delicate medical condition, Dr. Caldwell cannot manage to stand up and lecture for an hour and a half, so he divides the class into groups and has each group give a presentation on a chapter.  Dr. Caldwell sits in the front row, and interjects whenever he feels the need.  In today’s class, the presentation is on intelligence testing, which happens to be Dr. Caldwell’s specialty.

 

The presentation starts off slowly enough, with the undeclared freshmen trying to figure out how to operate the computer with the LCD projector.  Once they get this figured out, the presentation begins.  The presentation starts out with a historical perspective on intelligence testing.  The first slide discusses Sir Francis Galton, a 19th century Englishman who was among the first to propose that intelligence could be quantified. 

 

At this point Dr. Caldwell interjects, “I have an interesting story about Galton.”

 

It turns out that the story is not so much interesting as it is long and fantastically boring. 

 

As the presentation continues, we come to the last historical figure, a Mr. John Bernsting, who happens to be the only one still alive.

 

Again, Dr. Caldwell interjects the presenter mid-sentence, “Bernsting is completely full of bull.”

 

“Uh, okay,” replies the presenter.

 

And then Dr. Caldwell goes on this long rant about how he thinks Bernsting’s research and ideas amount to Utopian thinking, but eventually he calms down and allows the presentation to continue. 

 

The next section of the presentation discusses factors that influence performance on intelligence tests.  The slide for this topic mentions that persons who have completed high school typically have higher intelligence scores.

 

Dr. Caldwell objects to this, “See that slide up there?  Half the stuff on it is bullshit.”

 

The presenter replies, “I got this information from the textbook,” while chewing her gum.

           

You see, Dr. Caldwell got his Ph.D. in psychology during the Crimean War, and he dismisses any new discoveries since then as quackery, liberal pandering, or wishful thinking .

 

He continues, “The textbook is full of shit.  Sure. There is a correlation, but its not very strong.  I never learned anything when I went to high school.  In fact, two of my kids didn’t even go to high school.  I just moved ‘em straight into college.  My youngest daughter is seventeen, and she’s graduating with a degree in sociology this spring.”

 

This of course results in a lengthy class debate about whether this is actually possible.  During the course of the debate, he alludes to having several more children other than those who allegedly skipped high school.  A girl sitting near the front raises her hand and asks him how many children he has.

 

“Seven.” He replies after contemplating the question for several seconds.  A murmur of soft whispering rises from the class.  After mulling over it some more, he adds, “I think.”

 

Eventually, things settle down and the presentation continues.  At one point the poor presenter suggests that the validity of intelligence tests is questionable because they are biased against certain ethnic groups.  Again, Dr. Caldwell interrupts him mid-sentence.

 

“Intelligence testing is completely valid.  It is the only thing psychology has ever produced that can accurately predict anything.  It is the most effective way to determine if a person is really qualified for a job.  Interviews are too formal, references are too subjective.  Of course, the Supreme Court didn’t like this, because people were being discriminated against…”

 

Ten minutes later, our presenter rebuts with, “I’m only presenting what’s in the textbook.”

 

“A lotta stuff in the textbook is bullshit.  They print whatever’s nice and politically correct because they can sell more books that way.”

 

At this point, a student sitting toward the back raises her hand.

 

“Yes, Dear.”  The good doctor says.

 

“Are we going to be tested on—“

 

“Can you speak up a little, I can’t hear.”

 

“Are we going to be tes—“

 

“Huh?”

 

“ARE WE GOING TO BE TESTED ON WHAT YOU TELL US, OR THE MATERIAL IN THE BOOK?” she shouts in a deafening tone.

 

He slowly replies, “What I tell you.  Because the book waters everything down.”

 

By this time, the class is over.  The group covering intelligence testing got through almost a third of their thirty minute presentation and they will have to pick it up where they left off next time.  Emmylou gathers up Dr. Caldwell’s notes and helps him lug his oxygen tank up the stairs and out of the room.

 

Eventually, I have to give a presentation.  Won’t that be fun.

 

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