An IQ of 20

To Sonja Bingen

By Thomas Davis

 They said he had an IQ of 20, she said.
As if he can’t solve free form math problems
and then type out right answers on his I Pad.
My God, you can read a book to him,
and then he can answer hard questions about the book
without any prompting at all!

The problem is he can’t talk.
They get him in a room and give him a test
and fail to get him engaged
in what they want him to do,
and he ignores them
and because THEY are ignored,
THEY discover he has an IQ of 20!

Of course, the truth is that their discovery is about money.
The law says they have to educate all young people
even if they can’t talk
and sit in a classroom without mannerisms
not like those the rest of the kids his age have.
But dealing with differences can be expensive.
You have to have trained people
to work one on one with severely challenged students
if they are going to prove they can learn.

What they’ve done is to convince people
that they’re gaining whenever they cut taxes,
but in the meantime average people like us
take home a little lesser percentage of the national income
after the tax cuts while the rich pile their wealth
into mountains of advantage
that the rest of us aren’t allowed to even know exists.

That means schools limp along,
overwhelmed with too many mandates,
resources stretched past the breaking point,
and, my God!, THEY say, I’ve got to tell you,
the American education system is failing!

An IQ of 20! she said.
How stupid!


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

26 responses to “An IQ of 20


    Just reading this makes me want to explode!
    Or weep! And weep! And Weep!

    So clearly spelled out this so unpalatable truth!
    So clearly so almost universally ignored by so many!
    Who love to view themselves as “well-educated”!
    I say try “well-indoctrinated” instead!

    We find ourselves born into a corrupt society!
    Not educated oh no rather schooled!
    So as to emerge as blind sheep!
    Baa! Baa! Baa! Baa! Baa!
    Bah! Humbug!

  2. (And there’s a hug or two in there too.)

  3. I agree completely with Tom and Ben. With a background in education, I know firsthand our failure to improve the quality of education. As retirees we volunteer, all be it in a small way, to work with teachers. Joy teachers reading to challenged children and me environmental education to elementary school children. Teachers who bring their students to Sabino Canyon know the value of children connecting to nature and the passion the SCVN members have. Every little bit helps even when the obstacles keep getting bigger.

  4. Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:
    Tom tells it like it is! We continue to fail at educating our children. I’m reminded, there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals.

  5. eremophila

    Reblogged this on Eremophila's Musings and commented:
    This happens in Australia also. It’s time to revolt!

  6. I get rather tired of the education system judging students by an IQ test. Some just do not perform well even if they don’t have severe disabilities. My younger son was one of those who was put in a special program because he couldn’t read in first grade. But at home, he read the newspaper sports page just fine and knew all the sports facts. He was just not interested in their presentation.

    Years later, he finished his master’s degree in sports journalism. We have to look beyond the scores and into their hearts.

  7. Tom, I agree with all the comments here too. We live in a cookie cutter world….woe to those children (and adults) who don’t fit in. Thank you for posting this!

    (I keep meaning to email you and Ethel, just to say hi. Hope your holidays were pleasant ones, in spite of what’s going on in this country. May 2019 bring us some relief from the madness.)

    • ” May 2019 bring us some relief from the madness.”

      Amen to that!

    • Betty, thanks so much for this. I want to keep in touch, but haven’t had the energy for blogs lately. I’m doing a little too much work and writing. I promise to send an email one of this days soon, though. Ethel and I appreciate you so much. I wish I could find more ways to sell more copies of your book for you. It’s a wonderful book.

      • Tom, good to hear back from you here. I know how busy you are! If you do get a chance I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be forever grateful to you, for publishing my book. Please give my love to Ethel.

  8. extrasimile

    Hi Thomas
    I know its been a long time, but I just came across some old papers that reminded me of you. I think it was the first thing we corresponded over: namely Garcia Lorca’s notion of duende. This seems an appropriate time to remind you of it, as your latest poem is clearly an anguished cry to treat your grandson as a real person. (By the way, plotting a 20 IQ on a bell curve would reveal the whole thing as a statistical romance—nothing more) Duende, to remind you, is defined by Garcia Lorca, as, ‘a mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’ ; ‘all that has dark sound has duende;’ ‘it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation,’ It is dangerous to define something as undefined, but there is value notion as well. Sensing the duende, treating someone as if he it had duende is a good reminder that we don’t know everything, that we don’t know much at all.
    ‘The duende…where is the duende, through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing incessantly over the heads of the dead, in search of a new landscape and unknown accents: a wind with the odor of a child’s saliva, crushed grass and the medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created thing’s.’
    Say hello to your grandchild for me.

    • Jim, I am deeply grateful to hear from you. I am not reading your poetry as much as I ought to. You always set a poetic puzzle that explodes into meaning if you work at the puzzle long enough. I believe, in many ways, you are a poet for this time, one that a lot of serious students of poetry should read. However, even though I go to your blog sometimes still, I haven’t been up to detailed analysis of anyone’s work for awhile. I apologize for that.
      My latest project is a novel, The White Wild Stallion, written for Joey even though he cannot talk. He likes to be read too, and although he has his limitations, he can answer grade level questions about what has been read to him. Getting reminded of Lorca’s “duende” concept at this particular moment in time is a wonderful gift since the novel, in its barest essence, has duende woven into its pages. At least I hope I have achieved that.
      The novel is finished through the second draft, although I probably have eight to ten drafts to go. My epic poem published by Bennison Books went through twelve drafts. Did you ever read The Weirding Storm, by the way? If you did I would love to hear about what you though of it. Poets don’t write traditional epics these days, and you write in free verse with a sprinkle of the depth of Wallace Stevens inside the phrases of your lines, so it would be interesting to hear about your reaction.
      I hope you are well. Are you still teaching? I know life can have roll up one side of the universe and then lurch around pretty quickly some times. Ethel and I are okay here, although we are in the middle of a snowstorm, and both of us struggle with one physical problem or another off and on. Tonight the temperature is supposed to drop to 10 below zero. From what I understand, though, New York and the east coast is having a frightful year and now the polar vortex has split, promising more weather in the offing.
      Again, thank you so much for this comment. I cannot express how important it is to hear from you in this way. Tom

  9. Hi Tom. I thought I hadn’t seen anything from you or Ethel for a while and so I used the WordPress search function on four windows press and then, wham bang! up came this intensely moving poem from two weeks ago! Not only that but it came accompanied by thoughtful comments from others whom I have followed for years!
    There is frustration and anger as well as love in your lines, and rightly so! We have a much-loved severely autistic child in our wider family, and so I have a glimpse of the heartbreak of which you write. In addition I have been involved for twelve years in a charity that runs a school for children with developmental speech disorder – they have a normal IQ but their brains are not wired for language and they often have a terrible time in mainstream education where they can fall far behind, be bullied, be misdiagnosed and so on. The school has specialist teachers and speech & language therapists and it transforms their chances in life, but funds are always a challenge.
    My very best wishes to you both, and to your daughter.

    • John, can you tell me more about the school you are on the Board for? I know of no school exactly like that in the U.S. Does it serve people past their high school years? My daughter and son in law are trying to get an effort off the ground in Southern Wisconsin not far from where they live, but it is not targeting people with specific disabilities. From your email it seems like the school you are involved in is primarily for children. But I would be interested in hearing more about. You might also check out my review of your new book. Thanks so much for your comment. Tom

      • Hi Tom. Here’s the link to our website:
        Moor House was founded 70 yrs ago as a residential school for children 7–16 but we now have more day students than residential and have a flourishing college for 16–20 yr olds. I am now Chair of the Friends of Moor House, a supporters association. The website is pretty informative and easy to use but let me know if you have any questions.
        I must go and find your review of my book! Fingers crossed! 😊

      • Thanks John. For the review just go to or look on facebook.

  10. extrasimile

    Let me fill you in on what’s been going on since I retired three years ago. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I retired just in time for my Parkinson’s to rear its ugly head. Over one weekend in November I went from having a mild form of PD to being an advanced patient. I won’t go into all the details but I ended up having the Deep Brain Stimulation operation—where they run wires into your brain and shoot electricity into it. The whole procedure is actually quite interesting…but you know, I’d rather just read about it. The anesthetic they use lets them wake you during the operation so you can help with the placing of the wire. This procedure takes three separate operations. After the second operation, I had two seizures and an embolism that damn near killed me. I was in the hospital for 15 days. So it was not a pleasant experience. After the operation I suffered from severe depression….
    But it did make my tremor much better. I had been at the point where I was taking a bungee cord and using it to tie 4 pillows to a chair. Then I would force my right arm between the pillows to hold them steady. My whole body shook. It was horrible.
    So despite the depression and the seizers I had—and have— to call myself lucky. Despite the fact that I have pretty much lost my ability to walk; despite the fact that I am slowly losing my ability to speak; I still have to consider myself lucky,
    And I can draw—with that same right hand that I could not hold still. amazing you can look at extrasimile if you’d like to see some of my drawings.
    Okay Tom, that’s enough about me.
    I have read much of The Weirding Storm. Its tremendous. The introductory section is you writing at your very best—and believe me that is quite good. I read much of it to my wife—it seems that your poetry is good for my speech. I don’t know if I have any more to say about it—but I’ll think about it.
    By the way, we have had no snow this year. New York is such a grey lady.

    • Oh Jim, I am sorry about the increased physical disability. Having had charcot marie tooth all my life I can, at least on a minor level, relate to what you are telling me, but I have never had to deal with the problems brought on by Parkinsons. Still, your attitude, as befits a serious poet, seems to be strong even in the midst of depression that I am hoping is temporary.
      I will quote one of Ethel’s poems here:


      in my room.
      he crawls up
      onto my lap
      like the uninvited guest
      he always is.

      i keep hoping
      he’ll leave
      before dinner.

      The old emotional snake can really contain venom sometimes.
      I am glad you can still draw. I noticed that there were only drawings the last time I went to doublesimilie, but did not really catch on to why. I just went down a half dozen or so and clicked like and left that at that. As long as you can do some creative work you still have some creativity to spin out into the world.
      I also appreciate your comments about The Weirding Storm. As you know, I value you and your opinions highly. I guess I’ve proven that by all the commenting back and forth the two of us have done over the years. The fact that you can read it outloud and that that is good for your speech is truly truly exciting to hear. Perhaps iambic pentameter reaches back into the more primitive parts of our brains where our selves actually reside.
      I don’t know if you are up to the task, but I would appreciate an email at that contains the ten poems you think are the best ones you have ever written. I have been considering doing a different kind of anthology, and perhaps I can talk you into getting me busy on a project like that.
      The anthology would contain a healthy selection of work by selected poets, you, John Looker, Ethel, and Standing Feather (a poet you might not know, but whom Four Windows Books published), among others. I have been thinking I would write a short introductory essay about each poet to go with the poems Standing Feather and I would select out of the poems submitted.
      Maybe I’ll go forward with the project if you are up to getting me started.
      Thanks so much for your response to this poem. Tom

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