I Am Sam

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Intelligence
Intelligence quotient, or IQ, is the defined as the ratio of mental age to chronological age. The movie, I Am Sam, raises an important question; does an individual’s IQ have an affect on whether they can be a good parent? Many theories have been developed to better understand and measure intelligence. The Single Factor Theories, Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory, and Gardner’s Theory, along with Baumbrind’s theory on parenting styles can all be used to analyze the characters in I Am Sam. The movie questions the relevance of IQ score and its impact on the ability to parent. If a person has a high IQ does that mean they are a good parent, and if a person has a low IQ does that mean they are a bad parent?

The Single Factor Intelligence Theories determine IQ through standardized tests. The first intelligence test was developed by Binet in 1905, and determined IQ as being a person’s mental age divided by their chronological age multiplied by 100. Over the next few years the test was modified by others. In 1937, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test was created. This test stated that 2/3 of all children, ages 8-18, score between 85 - 115. This test claimed that a child that scores 130 or above, is a gifted child, but a score of 70 and below indicates the child is retarded. Later, David Wechsler created a more modern test, and which has become more commonly used today. The Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC - IV) is arranged by ten different areas of problems to be solved, starting with the easiest and working towards the more difficult. It calculates the score with a verbal and non verbal scale. These intelligence tests show a direct correlation between IQ score and school performance. They are designed to measure what you know, but abilities in areas such as reading and creativity can not be separated from known facts, and can provide an incomplete picture of a person’s mental capabilities. Also, these tests can be economically biased and do not take into effect the person’s home environment or stress levels on the day of the test.

The character Sam, from I Am Sam, has low intelligence according to the Single Factor Theories. He is in his mid-thirties, but has the IQ of a seven year old child. He also has been deemed mentally retarded as per court records. Sam struggles to raise Lucy, his daughter, after she is abandoned immediately after birth by her mother and left with him. When he first brought Lucy home, Sam did not know he had to feed a baby every few hours, nor did he know how to change her diaper. During Lucy’s first year of school, Sam was able to help her with her homework and reading, but as Lucy grew older, Sam began to struggle. It became more difficult for him because his reading capability is of a low level, so when Lucy brought home reading assignments, he was unable to read at her level eventually. Sam’s low IQ correlates to the fact that he can not help Lucy with her homework past that of first or second grade level. Sam works at Starbucks as a bus boy and is paid not much more than minimum wage, therefore he struggles financially and only can afford to live in a very small one-bedroom apartment. He cannot afford the things Lucy requires for school, such a shoes and clothes. Lucy is taken out of Sam’s care by Child Protective Services because they feel that Sam is unfit parent because of his low IQ and he will hinder Lucy’s learning capabilities. According to the Single Factor Intelligence Theory, Sam is not intelligent.

Rita, Sam’s lawyer in the movie, is considered to be intelligent according the Single Factor Theories. To become a lawyer it takes many years of schooling and the ability to speak ‘intelligently’. As a partner in her law firm, it shows years of dedication, hard work, and motivation. She is able to afford to live in a large beautiful home and drive an expensive car. She has been successful life because she has normal intelligence and...
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