"It's not a low IQ--it's a learning disability": Reading Murray's piece on the limits of educational reform, I was reminded of one exception to America's religious devotion to the idea that all kids can become geniuses. And that is huge growth of the "learning disability." Every semester I get a stack of confidential letters describing all sorts of diagnosed learning disorders, along with requests to make accommodations for these students. They need extra time on exams, permission to record lectures, etc.
Educators seem to be more comfortable recognizing limits if they are understood as disorders. We are told that these students are not dumb; they are smart, but just face extra obstacles.
Maybe people don't like "dumb" because it sounds like forever, and labeling it as a disability enhances our compassion for the person, and it gives hope that eventually we'll discover a cure. The medicalization of IQ might be the only palatable way to confront the reality.
On a related note, every year for the past decade I hear more and more noise among faculty that we have to come up with better ways to improve the "critical thinking skills" of students. In my view, this is the acceptable way of saying that too many of our students are too dumb to be enrolled in our courses. The dishonesty and self-deception in education is embarassing.