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Monday, August 12, 2013

You can't make a silk purse....

I hear an awful lot of blather about how certain schools are failing our children. There seem to be constant debates raging about whether or not test scores should be adjusted, whether or not magnet schools and charter schools are good for the educational system, whether or not teachers ought to get merit pay, class size, the availability of computers, how money should be allocated, how we can attract better teachers, and so on.

Every time I hear these debates, I'm always left thinking, the elephant in the room is IQ. Some kids are smart, and some are dumb. Period. The smart ones will tend to do well and the dumb ones will tend to not do as well. And there's no amount or type of education, no computer, and no teacher, which can turn a dull child into a bright one.

Sure, all of those things may make a slight difference on the margins. But they don't have nearly the effect that educators would have you believe. Washington DC, for instance, spends more per pupil than any state in the country, yet they perform worse on standardized tests than every single state in the country.

Think that might have something to do with IQ being immutable?

Even in cases where there is no racial component, there are plenty of differences between individuals, even from the same family. Certain kids are observant, others less so. Certain kids have good memories, others don't. Certain kids think clearly, others can't. Certain kids can grasp complicated concepts, others will struggle. It's primarily a matter of the way their brains are wired.

And no school is going to change that.

Most of the indignation seems to stem from demographic differences, though. But the rank order of Asians, then whites, then Hispanics, then blacks stubbornly persists across time, between countries, and despite the enormous efforts that have been made in this country trying to eradicate it.

We might as well make it a goal that girls perform as well as boys on the physical fitness tests. Sure, there will be some girls who will outperform the boys at pull ups. And we could hold them up as shining examples and cite them whenever we scream at those who would rudely point out that there are immutable genetic and hormonal differences which explain the overall gender gap.

We could gnash our teeth and rend our hair about the fact that different schools have different numbers of pull up bars. We could talk about bias and sexism and how the pull up test is discriminatory. We could argue interminably about the best location for those pull up bars, and how high off the ground they are, and what kind of grips they have. We could blame the coaches and blame the schools and blame "male privilege" for the performance gap. We could talk about gym teacher expectation and confidence and prenatal nutrition and the lack of female role models for aspiring pull up contestants. But changing all those things would have a near negligible effect on narrowing the gender gap.

Biology is destiny, when it comes to our minds as well as our bodies.


bluffcreek1967 said...

All good points, John. It's so obvious that humans have differing abilities, that not all of us are the same or 'equal' in intelligence, athletics, and in other areas. The fact that this is even a debatable point today shows how looney liberalism has made many of us.

Incidentally, just because someone is less intelligent or less academically inclined does NOT at all mean they can't be productive and successful in society. Most people, according to Charles Murray, probably shouldn't be going to college anyways because they don't have the acumen for the academic load. College really isn't designed for everyone. Maybe they should attend a trade school or whatever.

The point is, having less intelligence doesn't necessarily compel someone to pursue a life of crime or be immoral or be unable to provide for a family. There are lots of people more intelligent than you and I put together times ten, yet we are able to successfully function as well as enjoy the beauties that life brings.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
C'mon, TEN times as smart?! I beg to differ.

But I agree with all your other points. And I heartily endorse everyone who is living up to his potential, whatever that is. (Not sure I can say the same for myself.)

Bob Wallace said...

Asians have a much narrower IQ bell curve; there are far more smart whites at the right end. So actually it's whites, then Asians, Mexicans and blacks at the bottom.

John Craig said...

Bob --
You're right about the narrower Asian bell curve, and that's why you see no Asian Da Vincis or Edisons or Teslas. But they still average higher than whites, and what I am referring to is how they place overall on the SATs, IQ tests, and so on.

bluffcreek1967 said...

Okay, maybe ten times was perhaps a bit overly generous. Would you settle for three times? j/k

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
Well, I guess I have to compromise. Okay.

Anonymous said...

how are you going to define "less intelligent", or more importantly, who's going to decide who is smart enough to pursue an academic career and who's not?

at least in my country, higher academic education usually means better life quality, both in terms of working conditions and money.

i think you two are only being arrogant.

John Craig said...

Anon --
First of all, our exchange was mostly joking (that's what "j/k" signifies). But as far as deciding on intelligence, the best measure we have is the IQ test. That's not universally given, but we also have the SATs, which most high school seniors take, and the correlation with that and IQ is evidently .9. Both of those would suffice.

Plus, by age 17 or 18, it's usually pretty obvious anyway who's good at school (and motivated to study hard) and who's not.

A college education helps in virtually every country, but there are plenty of people who do well without a degree. Bill Gates, for instance.

Baloo said...

An extra-good post, very clear on the subject, and worthy of being spread around all over. Riffed on and reblogged here: