Monday, January 22, 2007

Some People Are Just Smarter Than Others

The Wall Street Journal has had a short series of op-ed pieces by CHarles Murray discussing education this past week here, here, and here.
Similarly, Newmark's Door linked us to a couple of essays by Arnold Kling.

One quote, "My recollection from my career in government and business is that written communication skills still matter. Out of over 100 students in my class at George Mason, no more than a handful could function in any capacity in a job that required writing a memorandum. Over half of the students are utterly incompetent when it comes to grammar and syntax."

This is why some of us will always be able to get a job.

Together these articles mean that some people are just smarter than others. I could never be a quantum physicist. Well, maybe I could. But there are lots of people I know who couldn't, and shouldn't even try.

All this struck terribly close to home at the beginning of the school year. The younger younger Snow (to borrow from Mungowitz) entered kindergarden this year. Before
classes actually started, however, she went to two days of evaluations. The purpose was to level out the classes, placing the students evenly across the eighteen or so kindergarden classes. I asked one of the teachers why they didn't place all of the smart kids in the same classroom? She thought it was a good question, but had no answer.

Collectivism and egalitarianism are in direct opposition with genetics and science here. While some ethicists are telling us that there is no meaning to life just, blind indifferent DNA and we are all dancing to its tune," the educators are trying hard to believe that every child is born with a blank slate and it is only the conditions in which a child grows up which shape their abilities. Steven Levitt has already disproved this to all of us in Freakonomics.

More conventionally, look at behavorial patterns:

Smart people wait to have kids until after they are married and have reliable incomes. They go to college, get good jobs, buy houses and cars, and settle down.

Dumb people get pregnant when they are in high school, drop out, go on welfare, and get pregnant again. Sometimes they get abortions, and other times they get jobs dancing for lacrosse players.

Why is it that the gap is widening between the haves and have-nots? Because the gap in posession of brains is widening.

What's scary is that the brains are reproducing less than the dolts. This concentrates intelligence in fewer and fewer individuals.

Perhaps the golden age of literacy was born, literally, out of the puritain age of prudence, whereby mate selection was considered more scrupulously and often deferred, allowing the dolts to fall out of contention.

Who knows?

I just know that my wife, my kids, and I will always have jobs if we want them.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I don't usually like to do this, but I want to respond to your article using snippets:

"This is why some of us will always be able to get a job."

And its comments like those that can tie the incompetents brains in knot... wait, straight line... wait, I dunno. Mine's already knotted.

"...the educators are trying hard to believe that every child is born with a blank slate and it is only the conditions in which a child grows up which shape their abilities."

Yes, and unfortunately I still want to believe that. There's a little liberal inside of me...

But seriously, whose to say that their isn't some small but significant number of students marginally underserved by the current system? I think this lends stronger support to your implied wish (and Mr. Murray's expressed wish) to see elitism play a stronger role in education.

"What's scary is that the brains are reproducing less than the dolts. This concentrates intelligence in fewer and fewer individuals."

Which is exactly why my income is going to rise exponentially...

"Perhaps the golden age of literacy was born, literally, out of the puritain age of prudence, whereby mate selection was considered more scrupulously and often deferred, allowing the dolts to fall out of contention."

Perhaps it is rather fruitful to view literacy as a normal good with diminishing network effects. In lay-ese "The more literate I want to make society, the more it costs--or the less literate one is going to be than the last." Especially if we take into account the fact that some people are smarter than others, can't we assume that those with the strongest ability will become literate first, and that each additional literate person only becomes so painstakingly, for them and for the educator?

Gump, anyone?

The point is, work with what you got. We all have a set of possiblities for our lives. I'm cool as long as yours doesn't intersect adversely with mine.