Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

What is obvious to pretty much everyone else, isn’t so for the blank slate left, who have to perform mental gymnastics to explain away the reality that environment alone cannot account for the disparity of outcomes, both educational and socioeconomic, between individuals. According to the left, policy makers are not ‘doing enough’ and that ‘higher taxes are needed to close the gap’, or that ‘institutional racism is to blame’.

Here are two studies that put in a nail in the coffin for the blank slate (because the welfare left are impervious to logic and empirical evidence, it won’t convince them, but interesting nonetheless):

Parents’ math skills ‘rub off’ on their children:

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that children’s intuitive sense of numbers — i.e. the ability to know that 20 jelly beans are more than 10 jelly beans without first counting them — is predicted by their parents’ intuitive sense of numbers. Researchers determined that such close result parallels could not have been produced through similar institutional learning backgrounds because their previous research showed that this intuitive sense of numbers is present in infancy.

This is obvious to anyone who has either attended school (everyone) or works with children: there are the ‘slow kids’ and the ‘smart kids’, and these differences in intellect manifest very early in life, long before 10,000 hours can ever kick in. Teachers can reality identifying which students will succeed at life (or at least have the most potential to succeed) and who are slated for an ennobling career flipping burgers or greeting strangers at Walmart.

To give an anecdotal example, my middle school had a yearly writing content, and the winners obviously had more talent than everyone else (as was obvious when they read their stories aloud during the awards), and since we were only 11-13 years old it’s not like any of us had thousands of hours of practice under our belts.

But that means we need universal pre-pre-pre-k…all the way up until conception. We’re not spending enough tax dollars to to close the gap, obviously.

Here’s another: How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children:

The research emphasizes the importance of nurturing precocious children, at a time when the prevailing focus in the United States and other countries is on improving the performance of struggling students. At the same time, the work to identify and support academically talented students has raised troubling questions about the risks of labelling children, and the shortfalls of talent searches and standardized tests as a means of identifying high-potential students, especially in poor and rural districts.

The headline caused confusion for some, because it seemed to suggest, perhaps, that it’s possible to turn a child into a genius (nurture). As the passage above shows, what the author meant is that the child has already been identified as a genius (such as through an IQ test), and then what the next steps should be in order to maximize the child’s potential. Cognitive capital is like any other resource, and it should not go to waste.

Special education gets vastly more funding than gifted education despite both extremes being represented equally on the Bell Curve. This represents a massive misappropriation of public resources, and needs to be rectified.

The welfare left talks about ‘breaking barriers’, but this is false or a red herring: what they really want are equal outcomes. The SAT was created with the intent of identifying exceptional talent that may have been overlooked by elite universities, which at the time had quotas, but now the left wants to neuter the SAT or eliminate it altogether, because the ‘wrong people’ are scoring too high, so to prevent this it’s time to get rid of the SAT.

Probably the most overused, trite argument you encounter online when debating IQ is that ‘not everyone who is smart achieves much – early to bloom, early to rot’ – or something along those lines. This study lays that argument to waste:

“Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society,” says Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program in Durham, North Carolina, which collaborates with the Hopkins centre. Wai combined data from 11 prospective and retrospective longitudinal studies, including SMPY, to demonstrate the correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. “The kids who test in the top 1% tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” he says.

Although not every high-IQ person will achieve world-renowned success, the odds are much higher than someone who is less intelligent.

In further shattering the blank slate, exceptional talent manifests early in life, irrespective of practice or environment:

Such results contradict long-established ideas suggesting that expert performance is built mainly through practice—that anyone can get to the top with enough focused effort of the right kind. SMPY, by contrast, suggests that early cognitive ability has more effect on achievement than either deliberate practice or environmental factors such as socio-economic status.

Here is a point-by-point refutation of some of the more persistent myths about IQ and giftedness:

Finding “gifted” children does not contradict this. Nobody pops out of the womb a math genius.

Yes, technically no one pops out knowing trig or calculus, but some are born with the cognitive capacity, which later manifests in life, to readily master abstract and complicated stuff, and others aren’t born with that ability so they struggle to understand concepts that smart people grasp easily. Although ability can be lopsided (some are better at math than verbal), the less intelligent tend to have no dominant strengths – they are just average. And that’s fine. Most people are that way.

Gifted children are “gifted” with a laser focus on the unusual things that they find fun – math, music, what-have-you. They spend countless hours playing with numbers or with music, while little Johnny is playing with a ball.

Why don’t adults play with paste, coloring books, and alphabet letters? Because they are too mentally mature for those activities. Likewise, high-IQ children have a higher mental age, hence they find these tasks tedious and boring, as adults do.

…when people point to “gifted” talent, this is just another cop-out. They don’t have an explanation. They are appealing to everybody’s shared sense of magical outcomes. But it boils down to the hours that kids put into their interests.

Well, there’s something called an IQ score, and it does a pretty good job at predicting all sorts of things, such as socioeconomic outcomes, job performance, educational attainment, welfare dependency, and learning ability. The IQ test is one of great achievements of human psychology, is much harder to manipulate than EQ tests, and scores tend to remain stable throughout life.

One question is why these erogenous views about IQ are so persistent, and why the the blank slate view of human development is so popular. Perhaps it has to do with ignorance. Many people have been fooled by the intellectual-equivalent of snake oil salesmen such as Malcolm Gladwell, who dispenses a message that is appealing but is either wrong or unfounded. There are also potential career consequences for espousing biological realism, as we saw in 2005 with the firing of Larry Summers. Teachers can’t tell parents their kid is slow, and parents refuse to accept that their kid may be slow, preferring euphemisms like ‘ADD’, ‘differently-abled’, or ‘Autism-spectrum disorder’. As we see with Gladwell and others, entire publishing industries are built upon promoting blank slate-ism to a public that laps it up – there is a lot of money at stake. At the national level, entire multi-billion dollar departments, as well as the careers of thousands of bureaucrats, depend on shoveling money into the furnace of promoting equality of outcomes.

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