Education and the Blank Slate: Setting Realistic Expectations

Excellent article from a surprising source: Helicopter Parenting Has Given Birth To A Generation of Entitled Victims

Another similar patient I saw was a 14-year old female presenting with depression and anxiety. Though she was of moderate intelligence, she and her highly-educated parents insisted on her taking the toughest classes in pursuit of her primary goal: to be accepted to a top college such as Harvard or Princeton. Her mother helped the child compensate for her below average grades by citing a “learning difference” and aggressively advocating for academic accommodations so that her daughter could continue her quest for scholastic excellence. These semantics elided the reality that the girl was not at the same intellectual level as her brightest peers. She became severely depressed and engaged in self-harm behaviors, citing her primary stressor as the competitive nature of school.

If we continue to walk on eggshells to avoid offending these hypersensitive young adults, we are empowering their victimhood status. If we continue to indulge their irrational demands, we are robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to function independently in the real world.

Not to make this too partisan, but some on the ‘left’ (and I hesitate to use this label because there are many on the ‘right’ who also believe in the blank slate) want to believe the nurture can supersede the barriers to success imposed by biology, and that to acknowledge such biological reality makes one an ‘oppressor’. People who fail to succeed may be victims of poor genes, but are not victims of an oppressive system. Instead of these people being coddled by delusional affirmations, as the author suggests, we need to make them aware of their limitations, and then devise strategies for these individuals to live to their full potential, however limited that may be, even if this may seem ‘unfair’. The ‘real world’ is unfair, and coddled young adults are in for a rude awakening after the cocoon of political correctness is stripped away that, no, they are not special.

Related: The ‘blank slate’ view of humanity is looking increasingly outdated

The evidence that human nature is under genetic control has been building for some time, yet despite this it remains a taboo to discuss it because it doesn’t fit with the ‘blank slate’ model of human behaviour. If you turn on any radio bulletin about the sex gap in STEM subjects, for example, or the differences in academic achievement between the social classes, possible genetic factors are never mentioned. I’m never sure if this is because the people in broadcasting are unaware of them, or whether it is just assumed they’re so obvious as to be not worth explaining

The reasons for the cultural taboo about genetics are obvious, understandable and political, although buttressed by mainstream Christianity, which is opposed to any sort of genetic determinism. As Fraser pointed out in his recent piece about designer babies, the word ‘eugenics’ still elicits a strong and negative reaction, even if people are happy to ignore it taking place in practice.

Exactly. Also such an article would likely never be published in a mainstream American publication, but Britain, despite its social liberalness, to its credit seems to be slightly less squeamish about HBD matters. And to take this further, economic events since 2008 are making Social Darwinism a reality, whether you wish to believe it or not, with some people failing to succeed not because of an oppressive system but because of bad genes. The ‘blank slate’ is obsoleted not just by empirical scientific evidence but by the economy as well.

The is related to the far-left (and I sometimes hesitate to use this label because there are also many on the ‘right’ who also subscribe to the blank slate), who tend to believe that people are born equal but imperfect, and it’s the role of the ‘state’ to ‘prefect’ them, in much the same way new computers all have the same operating system installed. The HBD-right and some on the ‘rational left’, on the other hand, may believe that some are born ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than others, and the state should create economic and social environments for everyone to live their their full cognitive potential, not to promote equal outcomes.

But based on my own experiences with the ‘alt right’, many Christians actually reject the blank slate and believe in biological determinism, such pertaining gender and racial differences. Also, IQ is not the ultimate determinant of the worth – or lack thereof – of an individual, but rather it’s of equal importance to other other mental traits such as morality and personality. I somewhat disagree – IQ is more important than emotional intelligence (EQ), and with practice EQ can be raised, whereas IQ cannot.

It also, paradoxically, leads to greater kudos for those at the top who are wrongly seen as having justly earned their success, when in fact it was partially through genetic luck. Our discourse is filled with that tiresome phrase ‘privilege’, yet the greatest privilege is to be born intelligent, healthy and attractive (and, just to compound this sense of injustice, these three things correlate).

Advantaged people should not apologize for their privilege but rather embrace it, and less advantaged individuals should acquiesce to the hierarchy than dissent.