Sunday, June 7, 2009

IQ and education

Nicholas Kristof argues here that "what we think of as intelligence is quite malleable and owes little or nothing to genetics." The NYT column draws on Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, a recent book by Richard Nisbett that looks at the cultural heritage and learning strategies of three immigrant groups that frequently out-achieve their peers.

Kristof takes this message away from Nisbett's analysis:
What’s the policy lesson from these three success stories?
It’s that the most decisive weapons in the war on poverty aren’t transfer payments but education, education, education. For at-risk households, that starts with social workers making visits to encourage such basic practices as talking to children. One study found that a child of professionals (disproportionately white) has heard about 30 million words spoken by age 3; a black child raised on welfare has heard only 10 million words, leaving that child at a disadvantage in school.
The next step is intensive early childhood programs, followed by improved elementary and high schools, and programs to defray college costs.
Perhaps the larger lesson is a very empowering one: success depends less on intellectual endowment than on perseverance and drive. As Professor Nisbett puts it, “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.”
You can "look inside" the Nisbett book here.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!