Sunday, November 10, 2013

Breaking oneself free of the inherited IQ myth

In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristof has a column praising Oklahoma's pre-school program.  We are told:
The Oklahoma initiative is partly a reflection of the influence of George B. Kaiser, a Tulsa billionaire who searched for charitable causes with the same rigor as if he were looking at financial investments. He decided on early education as having the highest return, partly because neuroscience shows the impact of early interventions on the developing brain and partly because careful studies have documented enormous gains from early education.
“Maybe the reason that rich, smart parents had rich, smart children wasn’t genetics,” Kaiser told me, “but that those rich, smart parents also held their kids, read to them, spent a lot of time with them.” 
Just another sign of the grip that hereditarian IQologists have on this society, that this billionaire thought he was breaking with the received wisdom.

PS: George Kaiser speaking in 2007, as reported in the NYT:
...I think we all have grown up with a strong emotional commitment to the concept of equal opportunity and a suppressed, secret intellectual conclusion that genes play a more important part in cognitive potential than experience.....

.....Those largely unformed brain cells and the connections among them — the synapses and neuron wiring — are exploding in response to every sensory stimulation. Truly, learning appears to be a reverse geometric progression with experiences at one hour, one day, one month or one year dramatically more influential and formative than later experiences.  As has often been quoted, 85% of brain development takes place by age 3 and yet we spend only 4% of our educational dollars by that point.

....So, now I had a theoretical construct that could reconcile my emotional belief in nurture and my analytical belief in nature. Yes, people could rise above the condition from which they derived by intensive sensory stimulation of their unformed brain cells at the earliest possible point. Maybe, the perceived fact that smart, rich parents tended to have smart, rich kids was largely due to the fact that they also tended to have stay at home moms or nannies who read to their kids, held them, put mobiles over their cribs, playing those annoying ditties, and sent them off for SAT training at six months.
When you read the whole piece, you might say, oh, Kaiser is merely following the science.  But the hereditarian IQology was not solid science to begin with.  How did we all grow up with "a suppressed, secret intellectual conclusion that genes play a more important part in cognitive potential than experience"?   George Kaiser was born in 1942,  and this IQology was part of the mythology of the environment that he grew up in.  

PPS: A search of the NY Times archives for IQ returns 7900 results for 1942-1961 inclusive, 5860 results from 1962-1981 inclusive, and 2680 from 1982-2001 inclusive.  IQ has since seen an uptick, from 2002 to present, a dozen years, has 3790 results.  Anyway, I think that the numbers support the contention that Kaiser grew up in an environment permeated with IQ myths; his reported experience of "how we all grew up" is more than anecdotal.