Arnold Kling

Flynn on IQ and Education

Arnold Kling
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James Flynn writes,


Two twins raised apart, thanks to having slightly better genes than average, would both get into increasingly privileged environments. Both would get more teacher attention, would be encouraged to do more homework, would get into a top stream, and by adulthood, they would both be far above average. Moreover, thanks to their identical genes, their environmental histories would be very similar. Their identical genes were getting all of the credit for the combination of identical genes plus nearly identical enriching environmental factors! The environmental factors were not feeble at all: they just tended to be similar for identical twins when raised apart, which made them look feeble.

This says that studies of twins raised apart may not necessarily receive different environmental influences. Can't argue with that. But it does not prove that environment matters more than the studies appear to show, only that it could matter.

He goes on,


The best chance of enjoying enhanced cognitive skills is to fall in love with ideas, or intelligent conversation, or intelligent books, or some intellectual pursuit. If I do that, I create within my own mind a stimulating mental environment that accompanies me wherever I go. Then I am relatively free of needing good luck to enjoy a rich cognitive environment. I have constant and instant access to a portable gymnasium that exercises the mind. Books and ideas and analyzing things are possessions easier to access than even the local gym.

Fine. But take something you are not good at. Imagine someone giving me one of these lectures:

Arnold, the best chance of enjoying enhanced fishing skills is to fall in love with fishing, or casting, or filleting, or being in a rowboat on some smelly river at 5 o'clock in the morning.

Arnold, the best chance to enjoy penmanship is to fall in love with neat handwriting, or nicely-formed letters, or taking forever to express written thoughts.


Thanks very much--enjoyed hearing your advice. Now, if you'll just excuse me, I'm going to do something useful with the rest of my day.

The Reading Instruction gurus argue that competence comes first, enjoyment second. That feels more right to me.

I get the sense that Flynn thinks that we need to do something to get more people into cognitively challenging situations. Before we get the idea that we need to get me into situations involving rods and reels, I am going to say, Lose the we.

UPDATE: This talk by Flynn seems somewhat clearer than the Cato-unbound essay.



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Troy Camplin writes:

I agree. Competence comes first, then enjoymewnt. You have to push students to be competent, then they will see the beauty of what it is they are studying. The only problem is, educational institutions are no longer interested in making people competent at anything.

General Specific writes:

"I get the sense that Flynn thinks that we need to do something to get more people into cognitively challenging situations. Before we get the idea that we need to get me into situations involving rods and reels, I am going to say, Lose the we."

Since he didn't say it, I'm not sure it's fair to accuse him of the sin of "we." Not that I think it's always a sin. In the end, we're all in the same big boat called earth. Best try to find ways to improve things in the public and private sector.

"The Reading Instruction gurus argue that competence comes first, enjoyment second. That feels more right to me."

Where do they say competence comes first, enjoyment second? It's a big reference.

Besides: What's the relationship between competence and enjoyment? Is it linear? Is there a basic level of competence that brings enjoyment and beyond that the enjoyment feeds into increasing competence?

As a musician, I know people who are less competent but seem to enjoy playing an instrument more. I've observed the same with my wife's piano students.

My opinion: work on enjoyment and competence, maybe they'll support and feed into one another.

Steve Sailer writes:

Twins raised together can turn out more different than if they were raised apart in some circumstances. Consider NBA all-stars Harvey and Horace Grant. Harvey was the quick forward on their school teams, so Horace had to become a power forward despite being genetically quite skinny.

For my review of Dr. Flynn's book, which Flynn quite liked, see:

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/070903_flynn.htm

Troy Camplin writes:

Like all things human, don't llook for simple linearities. However, I will note that I hated poetry until I started writing it (for the purpose of improving my style for my fiction writing -- I had read somewhere that writing poetry would help to tighten your prose). As I became better and better at writing poetry, I came to really love poetry.Of course, part of that was rediscovering my love for poetry that is a human inheritance we see in childhood, but which is driven out of us by our educational system.

Heather writes:

Does he understand the twin studies? The studies I have seen look at identical twins raised separately versus fraternal twins raised separately to try to tease out genetic differences, assuming the the genetic difference will be greater in the fraternal twins. Since you are looking for a difference, you can assume the environment is a common issue and is subtracted out by the comparison.

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