Here's an excerpt from chapter 2 of the current draft of The Case Against Education.
Making You Smarter
While educators often promise to teach students how to
think, they rarely vow to raise students' intelligence.Trying to "make your pupils smarter" smacks
of hubris.However, when you look at the
data on IQ - psychologists' standard measure of intelligence - education matters.Summer vacation, intermittent attendance,
delayed school entry, and dropping out all measurably depress IQ.Some experimental early childhood programs
have increased IQ by over 30 points - moving kids' performance from roughly the
2nd percentile to the 50th percentile of their age group.Studies that carefully measure students' time
show that IQ rises more on school days than non-school days.Isn't this conclusive evidence that education
makes us smarter?
Not really.While the
facts are secure, the interpretation is shaky.The first major worry: People can sharply
improve on virtually any test by practicing - and a little practice goes a
long way.A major review article pulled
together fifty relevant studies of practice on cognitive tests.On average, "a candidate who scored at the 50th
percentile on the first test could be expected to score at the 60th
percentile on the second test and at the 71st percentile on the
third test."Explicit coaching - "teaching to the test" -
works even better.When students repeatedly take identical
versions of the same test, their scores skyrocket.
A cock-eyed optimist might rejoice that mankind is only a
few hours worth of practice away from massive intelligence gains.This optimism, however, leads to absurdity: Can
you transform average students into geniuses by handing them the answer key
before their IQ test?Most researchers draw
the sobering conclusion that test preparation yields only "hollow gains."Preparation inflates measured intelligence without raising genuine intelligence.
The fact that test preparation yields large but hollow gains
hardly shows that all large gains are
hollow.Still, the power of preparation
should make us suspicious.Maybe
education raises IQ because education is a dilute form of IQ test
preparation.As psychologist Steven
is through direct forms of instruction... that children learn the answers to
many of the questions that appear on a popular IQ (and other aptitude)
tests.For example, within a given grade
level there is a correlation between the total number of hours of schooling a
child receives and scores on verbal and mathematical aptitude tests. Similarly,
there are negative correlations between the total number of teacher or student
absences and scores on such tests. Also, quantitative and language-related
scores are strongly correlated with the length of the school day and with the
actual amount of time on task, beginning in first grade. So it makes intuitive
sense that much of the knowledge that aptitude tests, including IQ, tap is
accumulated through direct encounters with the educational system. Answers to
questions on the WISC-R, such as "In what continent is Egypt?";
"Who wrote Hamlet?"; "What is the boiling point of water?";
and "How many miles is New York from L.A.?" are probably learned
through direct teaching methods. Teachers may not be aware that they are
teaching answers to questions on IQ tests, but this is precisely what they are
doing in their history, reading, literature, geography, and math classes...
Ceci also notes that schools teach students to offer the kinds of answers IQ tests favor.How are an apple and an orange alike?IQ tests award only partial credit for such factually
correct answers as, "They're both round," "They're both edible," or "They both
have seeds."For full credit, you have
to say, "They're both fruits."School also
makes students sit still and pay attention.These habits aren't just crucial for
test-taking; they're useful life skills.Yet sitting still and paying attention aren't "intelligence" in any
normal sense of the word.
If education truly raised intelligence, education would enhance
performance on all sorts of cognitive challenges - in and out of the
classroom.In reality, though, IQ gains
yield spotty payoffs even on narrowly academic subjects.Probably the best study of the effect of
education on IQ looks at the scores of over one million 18-year-old Swedish
men.The researchers know each student's exact age
and test date, so they possess an unusually precise measure of how many days they
spent in and out of school.Their major
finding: school days noticeably raise scores on synonym and technical
comprehension subtests without
raising scores on spatial and logic subtests.The authors infer that education raises "crystallized intelligence" but
not "fluid intelligence."A better
interpretation, though, is that education improves some specific skills without
increasing intelligence at all.Considering how little students usually learn,
the measured effect of Swedish education on the synonym and technical
comprehension subtests is impressive.Still,
to equate subject-specific gains with higher intelligence smacks of
Worries about "hollow IQ gains" are admittedly a tad
philosophical.The other major worry
about the effect of education on IQ, however, is completely pragmatic.Suppose for the sake of argument that IQ were
a perfect measure of genuine intelligence.When IQ goes up, genuine intelligence automatically rises in sync.Even in this scenario, a large effect of
education on IQ would only be impressive if it were durable.In the short story
"Flowers for Algernon," a mentally retarded man named Charlie Gordon receives
an experimental treatment to cure his disability.Charlie's intelligence eventually rises to
the level of genius.Tragically, though,
the transformation is short-lived.By
the end of the story, all of Charlie's intellectual progress evaporates.In one sense, the experiment worked.In a deeper sense, the experiment failed.
"Flowers for Algernon" is science fiction, but life mirrors
art.Making IQ higher is easy.Keeping
IQ higher is hard.Researchers call this
"fade-out."We see fade-out in early
childhood education programs.After six
years in the famous Milwaukee Project, experimental subjects' IQs were 32
points higher than controls'.By age
fourteen, this advantage had declined to 10 points.In the Perry Preschool program, experimental
subjects gained 13 points of IQ, but all of this vanished by age 8.Head Start raises pre-schoolers' IQs by a few
points, but the gains disappear by the end of kindergarten.
You could object that pre-schoolers are unusually likely to
forget what they learn.The pattern,
however, extends all the way through high school.Extensive research on "summer learning loss" compares
students' scores at the end of one school year to their scores at the beginning
of the next school year.The average
student intellectually regresses roughly one
full month during a three-month summer vacation.The older the students, the steeper their
decline.For reading, to take the
clearest case, first- and second-graders actually slightly improve over the
summer.By the time students are in
middle school, however, one summer vacation wipes out over three months of
Educators tend to see summer learning loss as an argument
for year-round school.If summer makes
students stupid, let's abolish summer.The
key flaw in this argument: You can't keep kids in school forever.Everyone graduates eventually.Once you
graduate, you're no longer in school - and learning loss kicks in.To quote "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua, "Every
day you don't practice is a day that you're getting worse."
Does education have any
effect on genuine intelligence?Despite decades of research, we really don't know.What we do know is that education has far
less effect than meets the eye.The
effect of education on intelligence may not be entirely hollow, but it is largely hollow.The effect of education on intelligence may
not be entirely temporary, but it is
largely temporary.School might
permanently make you slightly smarter.As we shall see next chapter, though, this can't explain more than a
sliver of the effect of education on income.
 See especially Ceci, "How Much Does Schooling
Influence General Intelligence and Its Cognitive Components?," pp.705-8.
 Carlsson, Dahl, and Rooth, "The Effect of Schooling
on Cognitive Skills"; Steltz et al, "The Effect of Schooling on the Development
of Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence"
 Hausknecht et al, "Retesting in Selection," p.381.
 Hausknecht et al, "Retesting in Selection,"
p.380-1.Commercial claims about the
effectiveness of SAT preparation classes are however grossly overstated: see e.g.
Powers and Rock, "Effects of Coaching on SAT I."
 Cooper et al, "The Effects of Summer Vacation on
Achievement Test Scores."Most of this
research focuses on "achievement tests" rather than "IQ tests," but the content
closely overlaps.Math and reading
questions are staples on both kinds of tests.[Also get Heyns stuff on IQ specifically?]