[OT] Mediocre Britain

Timothy Miller gandalf at DOCTORTIMOTHYMILLER.COM
Mon Aug 29 13:39:55 EDT 2011

On Aug 29, 2011, at 8:50 AM, Camm wrote:

> This topic has been quite interesting and narrow minded ...........

In essence, intelligence represents the rate at which a person learns. For instance the average elementary school child learns to read at the rate of one academic year per chronological year. Some elementary school children learn to read at the rate of two academic years per chronological year. Others at one-half academic year per chronological year. All three of these cases lie within the normal range.

For instance, most high school graduates can learn to do useful things in LiveCode. If we could develop equal-sized units of LiveCode mastery, some would learn at the rate of one Mastery Unit per month, some at ten MUs per month. Both of these cases also likely lie within the normal range.

As a general rule, the ability to learn one subject is highly correlated with the ability to learn another. This is a "fuzzy" rule, of course.

Contrary to urban legends about good and bad schools, great and terrible teachers, intelligence is a robust and persistent attribute, after age six or seven. Some people are more intelligent than others. Intelligence is also a rather fuzzy attribute, of course, but it's real and it makes a difference.

We don't know how to increase intelligence. If it can be done, interventions would probably have to be implemented between age one and six years. It's not impossible it can be accomplished later on in life, but evidence to date suggests this is a long shot. (We do know that adults who have intellectually stimulating occupations gradually increase in intelligence, very slowly, over periods of decades.)

Intelligence predicts about half of the total variance in academic success. The other half is predicted by a grab bag of factors, including academic interest, ambition, persistence, emotional stability, and luck.

Intelligence also predicts about half of the variance in non-academic pursuits that require intelligence. Self-taught computer experts, for example.

Most research indicates that about half the variance in intelligence is heritable. Estimates range from 40 to 70%. However, new discoveries about epigenetics blur those numbers. Grandma's life experience, before Mom was conceived, could make a difference. We know approximately nothing about the epigenetics of intelligence.

Contrary to urban legend, intelligence and common sense are closely related. Yes, a few very intelligent people seem clueless. But cluelessness is most common among the least intelligent.

A standardized IQ test is the best way we know of to measure intelligence, and an IQ score is the best single number. These are not perfect measures. Perfection is not possible, because intelligence is a fuzzy attribute.

it's probably not very important to measure intelligence, except for research purposes. Better to give each person a chance to demonstrate his or her intelligence by actual performance.

Many of the educational problems we're concerned about on this thread occur because children (or young adults) who learn at dramatically different rates inhabit the same classrooms where they are expected to achieve approximately equal academic success. This approach seems doomed to failure, and it is in fact failing as we speak.

This whole thread is necessary and inevitable because modern industrialized democracies are schizophrenic about intelligence. On one hand, the foregoing is apparent to anyone with eyes and ears. On the other hand, the foregoing is deeply offensive to people who put a high value on egalitarian beliefs, e.g., "All men are created equal." And Brown vs. The Board of Education. "Every child has the right to attend a 'good school.'"

Another part of the problem is that modern society has been promoted to its level of incompetence. There is a minimum level of intelligence necessary to function well and participate wisely in a modern democracy. That level is higher than the intelligence of the average citizen. Hence "Jersey Shore."

This conversation, i.e.,  the "Mediocre Britain" thread, happens every day, in many venues, all over the industrialized world. The conversations are necessary, but there is currently no progress toward resolution. It takes a long time for societies to work out such difficult controversies. For example, Great Britain needed about 100 years to settle some simple controversies about representative democracy (from early debate about the first reform act to the voting reforms of 1918). It took the U.S. even longer.

I have trouble accounting for my weird compulsion to write about this, on such an inappropriate forum. I guess it's because I believe the foregoing ought to be common knowledge. In my opinion, certain social and educational problems cannot be solved until the foregoing is widely understood.

I hope to post no more about it.



More information about the Use-livecode mailing list