Real Men of Genius

A day or so ago, I blogged about Charles Murray’s somewhat pessimistic views on education – e.g., the impact of schooling is fundamentally limited by underlying intelligence, g, which is normally distributed in the population. Doubtless this genetic determinism earned snorts from supporters of emotional intelligence, multiple intelligence, etc.

Today, Tyler Cowen links a new blog, The Genius in All of Us, which could have been established to counterattack Mr. Murray’s thesis (though the author, journalist and author David Shenk, hasn’t mentioned Mr. Murray specifically). It looks like a blend of cognitive science, profiles of geniuses like David Beckham, and genius-related current events.

  • Murray: “How about raising intelligence? It would be nice if we knew how, but we do not.”
  • Shenk: “For a hundred years, we have assumed that we are all subject to strict genetic limits on our intelligence, creativity, and agility — limits that define who we are and how well we succeed. Now evidence is mounting that these limits simply do not exist.”
  • Murray: “[T]he top 10% of the intelligence distribution has a huge influence on whether our economy is vital or stagnant, our culture healthy or sick, our institutions secure or endangered. … Our future depends crucially on how we educate the next generation of people gifted with unusually high intelligence.” [Mr. Murray’s emphasis.]
  • Shenk: “First, a program focused on the top 10% I.Q. scorers diverts resources from the people who need it most — the 90% who aren’t as likely to succeed and therefore could benefit the most from extra help. Second, if we want our schools to truly nurture talent — encourage great achievement from those with special potential, I.Q. is not the place to start. In fact, it may be the worst possible place.”

Mr. Murray’s quotes above are from a three-part Wall Street Journal series: Intelligence in the Classroom, What’s Wrong with Vocational School, and Aztecs vs. Greeks. Mr. Shenk’s quotes are from the following posts at his blog: “Gifted and Talented” School Programs, Part 1 and Untapped Potential.

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