BELL CURVE RELOADED ?
Thanks to reader Dominic C.
, I was alerted to a trio of articles by Charles Murray
, the influential libertarian public intellectual and author of The Bell Curve, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950
and numerous other books. The articles are short and vigorously argued:
"Intelligence in the Classroom
"What's Wrong with Vocational School?"
"Aztecs vs. Greeks
Murray writes about IQ and public education from the perspective of the psychometrician and social policy analyst. This is not to say he is wrong - most of Murray's points of argument are well grounded in peer-reviewed consensus and are old hat to experts, even if they sound controversial to laymen - simply that his position is derived from the predictive reliability garnered from looking at the aggregate mean scores of points on the bell curve. In setting national policy with an eye to cost-benefit ratios this is a perfectly appropriate perspective for discussion; indeed, many of Murray's concerns about increasing spending on vocational and gifted educatuion would be in the best interest of millions of school children.
The problem lies primarily in the rigid and deterministic conception of "g" used by Murray, rather than a more fluid, neurobiological one that accepts "g" as one of several major drivers in cognition or as one factor in a complex system of intrinsic processing power, efficiency gained through practice and environmental stimulus to a brain that appears to have a massively modular structure. For example, creativity and insight, some of the most valuable aspects of human thought, overlap but not directly correlate with IQ scores. The ability to handle increasing complexity of variables and mental processing speed are also not always in sync, either.
While Murray is generally correct if you construe his points narrowly, a certain degree of humility about our lack of knowledge about human brain operations is in order. While we see, for example, correlative evidence of brain activity with mental and physical tasks in MRI studies, we have much to learn about what these patterns of activity represent. Intuitive thinking, insight, "fingertip feeling
" are not quantifiable with the same ease or reliability as are verbal or mathematical reasoning or even spatial-pattern recognition.
Food for thought.LINKS TO RELATED POSTS AT:Gene ExpressionEide Neurolearning Blog