Charles Murray made something of a splash with his first – highly controversial – book back in 1994; “The Bell Curve”. Back then, he argued that genetically inherited intelligence was the single most important guide to future success and that IQ was the only effective predictor of achievement. He also suggests that race plays a significant role in IQ – even when you allow for other factors such as economic status.

“The Bell Curve” has the dubious distinction of being the only New York Times bestselling book to go permanently out of print.

His new book; “Real Education” expands on the theory. He proposes that only 20% of all college students are actually bright enough to be taking a college degree. The rest should skip college and aim towards more menial (but well paid) roles. He was recently interviewed by the New York Times by Deborah Solomon and defended his position;

I wonder if there is a single, solitary, real-live public-school teacher who agrees with the proposition that it’s all a matter of will. To me, the fact that ability varies — and varies in ways that are impossible to change — is a fact that we learn in first grade.”

As a teacher and a parent, I couldn’t agree less. I have seen kids move from the bottom of the class to the top, and vice versa, as a result of changes in their outlook. A parent taking more time out of their schedule to support their child’s learning can have a huge impact on performance. An intrinsically motivated child of average IQ will outperform a “gifted” kid who doesn’t put in the effort.

I imagine the controversy will be good for selling books. I only hope that this perspective does not gain any traction with policy makers.

Via Kottke