Born stupid

2018-09-16T01:32:21+01:00September 15th, 2018|Featured|

If I've learned anything over the last year or so it's that intelligence - whatever we believe that to be[1] - is not innate. Whilst it seems hard to deny that some of our potential for becoming intelligent is genetically endowed, it ought to be obvious that our ability to reason is entirely dependent on our environment.[2] If you doubt this, try to reason about something of which you know absolutely nothing. The impossibility of such an act ought to make it clear that the faculty of reason is dependent on knowledge. Were someone to raise a child in complete isolation [...]

The Case Against Education

2018-03-23T09:00:26+00:00March 17th, 2018|Featured|

I've been reading the economist Bryan Caplan's new book, The Case Against Education with great interest. His is very much a contrarian point of view: that most of the time and effort spent on the project of education is wasted. Cue steep intake of breath. He's not saying time and money spent on an individual's education is a waste, but that the billions of tax dollars spent on educating society is, in large part, misplaced. He compares an individual's education to standing up in a concert; if one or two people stand up then they're guaranteed a better view of the [...]

Can we develop a ‘love of learning’?

2022-04-02T15:29:13+01:00January 13th, 2018|Featured|

The scholar and the world! The endless strife, The discord in the harmonies of life! The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books; The market-place, the eager love of gain, Whose aim is vanity, and whose end is pain! Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus Why are some people healthier than others? This might sound like a bit of silly question. The answer is surely obvious: some people eat better and exercise more than others. But is that all there is to it? Couldn't 'healthiness' be attributed, at least in part, to our genes? Might some of us be born with a greater capacity for health than others? We know that various physical traits - eye and hair colour, height, weight, certain specific genetic disorders - absolutely are inherited, so why not a general factor of healthiness? [...]

Teaching to make children cleverer: Part 1

2018-01-07T15:15:49+00:00January 5th, 2018|Featured|

I've argued previously that the aim of education ought to be to make children cleverer. If I'm right, then not only is it desirable, it's also possible to achieve this end. But before we can do so, we need to make sure we have a solid understanding of precisely which aspects of intelligence we might be able to boost. In What Is Intelligence? James Flynn suggests a number of factors that make up an individual's intelligence: Mental acuity - the ability to come up with solutions to problems about which we have no prior knowledge Habits of mind - the ways [...]

Are IQ tests biased or meaningless?

2017-09-15T17:34:44+01:00September 15th, 2017|Featured|

Since my last foray into the world of intelligence testing, I've done a lot of reading about the idea that a) IQ tests are culturally biased and b) that the entire concept of intelligence is culturally biased. I want to preface my conclusions by reiterating the following points: I do not believe we should ever use IQ tests in schools to classify students, or to predict their academic acheivement. I do not believe that any group of people is in any way superior to any other group. The fact that various studies show differences in the IQ scores of men and [...]

Whatever the question is, intelligence is the answer

2017-06-26T07:55:06+01:00June 25th, 2017|Featured|

Here are the slides I used in the talk I gave at this year's Education Festival: Whatever the question is, intelligence is the answer from David Didau The antipathy of very many otherwise sensible people to the concept of intelligence is really quite remarkable. This aversion seems only to be increased by bringing up the subject of IQ tests. The idea that IQ tests are only useful for showing how good some people are at taking IQ tests is a deeply ignorant view based upon a breathtaking piece of intellectual dishonesty. It's difficult to believe that people like Professor Guy Claxton [...]

What teachers need to know about intelligence – Part 2: The effects of education

2017-05-22T15:24:05+01:00May 22nd, 2017|psychology|

In Part 1 of this series I laid out why IQ matters and that, far from being a banal measure of merely of how well some people do in a series of irrelevant tests, IQ actually has real power to predict people's life chances. What seems incontrovertibly true is that a higher IQ leads to a better life. This could easily seem like a counsel of despair if it automatically meant that children with lower IQs lived shorter, less fulfilled lives. Thankfully, there is something we can do and in this post I want to show the effects education has on raising IQ. [...]

What teachers need to know about intelligence – Part 1: Why IQ matters

2017-05-22T15:14:22+01:00May 21st, 2017|psychology|

Intelligence is required to be able to know that a man knows not. Montaigne Although it’s become a truism to say we know relatively little about how our brains work, we know a lot more now than we used to. Naturally, everything we know is contingent and subject to addition, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it or pretend we don’t know enough to draw some fairly clear conclusions. Despite the many myths surrounding it, intelligence is a good candidate for being the most well researched and best understood characteristic of the human brain. It’s also probably the most stable construct [...]

A summary of my arguments about education

2017-08-16T13:59:14+01:00April 13th, 2017|psychology|

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all he knew. Oliver Goldsmith A tradition without intelligence is not worth having. T. S. Eliot Debating ideas in education - and anywhere else - is essential if we want to improve the lot of children and society. Over the past 6 years of so I've learned huge amounts from taking part in this back and forth and have, as well as becoming a good deal more knowledgeable, become a lot more adept at thinking critically about the ideas I encounter. My views have changed a [...]

One more thing I want from school leaders

2016-06-30T23:22:40+01:00December 9th, 2015|leadership|

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. Goethe A few weeks back I wrote this post laying out my wishlist for the 'perfect' school leader. Since then, one startling omission has become clear. I addition to wanting school leaders to be humble, loving, determined, focussed and possessing of vision I also want them to be clever. Too many people are, for a variety of reasons (but probably the biggest is confidence,) promoted above their ability. This results in the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the finding that the poorest performers are the least aware of [...]

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