Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count by Richard Nisbett

7. Mind the Gap

  • Can the gap be closed? The data suggests that programs that increase contact time on cognitive work for poor and minority children can do just that. Other programs with positive results involve significant time spent visiting homes and providing parents with parenting lessons. High expectations are also necessary. It is important to make sure that students know that their intelligence is something under their own control. This alone promotes harder work and higher achievement. Never the less, it’s not reasonable to expect the gaps to totally close as the well-off are always going to find ways to get a better education for their children both in school and outside of school.
  • Pre-school programs show gains in IQs that tend to fade over the years although the children show higher achievement and are more likely to press on to high school graduation and college. Several programs are summarized here. Charter schools and vouchers in general show no gains, but Richard points out that KIPP schools have seemed to work and explains why. Blacks show increased gaps in high school, which may be due to social pressure. For blacks that do go to college, the gaps shrink. Richard closes the chapter with rational for how we can and should afford the types of interventions that work. Share with policy makers you know.

8. Advantage Asia

  • The available research shows that Asians and Asian-American have IQ’s about the same as people with European decent. It is also clear that when it comes to school, they outperform Europeans. Generally, the best American schools perform at the level of the lowest Asian schools. It’s obvious that the great performance of Asians is simply the result of harder work associated with their attitudes that are culturally derived. Asians attend schools for more days and more hours per day and student motivation is much higher. Americans are more likely to believe that performance is due to innate ability. Persistence in the face of failure is very much a part of the Asian tradition of self-improvement. They are accustom to criticism while Westerners avoid it.
  • The second half of this chapter is devoted to habits of thought. Easterners pay attention to a wide range of objects and events (holistic thought) while Westerners tend to focus on a relatively small part of the environment (analytic thought). Easterners are more likely to become engineers while Westerners are better suited for science. Western domination of Nobel prizes is one result of this. Westerners seem to be more curious.

9. People of the Book (Jewish Intelligence and Culture)

  • When you look around the world for pockets of intelligence by culture, you don’t have to look far before you run into Jewish populations. Richard looks at various genetic explanations for this and finds them mostly lacking. Their intelligence and over achievement may date back to 64 c.e. when a high priest demanded that all males be able to read the Talmud, a very complex text indeed. This allowed Jews to engage in occupations that required literacy, numeracy, and higher intelligence. It brought wealth and greater survival, which meant more offspring. There may have also been a genetic advantage that resulted in a more effective transmission of nerve signals. It’s clear that jewish cultures prize education and value intelligence. Even with some IQ advantage the achievement level is far beyond what IQ would predict. (Doug: Richard didn’t say this, but Jewish and Asian cultures seem to have a lot in common. Now go back to the beginning of this summary and review my summary of the last chapter, which will help you raise intelligent children.)
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