Because I am either a chronic underachiever or because I simply do not have enough ’g,’ I have absolutely no interest in re-opening the can of worms that Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve opened in 1994. But being over-prudent has never been one of my setbacks either, so here it is. His Opinion Journal essay today and the promise of more to come in the next few days on the subject, is certainly worthy of serious consideration by those who think they have enough ’g’ to handle it. My sense (I won’t call it a view, having not studied the subject in any serious way) is that there is probably some merit to it.
My experience working at my kids’ kindergarten for two years, seems to confirm my sense of the thing. This school is a very intense, almost one-to-one teaching experience. But no matter what you do with some kids, you get little back. It is hard to say why that is. It appears that some have nothing going on inside their minds--as if they were asleep mentally. One doesn’t know if that is because the kid is still immature or if the kid just hasn’t got it. Still others are so advanced that they pay you no mind at all because you and the idea of learning bores them. There are other kids who run circles around you and dazzle you with brilliance. Most are just work-a-day plodders like my kids and myself. To be sure, you can get better results with this individualized kind of teaching--but I’m not even so sure about that as I used to be. So much depends on the wisdom and the experience of the teacher.
I used to have a history teacher in high school who had the reputation of being difficult. On the other hand, he told us that we could all get an "A" in his class if we really wanted it. I don’t think he really believed what he was saying in the strictest sense, but it was a noble lie. He said it with so much passion, anyway, that I believed him. And because I believed him, I did get an "A." I knew a few students who worked as hard (or harder) as I did and could still only get "Bs." But I suppose they might only have achieved a C or D if they hadn’t tried so hard to get the "A." Of course, the grades don’t really mean anything in the scheme of life, I know. But the lesson of learning to believe you are capable of more than you think you are is indispensable. That is almost always true. Perhaps the most we can hope for from education is that it do its level best to inspire each kid to give his best.