Heresy against the Cult of Equality is no longer permitted in the public sphere. Its dogma – that people have equal genetic potential which is simply shaped differently by their divergent lifetime experiences – must go unchallenged.
Here we have a mainstream conservative just summarising the results of basic research findings about the heritability of intelligence. To put it in simple terms, he says stupid people are born stupid and there’s not much you can do about it. But, of course, he phrases it much more politely. Didn’t help him, though.
So what are the things that schools cannot change? Having immersed myself in psychology, particularly psychometrics, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that it is naïve to think schools can do much to ameliorate the effects of inequality. I don’t just mean socio-economic inequality; I also mean differences in intelligence. A child’s general cognitive ability is the strongest single predictor of how well they do in their GCSEs, with differences in IQ accounting for more than half of the variance in exam results. See this 2007 study, for instance, which involved tracking 70,000 English schoolchildren over a five-year period. It’s a finding that has been replicated several times.
Can schools do anything to raise children’s general cognitive ability? The answer is maybe, but we haven’t yet discovered how to do it. Intelligence is a highly heritable characteristic, which is to say that more than half the variance in IQ at a population level is due to genetic differences, with less than half due to environmental differences. It’s true that the heritability of IQ is lower among children than it is among adults, with the environment playing a bigger role during adolescence. But the impact of the environment on children’s attainment, even during these formative years, is still fairly negligible – lower than most educationalists believe. Overall, children’s genes account for between 60 and 70 per cent of the variance in GCSE results, with IQ accounting for about half that genetic influence.
This appeared as one side of a debate, meaning a contrary view was published at the same time. But this wasn’t enough. After a storm of criticism, the article was taken down and an apology given.
One of the pieces submitted, by Toby Young, we disagreed with. We wanted to give the opposing view, so we published Toby’s piece alongside a rebuttal from Sonia Blandford, who has recently written on similar subjects. The aim was to drive debate. But we shouldn’t have published his blog, even with the rebuttal: it was against what we believe is true and against our values and vision. We apologise. Although we don’t want to provide a platform for those views we also don’t want to cover over our mistake, so this note also serves as a record.
At its irrational core, the Equality Movement is a rebellion against the very idea of natural difference, a rejection of nature itself; and, since science is just nature elucidated, a repudiation of science too.