2008 March 01 Saturday
Smaller Classes Help Smarter Kids More

The left-liberal standard social science model leaves its believers continually baffled by easily explainable observations.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A Northwestern University study investigating the effects of class size on the achievement gap between high and low academic achievers suggests that high achievers benefit more from small classes than low achievers, especially at the kindergarten and first grade levels.

The faithful believers in the supremacy of current environment (as compared to past selective pressures and genetic differences) think that somehow or other they can change environment and make the lower performers into higher performers. But if we just accept the overwhelming evidence that some kids are smarter than others then suddenly the world becomes so much easier to understand. High achievers are smarter, on average, than lower achievers.

Possessed with the obvious truth that some are smarter than others we can explain this reported result. Smaller classes reduce the disruptive effects of hyperactive and poorly behaving kids (fewer kids mean fewer interruptions). So more hours in the classroom get used for teaching. Well, smart kids absorb more per unit of teaching. So smarter kids become knowledgeable more rapidly than mentally slower kids given the same number of hours spent receiving instruction.

Yet another hope for how to close the achievement gap fails.

“While decreasing class size may increase achievement on average for all types of students, it does not appear to reduce the achievement gap within a class,” said Spyros Konstantopoulos, assistant professor at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Konstantopoulos’ study, which appears in the March issue of Elementary School Journal, questions commonly held assumptions about class size and the academic achievement gap -- one of the most debated and perplexing issues in education today.

The academic achievement gap is perplexing? Really? Professors of education and social policy are perplexed by easily understood phenomena? How long will the standard social science model survive? When will academics embrace reality about the human mind and genes? We differ greatly in our intellectual abilities due to genetic differences. Accept this obvious truth and the world becomes such a more comprehensible place.

Update: Steve Sailer points to a WSJ article where experts can't figure out why Finns do so well on international scholastic tests. Says Steve:

Gosh, I wonder what the reason could be. I'm totally baffled. It's not like Minnesota kids usually score near the top of the NAEP tests in America.

Oh, wait, they do…

Steve, why compare to Finland to Minnesota? I'm like totally baffled. They are on different continents in different cultures and all right thinking (er, left thinking) people know that only culture and not genetics matters,.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 March 01 10:25 PM  Education

HellKaiserRyo said at March 1, 2008 11:19 PM:

What difference is that going to make? I do not think such information can make a difference solving inequality in achievement. I do not know any big government or free-market policy that would solve this.

But, I am a rare breed of liberal: I acknowledge such hereditary differences in ability. However, I want to maintain an egalitarian ethos so I do not talk about problems that currently have no solution. Liberals will eventually acknowledge this and support policies to reduce inequality when the means are available.

And as a liberal I support higher taxes on the rich to pay for gene therapies and ampakines. :)

Ignacio said at March 2, 2008 12:08 AM:

Therein lies the problem: expecting equality in achievement. The issue is not the inequality in achievement, but the unrealistic expectation that equality is possible.

Dave said at March 2, 2008 5:28 PM:

So HellKaiser, you want to tax those nasty rich people to pay for the elimination of genetic profiles you don't like and the creation of a superior one?
I believe thats been tried before.

The only way to achieve total equality is if we were all exactly the same genetically and lived in the same enviroment, or at least so much the same as made no difference, would you seriously want to live in a world like that? Even if it was possible, which it isn't.

HellKaiserRyo said at March 2, 2008 5:53 PM:

Well, people shouldn't be punished for being born with the wrong set of genes and it is the main reason why I support redistribution. What do you mean that low intelligence is a "genetic profile" that I do not like? Do you like low intelligence? Do you think it is genetic profile that is desirable?

I like your use of the word "genetic profile." It reminds me this quote by Charles Murray:

As the biological basis for personal qualities statistically associated with social problems—low IQ, impulsiveness, short time-horizons, sociopathy, indolence—is understood, the old arguments about causality (e.g., "It’s poverty and disadvantage that create the low IQ, not the other way around") will be resolved. There will still be a large role for environmental causes and solutions to social problems, but understanding the portion that is biological will permit analysts of the future to make fairly precise forecasts about the extent to which changes in fertility patterns may be expected to affect crime and poverty. The only difference will be that the old eugenicists had to rely on a rough statement ("the lower classes"), whereas eugenicists of the future will be able to be more precise ("people with the following genetic profiles").


Randall Parker said at March 2, 2008 6:29 PM:


Don't want to punish a person due to their genetic profile? Are you sure about that in all cases? Suppose we can show that a particular man has a genetic profile that makes him pathologically violent and a danger to society. Would you want to allow that guy to roam free? I can tell you I don't. Preventive detention against the genetically most violent seems justifiable to me.


Actually, Hitler tried to eliminate superior genetic profiles. The Jews he killed were smarter on average than the Germans.

I'm in favor of something milder than killing: prevent reproduction that passes along genes for stupidity, violence, and psychopathology.

Dave said at March 2, 2008 7:16 PM:

People shouldn't be punished for being born with a greater aptitude for a better work ethic either. Some people dedicate their life to hardwork and I think they and their families should gain the fruits of that labour, not be taken from them by the government. You seem to on the one hand be against natural evolution but in favour of engineered evolution? (you trust the genetic engineers and those who control them to play god?)

It seems like many people who accept hereditary differences in ability are fixated on IQ, ofcourse intelligence is important but I think there's far more to ones charactor than that, and yes I think many of those charactoristics are also in part hereditary.
So to say you are in favour of making people smarter is a gross over simplication in my opinion. Take for example a controversial issue like abortion, one side could say that the less intelligent are the ones who refuse to recognise that an early stage of human is real enough to be considered a life, the other side believe the less intelligent are people sticking to a 2000 year old religous dogma that isn't needed in the modern world and see the desires of the mother to be the most intelligent consideration.
I know that debate is complex and I'm not attempting to make clear all positions, my point is that what you consider the most intelligent is often a matter of opinion. Is not our stance on the abortion debate more likely to be desided based on the level of largely innate maternal/paternal instincts than any level of 'IQ'? and if so how much else that could be put down to differing levels of intelligence is actually highly influenced by other innate characteristics.

Will it even be possible to genetically engineer increased IQ without inadvertently altering other parts of the human charactor?

Dave said at March 2, 2008 7:57 PM:

Well I didn't mention Hitler and he was far from the only one to attempt some kind of ethnic cleansing based on their opinion of how to improve society, I believe you have mentioned yourself on this blog that societies of many years ago used to constantly try to wipe each other out.
I don't know where you get the stats on Jews being more intelligent that the average German from, but as you know from studying US stats, states with a large number of German descendants have high IQ, and Germany today is a high IQ country.
But again theres more to hereditary characteristics than IQ, and Hitler judged there to be something he didn't like about Jews, if he had had the same intentions but instead of killing people he used the tactic of "prevent reproduction" for those genetic profiles he considered a problem would that have been ok?

I very much favour genetic engineering to remove disability, but no government or central authority should be deciding what genes or genetic profiles should or shouldn't be allowed the possibility of existance. As for violent criminals, if they were locked up for a proper amount of time after committing a crime they wouldn't have as much chance to pass on their genes anyway so its a criminal justice problem not a genetic engineering one.

Brian said at March 2, 2008 8:08 PM:

I just came across this acticle on msnbc and thought how it relates the obvious hereditary inequity of intelligence being discussed:


In the article I find it interesting that instead of acknowledging and exploring the role genetics play in whether a student has strong working memory, the article only discusses that there must be a way to teach kids how to get around this defecit so they can get good grades; "For the girl with the reading problem, Levine's solution was for her to own a set of school books so she could underline key points when she reads. Then she can read those points into a digital tape recorder and play them back"

I having a feeling that poor working memory is going to effect performance in virtually every mental activity one engages in- using a tape recorder to help with doing homework is a band-aid that will only mask the problem from a middle school report card. I think that the only practical solution is to find the genes associated with poor working memory and change them.

Wouldn't it be better for society in general if we could improve the general intelligence/genetics of all members, instead of just the smarter getting smarter? I mean, no matter how "stupid" you are, you'd still jump at the opportunity to improve yours or your childrens intellectual capabilities, wouldn't you? Perhaps I am naive, but I cant imagine any culture or strata of society that doesnt value intellegence. If increasing the intellegence of the less genetically fortunate causes less crime and more productiveness amongst lower classes, wouldnt the taxpayers be willing to fund the availiblity of some genetic improvement for the benefit of all citizens? Seems like it would be federal money well spent.

Bob Badour said at March 3, 2008 9:02 AM:


The Amish and Mennonites do not value intelligence or education. Of course, they are also unlikely to avail themselves of advanced reproductive technology. Unless maybe someone offers IVF in a plain black petri dish.

I expect some parents will favour athletic ability over intelligence. And, of course, who knows what the Chinese might want from their new African colonies.

Joe Doakes said at March 3, 2008 4:49 PM:

Regarding the Mennonites and Amish "not valuing intelligence or education", please look at the rural Iowa Mennonite School (1421 540th Street SW, Kalona, IA)(http://www.iamenno.pvt.k12.ia.us), a country high school in rural Iowa. It is filled with the children of local Mennonite farmers, tradesmen and small business owners. The students come from farms and nearby small towns like Kalona, Iowa.

From the school's website:

"At Iowa Mennonite School a student can grow academically, socially, mentally, and above all, spiritually. Quality programming abounds in every area of life at IMS. Class averages over the past nine years have ranked at the 96th percentile nationally on the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) with the most frequent rankings at the 99th percentile. Approximately 80-85 percent of IMS graduates receive post-high school education or training."

These good Christian hardworking people, largely of German descent, are more committed to education than most ofthe finest suburban high schools, and these kids actually work for a living. Typical family size: 3-5 kids. If you know them and their parents as I do, you would be astounded. If I could bottle it and sell it, I could make a million. Go look at the website pictures. Not an embittered junkie goth cynic in the bunch.

Bob Badour said at March 3, 2008 7:37 PM:

And where my sister teaches, the truant officers spend most of their time chasing after Mennonite kids whose parents don't want them to waste time in school. They have even been known to flee to Mexico to escape the horrors of public education.

On balance, that culture does not value education or intelligence. They cannot help it if their parents cursed them with those damned north-west european genes for above average intelligence.

clayton said at March 5, 2008 4:03 PM:

Minnesota is the land of swedes norwegians and germans, those finns are slavic not scandanavian.

In MN all kids are above average, from the lutefisk, walleye and imported salmon. Omega-3s improve IQ. DHA has no substitute in the brain, although DPA can is used when DHA levels decline, you also see a 1000 fold reduction in neurotransmitter activity,

Mensarefugee said at March 7, 2008 3:29 AM:

I very much favour genetic engineering to remove disability, but no government or central authority should be deciding what genes or genetic profiles should or shouldn't be allowed the possibility of existance.

Tru dat. They shouldnt be subsidizing people who couldnt survive in a high tech society on their own merits.

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