Thursday, January 18, 2007

Charles Murray on Education

Charles Murray of The Bell Curve and Losing Ground fame has written a three part series on education over at Opinion Journal.

In the first article, he discusses the enfortunantly controversial fact that half of all children are below average in intelligence and there is only so much any teacher can do with them. This should temper our expectations of what education can accomplish. In addition he points, and many of his critics never mention this, that he views the importance of IQ in living a good life as overrated. Intelligence is no guarantee of moral conduct.

In the third article, Murray points out that our future depends critically on how we educate those with unusually high intelligence, especially in terms of encourging wisdom. Whether we like it our not, a cognitive elite runs the government, academia, the culture, and to a great extent the major institutions of the economy (This is the one part of the essays that I differ with him on slightly. I think the economy is so large that the cognitive elite do not run it per se, but they do they have a significant influence. However since the 80-20 Rule holds I could be wrong. If the smartest 20 percent of the population does 80 percent of the work, then he's probably right anyway). The fact that primary and secondary schools spend so little on educating the gifted should be cause for concern.

The second essay, and the best in my mind, looks at college and why even many of the cognitive elite shouldn't be in college. I think he hits on what maybe the biggest problem with college today and thats "the false premium that our culture has put on a college degree." So many people have college degrees who shouldn't that the value of a degree has dropped like a rock. You almost need a graduate degree now to really seperate yourself and even graduate degrees are way to common. I also think that employers place way too much reliance on college degrees. Who cares if you don't have an MBA if you can do the job and do it well? I agree with Murray completely that we need a major increase in vocational education.

I highly recommend this series of articles.

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