School Education and Mental Ability

Psychologist Christopher Winship on the causal effects of schooling, similarities between athletics and intellect, and the lack of agreement among the researchers of this problem

videos | July 23, 2014

Does going to school increase your intelligence? Or is mental ability totally deternimed by genes? Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University Christopher Winship speaks on parallels between intellectual development and athletic and musical training.

There has been a long term debate about whether going to school makes you smarter or whether differences in how smart people are basically determined by one’s genetics, something that ones inherit, so that how smart you are if more or less determined at birth. This question became one of an enormous national interest with the publication of a book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray called “The Bell Curve”, in which they argued that one’s inherent genes were far, far more important than one’s family or the environment more generally, and success in life, and that the principal explanation for this was that people’s mental intelligence, what we often call IQ, intelligence quotient, is something that is fixed throughout life.

I may give a parallel analogy — imagine being a concert violinist. Again, there’re huge fixed differences in people’s basic music ability. Many of us no matter how long we ever practiced the violin would never end up at the Boston Symphony – one of the world’s best. On the other hand, as many parents, including myself, will tell you, anybody who picks up a violin and starts to try to play it, there are many, many weeks before you hear anything that sounds reasonably like music, right? You’re holding your ears for quite, quite some time. But then if you do talk to a concert violinist, they will also tell you that it’s very important that they practice every day, because if they go weeks or months without practicing, they do a lot worse.

Of course, education is not a singular thing. So it also would be very useful to look at types of education: is it a more applied education, say, going to business school, versus a liberal arts education, do those have different kinds of effects? And questions about whether different schools or different methods of education end up having different effects on mental ability. So we’ve really started with this one very basic debate about whether education – you learn anything at all, does it make you smarter – to really that there should be a much more detailed, finer set of questions of what kinds of education might or might not affect what kinds of mental abilities. Those are questions that need to be answered.

Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School of Government faculty member
Did you like it? Share it with your friends!
  • Johnd708

    certainly like your website however you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the truth nevertheless I will surely come back again. deaekddkgedd

  • http://bgcgccgddakedead.blogspot.com/ Smithb911

    hi!,I love your writing so much! share we communicate more approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert in this space to resolve my problem. Maybe that’s you! Looking forward to peer you. bgcgccgddakedead

  • Johnc174

    This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused. ggkgdkfdcgfb

  • http://eafefkaddkbedadd.blogspot.com/ Smithf976

    Hi Dear, are you in fact visiting this website daily, if so then you will definitely take fastidious knowledge. eafefkaddkbedadd

  • http://is.gd/ChBL5I Nike Monster Shox

    Steep and Cheap. Outdoor gear and nike air max running trainers clothing at discount prices. Whiskey militia Deal Tracker. Whiskey Militia. Skate and Snowboard Gear at discount prices.
    Nike Monster Shox http://is.gd/ChBL5I

  • http://www.neighbour123.com/blog/show/nike-air-max-2011-women-leather-shoes-released-a-new-generation-of-sports-shoes ike Air Max 2011 Women Leather Shoes released a new generation of sports shoes

    As such,roshe nikes online Spend Less Looking good does not mean you have to spend a fortune on designer bags and accessories.
    ike Air Max 2011 Women Leather Shoes released a new generation of sports shoes http://www.neighbour123.com/blog/show/nike-air-max-2011-women-leather-shoes-released-a-new-generation-of-sports-shoes

  • http://forum.therasmus.de/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=229101 breathable shoes

    Discover top brand running trainers womens,Louis Vuitton outlet online supply womens nike max air with great deals.
    breathable shoes http://forum.therasmus.de/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=229101

  • http://is.gd/IiBTMa Cheap Nike Air Max 1 Sale at Nike Air Max Outlet Store

    Wholesale all kinds of Jerseys,cheap nfl jerseys,cheap soccer jerseys,nike free run 5.0 womens blue free shipping can save up to 70% !
    Cheap Nike Air Max 1 Sale at Nike Air Max Outlet Store http://is.gd/IiBTMa

  • http://is.gd/OO6wPy Jordan Air Jordan 4 Retro Mens White Red

    For my best friend Claire who is due this dec .x

    Published items
    0514
    To be published soon
    +70

    Most viewed

  • 1
    Bruno Gingras
  • 2
    Russel Foster
  • 3
    Rudolf Simek
  • 4
    David L. Carrasco
  • 5
    Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen
  • 6
    Steven Brams
  • 7
    Richard Parkinson
  • 8
    Norris J. Lacy
  • 9
    Stephen Read
  • New