Re: [xmca] In case you missed it

From: David Preiss (
Date: Wed Jan 17 2007 - 09:57:48 PST

Indeed. I have no way to say, Tony.

On Jan 17, 2007, at 1:33 PM, Tony Whitson wrote:

> Thanks, David.
> I take it Sternberg's letter has not yet been published. Do we know
> if it will be?
> Meanwhile, here's Murray's second piece in today's paper:
> Too many Americans are going to college
> On Wed, 17 Jan 2007, David Preiss wrote:
>> Dear colleagues,
>> Please see below a letter sent by Robert Sternberg to WSJ as an
>> answer to Murray's piece.
>> David
>> Charles Murray's "Intelligence in the Classroom" is an article by
>> a non-scientist filled with serious distortions and
>> misunderstandings of the current state of scientific theory and
>> research on intelligence.
>> First, Murray is roughly correct in the assertion that "Half of
>> all children are below average in intelligence." This is true in
>> the same sense that half of today's children are below the median
>> (not average) in height, or below the median age of the
>> population. But median heights have risen greatly over the past
>> several generations, as have median age spans. Indeed, research
>> by James Flynn shows conclusively that median IQs have risen as
>> well since 1900. Contrary to the tone of Murray's comments, most
>> of the increase is due to the so-called general factor, not to
>> other factors. So Murray's comments regarding possibilities for
>> educational achievement make no sense. A child of today with an
>> IQ of 100 would have been scored as having a substantially higher
>> IQ 100 years ago. Given that the increase in IQs has been about 9
>> points per generation, that person would have had an IQ in excess
>> of 127 at that time, which would have led to educational
>> predictions very different from Murray's doom-and-gloom
>> predictions. Similarly, a 6-footer today is not much above
>> average and would not be considered particularly tall, whereas 100
>> years ago, he or she would have been looked at as exceptionally tall.
>> Second, IQ is NOT a "ceiling," and I don't know of any responsible
>> psychologist who believes it is. IQ gives rough prediction of a
>> child's school performance, as does socioeconomic status,
>> motivation, and any other number of variables. But none of these
>> variables sets a ceiling on children's performance. First, they
>> are all highly imperfect predictors--success is multi-factorial.
>> Second, they are subject to error of
>> measurement. Third, they are not etched in stone. Research by
>> Stephen Ceci and others has shown that IQ increases as a function
>> of schooling, and that it is the schooling that is responsible for
>> the increase, not the other way around.
>> Third, the temporary effects of interventions to increase
>> intelligence are in large part because the interventions
>> themselves are temporary and usually extremely short-lived. If
>> you have a child living in extreme poverty, in a challenging and
>> possibly dangerous environment, and with parents who are not in a
>> position to provide the best possible education for
>> their children, it is not surprising that short interventions--the
>> kinds most easily funded by grants--are difficult to maintain.
>> Consider an oft-made analogy to exercise. You can exercise to
>> improve your muscles. But if you stop exercising, your muscles
>> revert to what they were before. The same is true of your
>> intelligence, and research by Carmi Schooler and others shows
>> precisely that.
>> Fourth, it is fallacious to believe that brain development is
>> etched in stone. Research by William Greenough, Marian Diamond,
>> and others has shown that learning changes the brain--
>> permanently. Experience matters for brain development. Charles
>> Murray had the good fortune to be exposed to experiences that
>> children in many parts of the United States and elsewhere never
>> will have. Indeed, children growing up in war zones often need to
>> devote all their resources just to staying alive. They cannot
>> have the kind of schooling that optimizes their scores on the
>> tests of which Mr. Murray is so fond.
>> Fifth, our own peer-reviewed, published research has shown that
>> broader measures of abilities--based on the "multiple
>> intelligences" that Murray disdains--can substantially improve
>> prediction of academic success at the college level at the same
>> time that they reduce ethnic-group differences. These assessments
>> do not replace traditional measures--they supplement them. They
>> are not "refutations" of the existence of the analytical skills
>> measured by tests of general ability, but rather, demonstrations
>> that such measures are relatively narrow and incomplete in their
>> measurements of abilities. These conventional tests measure
>> important skills, but not the only skills that matter for academic
>> and other forms of success. Indeed, teaching to a broader range of
>> abilities, our research shows, also can significantly improve school
>> achievement over teaching that is more narrowly focused.
>> In sum, Murray's column gives a false and misleading view of the
>> state of research on intelligence. I blieve responsible
>> scientists will not take it seriously. Unfortunately, many
>> laypeople will not be in a position to
>> realize that the statements are seriously misleading and paint a
>> picture of research on intelligence that does not correspond to
>> reality.
>> Robert J. Sternberg
>> (Robert J. Sternberg is Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences
>> and Professor of Psychology at Tufts University. Previously, he
>> was IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and Professor of
>> Management at Yale University and President of the American
>> Psychological Association.)
>> On Jan 16, 2007, at 5:51 PM, J. Mark Jackson wrote:
>>> This article ran in today's WSJ. The link below takes you
>>> directly to the full article without registration.
>>> Scary, very scary!
>>> pub_detail.asp
>>> Mark
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>> Escuela de Psicología
>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>> Macul, Santiago
>> Chile
>> Fono: 3544605
>> Fax: 3544844
>> e-mail:
>> web personal:
>> web institucional:
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> _______________________________
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

David Preiss, Ph.D.
Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Escuela de Psicología
Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
Macul, Santiago

Fono: 3544605
Fax: 3544844
web personal:
web institucional:

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