Monday, February 22, 2016

What We've Been Saying

An interesting article in the Globe and Mail, Why Grit Is Overrated.
Once again, I am reminded how much money I wasted sending my children to private schools. I do retrospectively rationalise that by noticing specific goods that came from it, but the numbers are against me.We could have bought dune buggies instead.
These findings, the researchers noted in the British version of the study, “turn some of the fundamental assumptions about education upside down.” While intelligence may be genetic, achievement has always been thought to be due to the environmental influences of home and school. The non-cognitive components of school success include traits such as self-efficacy and motivation, curiosity, emotional intelligence, conscientiousness, well-being and prosocial behaviour. But an increasing weight of evidence shows that these traits are substantially heritable, too. As researchers say, “The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence.” In other words, grit does matter to success – but the stuff we think of as grit is made up of characteristics that people are largely born with (or not). Efforts to teach it make very little difference.
Note on understanding the article: Heritable does not mean "entirely genetic." It means that a lot is demonstrably genetic.  The current breakdown is that these positive qualities are about 50% genetic, 5% environmental, and 45% we-don't-know-and-our-favorite-theories-aren't-proving-out.


Laura said...

I would quibble with you, that environment is clearly more than 5% (although much less than heredity)... but more to the point, since environment is the only thing that we can do for another, then it's a moral obligation to do our best to make the environment most supportive of human thriving. For example, schools should be orderly and safe, especially those serving a disproportionate number of those who have few resources to overcome chaos. But what we have now is the opposite-- schools are chaotic and dangerous for those most vulnerable to this, and orderly and safe for those who are most likely to be able to overcome adversity.

lelia said...

Well, that makes me want to cry.

Maybe another deciding factor is gut microbial fauna.

Sam L. said...

Working hard and persistently ought to get one up to one's potential. Goofing off, as we know, is not conducive thereto.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, Sam, and that is also heritable.

I do wonder if the old phrase "bringing out the best (or worst) in someone" doesn't apply. We really can't change what is in someone, and we have always known that. But some folks, as they go along, end up in situations which depress their chances, others in situations which enhance them. these average out over a population. But on an individual level the difference might be enough to matter.

Consider the opposite sadness, of those children whose parents refused to believe they weren't destined to be pro basketball players or math wizards or musical prodigies, who ruined them with expectations that could never be met.

jaed said...

If we think of these traits not as immutable have-them-or-don't properties, but rather as strengths and weaknesses, it possibly becomes more obvious that what children need is an upbringing that polishes their strengths and shores up their weaknesses.

All children need to be taught emotional self-control, but a child with a tendency toward rage will need extra attention in this department. All children need to learn how persisting brings rewards, but a child with a tendency to give up quickly needs more careful teaching in this area. General teaching in a classroom - particularly via precept rather than via example and practice - is not something we can expect to be useful in these areas. It must be personal to each child or it won't do any good.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There is also the encouraging part that children who have bad upbringings still might succeed anyway.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well said Jaed. AVI's wife

GraniteDad said...

You did get a pretty good daughter-in-law out of the deal.