Home > Uncategorized > Study Identifies 52 Genes with Links to Intelligence. What are the Consequences for Schools?

Study Identifies 52 Genes with Links to Intelligence. What are the Consequences for Schools?

May 22, 2017

The NYTimes writer Carl Zimmer reported today that scientists have linked 52 genes to “human intelligence”, a “…significant advance in the study of mental ability” that could have repercussions in public education in the future. As Zimmer writes at the outset of his article, and emphasizes throughout, these findings do NOT mean that intelligence is immutable:

These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment.

Still, the findings could make it possible to begin new experiments into the biological basis of reasoning and problem-solving, experts said. They could even help researchers determine which interventions would be most effective for children struggling to learn.

I was frustrated to read this, because it is possible that researchers could use science to inform instructional practices… but only if the Federal government provided the funding for the kinds of research that would be required. I was even more frustrated to read Mr. Zimmer’s conclusion about actions that could be taken to rectify the proven links between genes and the presence of lead in water and the absence of iodine in certain foods. At the conclusion of his article, Mr. Zimmer wrote that Paige Harden, a psychologist at the University of Texas, who was not involved in the study, looked at the findings and concluded:

…we don’t have to wait for such studies to change people’s environments for the better. “We know that lead harms children’s intellectual abilities,” she said. “There’s low-hanging policy fruit here.” 

In a rational world where scientific findings matter, the regulating of lead would be “…low-hanging policy fruit”. But in the world we are living in today “government regulations” are viewed as a cumbersome obstacle to profit-making and, therefore, should be avoided. Here’s hoping that science prevails over politics in this battle.

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