On Teaching Well

I noticed that one of my older posts was linked to at another blog, U.S. History Ideas for Teachers. The author is Lauren Schreiber Brown and her piece was both detailed and thoughtful. The link in question is the second in this paragraph (from The 7 Things All Good Lessons Have in Common):

And realistically, that’s what a lot of us do. We know what we did last year, and yesterday, and so what comes next is comparing the North and South. But we should–every year–ask ourselves why do students need to know about the similarities and differences between the North and South? What is the point? How does this understanding help us better comprehend both the onset of the Civil War as well as its outcome? Do any of these differences still exist? In what way(s) does studying this topic improve the quality of our students’ lives?

I wanted to respond. But my response was too long for the character count at that blog. Plus, even the shorter comment I left there was never approved or else disappeared into the internet purgatory. So, I’ll make it a post, as I think it’s a worthy topic.

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I’m not a teacher, but I found this post interesting. I like how much thought you are putting into this. Education is important and teaching is a tough job. I’m glad to know teachers like you are out there are considering these kinds of issues and questions.

I noticed you linked to my blog, the post comparing the North and South. I spent my own grade school education initially in the Midwest and later in the Deep South. I never liked history, I must admit. I can’t say I had bad teachers, but they never quite found a way to make history seem to matter in my experience. In particular, I didn’t learn anything about the differences between the North and South.

I don’t even remember what I was taught in any history class. None of it ever stuck. I didn’t even know I enjoyed learning about history until I was well into adulthood. In recent years, I’ve taken history more seriously and have become fascinated about it, and not just about American history either.

I’m constantly coming across new data. It amazes me all the things I didn’t learn in school. History, if taught well, should be one of the most engaging topics for students. Yet so many people similar to me were bored silly by history classes. Why is that?

Early America was an interesting place. But before I started studying on my own, I didn’t realize that was the case. Most Americans, for example, are unaware that several colonies had non-British majorities. I was reminded again of this diversity recently:

“…from every part of Europe.”

At that post, I share a passage from The World in 1776 by Marshall B. Davidson. The part that most stood out to me is where he points out that, “One-third of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were of non-English stock, eight being first-generation immigrants.” I never knew that.

That multicultural reality was a central point that Thomas Paine made in arguing for independence. He wrote that, “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.”

I realize that is just info. But a good teacher should be able to make it relevant by connecting the diversity of the past to the diversity of the present. It’s not as if America only became an immigrant country in the 20th century. We are living in a continuity of what came before. An effective teacher would bring history alive and get students excited through the teacher’s own engagement with the subject matter.

I know one thing that helped for me was doing genealogical research. That made it personally real. But that goes off into a different kind of learning experience.

Contrast that to how I was taught history when I was younger. I remember in one class that I took 20 pages of notes for a single test. The teacher wasn’t horrible and he did try to get us to think about what we were learning, but I remember just feeling swamped by endless factoids. I wasn’t able to assimilate the info and no one taught me how to do so. That is the biggest failure of school in my experience, the lack of teaching students how to learn which goes hand in hand with teaching the love of learning.

I was a fairly smart kid. I had a learning disability and that made it difficult, but I was able to learn when I felt engaged enough. Still, the way I was so often taught made me hate school. It felt like a pointless struggle. In a sink or swim education system, I usually found myself sinking.

I had to learn how to learn mostly on my own and mostly as an adult. And I doubt I’m alone in that experience. That is a problem for the education system, and it isn’t a problem that can easily be dealt with by individual teachers. I imagine teachers are too busy just trying to teach to the test that anything more involved than the basics is asking for the near impossible.

It makes me sad that teachers get blamed. Teachers don’t have the time and resources to be effective. To focus on one thing means to sacrifice everything else. I couldn’t imagine the amount of planning it takes to try to make it all work.

Your emphasis on a conclusion probably is important. More than trying to shove info into students’ heads, a teacher should help them to understand the significance, ideally both in terms of personal relevance and real world application. A conclusion should drive home some central point or issue. What is learned needs to be connected and framed for otherwise it will quickly be forgotten.

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I should point out that some of my favorite classes were also my most demanding.

I had an awesome art teacher. He was a professional artist and taught me some serious skills. But his teaching went way beyond that. He is the only teacher I ever had who taught me how to think on my own.

Of course, art is far different from history. Maybe more similar to history is a topic like English, which was one of my other favorite classes. I had an English teacher who was English and he focused on the classics. He didn’t shy away from teaching difficult works. I suppose it was in 11th grade when I took his class and one book we read was Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, a daunting piece of writing even for an adult. He simply taught me the love of engagement with a text, as it was clear how much he enjoyed what he taught.

It’s hard to know what is the difference that makes a difference. I’m sure there were students who were bored and disengaged even in those classes that I loved so much. Not everything is going to work well for all students. That is the greatest challenge, especially the more students there are in a single class. It’s easy for students to get lost in a teacher’s focus on the entire class.

In the end, I think the most important thing a teacher does is to model a particular attitude and sets of behaviors. Students won’t likely care about what a teacher doesn’t care about. On the other hand, a love of learning can be contagious, even for a subject matter a student normally dislikes. I ultimately think there is no such thing as boring material, even if some subjects are harder to teach than others.

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By the way, I thought I’d share with you some cool facts. Combined, they are an example of how cool facts can help make larger points and show greater connections.

William Penn died in 1718. That was the year Benjamin Franklin was indentured as a printer’s apprentice. Some years later as an older teenager, Franklin made his way to Philadelphia where he began to do his own printing. Pennsylvania was one of those colonies that had a non-British majority, as Penn had traveled in Germany and intentionally invited Germans among others to settle in his colony (it’s interesting to note that more Americans today have German ancestry than any other, especially in the Northern states). Franklin complained about all the Germans for fear they wouldn’t assimilate (sounds familiar?). But as a businessman he was quick to take advantage by printing the first German language newspaper there.

When Franklin was in London, he met Thomas Paine, both having in common their being autodidacts. It was also in London where Paine first saw major political and labor union organizing, along with regular food riots. I might note that it was in London that the Palatine Germans (in the early 1700s) first immigrated before many headed to the American colonies, although these aren’t the same Germans that mostly populated Pennsylvania. This particular influx of Germans did happen in Franklin’s childhood and so it was a major social issue at the time. Anyway, by way of Franklin, Paine made his way to the American colonies and he ended up in Philadelphia, which is the location of Germantown where among the Germans the abolition movement began, and also where Paine helped found the first American abolition society. It was in Philadelphia that Paine first experienced the diversity of the American colonies and so was inspired to see them as something more than a mere extension of England.

It is interesting that the British used so many Hessian soldiers. This was related to Great Britain having alliances with German states. King George III being the Elector of Hanover (ethnically German and the first in his line to speak English as his first language). In the American Revolution, there were Germans fighting on both sides. Many of the descendants of those Germans would also fight each other in the world wars, although then with Americans and the Britains as allies.

Thomas Paine died in 1809. That was the year Abraham Lincolon was born. Lincoln, of course, was famous for ending slavery (after Lincoln’s winning the presidency with the support of German-Americans, the Civil War was partly won because of the mass immigrations to the North, including the often idealistic and socially liberal German Forty-Eighters, refugees of a failed revolution). Less well known is that Lincoln was influenced by Paine’s writings and, like Paine, wrote a deist tract (the only copy of which was burned up by a friend who thought it threatened LIncoln’s political career).

About a half century later, Theodore Roosevelt would call Paine “that dirty little atheist.” That is interesting when one considers that Roosevelt, like Lincoln before him, helped to promote Paine’s progressive vision of America. Teddy’s cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would push that progressivism to yet another level. Although in a different party from Lincoln, FDR also was heavily inspired by Paine. As a side note, the Roosevelt family’s ancestry goes back to the Dutch settlers of the Dutch colony that would become New York, yet another part of early American diversity, and also the place where young Franklin first ran away to and where Paine would spend his last years.

Let me shift back to Lincoln’s lifetime. Karl Marx, who was born in Germany and saw firsthand the social unrest that led to the revolutions of 1848, was forced to flee to England. From there, he later wrote a letter to Lincoln to show his support for the Union’s cause in fighting slave power. Marx probably felt an affinity because Lincoln, early on as president, openly argued that “Labor is the superior of capital.” Charles Dana was a socialist Republican who, before becoming Lincoln’s Undersecretary of War, was the managing editor of the New York Tribune where he published Marx’s writings. Lincoln regularly read that newspaper and Dana had introduced him Marx’s ideas on a labour theory of value.

Marx’s ideas would then be a major inspiration for the ideological conflict that erupted into the Cold War. There was always an ethnic element to this as well, whether the enemy was Germans or Russians, but Germans unlike Russians were always seen as a greater threat since that ancestry was so large in America. German-Americans were always mistrusted, from the colonial era to the world wars. Early twentieth century saw the cultural genocide and forced assimilation of German-Americans, which saw many being sent to internment camps. Until that time, German-Americans had continually maintained their own culture with newspapers written and even public schools taught in the German language. German-American culture was wiped from the collective memory and this heritage was lost for so many.

All of that then leads up to where we are now. The world wars sent even more Germans to the US. Waves of German immigrants have regularly occurred throughout American history. That is why there are today so many Americans of German ancestry, including many students who are not being taught this history about their own ancestors. Sadly, most Americans have forgotten or else never learned about both the early diversity of America and the early radicalism of the likes of Paine.

There ya go. From colonial era to revolution to civil war to the present. That is how one makes history interesting and it was accomplished in only about a page of text. But why this can never be taught is because it is neither politically correct nor ideologically neutral, even though it is all entirely true.

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I had some thoughts about the example of cool facts that I offered.

There are several reasons why it demonstrates effective communication of history. Besides offering cool facts, multiple connections are offered, a larger framing is made to give context, the development of issues and ideas is shown over time, and a conclusion is offered that explains the relevance. All of that is accomplished in a few paragraphs.

My brain works that way. I make connections and I look for the big picture. That is part of my “learning disability.” What doesn’t work for me is factoid rote learning. Then again, that is true for most people, even if more extremely true for my weirdly operating brain.

So, why don’t teachers teach this way? Because the education system isn’t set for it.

In those paragraphs, I covered material involving multiple countries, multiple centuries, multiple individuals, multiple conflicts, and multiple issues. That doesn’t conform to how students are tested and so the system disincentivizes teaching in a way that would be the most effective. No standardized test will ever have a question that covers such a large territory of knowledge, even though that is precisely what makes interesting history, how it all fits together.

Still, a great teacher would find a way to bring in that style of teaching, if only in those rare moments when time allows.

Re: Education research exposes the theory of multiple intelligences as singularly stupid

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I would separate the theory of different intelligences from the theory of different learning styles.I think they aren’t necessarily referring to the exact same thing. Also, conflating them probably isn’t helpful.
First, are there different intelligences? 
It would seem to be commonsense that some people are better (i.e., more ‘intelligent’) at doing certain activities. Even research confirms this. People can be tested separately for verbal intelligence, for mathematical intelligence, and for spatial intelligence. They have tests designed for measuring these abilities and they use them in schools.
However, this doesn’t necessarily have much to do with traditional teaching or necessarily should it. How is someone being good at sports going to help them learn to read? It’s not. A student may have natural verbal intelligence and not have natural mathematical intelligence, but that kid is still going to have to learn to do math and his verbal intelligence may not help him in any direct way.
The theory that people have different abilities is true, but the theory that these different abilities are different ways of learning isn’t proven, or not in all cases anyway. An ability can’t necessarily be applied as a learning style to learn other abilities.

Second, are there different learning styles? 

I was wondering what research has been done on this area. It’s not something I’ve looked into. However, I have spent years looking at the research on personality types and traits. I think it is a fair assessment to say that there is plenty of research supporting the theory that human brains work differently to varying degrees. There are commonalities to human brain function, but there is also much diversity. It seems obvious to me, going by the research I’ve seen and going by my own observations, that people do process information differently. This potentially could lead to different learning styles, whether or not such learning styles correlates to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

This is an areas I can speak personally about. I had a learning disability as a child, still do. My learning disability just meant I learned differently, but it didn’t mean I was less smart. When I was in early elementary school, I wasn’t keeping up with the other students. They, at first, suspected I might be low IQ. But when they tested me, they found I was actually above average in IQ, at least in certain areas. For example, my ability to solve spatial puzzles was at a twelfth grade level.

So, that is my learning style. I’m very good at seeing patterns and making connections. However, I’m not good a rote memory. Traditional teaching methods didn’t work for me. Fortunately, I went to school that had a very good special education teacher who taught me a different way to learn. A main part of my learning disability is word recall. For this reason, I was behind on my reading and writing ability. One thing the special education teacher taught me was to think of similar words. If I can’t think of one word, I use another similar word. This caused me to increase my vocabulary and after that I was ahead of the other students in reading.

In my case, there was some connection between intellectual abilities and learning styles. If you tested me as a kid, I would have measured as low in verbal intelligence. But if you test me now, I would measure as high in verbal intelligence. So, what is the difference? I learned to use my other strengths (i.e., my other intellectual abilities) to compensate for my weaknesses (i.e., my learning disability, especially word recall). It would seem that word recall is a part of verbal intelligence. It would seem that my limited word recall ability means I lack a certain natural aspect of verbal intelligence. However, because I was intelligent in other ways, I could compensate. People who don’t have other types of intelligence wouldn’t be able to easily compensate. Even I, if I hadn’t had a good special edcuation teacher and parents who were teachers, might not have learned to compensate. If I had been a poor kid in a poor public school, I might have been simply categorized as low IQ and that would have been the end of it. For the rest of my life, I would have thought I was stupid.

As such, I’m a strong proponent of learning styles theory. I wish I had the opportunity to be taught differently all through school. After leaving that particular elementary school, I never again had a teacher that helped me to that extent. Despite being above average in intelligence, I always struggled with learning and so I learned to hate school. Teachers were always teaching rote memory, but I was never good at it. I dropped out of college partly because no one would teach the way I learned. The way I learn is by connecting information, by seeing or creating patterns in data. Isolated factoids are meaningless to me and it’s hard for me to remember them even if only for the short term of taking a test.

I was, however, lucky to have parents who were teachers and very helpful in my education. My mom was a speech pathologist and so she was used to kids who had minds that worked differently. So, despite school, my parents instilled in me a love of learning. I learned how to learn on my own.

Not everyone is a genius, that is true. On the other hand, not everyone who learns differently is stupid.

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Even so, I think the research supports the theory of general intelligence. 
If I wasn’t generally intelligent, I wouldn’t have been able to compensate for my learning disability. General intelligence would be the measurement across all testable cognitive abilities: verbal, mathematical, spatial, etc. I was thinking about the research showing that people who learn music early are better at math later on. So, certain aspects of intelligence would probably be more closely correlated than other aspects. I might be above average on general intelligence or maybe not, but I have no particular talent for either music or math. That side of general intelligence is separate, in my personal experience, from verbal and spatial intelligence. But I would guess that, for most people, there is a correlation between verbal intelligence and mathematical intelligence.
Verbal intelligence is, as I understand, often used as a stand in for general intelligence. In traditional education, verbal intelligence is key since almost everything is taught through language. However, there is no reason that needs to be the case. There are some autistic kids who have limited verbal intelligence and yet have vast mathematical intelligence. So, general intelligence is only a generalization and wouldn’t apply to all people. Even if general intelligence is the rule, schools still need to educate those who are exceptions to the rule.
Nonetheless, I see the risk in emphasizing differences over similarities.It fits our cultural ideology to believe that everyone is smart or talented in some way, that everyone has great potential if we could only find a way to tap into it. I’m sure there is much truth to this, but on a practical level it probably makes more sense to emphasize standardized education methods.

It can be an excuse to just dismiss general intelligence just because it is inconvenient to our ideology. I was thinking of two examples where this becomes problematic.

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The first example is differences in IQ between races.

Some people want to dismiss IQ testing because it has the potential to be used to support racist theories and those racist theories can influence public policy. But the problem isn’t the IQ tests. The problem I see is in understanding what the IQ tests represent.

IQ isn’t simply about natural ability. Kids who don’t get proper nutrition while the mother was pregnant and after they are born will tend to have lowered cognitive development. Kids who experience high rates of social stress and environmental toxins (especially lead poisoning) will tend to have lowered cognitive development. Kids who don’t have access to materials to stimulate their minds and don’t have parents with lots of free time to work on their learning will tend to have lowered cognitive ability. These types of kids are disproportionately found among the poor and minorities are disproportionately found among the poor. So, it’s no surprise that minorities on average have lower IQs when tested.

To demonstrate this, all you have to do is look at the IQ results as kids grow older. When young, there is no clear difference between the IQs of whites and minorities. The difference only shows up in later years of schooling. So, there is no evidence that the racial difference in IQ is genetic.

Because we see these racial differences, IQ testing is all that more important. It helps us to discover the causal factors in these racial differences. In understanding these causal factors, we can change them. We can take actions through public policy that increase the probability that poor children get proper nutrition, have less stressful environments, don’t get lead poisoning, and have intellectually stimulating materials and environments.

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The second example has to do with the IQ differences between liberals and conservatives.
Many different studies have found that liberals on average have higher IQs. There are many theories for why this is the case, but no one knows for sure the reasons.

Like the liberals who want to dismiss the racial IQ difference, there are conservatives who want to dismiss the ideological IQ difference. There are always people who want to dismiss inconvenient and uncomfortable data. I came across someone attempting to do that with the ideological IQ difference. Satoshi Kanazawa has proposed an explanation for why liberals test as more intelligent. In response, Shawn T. Smith has dismissed that explanation and in doing so seems to dismiss the idea of general intelligence as something IQ tests can measure or else he is just dismissing the correlation of verbal intelligence to general intelligence.

Here is an interaction that shows the conflict between the two views (from the comment section of Shawn T. Smith’s article):

RobertS (April 11, 2010 – 10:25pm): You ignored the studies Kanazawa referenced in his paper SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY QUARTERLY “verbal intelligence is known to be highly correlated with (and thus heavily load on) general intelligence. Miner’s (1957) extensive review of 36 studies shows that the median correlation between vocabulary and general intelligence is .83.” He also cites Wolfle (1980) and Huang and Hauser 1998. My guess is your a conservative who’s offended by Kanazawa’s conclusions.
Shawn T. Smith, Psy.D. (April 12, 2010 – 8:07am): With all due respect, I absolutely did not ignore his citations. Of course verbal intelligence is heavily loaded on general intelligence. So is PIQ. This proves what?

Let me ask you: do you believe that extrapolating a Full Scale IQ score from a vocabulary test is a valid, reasonable, and accurate thing to do? Don’t tap dance. Give me a straight answer. If you do believe it is a valid thing to do, tell me why. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

Also, do you agree with Kanazawa that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives? If so, why?

Yes, I suppose I was personally offended, but not because I am conservative (incidentally, I described my stance briefly in my deconstruction so you would know where I stand). I’m becoming increasingly offended by the degree and amount of irrationality and intolerance in my profession, both in research and in the clinic. It does offend me to see research abused this way. It makes all of us psychologists look silly.

Here is another interaction about the same issue:

MP (November 8, 2010 – 8:16pm): I believe the original author showed a second order correlation between liberalism and verbal intelligence.

This takedown is really really nitpicky, the sort of nitpicky that that “they’re” vs “there” guy was doing earlier.

The correlation is extremely strong, so much as the data shown. The LSE guy might have overstated his case but the numbers don’t lie.

That crap about colleges = liberalism doesn’t weaken the correlation.

>>>>Second, a correlation once-removed is terribly shaky. What Kanazawa did here is akin to saying, “tables have four legs like dogs, and dogs resemble elephants in many ways, therefore tables are elephants.”

Errr no. I was taking you quite seriously until I saw this comment you made. I think your complaints are minor, but fair. But this statement is either stupid or disingenuous. He never claimed that liberals are smart. As we people who understand highschool statistics know, he’s saying there’s a correlation between intelligence and liberalism. That’s like saying a table is more similar to an elephant because both have 4 legs, than to a rock, which doesn’t.

PS: Your analogy sucks.

Shawn T. Smith, Psy.D. (November 8, 2010 – 9:56pm: You said that my criticisms are nitpicky, but you glided right past the most salient ones. For example, I criticized Dr. Kanazawa for extrapolating full scale IQ score ranges from a rudimentary vocabulary test. Do you believe that to be a trivial point?

And I stand by my criticism of second-order correlations. We in the field of psychology have become far too accepting of strained correlations, meta-analyses, and other manifestations sloppy research. You and I may differ on that point because I am a clinician and I deal in individual cases, not numbers. If you deal in statistics – not that it’s good or bad, just different – you will undoubtedly see more value in things like second-order correlations.

But back to my original question: Was Kanazawa correct in deriving full scale IQ ranges from the vocabulary test? (Yes, I realize it can be done statistically. Anything can be done statistically.)

And one more interaction:

Steven (February 1, 2011 – 4:02pm): I read the deconstruction at ironshrink.com primarily because I was shocked by the large difference and wanted to analyze the methodology. Unfortunately, what you gave was incredibly biased in its own right. I will just look at your main two premises:

1) PPVT is not a good measure of IQ

2) Liberal Colleges produce Liberals

The second one is completely illogical. I think we can agree that college graduates are smarter in general. Then you argue, of course college graduates (smarter people) are going to be more liberal, they are taught by liberals! Thus you are accepting the Hypothesis in order to disprove it.

Now the first one, which is an okay complaint, however, your emphasis on it is way too strong. Using PPVT and reporting IQ does damage the accuracy of the study, but to be fair, in order to make the study understandable to the general public IQ needs to be used. Furthermore, there have been studies that show that PPVT is a moderately good predictor of IQ, and you say it is often argued as a fairly good predictor of verbal intelligence.

Thus at best your ‘debunking’ shows that instead he should have written “Liberal are more verbally intelligent than conservatives” not merely intelligent.

Sorry, but your debunking is more biased than the study

Shawn T. Smith, Psy.D. (February 1, 2011 – 4:23pm): Good effort, but I’m not convinced.

1) PPVT is not even close to a measure of intelligence. I won’t restate my case here since I explained it in detail in the deconstruction to which you refer. Kanazawa’s attempt to connect the PPVT to full scale IQ is unsupportable. Had I tried a maneuver like that on my dissertation, I would have been laughed out of grad school. And rightfully so.

2) Evidence does not support the idea that college graduates are more intelligent than non-grads. Intelligence is a multi-faceted construct. College grads tend to do better on the verbal portion of IQ tests, and so it is no surprise that they gravitate toward an environment where verbal strength is an asset. That does not mean that college graduates function equally well in other areas of life requiring other skills. This explains why accountants and mechanics hire each other. They each play to their strengths – at least they do if they’re intelligent.

To summarize, Shawn T. Smith makes three related claims:

1) Standard methods of testing (in education, in psychological research, and in the legal field) isn’t to be trusted as a reliable and unbiased measure of general intelligence. Most studies confirm these standard methods of testing because most studies are biased in the same way. Since the studies of IQ can’t be trusted, the correlations determined by those studies can’t be trusted.
2) “Intelligence is a multi-faceted construct.” Hence, it is to be doubted that there is a singular general intelligence or, if it exists, that it can be measured by the standard methods of testing. Even if liberals were more verbally intelligent, it wouldn’t lead to the conclusion that liberals have a higher rate of general intelligence.
3) Colleges are biased toward both verbal intelligence and liberalism. As such, psychological researchers and the entire field of academic psychology is biased in the same way. Verbally intelligent, liberal psychological researchers are merely prejudiced against those who are different than them: conservatives and those who are intelligent in non-verbal ways.

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Here is my response:

Almost all intelligence relates to verbal intelligence. Even a mechanic needs the ability to have good reading comprehension in reading highly technical manuals. If verbal intelligence correlates to liberalism, it would be expected that more successful mechanics would be more liberal on average than less successful mechanics.

Besides, college doesn’t just teach verbal intelligence. If conservatives have other types of intelligence, then they should succeed just fine in certain academic fields just as long as they have moderate levels of verbal intelligence.

I don’t understand why Smith wants to dismiss verbal intelligence. It would be hard to be highly successful in any type of job without at least average if not above average verbal intelligence. If conservatives are below average in verbal intelligence, you’d expect to find them to have below average representation on the successful end of almost all careers.

For example, owners of janitorial businesses are probably on average more verbally intelligent and more liberal than the janitors that work for him/her. A business owner needs verbal intelligence to understand all the complex laws and tax policies and needs verbal intelligence to know how to communicate well.

The correlation still remains strong and still remains relevant. All Shawn has demonstrated is that he doesn’t like the correlation. If he can prove the correlation is false, then he should do some peer-reviewed research that proves his hypothesis. Until then, his empty speculations are simply mindless complaining by an ideologue.

We must base our conclusions on the known facts. Numerous studies have confirmed the correlation Kanazawa has made. There are also conservative psychological researchers. If they disagree with Kanazawa, I’m sure the liberal psychological researchers would welcome quality peer-reviewed research to further understanding of this issue. To put it simply, put up or shut up.

I could counter Smith’s argument by pointing to all of the other studies showing a correlation between liberalism and IQ. For example:
Even Kanazawa mentions other data that corroborates his own study:
Kanazawa quotes from two surveys that support the hypothesis that liberals are more intelligent. One is the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which is often called Add Health. The other is the General Social Survey (GSS). The Add Health study shows that the mean IQ of adolescents who identify themselves as “very liberal” is 106, compared with a mean IQ of 95 for those calling themselves “very conservative.” The Add Health study is huge — more than 20,000 kids — and this difference is highly statistically significant.
But is there any point in mentioning further data? Smith doesn’t trust the methods of these kinds of studies nor does he trust the people doing the studies. Once such mistrust is allowed, discussion becomes impossible. This is similar to the danger in the education system when multiple intelligence theory is used to dismiss standard teaching methods. A conservative like Smith can say all education is biased against conservatives because most teachers are liberal and most teaching methods favor verbal intelligence. There is some truth in this, but it’s not a very helpful criticism.
What is expected? Are schools supposed to have quotas to ensure there are equal number of conservative teachers? And are teachers supposed to stop using verbal teaching methods?
Maybe it would be better to simply try to understand the data we have rather than dismiss it or attack the messenger. If we follow down the pathway Smith points to, we would find we have lost any bearings amidst all of the distrust and paranoia. Instead, we could look for reasons why conservatism correlates to lower IQ in the same way we look for reasons why poverty correlates to lower IQ. For example, we could ask:
What do conservatives parents do in raising children that is different liberal parents?
One answer is that conservative parents are more supportive of spanking. Recent research has found there is correlation between spanking and lower IQ. It’s probably similar to aspects of poverty. Spanking causes a child stress. Research also shows social stress in general correlates to lower IQ. So, conservative parents might want to rethink the conservative practice of spanking, assuming they care about their children’s cognitive development.
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Here is my conclusion:
My point is that a balanced approach is required for understanding such issues. We need to take the data seriously, even when it contradicts our favored beliefs and values and especially when there is consensus among experts and researchers. Also, we need to gather as much data as possible. Sometimes there is elements of truth in opposing viewpoints, and sometimes not.
Furthermore, I’d differentiate between knowledge and practice. It could be factually proven that multiple intelligences exist and yet that doesn’t prove that this is helpful in teaching. Or it could be factually disproven that multiple intelligences exist and yet that doesn’t disprove that different teaching styles/methods are helpful to different students. We need to base teaching on what is demonstrated to work rather than on theory of what should work.