Friday, February 02, 2007

Murray 3: Educate the Gifted to be Good … and Married

In the final installment of Charles Murray's Wall Street Journal series, Murray argues for special education for the gifted to be good guardians of society. It is not enough that the cognitive elite be smart or technically educated. "It is not enough that gifted children learn to be nice," Murray writes: "They must know what it means to be good." Murray wants the gifted to get a double dose of history and philosophy, aimed at teaching them critical judgment. In an era critical of making judgments at all, this is a controversial thing to say.

I agree with Murray on this point entirely. Indeed, in a small way, this is the main point of my job.

Murray does not attend to another critical part of the education that I would have our cognitive elite receive: an education in the importance of making good marriages and working hard at raising their children. When students are educated about marriage at all, if we say anything good about marriage, it is about how they can benefit individually. Married people, we point out, are happier, healthier, and richer. This is all true. I teach these points myself.

The larger point that we should teach the cognitive elite is that it is hugely valuable to society if they marry well and raise children well. [No, I am not saying that each individual, in any class, must marry or must have children. I am talking about the social effect of the whole class.] The cognitive elite are part of the ruling class, and that class's actions have a disproportionate influence on what other people do. A married elite is more likely to be socially minded and careful. Smart people are more likely to marry other smart people than ever before, and their kids, if they have any, are quite likely to be smart, too.

The biggest reason to put marriage education in gifted education is that gifted women today are less likely than other women to have children. Women who can handle lots of education and demanding careers are the most likely to let that education and career-making consume their entire childbearing years. Our society has benefited in thousands of ways from opening all realms of school and work to smart women. One unexpected lead lining of this golden cloud, though, is that smart women are less likely to have children now than they were in past generations. And that is a great loss, to them and to society as a whole.


Mark Smith said...

I've often wondered if there is some factor in evolution that limits the upper end of intelligence. It is clearly true that overall, intelligent people are less likely to have children and to have fewer than those on the other side of the curve.

Or put more crudely - the smart don't have as many kids while the stupid are pumping them out as fast as they can.

These are gross (in many senses) generalizations, but still it seems to ring true over all. Is there some evolutionary force? Is God/the Universe preventing us from moving forward TOO quickly for our own good?

Gruntled said...

The other element to count is how fast the two ends of the bell curve reproduce. The most educated have about three generations a century. The least educated have about five generations a century. Even with the same number of children per woman (which is not true), the latter would end up with a much larger percentage of the population.