Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Does American faith in genetic determinism limit the achievement of our students?

Posted 12 Nov 2012 / 0

National Public Radio ShotsStruggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning

This piece went in a direction that I just did not expect. There is so much focus on the role of rote learning versus problem solving in comparing “Eastern and Western” approaches to education, but I have never heard a clear discussion of how beliefs about genetics influence educational philosophies. When you hear it, it makes sense: Americans (and probably Europeans) are obsessed with using their educational system as a sieve, and presumably this sieve is designed to separate the ‘genetically able’ from the ‘genetically less able’. We frequently discount or ignore outright the role of environment. Given our history and mythology, it would be a bit ironic if Americans eschewed their belief in hard work in favor of genetic determinist approaches.

There is far more science on the side of Asian teaching approaches than American ones. And the American view that we have particular talents and lack others is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so until we start imagining that talent is substantially a product of hard work, we will never know what we could be.

A Minor Post, Belief, Cultural Evolution, Development, Fluidity of Knowledge, Gene by Environment Interactions, Genetics, Human Nature, Memetic Fitness, Philosophy, Public Policy, Radio & Podcasts, Teaching

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