Many people believe that an evolutionary upgrade in human cognitive abilities is evident in many members of the youngest generation. All you have to do is go to YouTube and search for Child Prodigies to see examples of very young children and adolescents doing extraordinary things in the arts and sciences as well as in business. Whether you choose to label them as ‘Indigos,’ ‘Crystal’ or ‘Rainbow’ children – the proliferation of ‘Baby Mozarts,’ ‘Baby Einsteins’ and maybe even ‘Baby Buffets’ is evident. But is there any science to substantiate the obvious?
In fact, there is. BBC News wrote an article on the subject with the headline, “Are humans getting cleverer.” In it, they report on research conducted by Peera Wongupparaj, Veena Kumari and Robin Morris at Kings College London.
The researchers looked at 200,000 IQ test data taken by people in 48 countries over a 64-year period. Focusing on a non-verbal portion of the test known as Raven’s Progressive Matrices – which assesses reasoning abilities by asking test-takers to identify the missing element that completes a pattern – they found a 20-point jump in IQ since the 1950s. The biggest leaps were found in India and China. Steady increases were also found in the U.S. (thought not in the UK).
The next big question, of course, is ‘what’s behind the increase?’ and many hypotheses were touched upon in the article: Since the tests are rewritten every 25 years and become progressively harder each quarter century, researchers wondered whether children were simply getting better at taking tests. But since there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between higher scores on harder tests and a general rise in SAT scores – that possibility has been discarded.
Philosopher/psychologist James Flynn [see his TED talk on the ‘Flynn Effect’) believes that societal shifts are responsible for increases in IQ. Life today demands an almost exponential increase in knowledge, skills, abstract thinking and decision-making than was necessary to get by 50 to 100 years ago. And abstract thinking is precisely what IQ tests measure best.
There are also smaller families, which means that children are exposed to more adult conversation. And there are parents who dedicate themselves to enrichment programs for their children from the time they’re in the womb till they graduate from high school.
Though not mentioned in the article there is also the phenomenon of what marketers call KGOY – kids growing older younger – due, in large part, to the immense influence of video games, television and the Internet. Thus, the toddler set has already become a distinct marketing segment for advertisers.
Among the more exotic theories touched upon in the article is the possibility that “…light from bulbs, TV screens and the like may have contributed to cognitive development in a similar way that artificial light stimulates growth in chickens.” This particular idea has yet to be investigated.
But “How could it [IQ scores] go up so much but there aren’t all these very, very smart people floating around?” asks Karen Morris, one of three the researchers at King’s College. “It’s a bit of a puzzle,” she says. “But then, people have started to say, ‘Maybe there are more bright people floating around and they’re kind of hidden away because of the way science has become very specialist [sic]. They’re working in their own particular field and they’re doing amazing things – they’re acting as geniuses – but they’re not necessarily identified as such.”
The problem of unrecognized genius is a clarion call for those who seek to protect their brilliant young children from public education. Private and home schooling – led by highly caring, educated teachers and parents – is much more likely to recognize and cater to individual rates of development and eccentric modes of learning.
The murkier aspects of the Common Core approach to education is more likely to homogenize uniqueness rather than to cultivate it. What if many children diagnosed with ADD were actually born with a Pentium chip into a DOS environment?
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This news summary was written by Laurel Airica. Read Laurel’s article on how the English language, itself, dumbs down consciousness and culture. And check out her YouTube video for examples of WordMagic.
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