Botticelli Selfie – Father and Son — at the Uffizi Museum, Firenze (Florence), Italy
A very interesting piece from the Washington Post came across my e-desk today. Titled “These kids were geniuses — they were just too poor for anyone to discover them” it profiles the admissions process in Broward County, Florida, that was studied by researchers David Card, of the University of California at Berkeley, and Laura Giuliano, of the University of Miami, both economists. The report showed that kids from poorer areas had largely been overlooked in the process of admission, largely because there had to be a referral for an IQ test for the student to be considered for the programs. This changed when a policy universally screening second-graders was put into place.
Not surprisingly, to readers of this blog, when such a policy was put into place, minority participation jumped. “This is, in a way, even more serious,” Card said. “There may be lots more kids than we realize that are talented, but we’re not getting to them in early grades. Presumably, by the time they’re getting to high school, they’re not going to be in as good a position.”
The piece also discussed the bias in IQ testing between poorer and wealthier students. Not surprisingly, for those that have ever taken an IQ test, those with greater exposure to algorithmic thinking and legalistic/absolutic modes of relational development –i.e. richer kids, did better. Kids in poorer environments, with more exposure to lower v-Meme environments, instead of practicing more complex rule following and participating in more sophisticated hierarchies more likely in wealthier environments, tended to be more beat down than kids from well-off communities. From the article:
“Often, gifted children don’t do well in school because they question authority and are seen as troublemakers, Park said. Behaviors that in a wealthy classroom might be viewed as precocious can be perceived as disruptive in low-income classrooms.
Reaching out to parents and teachers was an important part of increasing gifted participation. Some reacted with bewilderment when Park told them that their child might be gifted.
“‘He argues all the time. He can’t be gifted until he learns respect,’” Park recalls one mother telling her.”
Compound that with a lack of appropriate role models — the key element for appropriate development of young people, due to their strong dependency on mirroring behavior — one can see that there are strong v-Meme reasons that kids from poorer backgrounds are severely handicapped in pursuing entry. Not only do they lack development of some of the important core knowledge structures, they also lack the surrounding social structure that would pursue these kinds of opportunities.
There are no easy answers to these kinds of problems. But it is also not surprising that going after kids in the 2nd grade for recruitment and testing, was successful. At age 7, though there are still some external advantages that kids from upper-level socioeconomic status might have, the knowledge structure playing field is far more level. As the article notes, by high school, it is getting to be too late.
The article does not note — but should — the obvious implication of a focus on absolute obedience that is much more prevalent in lower SES situations than higher. If you’re not obedient, we’ll call in the cops. And such hair-trigger sensitivities for enforced authoritarianism have a far wider cost than just the obvious amplification of human misery of more kids, doing more jail time. It cuts a broad swath around killing creativity in the poorer classes, and gives tunnel vision to those inside those communities. The pervasive authoritarianism promotes a form of metacognitive collapse. Not only do the kids not know that there is a way out. The social system itself prevents conception that there might be a way.
And that’s a real tragedy.
Takeaway: when you structure your company in an authoritarian fashion, the only thing you grow over time is people’s incapacity to learn. And you also make it impossible to conceive of other ways of doing things. Which might be fine for a short while — but sooner or later, the world changes. And then you’re screwed.
Further reading: This Post on Metacognition I wrote a little more than a month ago gives insight in how we know what we don’t know. This insight unlocks a path into how companies, organizations, and societies self-sabotage when they go more authoritarian — as shown so profoundly in the example above. Emphasize obedience uber alles and you’re digging yourself into a v-Meme hole you’re not likely to escape. Because the Principle of Reinforcement will spread those same meta-values everywhere.