The greatest unfairness in life and by far the biggest handicap in any country’s potential is that children are brought up quite differently from one another. In early man, however, and for millions of years beforehand, all the youngsters of a group had an almost identical upbringing, playing and working together.
This meant that their abilities could emerge principally from the individual variations in the genes derived from their parents and much less on the social environment in childhood.
This also meant that for maximum intelligence, good looks and health in early man, the closer an individual was to the average in terms of gene variations the better. Today, however, when the experiences of childhood are unique, the parents’ influence on the expressions of the child’s genes can be considerable. The product of this can be a much more extensive spectrum of abilities.
When tested, say, in a narrow selection of mental problems, such as an IQ test, it is possible for an individual to appear dull at one type of problem and a genius at another. Although the results of the different sorts of questions in an IQ test are generally similar and can be relied upon for recruitment into average and low level jobs, the test is not really relevant for much else.
The most thorough method of testing for intelligence is what goes n anyway in childhood — socialization — the judgement of one’s peers — the voluntary conferring of a place in the hierarchy. And this is really the principal role of a good teacher — to observe mainly and to help when a child — always eager to learn before puberty — ask for it.
To return to the task in hand — to reduce unfairness and to maximise the ability of a nation’s children and then, subsequently, its adults, a nursery experience is necessary for everyone. If possible, with a far higher number of carers, monitors and teachers.
I’m pleased to say that, after 20 or 30 years of neurophysiological research, that Prime Minister Tony Blair — whatever else one might have thought of him — and his ex-civil servant side-kick, Jonathan Powell — finally got the message and managed to get some light into the bureaucrats at the Department of Education and to resist the reactionary teacher trade unions
Competition between nation-states is going to be far more intensive than ever before — particularly between advanced countries — as we reach the limits of just how much more energy can be injected into the world economy. Only those that can minimise the intellectual wastage of its new-born children will be able to maintain their advanced status in the years to come.