How different Europe was (and is)

The Flynn effect is the gradual increase in IQ scores over time in Western nations.     The increment is 2 – 3 points per decade.  People have argued about the causes, but the effect has been replicated many times, since Flynn published his work in the early 80s.   Only certain subtests improved, and not the ones I would have thought.  The improvements were not in general knowledge (vocabulary etc.) or mathematics. Rather they were in  abstract reasoning.

Flynn, rather self-servingly, thinks that the exposure to the populace to abstract scientific reasoning plays a large part in this, something I think is baloney.  Parables and stories play a huge role in the Bible, and reasoning about extremely abstract concepts such as right and wrong and ethics was far more prevalent 100 years ago.  Talmudic, in some circles,  became an epithet for extremely abstract hairsplitting reasoning divorced from reality.

This brings us to Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. vol. 109 pp. 425 – 430 ’12 which looks at the Norwegian experience from 1955 – 1972 to see how important a role adolescent education plays in the Flynn effect.  They found that 2 extra years of education in adolescence had a ‘substantial effect’ on IQ scores at age 19 (increasing it).

That’s not what I found so fascinating about the paper.  The question before you is, how many years of education did all Norwegian children receive, before 1955?  Make a guess. Now scroll down

SEVEN ! ! !  Amazing ! !  The number of years of education received by all was increased to 9 years by 1972.   So very different from the USA in the entire 20th century.  My mother (born 1907) grew up in a rural town so small, that each room in her grade school housed 2 grades. I went to the same high school that she did, and she was appalled that I was only exposed to 2 years of Latin (she had 4).   It’s such a different philosophy over there.  The USA is definitely following Jefferson who thought that, for a functioning democracy, all should be educated.

Things may be different over there now.  My son has a few Norwegian friends living over there now, and apparently pre-school has become very big, but this may be a function of their education and social class.  I don’t know.

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  • Curious Wavefunction  On January 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    – Talmudic, in some circles, became an epithet for extremely abstract hairsplitting reasoning divorced from reality.

    Sounds like string theory and multiple universes.

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