How to Raise Our I.Q.

CAROL’S SUMMARY: In Nicholas Kristof’s editorial on how I.Q. can be raised, he cites schools in inner city areas where African American students showed I.Q. gains after answering written questions, which undoubtedly strengthened both writing and thinking skills. In addition, he cites research showing that students who were told in middle school that they can influence their brain capacity—their IQ—did better in school over time and actually showed gains in IQ. This phenomenon, known in neuroscience as “brain plasticity,” shows us that it is imperative to teach middle school children about their own ability to influence their “smarts” through writing, reading and thinking exercises in class and especially out of class in their own learning time.

Programs like those we offer for middle school students at LifeBound, teach students about their own gifts and talents and their “EQ,” emotional intelligence, which can be explored through dynamic text and exercises which probe students to question, reflect and respond in their own unique ways. Offering these programs teaches students about their own ability to influence their learning, their options and possibly most important of all, their own effort.


Published: April 15, 2009

Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function of genetics.

After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.

If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly inherited has been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a practical level, profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new book, “Intelligence and How to Get It,” which also offers terrific advice for addressing poverty and inequality in America.

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