Monday, August 28, 2006

Getting All A's, But Flunking Life?

"You can get all A's, and still flunk life." - Walker Percy

In a King's College study of 25,000 children across state and public schools, researchers found that 11 year olds were three years behind same age children in 1976. This result runs counter to the notion of the Flynn Effect or the well-documented increase in IQ scores over time.

What's going on?

The King's test involved questions that required a working knowledge or experience the physical world, like being able to know what effect increased density (for instance a block of brass vs. plasticine)would have displacing water. The result? boys performed better than girls, but all children were far behind same-age students some 30 years ago...

"In 1976 a third of boys and a quarter of girls scored highly in the tests overall; by 2004, the figures had plummeted to just 6% of boys and 5% of girls. These children were on average two to three years behind those who were tested in the mid-1990s.

"It is shocking," says Adey. "The general cognitive foundation of 11 and 12-year-olds has taken a big dip. There has been a continuous decline in the last 30 years and it is carrying on now."

The results certainly raise warning flags about trends in education and recreation. Children are less likely to have hands-on or direct experience play or observation, and standardized testing could shift the focus of curricula to semantic knowledge or rote learning. That may be good for answering questions that mankind has already found the answers to, but poor for developing novel questions or solving problems that may not yet exist.

Failing to teach them real life- Times Online
American Scientist: Are We as Smart as We Can Get?
Adey's Cognitive Acceleration Through Science Education


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  4. I'm doing my part.

    I college, back in the 1980s, my engineering prof made the same observation about engineering students.

    Today, I'm helping to reverse the trend by manufacturing and marketing hands-on physics and science projects for school kids.

    For more information, go to

    The problem is that kids these days are working/playing on computers, watching 200 channels of cable TV and DVDs, staying in the air conditioned homes talking on their cell phones, etc. etc.

    To make things worse, most of the public schools have eliminated shop classes and physics labs too.

    My products have inspired many kids to learn math and physics, and what's more, they get outside to build their projects and test their theories!

    People- kids and their education ARE the future! If you love your country, and/or your kids, then a well rounded education is not just a good thing, it is essential!

    -- Ron Toms

  5. Anonymous12:58 PM

    What do you expect from a nerfed life? When kids aren't allowed to use "unsafe" toys or playground equipment, run on the playground, play interactive games like dodgeball, or even in some cases touch each other, how can they learn simple motive physics?

  6. There's an old observation in the textbook industry - kids who are presented with a lot of problems in terms of counting pennies get good at solving penny-related problems.

    I don't think this reflects a sudden IQ drop, but rather reflects the fact that kids have more experience with other things growing up. Kids are far better at computer and communication tools, and work less with physical manipulation of objects.

    These days, not being able to use a computer or cell phone might be considered flunking out of life, much like the inability to throw a spear or dig for roots were key skills in millenia gone by.

  7. I think it's rather crude to just say, well kids are now using media like tv and video and are therefore stupid. As Adam indirectly pointed out, and a good rule of thumb, just because something may be easily explained as one thing, doesn't mean it's true. There is an undeniable fall in children's education of the physical world, as the article points out, but that doesn't mean kids have just been dumbed by the media age.