Genetics Could Determine Academic Success?

Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)

A study being done in Texas points to genetics to explain academic success and a desire to learn.

Education News reports:

A new psychology study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that character traits, including the desire to learn — otherwise known as grit – have their roots in genetics and could play a role in future academic success.

While academic achievement is typically the result of cognitive abilities including logic and reasoning, researchers say that particular personality and character traits have the ability to shape and influence the desire to learn.

Performed by UT Austin psychology associate professor Elliot Tucker-Drob, the study noted that genetic differences in people make up close to 50% of the differences in their character.  The remaining variation in character was the result of environmental factors outside of the home as well as school environments.

“Until now, parenting and schooling have been suggested by research as likely explanations for character, but our study suggests otherwise,” said Tucker-Drob.

Tucker-Drob looked at how genetic and environmental factors play into character development and its relationship to academic achievement through the study of 811 twins and triplets between the third and eighth grades.

Studies involving twins observe the similarities between identical and fraternal twins in order to determine the influence genetics has over such things as personality, interests, grades obtained in school, and behavioral issues.  Comparing siblings allowed researchers to find out that variations in a child’s character could result from unshared environmental effects, as well as genetics.  This ruled out any experiences typically shared by siblings such as attending the same school.

“As with intelligence and personality, genetics form a sizable part of the basis for character,” said Tucker-Drob, co-director of the Texas Twin Project.

Anyone else disturbed by the potential consequences of this study and line of thought? Kids are unique, even twins (I am an identical twin – scary, I know). I don’t generally talk about my faith here at Truth in American Education, but let me suggest this.

You see I’m not just a sum of my parts. Neither are you. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, (Psalm 139:14). We are clay in the great Potter’s hands. Because we are made we have purpose and meaning that God provides.

We also have a sin nature which can (and often does) short-circuit that. The remedy for that is for a different blog post on a different blog, but if you’d like to know shoot me an email.

Kids are unique because that is how they are created. They are also a product of their environment. Do you want your child to have a love of learning? Model that. Do you want them to love reading – start reading to them when they are little. Spend time with them and less time in front of screens. Do those things and your child will be off to a good start.

I’m fearful that an attempt to determine whether a student will be successful because of their genetics will lead to writing some kids off or some selection of what type of education they will receive. Our workforce development model is already treating kids as though they are cogs. This will just make it worse.

2 thoughts on “Genetics Could Determine Academic Success?

  1. Thank you, Shane, for your incisive commentary on the dehumanization inherent in the world view that is behind Common Core, and similar experiments in social engineering. As you note, it takes no account of the glory of each human life, instead attempting to reduce all children to indistinguishable pawns to be manipulated. These theorists must be sad and frustrated people, if they believe that an individual life has no meaning. Or do they only believe that about Other people & Their children?

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