Rewarding merit is what Greek education needs first

Σεπ 16th, 2009 | | Κατηγορία: Μάρκος Δραγούμης | Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post |

George Papandreou speaking in Thessaloniki on 13 September promised Greeks that if they make him Prime Minister he would increase spending on education to 5% of GDP and set aside an extra 1 billion euros for the sector in his first budget. Greek education, however, first needs reform and then money because otherwise George would only finance a failed system. Unfortunately ‘New Democracy’ has also got its priorities wrong.

Asked by the ‘Athens News’ editor John Psaropoulos in April whether he plans to have schoolteachers assessed and whether salary raises given to them will be tied to performance as happens in the USA, Mr Aris Spiliotopoulos, Greece’s Minister of Education answered: “It is premature to discuss what we might borrow from foreign systems given that Greek society is structured differently (my emphasis)”. The same could be said by an Iranian minister asked if Iran might one day abrogate the article of its constitution that specifies the weight of the stones to be used for stoning adulterous wives to death.

The truth is that there are indeed people in this country who deeply resent the success of their colleagues. They vituperate in a vehement and snarling manner against the “smart alecs” who seek recognition and personal rewards instead of joining in militant mass actions to secure more public money spent on education and better pay for all

The truth is that there are indeed people in this country who deeply resent the success of their colleagues. They vituperate in a vehement and snarling manner against the “smart alecs” who seek recognition and personal rewards instead of joining in militant mass actions to secure more public money spent on education and better pay for all. In a curious twist, however, many of them also believe that taken collectively, the Greeks are smarter than any other race.

There is nothing new in this. Adolf Hitler was convinced of the inherent superiority of the white race that should rule the world. He was also sure of the deleterious influence of the Jewish race that needed to be obliterated not for what they did but for what they were (this is the difference between genocide and a routine massacre for political reasons). What is often forgotten is that Hitler also killed selectively those whites who were born mentally deficient in order to ‘cleanse the genome of the master race of its impurities’.

Such notions were not confined to Nazism. The introduction and use of IQ tests at the beginning of the 20th century showing that children of poor families did consistently worse at school and in society than those from better off ones gave rise to the so-called theory of “social Darwinism” that argued against social welfare policies because they allegedly perpetuated artificially the “survival of the unfit”. In 1919 Lewis Terman, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who had revised and expanded the Stanford-Binet IQ test (still in use today) wrote that “this will ultimately result in the curtailing of the reproduction of the feeble-minded”. In 1930 as many as 24 US states had passed sterilization laws to that effect.

Well, ladies and gentlemen and dear friends, there is real change in the air these days and not just because of the scintillating intelligence displayed by Barrack Obama in every sentence he utters, especially when compared to the dull pronouncements of his predecessor. Richard E. Nisbett, a prominent cognitive psychologist who teaches at the University of Michigan reveals in his aptly named book Intelligence and how to get it a whole new vista on the subject. He shows that IQ is not 75-85% heritable as thought before, but less than 50%. His estimates come from comparing the IQs of blood relatives – identical twins, fraternal twins and siblings – reared apart in different adoptive families. As he says, the same corn seed planted on two plots of land, one with rich soil and one with poor one will give plants of very different size. What he showed conclusively is that more than 50% of a human being’s IQ is due to the cognitive stimulation he gets from his family (whether biological or adoptive) and from his school. He produces ample evidence showing that the IQ racial gap in the US between those of African descent and the others has been steadily shrinking thanks to the better treatment and the prosperity of the African-American community, thus proving the social Darwinists utterly wrong. Over the last 30 years the measured IQ difference between black and white 12-year- old pupils has dropped from 15 points to 9,5..

deally they should be given the right to choose their kids’ school as they choose their clothes, thus creating competition among the educational service-providers. This already happens in Sweden

An important finding of these studies is that parents emerge as an extremely important factor for the development of intelligence in children, both during the pre-school years and after. Ideally they should be given the right to choose their kids’ school as they choose their clothes, thus creating competition among the educational service-providers. This already happens in Sweden. However, such a reform would be too much to ask of a union-shy Greek Government that likes to shift responsibility for the lack of change to Greek society as a whole. Nonetheless the least the Greek state could do is to give the teachers it appoints the necessary incentives to keep improving their performance. If the Minister stays put because he is afraid of the unions, this has to do with the structure of Greek politics not of Greek society.

Even Mr Spiliotopoulos must have realised, however, that times have changed, that Greece is no longer an isolated country that can live by its own rules and that its competitiveness in a globalized world, as shown by recent reports of world agencies such as the World Bank, is not just dangerously low but sinking. He should read a new report under the name ‘Top of the Class’ issued some months ago by the OECD on the changing notions of educational excellence in some 60 countries. The emphasis is now being shifted to the development of critical faculties, inventiveness and innovation requiring a new kind of teacher for the new era. As Andeas Schlicher, head of the OECD’s analysis division puts it: “Acquisition of routine cognitive skills that can today be digitized, automated or outsourced is no longer sufficient for someone to be successful in the global economy’.

The time has come for Greeks to demand of their leaders to impose meritocracy on the teaching profession NOW!

Mark Dragoumis

20 σχόλια
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  1. Kύριε κ. Δραγούμη, κολοσσιαίο το άρθρο σας!!!!
    Αnd accurate to the iota!!!

  2. H απάντηση των Rushton, Jensen στον Nisbett pdf

  3. Sir,
    “He shows that IQ is not 75-85% heritable as thought before, but less than 50%” does not prove “…the social Darwinists utterly wrong”.

  4. To συμπέρασμα των Rushton και Jensen, “the group differences are between 50 and 80% heritable” προδίδει μείζον στατιστικό πρόβλημα, δηλαδή ότι η διασπορά του ευρήματος (από 50% έως 80% -> 30 percntage points, 60% variance) είναι τόσο μεγάλη ώστε η πιθανότης beta error να είναι μεγάλη. Με άλλα λόγια, θα έπρεπε να γίνει μελέτη σε ένα ΤΕΡΑΣΤΙΟ ΔΕΙΓΜΑ (ίσως και δεκάδων χιλιάδων) για να αποδειχθεί του λόγου τους το ασφαλές.

    Σε κάθε περίπτωση, τόσο ο Nesbitt, όσο και οι Rushton & Jensen συμφωνούν ότι μέρος (τουλάχιστον 35-50%)του IQ είναι περιβαλλοντογενές – η διαφορά τους είναι στα ποσοστά ΚΑΙ ΟΧΙ επί της αρχής!

    Επί της αρχής, λοιπόν, έχει δίκαιο ο κ. Δραγούμης όταν αναφέρεται στην σημασία του περιβάλλοντος, [γονικού, διδασκαλικού/σχολικού, κοινωνικού/peers κλπ], εστιάζοντας για το σκοπό του σχολίου, στον ρόλο της ποιότητας των δασκάλων στην έκπτυξη της ευφυϊας, την διαμόρφωση κοινωνικότητας και αύξηση της απόδοσης των παιδιών.
    Ισως, να μπορούσε ο συγγραφέας να χρησιμοποιήσει ένα επιτυχέστερο παράδειγμα, όπως πχ ότι, μεταξύ 100 παιδιών με το αυτό IQ, μετρηθέν στην αυτή ηλικία, εκείνα που θα γαλουχηθούν/ανατραφούν σε παιδαγωγικώς ιδανικό περιβάλλον με τα κατάλληλα οπτικο-ακουστικά ερεθίσματα/προκλήσεις, θα εκπτυχθούν πνευματικά/κοινωνικά/ψυχολογικά ταχύτερα και περισσότερο των άλλων – και επί του τελευταίου ουδείς ψυχολόγος ή παιδαγωγός διαφωνεί.

    Αλλά, επαναλαμβάνω, ανεξαρτήτως της (ποσοτικής) διαφοροποίησης των παραπάνω ερευνητών, δλδ ως πριος τα ποσοστά, το ΜΗΝΥΜΑ δεν αλλοιώνεται, ΜΗΔΕ επηρεάζεται.

  5. Τα IQ tests είναι αυτά που ονομάζουμε soft epidemiological data, που σημαίνει ότι δεν μετράνε και με μεγάλη ακρίβεια ακριβώς αυτό το οποίο υποτίθεται ότι αντιπροσωπεύουν. Δεν χρειάζεται να τα παίρνουμε και πολύ στα σοβαρά, ούτε να μπερδεύουμε το εκπαιδευτικό σύστημα με το IQ. Σκοπός του πανεπιστημίου/εκπαιδευτικού συστήματος δεν είναι να ανεβάσει το ΙQ, αλλά να μάθει γράμματα στα παιδιά.

  6. erratum
    είναι τόσο μεγάλη ώστε η πιθανότης beta error να είναι μεγάλη
    είναι τόσο σημαντική ώστε η πιθανότης beta error να είναι μεγάλη

  7. Στο δια ταύτα συμφωνώ απολύτως με τον κύριο Δραγούμη.

  8. Excellent article.
    – It is completely illogical to speak about percentages. – Education may need 1% or 8%, but, what are the criteria ??
    – The first step was – somehow – concluded by Mrs Giannakou and ambly rewarded by ousting her from Parliament…… !!!
    – Laugh or cry ????
    – Statistics, Evaluation, Implementation are the basic steps.

    – Statistics are distorted, are completely missing,
    – Evaluation is based on anything but real performance,
    – Implementation is still on… …debate……..

    Well,,. Greece never dies, but rather enjoys an anavoidable process !

  9. ambly -> amply

    anavoidable -> unavoidable

  10. Εβελίνα, tks, ( and, for reading my comment…)
    problem is, you can’t repair mistakes, after you publish your comment – a useful tool …. if you have the time.
    (well, presumably you understood what I wrote !)

  11. A review of Nisbett’s book in the American Conservative:

    The results are the Left’s wishful thinking.

  12. Από την απάντηση των Jensen et al.:
    “We conclude that the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that in intelligence, brain size, and other life history traits, East Asians average higher than do Europeans who average higher do South Asians, African Americans, or sub-Saharan Africans. The group differences are between 50 and 80% heritable.”

    Η άρνηση των φιλελεύθερων να αποδεχτούν την πραγματικότητα των φυλετικών διαφορών επειδή νομίζουν ότι δεν ταιριάζει με την κοσμοθεωρία τους, θυμίζει τους χριστιανούς που αρνούνται την θεωρία της εξέλιξης και το έχουν ρίξει στο creationism

  13. I am not a scientist, however, I have read many-many books on races, intelligence and hereditary traits.
    – There is no definite conclusion on anything, and other , uncontrolled causes, may influence the conclusion of each individual scientint.
    – Anything can destroy research or deviate to unpredictable results, from dietary habits to mercury, lead, local weather, etc.
    – Neverthless, I do not understand why liberalism is natural for higher brains !!!!! – or, what ???
    – (Imagine the brains of the Inquisitioners in 14/15 centuries)
    and, how all this is related to the remarkable article in subject ?????

  14. Σωστα, επειδή ένας ελέφαντας είναι πιο εξυπνος από έναν ανθρωπο και επειδή καθε μπασκετμπoλιστας μπορεί να θεωρείται ένα χαμενο ταλέντο φυσικού επιστήμονα λόγω του μεγέθους του εγκεφάλου του.

    Καμια φορά το πιο περιπλοκο πράγμα στο σύμπαν, παράγει τρομερά ηλίθια και παιδιάστικα μηνύματα όπως το δικό σας κ. seiji otaku. Κανονικά θα έπρεπε να σας ρωτήσω πώς φτάνετε στο πληκτρολογιο αλλά ευτυχώς για σας I am a creationist!

  15. @kapitalist (sic)

    To put it as simply as possible for you, these researchers measured not only brain size, but IQ as well; these two seem to correlate significantly, if you don’t believe that look at their research. In addition, there were significant differences between races. In addition, these differences have a big hereditary component. I could discuss much more, but as you said, you are (have the IQ of) a creationist, we are worlds apart my friend…

  16. Ναι, μην απαντάτε όμως σαν μικρό κοριτσάκι σηκώνοντας την φούστα σας για να κρυφτείτε, κανετε τα πράγματα χειρότερα για εσάς. Που είναι αυτή η κατάπτωση της κοσμοθεωρίας μας, γιατί αυτή superiority τους τους έχει αφήσει έτη πίσω από τον δυτικό πολιτισμό; Που είναι η συγγραφεις τους, οι μουσικοί τους, οι ζωγραφοι τους, οι επιστημονές; Κανονικά λογο πληθυσμού θα έπρεπε να είναι τουλαχιστον ένα προς ένα τα ποσοστά τους.

    Κι εγώ θα μπορούσα να πώ πολλά περισσότερα για το “ιq test” η το “hereditary component”, αλλά οι επιδόσεις τους σε πραγματικές συνθήκες λένε σχεδόν τα παντα.

  17. Less than 50% hereditable, apart from the fact that it doesn’t mean much -it could be 0% or it could be 49.99%- is still(or could still be to conform to the scientific vagueness of the argument) quite a lot.

  18. The one size fits all Greek educational system is the most significant harmonizing and homogenizing force in Greek society. It is homogenizing and harmonizing force acting upon the intellect of every Greek citizen.

    It is a system where, in a few words, by law (that is, by force) every citizen must learn the same thing, at the same age, from the same books, in the same schools, by the same professors (that is by professors who they, themselves, have finished the same schools plus only a handful of allowed state Universities).

    The mandate to which the Greek public condemns each free thinking young independent mind can be summarized as:
    “WE the Greek people mandate that: “If you do not subject yourself to learning the material that we (through our elected bureaucrats) have selected, from the books that we have prepared for you, at the age that we deem appropriate, by the professors that conform to our uniform standards, then, you do not have any future in this society.”

    For example, in other words: “We, the Greek people, do not care that you are a talented young pianist and aspire to some day play in the Berlin Philharmonic. If, at age of 14, you do not learn the trigonometry formulas that we, the Greek public, have selected for you to learn, you will be stuck in this grade forever and forget any other aspirations you may have” (*)

    No wonder youth rebels in random acts of violence. It is the death rattle of liberty inside a still independent young mind which senses that, in the end, will be castrated.

    This indoctrination to collectivism is mandatory in Greek, as well as many other European, societies. There is no other option. If you refuse subjecting your children to this homogenization, your children will be taken from you and put through the universal educational system by force. If you resist having your children taken away, in the end, you will also go to jail.

    Finally, in a way that is characteristic of how Greeks, even liberal Greeks, misinterpret the statist and dirigistic ideology of the new US administration, Mr. Obama seems to want to ultimately turn the US educational system into something that resembles the uniform homogenized Greek system. In doing that, the eloquent, misleading and largely empty rhetoric of Mr. Obama will be greatly expanding on the foundation laid by his predecessor through the uniform homogenizing “No Child Left Behind” act (actually, Mr. Obama is embarking in an even greater project; the “No Child Left a Dime” act).

    But to get back to Mr. Dragoumi’s suggestion,

    The small improvement that Mr. Dragoumis suggests, that is, some sort of teacher assessment, is fraught with new dirigistic arbitrariness. Who will judge the teachers? Yet another state bureaucracy? By whose standards will the teachers be judged? By some other uniform criteria imposed by a Greek public majority? How many things have been invented by majorities? What would constitute a good educational result? Higher student scores in the universal student state exam?

    Liberalizing the curriculum and giving tax credits and vouchers to those parents who do not want to subject their children to the meat grinder of the monolithic Greek educational system would do much more to improve Greek education than any state attempt at yet another dirigistic idea.

    (*) I am a scientist and engineer and personally love trigonometry.

    P.S. I home school my children in America and I think I do a much better job than almost any teacher or school. Of course, in Greece, that would be illegal.


    – You may be missing the whole reason of the existence of schooling, that is, the embodying of youngsters into the society – however difficult , however may be not to our liking……
    – I may be argue for hours on educational metters, after I have woke up the kids and taken them safely into school at 0800 sharp……..

  20. Well said ex-european. I may not personally be convinced of the merits of home schooling but it should be your right to educate your children in any way you see fit.
    I do particularly agree with the remark you are making about teacher assessments being carried out by a government body.

    This reminds me of another “reform” which has been under “reluctant” implementation in greece for the last 10 years or so… After numerous european court rulings and fines and so on… Greek parties have finally decided it is time to start thinking about giving the right to people to go and educate themselves at non-greek-state-owned-universities. However, in doing so… it is made clear that these universities have to be “quality assessed” by the greek state. Talk about “shot in the foot”! Up to now the few european and american university branches that had been operating in greece had the freedom to use the curriculum, professors and facilities vetted by the home-campus and the governmental-or-not quality assessment bodies based at the country in which the “degree/certificate/proof-of-successfull-completion-of-a-specific-education-programme-that-bears-the-name-of-the-education-provider-on-the-front-page-type-of-thing” is conferred., the way it should be done. Now the Greek state wants to stick its nose in the process and probably impose its own “approved” curriculum, study material, faculty and facilities, directly (you put my PASOK/ND promoted “professor’s” books in your curriculum or we take away your licence) or indirectly (hire my quasi-academic nephew as a lecturer and I’ll make sure you get a problem free assessment)… This of course will ensure state-inspired uniformity in the tertiary education sector is maintained in the post state-monopoly era…. but if that is the case then what is the point? it’s just a reform in name but in reality… it will be actually worse than before. At least non-state institutions up to now had the chance to do whatever was required in order to maintain their commercial viability. Now they will have to comply with the norm in order to get the licence which will obviously be a requirement for their future commercial viability. What baffles me is… why would someone want to pay to go to study somewhere that is just as corrupt and useless as the free option…