From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, p.29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Education and Environment
Manchester UP, 37s 6d
The title is misleading. The reader expecting a comprehensive treatment of the issue will be disappointed since the author denies himself scope by restricting his aim to that of carrying out investigations that are likely to prove useful to the local education authorities in the area of the Manchester School of Education. There is a chapter devoted to a survey of research which gives undue weight to Burt’s investigation of identical twins reared apart, while ignoring the work of people like Bernstein, who have shifted the whole balance of the argument about innate and acquired intelligence. All the evidence that Wiseman cites shows the immense influence of environment, and even though he agrees that adopted children have IQ levels closer to those of their foster-parents that to those of their parents, he still accepts Burt’s assessment of 75 per cent as the ‘innate’ component of IQ score (based on the high correlation of IQ scores of 21 identical twins reared apart). However, these considerations apart, this chapter provides a useful summary of a large amount of the research done in this field up to 1963 (i.e. before Robbins, Newsom, the Douglas survey and Jackson’s work on streaming).
Most of the original research seems rather old. The two main surveys are from 1951 and the follow up is only 1957. Hence many of the fundamental questions in the nature/nurture controversy had not been raised when the surveys took place. The age of the research might account for the very unsatisfactory basis taken for socio-economic status. A combination of local government officials’ opinions about the total social status of a ward, and the juror-index (number of jurors per 1,000 voters) is hardly adequate for research purposes. Wifeeman says that in 1951 he decided not to ask for details of the father’s occupation as this would involve misunderstanding. But in 1957 when the climate of opinion had been considerably changed by various pieces of social research, he still rejected this line of enquiry. As he also decided to survey all the 14,000 children in the research area, and not to take a sample, it would clearly have involved a large amount of work for which there was very little money.
The main findings support the widely accepted theory that educational performance is related to social class. However, as there already exists much more convincing evidence, the publication of this book does not so much add to our theories as give support to those that already exist. The brief outlines of research results are quite useful.
Last updated on 12.5.2008