Friday, April 17, 2015

Ad Hoc Propiter Hoc

It is always amazing to see what amounts to research. In a recent MIT News release there is a study that alleges to show that people raised in well off families are smarter than those in poor families because of the difference in income. At least that appears to be the gist, an academic study to justify income transfer and the elimination of income disparity. (This is funded by the Gate Foundation, somewhat ironic.)

The article states:

A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests. “Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s .... Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”

Now I think of Faraday,  orphaned and apprenticed as a bookbinder. His work was prolific and established the basis for our electromagnetic world today. One can go across MIT alumni and see all too many who came from what they would call less advantaged homes. In fact MIT was where one achieved from humble beginnings as compared to Harvard where one achieved from family pedigrees. I would hazard to say many MIT alums did more intellectually for society than Harvard. After all we had fewer politicians and that alone is an achievement.

But I suspect the facts belie the conclusions above. I think of the many MITES students I worked with and befriended. Talk of hard times. Yet look at them now! Could they have done better? Frankly I believe that they did what they did because they had been challenged, not despite it. Probably the one of whom I am most proud went from a Mississippi rural area to heading a major investment fund in Africa!

Also one must remember all the well off kids that go nowhere. The "real cost" is in my opinion a political statement and lacks any factual reality.