Teachers and Intelligence

An individual’s performance is influenced, among other things, by his creativity, his motivation, his personality, and his intelligence. Intelligence can either be crystallized or fluid. Crystallized intelligence is in long term memory: it is what his knowledge, his expertise, his experience. Fluid intelligence is the central executive of working memory which controls what you think, what you pay attention to, and how you reason. Besides the episodic buffer that provides context, fluid intelligence is composed of a visuo-spatial sketchpad associated with scientific and mathematical reasoning, and also a phonological loop associated with rhetorical and verbal reasoning.

This is the context for some charts provided by the Educational Testing Service [PDF download], and already discussed by Education Realist, Razib Khan, and Steve Sailer.

Here is the chart for the verbal SAT score of teachers, which is a rough measure of their verbal and rhetorical:

Here is a chart for the mathematical SAT score of teachers, which is a rough measure of their scientific and mathematical reasoning ability:

Steve Sailer had the following thoughts:

Overall, public school teachers are pretty average for college graduates. It looks like they average about a quarter of a standard deviation lower on college admission tests than do average college graduates. But then college graduates are above average. With the exception of high school math teachers, teachers tend to score higher on the Verbal / Critical Reading section than on the Math section. That’s their job: to use words to explain stuff. But it also explains why they have trouble dealing with the flood of data that’s been incoming in recent years: thinking about statistics isn’t their strong suit.

My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing, so we ought to be thinking about ways to make the job of teaching more attractive to smart people. In general, smart people don’t like dealing with knuckleheads, so forcing teachers to carry most of the burden of discipline, a growing trend in recent decades, is a good way to keep smart people out of the business. You can instead use some of those gym teachers to run after school detentions instead of delegating most of the disciplining down to the teachers as happens in so many public schools desperate to avoid disparate impact lawsuits by not generating a paper trail of discipline actions carried out by the administration.

My take is if you want more lawyers and MBAs produced by our educational system, you should be happy with the status quo. If you think Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are better at producing wealth, though, you should be unhappy for this.

On the other hand, if we don’t start treating teachers as professionals we’re going to end up with idiot-proof instructional technology anyway, so it might not even matter.