LA TIMES - James R. Flynn, an emeritus professor of political science at
the University of Otaga in New Zealand, discovered two decades ago that
IQ test scores were steadily rising in the developed world despite
failing schools and stagnant standardized test scores -- a phenomenon
called the "Flynn effect." During a recent visit to UCLA, Flynn talked
about the conundrum, which is the subject of his new book, "What Is
Are children today smarter than their parents?
I don't think they are smarter if by that you mean they have better
brains. They think better on their feet; they can solve problems on the
spot without being told what to do; they are better at working with
shapes, thanks in part to the Internet and the computer. But they have
no larger vocabularies and are no better at arithmetic.
So why are their IQs higher than those of their parents and
The people who invented IQ tests saw the world through scientific
spectacles. They were interested in logical reasoning. But generations
ago people were very utilitarian. If you asked a person in 1900 what a
dog and rabbit had in common, they would say you could use a dog to hunt
rabbits. Today you would say they both are mammals. . .
Do you think there is something wrong with the way IQ is assessed?
The people who designed the test thought they were measuring
intelligence, but they were actually measuring a mix of intelligence and
a way of looking at the world. They looked at the world through
scientific spectacles, and it took a long time for the average person to
slowly take on that perspective. . .
Wouldn't we be better off if children were better at reading and math?
Yes, we would. But you have to teach for that. You have to hire people
who can actually teach math. It's not a cheap fix. You have to make it a
national priority. The invention of computer games has made thinking
spatially and reasoning logically an automatic social priority. We have
never made pouring money into schools to make sure kids were better
educated a national priority.