Education, Genetic Explanations

Gender based learning difficulties – why do many more boys struggle than girls?

Boys Learning Disabilities

Sian Griffiths, writing in The Times recommends that you should  “Give your son a leg-up: treat him like a girl.”

According to this article it is parents who are mostly to blame for the lack of educational attainment in their sons.  The rest is caused by a gender-biased society influencing academic achievement.

Ms. Griffiths and the authors of this study seem to be keen advocates of the flawed “blank slate hypothesis”.  This believes that who and what we are as individuals is solely dictated by our environment, education and upbringing.

This article notes two phenomena:

  1. There is a difference in the rate and level of educational attainment between the sexes, with many more boys struggling at school than girls.  This is not new.  We’ve known this for decades.
  1. Parents treat male and female children slightly differently.  Again not new.  We’ve known this for millennia.

However, in a startlingly unscientific and unsubstantiated way they have rammed these two phenomena together and assumed that they are causative.  Not only that, but they have assumed that the way parents treat boys affects their educational attainment.  There is no reason why they should not have chosen the equally unverified and unsubstantiated assumption that parents treat boys differently because their educational attainment is different.

Both assumptions are demonstrably untrue.  Identical twin, sibling twin and adoption studies have conclusively proven that the primary factor driving intelligence and academic achievement in a modern, progressive, relatively socially mobile environment (such as the UK) is genetic.

There is also a demonstrable genetic difference in the variance of intelligence between the sexes.  Not only do girls mature mentally and physically before boys but there is a difference in the variance of intelligence between the sexes.  There are many more males than females with learning difficulties and many more males of very high intelligence than females.  The average intelligence of both sexes is broadly similar.

The references cited below have separated out what is caused by inherited DNA sequence and what is caused by everything else.  So we know these differences are not cultural.  Additionally, this article deals with the extremes.  There is no controversy that there are more males than females with learning difficulties.  This article refers to a million boys over the last decade who have fallen behind.  This is the extreme “left tail” of the standard distribution curve of male intelligence.  These results are what we would expect to see.  We have known about this issue since at least 1932.

If Ms. Griffiths wants to be taken seriously as an educational journalist, she should refer to the proven differences in educational achievement caused by genetic inheritance to ensure balance in her writing.  After all, the “blank slate hypothesis” has been comprehensively discredited so she needs to find another explanation for these differences.

It seems that political correctness continues to overcome scientific fact.


Further  Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different  (3 Podcasts from The BBC on the genetics of intelligence).

What makes some children smarter than others?  Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he’s fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored.

Liberty, Politics and Economics

Should Muirfield Golf Club be allowed to ban female members?


Muirfield Golf Club will not stage another Open Championship after maintaining its ban on women members.  The Scottish club said voting in favour of allowing female members had fallen just short of the required two thirds majority required to change its rules.

There are a very small number of single sex golf clubs in the UK and roughly half of them are women’s clubs.

A private club is a place where like-minded people can meet and socialise.  Effectively a private club is free to exclude anyone based upon any criteria, regardless of how bigoted those criteria may be.

Should The State have the right to dictate to its citizens how they socialise and with whom they socialise?  For example, by passing laws banning private clubs or dictating their membership criteria.   i.e. restricting the right of free association.  Certainly not in a free country.

There are many, many people (particularly on the left of politics) who would like nothing more than to restrict the social activities of the rich and privileged. In fact, they would like to control how society behaves and thinks in general.  They justify the consequent legislation, prosecution and bullying of citizens whose views are different to their own by claiming they are eradicating racism, sexism and inequality. This leads to social engineering and the terrifying concept of “The Thought Police” as portrayed in George Orwell’s  1949 novel Nineteen Eighty- Four and Stalin’s real-life Soviet Communist State.

It was in the communist Soviet Union that the phrase “politically correct” was born. i.e. something could be demonstrably true or scientifically correct but politically incorrect because it didn’t support their particular political philosophy.

To maintain a free society we are in the unfortunate position of having to support Muirfield’s right to have a private club and choose their own membership, even if we disagree with their decisions. In the same way we must support a person’s right to free speech even if they use this right to express bigoted views.

If we go too far in criticising the likes of Muirfield there is the danger of populist but well meaning politicians empowering State intervention through legislation, which would be much worse.  And when political correctness goes too far we have the additional danger of a potential counter-movement, which could be even more worrying – i.e. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.

So, a free society means giving our citizens the freedom to make bad choices and actively supporting that right.

Further Reading:

Discrimination by private members clubs and associations – overview

Why is it legal for some golf clubs to still be single sex?

How does the Equality Act 2010 affect private clubs and associations?

Politics and Economics

Is recent extreme populism a reaction to extreme political correctness?


Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and Chinese have all been insulted by Donald Trump. In August, he accused a popular news presenter of asking questions about his serial misogyny because she was menstruating — and his poll numbers rose.

He enraged much of the British establishment this week by suggesting that Muslim-dominated parts of Britain had become no-go areas for police. Yet the latest poll suggests that 35 per cent of Republican voters, the highest figure yet, want him as their presidential nominee.

There is a misguided campaign to have Mr. Trump banned from the UK because of his populist views. I don’t support his views either, but he has the right to express his opinions and voters have the right to listen to him, make an informed choice and vote for him. And his populism is not alone.   In Europe populists are in power in Poland and Hungary, and in the governing coalition in Switzerland and Finland. In the first round of the French regional elections on 6th December, the far-right National Front (FN) gained the largest share of the national vote. The FN’s leader, Marine Le Pen, and her niece each polled over 40%. 

This far-right populism is perhaps a natural reaction to the con of political correctness gone berserk.  The con is the flawed belief that a human being is born as a malleable lump of clay that can be manipulated and moulded by society into anything that we want.  i.e. social policy can liberate people from their own limitations, flaws, personal inadequacies and insecurities through legislation and indoctrination.

The problem with political correctness  (if there is one) is that it has a strong vision of how the world ought to be.  Inconvenient truths are met with denial followed by shrill personal attacks and screams of “racism” and “sexism”.  Like all idealists (including socialists) there is little debate about how the world actually is and little effort to find pragmatic solutions and compromises.  This can lead to very poor and expensive decision-making, as many real-world facts are not considered before choosing a chain of action. We now experience constant change regarding gender identity, roles in society and social, sexual, racial and religious equality.  We are moving beyond laudable intentions around equality of opportunity to the dangerous premise of equality of outcome – irrespective of possible average natural differences between the classes, races and sexes.

But for the vast majority human happiness is based on security, familiarity, predictability and conformity.  i.e. understanding your place in the world and knowing how to navigate it.  Fundamentally most people don’t like change.  Change management is an enormous industry in the world of work for this reason.  Trade unions desperately try to stop the world of their members changing because it is considered harmful and stressful.

Small groups of people with a “cause” are highly motivated to change the world to suit their own agenda.   They have energy and intelligence to seize power through the media and government and then change the world to suit their own personal grievances.  But they are often a minority and their constant moving of once-taken-for-granted certainty in our societies causes stress, anxiety, confusion and unhappiness for the majority.

Perhaps Mr. Trump and Ms. Le Pen are speaking for a significant number of voters who believe that political correctness has gone too far.  It is possible to have too much of a good thing.  Political correctness must be reigned back and infused with real world truths or we risk voters supporting these populist extreme counter-measures, which would be much worse.