Good Schools—and College—Are the Way to Financial Success, Right? “Does Intelligence Matter?” 3rd in Series by Deborah Ruf, PhD
Going to a “good school” is correlated with getting into a good college and with having a high-paying career. Well-to-do children can go to good private schools or suburban schools, but is this what makes so many of them financially successful? The teachers are well trained, well paid, smart, and provide challenging material for their students. Parental involvement is highly correlated to student success and a high percentage of college-educated parents are involved with their children’s schools. Fewer children in poverty have involved parents. These are two big reasons that so many students in “good” schools grow up to go to good colleges, get good jobs, and make plenty of money! But not so fast with those conclusions, Folks!
Policy has been designed and driven for a long time by the idea that if we spend more money in our schools, end poverty, and make sure all parents are very involved and included in the educational lives of their children, we will finally have all children—at least the vast majority of students—leading productive, lucrative lives … oh, and we’ll close the gender pay gaps (gaps of all kinds, actually), get more kids to go into STEM careers, and get all of our children technologically savvy. After all, look how well the children of well-to-do parents do. Far more of them get into college and far more of them earn a professional wage.
So, is it an individual’s good schooling, an education that is well-funded and challenging, that leads to a high likelihood of the person’s becoming financially successful, or is it the individual’s ability, the innate ability one brings to the table (or desk, as the case may be), that makes the biggest difference? Well, obviously, it’s not that completely simple (an either-or question), but ability is highly related to what kind of education will fit the child best, bring out the child’s talents and stimulate his or her successes.
In fact, the correlation between money, college attendance and high-paying careers is indisputable. There is a correlation! But, correlation is not the same as causality. Correlation means that two things often occur together. Causation means that one causes the other or affects a change on the other. But, in reality, access to money doesn’t cause high ability. High ability is generally needed, though, regardless of the education, for success at complex, high-paying careers and jobs. Lower intellectual ability can lead to financial stability when the education fits the individual student and the jobs for which they train and are most capable pay well. But these are not exclusively the careers that require college, high-level math, or superior reading and writing skills. These require specific, hands-on training.
Intellectual level matters. The early childhood interests and milestones of the individual can predict one’s intellectual level and profile quite accurately. Review the first two entries in this blog series to see some important information about what IQ is and how it affects lots of different things about us.
At the risk of sounding like I think my experience is the only lens through which to examine this topic, let me explain. It got me started but I did go on for my PhD to find out what’s really true. I got many early lessons in how a smart person may not be rich or have “involved parents” and how some slower learners could have parents who were well off when I went to my blue-collar public school back in Ohio. I came from a college-educated family and my parents could afford to send us to elite, private prep schools but my father definitely didn’t want to do that (he bought a boat).
Both my parents grew up poor to modestly poor due to the Great Depression, and my father’s parents also divorced when he was quite young. This wasn’t uncommon for the Greatest Generation to have poor parents. This also has never been uncommon for immigrants, but some rise up through more than hard work; they’re smart. My two best friends came from financially poor backgrounds and neither (for a variety of reasons) had involved parents. But they were both very smart and both did well in school anyway. I don’t claim these examples prove anything; they’re just examples. But, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, they shared similar IQs, a criterion for getting someone’s jokes and being on the same “wavelength.” It helped me see that “bad background” didn’t necessarily stop someone from getting a good education or career.
The point here is this: if you come from a background that suffered financially or you lost a parent or your parents divorced, it didn’t make you more or less intellectually capable. Does opportunity matter? Yes, but not for making you smart or not. It matters for helping you maximize your gifts and talents. It matters for bright children, no matter what their circumstances, to be given the opportunity to get the best and most appropriate training – for them – as we can possibly provide.
If we let ourselves believe that everyone can be smart, that there are no differences between and among people of the same age (kids in a first grade classroom that is based on age, for example), then we are bound to think the same good instruction will work for every child in the room. This cripples our ability to provide what each child needs. So, I will give some examples from gifted adults and parents of gifted children about the frustrations they’ve encountered trying to get their intellectual and emotional needs met in school. In my next blog entry, I share tidbits from both my doctoral dissertation and my book.