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Principles of Learning for Effort-based Education
In American society, our dominant belief system contains a fundamental tension between aptitude and effort. Both are important to us, but they also seem to contradict one another. On one hand, most Americans believe deeply in native intelligence, natural aptitude, talents, and ʺgifts.ʺ We have built whole institutions, including education, around the belief that individuals are endowed with more or less measurable quantities of intelligence, aptitude for particular kinds of tasks, and innate abilities to master specific physical, creative, and intellectual skills. Most of us view these assets as genetically predetermined capacities that babies are born with--potentials that parents, educators, and other conveyors of cultural norms either nurture or allow to languish during the early years of a childʹs life. For nearly a century, the American education system has been using IQ scores and similar normed measures to compare children to each other on a statistical bell curve, to predict who would and would not profit from a rigorous academic education. We have institutionalized the belief that the most reliable predictor of achievement is the kind of innate mental ability we call ʺintelligence.ʺ And we operate on the assumption that this kind of intelligence is more or less accurately measured by IQ tests and their surrogates. A high IQ entitles students either to sail through the standard curriculum with little effort or to sign up for more rigorous educational opportunities. Less is expected of, and less is offered to, children with lower scores.