IQ and social mobility
Sir: It seems not to have occurred to our leaders that ability is not evenly distributed across the social classes. In a meritocratic society, employers will try to recruit the most able candidates into the top positions. There, they meet other bright people, pair off and have children. As Professor Plomin’s work clearly demonstrates (‘The Truth about Intelligence’, 27 July), these children inherit much of their intelligence from their parents, so like them, they succeed in the education system and end up getting top jobs. Middle-class kids therefore tend to outperform working-class kids, not because they are unfairly privileged, but because they are likely to be brighter.
However, as Mary Wakefield made clear in her interview with Robert Plomin, there is enormous resistance in education and the media to any idea that ability might be genetically transmitted across the generations. Politicians would much prefer to tell voters their children have failed unfairly than to say they just weren’t bright enough. I wish Professor Plomin well in his quest to talk the politicians and educationalists around, but I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, we are stuck with a ‘social mobility strategy’ that is pushing our top universities into distorting their admissions procedures by accepting less qualified applicants from lower socioeconomic groups over better qualified youngsters from more affluent homes.
Sir: Your interview with Prof Robert Plomin will cause wails of anguish among anxious parents who have forked out for useless intelligence-enhancing activities and software. But they might find a ray of hope buried in the feature: that what Prof Plomin called ‘appetite’ (conscientiousness, grit and determination) is far less heritable than IQ, and therefore more influenced by upbringing. As an anxious parent myself, may I request Plomin Pt II on ‘appetite’ before my child leaves for university?
The dash for gas
Sir: I was interested to note in David Blackburn’s article on exploratory drilling in Fernhurst, West Sussex (July 20), the deafening silence on the matter from the South Downs National Park. As an emerging technology, the environmental consequences of ‘fracking’ are not fully understood. How sensible is it, then, to be using any of our National Parks — areas that represent the most beautiful environments in the UK — as a test bed? The government should consider this as it charges forward with its ‘dash for gas’.
Sir: The response of the ‘Spokesperson of the High Representative’ (Letters, 27 July) to Norman Lamont’s detailed critique of the European External Action Service is an example of Brussels-speak at its worst: a cut-and-paste job with the usual tired phrase-making but no facts or figures to say where Lamont got it ‘wrong’.
Sir: One wonders what David Cameron’s attitude to censoring internet access to ‘legal pornography’ would have been if the UK had a vibrant pornography industry. We may never know, unless the UK creative industry takes this large market on as a business opportunity. Perhaps the recent Welsh government encouragement to young entrepreneurs to enter the sex industry was pointing the way.
Keep the Knowledge
Sir: I agree with Rory Sutherland (The Wiki Man, 20 July) that a taxi driver with the Knowledge beats the new reliance on GPS. In July, I hired a chauffeured van to take our party to the Henley Regatta from London. When I told the fellow we needed to pick someone up in Kensington High Street, he hovered over his GPS and asked, ‘What’s the postcode?’ As for the destination, he insisted on knowing ‘what building’ in Henley. We made the round trip successfully because we had the basic knowledge.
Poor Pope Francis
Sir: I was grateful to Alexander Chancellor for his insightful column on the sorry state of affairs in Rome (Long Life, 27 July). Poor old Pope Francis! Not only must he tour the world like some rock star on behalf of God — at his age, and with only one lung — but back at home, he is surrounded by a nest of vipers and a torrent of scandal.
There was talk when the last Pope resigned about the need to replace him with a tough CEO figure to sort out the Vatican. It sounded silly at the time — the Roman Catholic Church is not a business — but the more I read, the more it makes sense.
Royal baby mania
Sir: I share Rod Liddle’s bemusement at the royal baby mania (27 July). A friend of mine was delivered of a child the day after the Duchess of Cambridge. When I rang to offer my congratulations, she seemed much more eager to talk about the Windsor sprog. ‘What do you think they’ll call it?’ she said. ‘I dunno,’ I said, ‘what are you going to call yours?’ ‘Oh,’ she answered, ‘I haven’t really thought about that.’ She was only half-joking.
Following Rod Liddle’s piece of 25 May, we would like to make clear that both the Home Office and the Upper Tribunal did not believe Mr Thuo’s account of having committed crimes in Kenya. His appeal was allowed on the separate basis of his serious illness and risk of self-harm.