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G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement




G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement

Kathryn Asbury, Robert Plomin

ISBN: 978-1-118-48278-0 November 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 216 Pages



G is for Genes shows how a dialogue between geneticists and educationalists can have beneficial results for the education of all children—and can also benefit schools, teachers, and society at large.


  • Draws on behavioral genetic research from around the world, including the UK-based Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS), one of the largest twin studies in the world
  • Offers a unique viewpoint by bringing together genetics and education, disciplines with a historically difficult relationship
  • Shows that genetic influence is not the same as genetic determinism and that the environment matters at least as much as genes
  • Designed to spark a public debate about what naturally-occurring individual differences mean for education and equality

Acknowledgements xi

Part One In Theory 1

Chapter 1 Genetics, Schools, and Learning 3

The Aims and Assumptions of Education 4

Diverse Opportunities to Draw Out Individual Potential 8

DNA in the Classroom 10

In Summary . . . 11

Chapter 2 How We Know What We Know 14

Twins: A Natural Experiment 15

DNA Sequencing 18

Chapter 3 The 3Rs: Reading, wRiting . . . 22

From DNA to ABC 24

Environmental Influences on Reading Ability 31

Struggling Readers 34

The Genetics of Writing Ability 38

Chapter 4 . . . and ’Rithmetic 42

So, Why are Some People Better at Math than Others? 43

How does Nurture Affect Mathematical Ability? 52

Chapter 5 Physical Education: Who, What, Why, Where, and How? 57

Genes, Sports, and Smoking 62

Obesity, Genes, and Environment 64

The Heritability of Fitness 67

Gym Class Heroes 69

In Summary . . . 74

Chapter 6 Science: A Different Way of Thinking? 78

Differences Between the Sexes 85

In Summary . . . 87

Chapter 7 How do IQ and Motivation Fit In? 89

IQ + Genetics = Controversy (and Name-calling) 95

Self-Confidence and Motivation 98

Improving Confidence and Cognition in the Classroom 100

Chapter 8 Special Educational Needs: Ideas and Inspiration 105

The Expansion of Special Educational Needs 110

Personalized Learning in Action 113

In Summary . . . 114

Chapter 9 ‘‘Clones’’ in the Classroom 115

Positivity and Achievement 122

Clones in the Classroom 122

Chapter 10 Mind the Gap: Social Status and School Quality 126

Low SES: What Does It Look Like? 129

What Does the Heritability of SES Mean? 133

School Quality 136

Chapter 11 Genetics and Learning: The Big Ideas 141

Big Idea #1: Achievement and Ability Vary, Partly for Genetic Reasons 141

Big Idea #2: The Abnormal is Normal 142

Big Idea #3: Continuity is Genetic and Change is Environmental 143

Big Idea #4: Genes are Generalists and Environments are Specialists 144

Big Idea #5: Environments are Influenced by Genes 144

Big Idea #6: The Environments that Matter Most are Unique to Individuals 145

Big Idea #7: Equality of Opportunity Requires Diversity of Opportunity 146

Part Two In Practice 147

Chapter 12 Personalization in Practice 149

So, What Can Be Done to Make Teaching and Learning More Personalized? 150

A Good ‘‘Mindset’’ for Learning 153

Other Ways to Personalize Learning 158

In Summary . . . 159

Chapter 13 Eleven Policy Ideas 161

1. Minimize the Core Curriculum and Test Basic Skills 161

2. Increase Choice 163

3. Forget About Labels 165

4. Teach the Child, As Well As the Class 166

5. Teach Children How To Succeed 168

6. Promote Equal Opportunities from an Early Age as a Foundation for Social Mobility in the Future 170

7. Equalize Extracurricular Opportunities at School 172

8. Create a Two Stage PE Program 172

9. Change the Destination 173

10. Train New Teachers in Genetics and Give Them the Tools to Put it Into Practice 175

11. Big is Beautiful 177

Chapter 14 Education Secretary for a Day 178

Index 189

“G is for Genes” is a controversial book and this is exactly why it certainly makes an interesting reading.”  (Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical And Molecular Teratology, 15 December 2014)

“This is a most important book for educationists, teachers, psychologists, parents and learners.”  (South West Review, 1 June 2014

“G is for Genes is an easy-to read book for a general audience, providing an extensive overview of findings from behavioral genetic studies related to education and achievement.”  (Twin Research and Human Genetics, 1 May 2014)

“In sum, G Is for Genesis an admirable effort by two authors who are excellent translational scholars. It alights on a number of important educational issues and does so in a reasoned and constructive manner.”  (PsycCRITIQUES, 7 April 2014)

Link to The Guardian - 18 February 2014

“This book breaks down complex science in an engaging and accessible way so that the wider audience can enjoy reading about genetic research, molecular biology, genome screening and most relevantly the implications for education.”  (Early Years Educator, 1 February 2014)

Link to BBC - The Forum - 11 November 2013

Link to The Economist - 30 November 2013

"This book breaks down complex science in an engaging and accessible way so that the wider audience can enjoy reading about genetic research, moelecular biology, genome screening and, most relevantly, the implications for education." Early Years Educator, February 2014