22 February 2011

Blank slates with 'interests'

copy of a letter to a voluntary worker

There are fundamental ways in which the modern ideology is against us; in its hatred of capitalism and its hatred of IQ. These are not so independent as they may appear to be and, as I think, arise from the same underlying hatred of centralised psychology.

In a letter to a potential supporter, which is already on my blog, I said that the forces which destroyed my education and my life were the same forces that are destroying civilisation.

The antagonism to exceptional ability is not expressed overtly. However, in fact everything is geared against it.

Consider the extraordinary, old-fashioned attitude expressed by the Reverend Mother who nearly managed to give me a chance in life by letting me take the School Certificate exam at 13. She was about 40 years older than me, so had lived a substantial part of her life in the pre-1945 world.

She was prepared to accept that there was such a thing as innate ability and to draw conclusions about how it would develop at later ages.

So in her testimonial to Oxford she said that she recommended me unreservedly. I was more than merely talented, she said, and certain to contribute significantly to the intellectual life of my time.

I was surprised at her being willing to express such certainty. However good I was at taking exams at an early age, how could you draw conclusions from that about what I would do as an adult? And, after all, I had no particular intention of contributing to anything; I thought that all I wanted to do was to do some research in some science or other, and probably write some books, the latter seeming to be a natural thing to do, although at that time there was nothing in particular that I wanted to express.

But, if you are prepared to trust your perceptions, maybe you can predict quite accurately how a certain type of personality will relate to its social environment in later life.

Attitudes quite different from the Reverend Mother’s were expressed by everyone else, both at the same time and earlier.

My father, fobbing me off from finding out how to take degrees in science subjects, and expressing no doubt the received wisdom of the local educational establishment, would say that I couldn’t tell from what interested me now what I would want to do later. Only the passage of many years could reveal this. Perhaps I would not want to do anything academic at all, or perhaps I would want to write books about the architecture of ancient Greece. So meanwhile I should not do what I thought I wanted to do immediately.

The modern attitude is that there are no individual characteristics, so nothing one does can be regarded as evidence that one might do much more if provided with opportunity. Also there is no longer any respect for the underlying common factor, which used to be called the ‘g’ factor, and which was recognised as the predominant factor in performance in any field.

Nowadays a fictitious factor of ‘interest’ is supposed to be all-important. So nothing I have ever done has to be regarded as justifying giving me opportunity to go ahead in any field on a more adequate scale than the best I ever had in the past, or on any scale at all.

However, as one observes people’s reactions in practice, it seems that any evidence of ability which one gives or has ever given is, subconsciously or otherwise, recognised as a threat that one might do something really significant if not bound hand and foot with barbed wire. So it is a justification for choking off every penny of support from every quarter.