Sunday 18 February 2018

Mary Kenny: bad mothers or bad genes?

The debate about nature versus nurture still rages

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

There's a remarkable maths teacher at a London school called Colin Hegarty. Mr Hegarty's parents are Irish - his father was a building site worker and his mother a home help, and his background was "modest". But he's been nominated as one of the world's best educators because of his brilliance in teaching maths.

Colin Hegarty believes that anyone can learn to shine at maths - even if not 'naturally' gifted - if taught in an inspiring way. This is a startling revelation to me: I thought that mathematicians were born, not made. And genetic studies in recent years have tended to reinforce this idea. Your brain is wired up in a specific way. Intelligence is inherited, just like eye colour. And ability at maths is an unerring guide to IQ.

There's been a huge interest in genetic studies over the past few decades, and we've been promised that there's a "gene" to explain everything. A gene for alcoholism. A gene for homosexuality. A gene for depression and schizophrenia. The international Human Genome Project, launched in 1990, set out to map the sequence of genes which would explain so much of human behaviour.

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