The Sciences

Physical education teachers are not smart

By Razib KhanJan 20, 2012 3:51 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

So there is a website out there, Educational Realist (via Steve Sailer), which made me aware of some statistics from ETS on the intellectual aptitudes of those who passed a teaching certification. This is relevant because those who major in education at university are notoriously rather weak students. The implication here is that teachers are substandard as a whole, a narrative long favored on the American Right, but now spreading in some parts of the Left.

Below are the verbal and mathematical scores by licensing domain. The solid line represents the average SAT score of a college graduate.

First, as a whole it seems the teaching profession is a high verbal and low math area, with math & science teachers being exceptions. But it really looks to me like there's a sharp discontinuity between two groups of teachers here. Physical and special education instructors, as well as elementary school teachers, are less intelligent than the average college graduate. The other fields far less so, and in their domain of specialization they seem to be superior to the average college graduate.

Another table also caught my eye. You see see in the table to the left that teachers are far whiter than their students. It is clear that the "Other" category is mostly Asian from later tables. Observe that both Asians and Hispanics are underrepresented in the teaching corps by a factor of 7 in relation to the number of Asian and Hispanic students. I suppose someone might start wondering as to whether this is a problem, but last I checked Asian students are not having difficulties despite not having Asian ethnicity teachers. And in any case, no offense to the teaching profession, but if there is outreach to Asian Americans to encourage their children to become teachers there may be violent repercussions. There's enough ostracism already when children decide to go graduate school, instead of medical or law school. Trying to change the professional priorities of the community is going to be viewed as insensitive.

To be more explicit at what I'm getting at, below are mean SAT test scores comparing individuals of various races between those who are college bound (not necessarily graduates!) and those who pass teaching certification.

college bound seniors

As you can see, Asian teachers, who presumably have a college degree, actually score lower than college bound Asians! This means they're almost certainly drawn from a below average set of college graduates. For whites there is not so much discrepancy. And interestingly for blacks teachers seem to be drawn from the higher end of the distribution.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2022 Kalmbach Media Co.