Can you blame genetics for your school report card?

dnaIntelligence is a broad term that describes mental capabilities which entail the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex concepts, comprehend quickly and learn from experiences. Academic performance is a smaller part of a bigger concept of intelligence. Society tends to grade intelligence mainly based on your level of literacy and grades at school. People with good grades are highly esteemed and have better opportunities than the average learners and those who perform poorly. The question is if genetics play a role on the grades you get at school, is the education system such as university entry points, excluding people for what it not within their control. According to Deary, Spinath & Bates (2006) IQ tests are strongly associated with academic success, which therefore suggests that intelligence can be graded according to your academic performance.

Genes are often considered as the blueprint of life. Inherited genetic variation has an influence on intelligence and academic achievement but the environment is a factor that also influences one’s level of intelligence.  According to Aljabber (2001), intelligence is a complex term that encompasses hereditary and environmental factors. In his study, he suggests that children who had a high IQ score and performed well in academics were found to be those from families where education is valued and where there is support academically. If the environment is a factor that plays a role in the level of intelligence, we could argue that the level of intelligence can be modified by changing the environment i.e. by increasing academic support and motivation.

My opinion is that we don’t open this Pandora box if people modify themselves that would result to super humans, or perfect people according to their standards and choices. The idea of perfect or super humans will possibly have its consequences and how does society then deal with those consequences when they arise because the main aim was to create ultimate perfect people. Gene therapy is an approach that tempers with the creation and I certainly don’t think it is the best approach to alter genetics but rather alter other factors that can influence the level of intelligence. We cannot solely blame inadequate performance just to genetics there’s a lot of other factors that come to play that are part of the environmental factors. Performance is not only determined by how smart you are but also effort and hard work.  For instance a student who has never used a computer before coming to university where all  course work has to be done using computers notes are also accessed by using computers , this student will need to adjust and learn using computers first before even getting to course content which automatically puts a student who has a background of using computers, at an advantage, underperformance of such a person cannot be pinned to genetics but the environmental changes.

The waking up podcast by Sam Harris suggests that a genetic variation among individuals is defined when the environment is controlled across the individuals, Which implies that when the environment is different between individuals the variation among those individuals might be due to the environmental differences than genetic variations. For instance, a student who has a room to stay in at res than a student who wakes up in some office space on campus can potentially be distracted in their performance, not because of genetics but they have more burdens than the rest of their peers, which is sadly the case even on our campus , students sleep in office spaces and still have to perform adequately in order to be promoted, can a person like that be blamed if they underperform?

Eugenics is not a new concept but I believe the idea of it tempers with Gods design and framework of a human being. If a person has no learning disabilities then I believe there’s room for improvement by altering the environment and barriers to adequate performance.



Deary, I. J., Spinath, F. M., & Bates, T. C. (2006). Genetics of intelligence. European Journal of Human Genetics14(6), 690-700.

Aljabber, J. M. (2001). Is intelligence influenced by heritability, environmental influences, or both? How is intelligence influenced by these factors?. Science Education.


One Reply to “Can you blame genetics for your school report card?”

  1. Hi. I’m very sorry but I can not follow you.

    As I understand you are writing about eugenics. So if “modern” eugenics is or is not an ethical way to improve people’s learning skills?

    I do unterstand that intelligence is formed from genes and the environment. So your saying improve the environment of the learning settings instead of manipulating genes and set people at risk that they have been manipulated in the wrong way at some time? (If your saying so; ohterwise just forget about my comment) I can understand your point, I would be interested in the reasons that let you think like this? What are your values or beliefs? Do you see the world in a pantheistic way? In the title you state: can you blame genetics for your… Do you blame society? Or the individual who does not try to change his own environment?

    I hope this helps you for your essay.

    Regards, Andy


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