The old myth about the ability and variability of potential in children is a comforting myth, especially for those who are uneasy with the degree of inequality they see and would rather seek to justify it than confront it.

The myth of inherent potential helps some explain to themselves why they are privileged. Extend the myth to believe in inherited ability and some can come to believe that their children will inherit part of a greater potential.

These beliefs create and sustain inequality in society and allow for the creation of levels of ignorance in populations. This article uses insights from social geography and the sociology of education to examine how the myths are sustained past and present.

It notes that countries with the highest degree of income inequality and the most unequal education systems have the worst outcomes for young adults, and these are the countries in which eugenic notions of inherited ability are resurfacing.

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Maths ability for those aged 16 to 24 in 2012

Maths ability for those aged 16 to 24 in 2012