James Flynn writes,

Two twins raised apart, thanks to having slightly better genes than average, would both get into increasingly privileged environments. Both would get more teacher attention, would be encouraged to do more homework, would get into a top stream, and by adulthood, they would both be far above average. Moreover, thanks to their identical genes, their environmental histories would be very similar. Their identical genes were getting all of the credit for the combination of identical genes plus nearly identical enriching environmental factors! The environmental factors were not feeble at all: they just tended to be similar for identical twins when raised apart, which made them look feeble.

This says that studies of twins raised apart may not necessarily receive different environmental influences. Can’t argue with that. But it does not prove that environment matters more than the studies appear to show, only that it could matter.

He goes on,

The best chance of enjoying enhanced cognitive skills is to fall in love with ideas, or intelligent conversation, or intelligent books, or some intellectual pursuit. If I do that, I create within my own mind a stimulating mental environment that accompanies me wherever I go. Then I am relatively free of needing good luck to enjoy a rich cognitive environment. I have constant and instant access to a portable gymnasium that exercises the mind. Books and ideas and analyzing things are possessions easier to access than even the local gym.

Fine. But take something you are not good at. Imagine someone giving me one of these lectures:

Arnold, the best chance of enjoying enhanced fishing skills is to fall in love with fishing, or casting, or filleting, or being in a rowboat on some smelly river at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Arnold, the best chance to enjoy penmanship is to fall in love with neat handwriting, or nicely-formed letters, or taking forever to express written thoughts.

Thanks very much–enjoyed hearing your advice. Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I’m going to do something useful with the rest of my day.

The Reading Instruction gurus argue that competence comes first, enjoyment second. That feels more right to me.

I get the sense that Flynn thinks that we need to do something to get more people into cognitively challenging situations. Before we get the idea that we need to get me into situations involving rods and reels, I am going to say, Lose the we.

UPDATE: This talk by Flynn seems somewhat clearer than the Cato-unbound essay.