Although it seems that the Nature/Nurture argument has finally been settled, this study seems to indicate that nurture continues to be an important contributor to a student’s academic success. A student can have the right genetic indicators, but live in an environment that is not conducive learning, while another student may lack some or all of the indicators and still excel in school because of environmental supports.
Even though the genetic variants were found to be associated with educational levels, having a specific allele does not determine whether someone will graduate from high school or earn a college degree, according to Beaver. Rather, these genes work in a probabilistic way, with the presence of certain alleles simply increasing or decreasing the likelihood of educational outcomes, he said. “No one gene is going to say, ‘Sally will graduate from high school’ or ‘Johnny will earn a college degree,’” he said. “These genetic effects operate indirectly, through memory, violent tendencies and impulsivity, which are all known predictors of how well a kid will succeed in school. If we can keep moving forward and identify more genetic markers for educational achievement, we can begin to truly understand how genetics play a role in how we live and succeed in life.”
Data for this study came from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Add Health, that followed middle- and high-school students from 1995. All participants volunteered DNA swabs, which were used for this analysis. What makes this study unique and exciting (to the researcher in me) is that the longitudinal study conducted under the aegis of the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, was able to obtain the DNA swabs as part of the study methodology. Although local studies had been conducted elsewhere, this study includes a cross-section of American teenagers.