Mum’s the word on smarter children

September 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Straits Times Forum
Published on Sep 21, 2011

THE announcement of my engagement to a Caucasian surprised many who had accepted my status of being ‘on the shelf’ (‘A PhD’s fine, but what about love and babies?’; Sept 6).

It is my PhD that is currently on the shelf as after more than 10 years as a full-time mother, it is almost impossible to return to academia.

Many intelligent Singapore women will recognise this problem: most Singapore men are not inclined to marry women they consider to be cleverer.

I remember the look of one man who chatted me up after I had made a witty remark at a lecture. When I told him I was (then) a master’s degree student he – literally – turned away.

Spot the difference: My husband (who holds a Bachelor of Science degree), tells people he is clever enough to have married me.

Studies have shown consistently that a child’s educational attainment correlates with that of his mother’s. My son’s IQ is significantly higher than that of either of his parents. (I am convinced that 11 months of breast-feeding also helped.)

I might have opted out of a career where I could inspire many young people on to their own doctorates, but my son has also benefited much from our discussions on the scientific method, statistics in research, Descartes, splitting an infinitive (and atom), and so on.

He is so far ahead of his cohort that he has skipped one year in Maths and is being ‘extended’ in other subjects within his normal classes.

My points are:

First, Singapore men who wish to have clever children should consider marrying women who are better educated or cleverer (remember, one does not always imply the other), just as short men should marry taller wives if they want taller sons because sons are rarely shorter than their mothers.

Second, it is all right for well-educated mothers to stay at home to care for their children. Their education will not be wasted in the instruction of their own children.

Third, Mr Lee Kuan Yew first alerted us to our limited gene pool in 1984.

Fourth, what has been done since to preserve and enhance this gene pool? Has the foreign talent initiative superseded this urgency?
Finally, a lack of support for well-educated mothers who wish to take career breaks – which can only benefit their offspring, with or without breast-feeding – is myopic.

Dr Lee Siew Peng
England

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