Yesterday I read about a new study—I cannot read the actual paper itself of course because it is behind a fucking paywall—that examined non-academic characteristics of a sample of incoming freshman to see which factors might predict their success or failure at college. High school grades are the single best predictor of college grades, but they still only account for about 20 percent of the difference between students’ ending up with good or bad college GPAs. The new research focused on outliers: the “thrivers” and “divers” who did much better or much worse in college, respectively, than would be expected based on their high school grades.
One unsurprising correlation the researchers found is a variability in what I would call time management skills. From the abstract:
Students whose first-year college average is far below expectations (divers) have a high propensity for procrastination – they self-report cramming for exams and wait longer before starting assignments…In contrast, students who exceed expectations (thrivers)…are willing to study more hours per week to obtain the higher GPA they expect.
Nothing shocking there, but without reading the paper and following down that rabbit hole, I cannot say whether this really reflects an innate personality trait or a skill set one can practice and learn (or both). The reporting on the study goes on to describe correlating personality traits such as “conscientiousness” that may explain much of this difference, but again, the nature-vs.-nurture question is salient.
But what really baked my noodle later on was this passage:
Cultural differences might also help explain the performance gaps. As part of the study, students were asked to write about themselves and their goals. Thrivers were significantly more likely to use words such as “trustworthy,” “wise” and “helpful” to describe their future selves, while divers were more likely to use words like “tough,” “man” and “rich.” While thrivers dreamed about contributing to society or helping others, divers were more likely to cite wealth or success in business as their goals.
Muy interesante, amigos. No? I suppose a propensity for toxic masculinity and shallow narcissism vs. ethical and well-informed altruism could be described as “cultural differences.” But the conservative/authoritarian vs. leftist/egalitarian distinction jumped right out at me.
I’m just spitballin’ here, but if right-wing political orientation is substantially correlated with an inability to thrive in an academic environment, this might help explain the characteristic conservative/fascist disdain for scientific experts and inteeleckshuls of all stripes. After all, university professors and people who eagerly embrace new wisdom for its own sake are not exactly universally described as “tough,” “man” and “rich,” at least not in the sense those words are used by US conservatives.