The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

Although this book loses its way in the final few chapters, it's a concepts-only review of the basic current accepted ideas in evolutionary psychology and their impact on public policy. From taxation to violence to gender, evolutionary development (evo devo)'s a wide brush that re-paints the public debatescape.

Especially appreciated are Pinker's condemnations of "scientists" who declare certain social claims to be exempt from empiric analysis. At school, I had initially ascribed some people's ignorance to being blinded by their vision of what things "should" be like, and just figured that they'd eventually take classes in methodology and statistics and get better. I was a lot more naive back then. ;)

One benefit of the wide brush is that it touches a lot of topics for thought. Touching upon the development of children, the breakdown is that roughly 40-50% of variation in kids' abilities can be ascribed to genetics, 0-10% to parenting, and 50% to peers/events (page 380 hardcover). The implication is that parenting doesn't impact much unless parents can control their kids' environment and interactions with peers.

Homeschooling seems to be the answer to that problem. And a solution that's increasingly being put to use, as from 1999 to 2003 homeschooled kids grew from 1.7% to 2.2% of the student population in the US. But it remains to be seen if parents can really control children's experiences if they allow access to the 'Net, because with experiences, detection after exposure is useful, but nowhere near as good as prevention of exposure to unwanted material.

To paraphrase Stalin (supposedly), "Culture is more powerful than a gun. We don't let kids have guns, why would we let them have their own culture?". It seems like we're moving down that path, and it'll be interesting to see what happens.