Ancel Keys, One of Lewis Terman’s Termites

Unless you are seriously interested in diet and nutrition, you’ve probably never heard the name of Ancel Keys (1904-2004). Yet he was one of the most influential men of the 20th century, at least within the area of nutrition studies, government food policy, and official dietary recommendations. He developed the so-called ‘Mediterranean diet’, although it could more accurately be called a post-war scarcity and austerity diet, since we now know it has little in common with the pre-war traditional Mediterranean diet that prioritized lard and not olive oil. Because of his public campaign against animal fats and his research on heart disease, he was sometimes referred to in the press as ‘Dr. Cholesterol’, despite not being a doctor. He was academically successful and had a scientific background, but oddly considering his career path he had absolutely zero formal education and professional training in nutrition studies or in medicine. Instead, his extended higher education included chemistry, economics, political science, zoology, oceanography, biology, and physiology.

His career as a scientific researcher started in 1931 with a study on the physiology of fish and eels, his main area of expertise at the time, whereas his first work in diet and nutrition happened later on by the accident of historical circumstances. The US military sought to develop prepared rations for soldiers and, as no one else at the University of Minnesota wanted this lowly assignment, Keys at the bottom of the totem pole saw it as an opportunity and took advantage of it to promote his career. In his lack of requisite knowledge and expertise, according to his colleague Dr. Elsworth Buskirk, “he was told to go home and leave such things to the professionals,” but he persisted in obtaining funds and came up with something that met specifications (From Harvard to Minnesota: Keys to our History). This became what is known as the K-Ration. During the Second World War, he did much other work for the military and that paved the way for his entering the field of nutrition studies. It was through the military that he did research on humans with much of it focusing on extreme conditions of stress, from high altitudes to starvation. This led to a study on vitamin supplementation during that time period and after the war a prospective dietary study in 1947.

Yet Keys wouldn’t fully enter the fray of nutrition studies until the 1970s. He was about 70 years old when, in his battle with the British sugar researcher John Yudkins, he finally became a major contender in scientific debates. His controversial Seven Countries Study, although done in 1956, wasn’t published until decades later in 1978, almost 40 years after his first involvement in animal research. The height of his career extended into his 80s, having given him many decades to have mentored students, allies, and followers to carry on his crusade. He had a towering intellect and charismatic personality that gave him the capacity to demolish opponents in debate and helped him to dominate the media and political battlefield. Think of Keys as a smarter version of Donald Trump, as seen in an instinct for media manipulation of public perception, maybe related to Keys’ geographic and familial proximity to Hollywood: “As the nephew of silent screen star Lon Chaney, Keys also filmed all of his scientific work and was a first-rate publicist, frequently writing for popular audiences” (Sarah W. Tracey, Ancel Keys). He was a creature of the mass media that took hold during his lifetime.

Though now largely forgotten by the general public, Keys once was a famous figure whose picture was found on the covers of national magazines, from Time to Life. He personally associated and politically allied himself with many powerful politicians, health experts, and leading scientists. Whether or not you know of him, his work and advocacy shaped the world most of us were born into and he had a direct impact on the modern food system and healthcare practice that has touched us all. A half century ago, his fame was comparable to that of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), a Seventh Day Adventists and eugenicist from an earlier generation who also worked in the field of diet and nutrition in having been one of the earliest vegans, in having invented breakfast cereal, and in having operated a sanitorium that was popular among the elite: politicians, movie stars, writers, and artists. Dr. Kellogg preached against race mixing, and warned of race degeneracy, and to promote eugenics he co-founded the Race Betterment Foundation that held several national conferences. He advocated the development of a “eugenic registry” to ensure “proper breeding pairs” that would produce “racial thoroughbreds,” but for inferior couplings he advised sterilization of “defectives.” Though coming from different ideological perspectives, Keys and Kellogg were the twin forces in shaping anti-fat ideology and, in this scapegoating of animal fats, shifted the blame away from sugar which was the actual cause behind metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, etc). That misdirection sent nutrition studies down a blind alley and misled public policymakers, a quagmire we are still in the middle of.

To be fair, it must be clarified that Keys never showed any proclivities toward eugenics, but I bring it up because there is a connection to be explored. As a child, he had tested as high IQ. After Keys’ parents “signed him up while he was a student at Berkeley High School,” according to Richard C. Paddock (The Secret IQ Diaries), he was given entrance into a study done by Lewis Terman (1877-1956) who was a noted psychologists and, like Dr. Kellogg, was an early 20th century racist: “He joined and served as a high ranking member in many eugenic organizations (the Human Betterment Foundation, the American Eugenics Society, and the Eugenics Research Association), and worked alongside many others (such as the American Institute of Family Relations and the California Bureau of Juvenile Research)” (Ben Maldonado, Eugenics on the Farm: Lewis Terman). In studying and working with gifted youths like Keys, Terman sought to prove the hypothesis of social Darwinism through eugenics (‘good genes’). He believed that such an ideological vision could be made manifest through a genetically superior intellectual elite who, if promoted and supported and given all the advantages a society could offer, would develop into a paternalistic ruling class of enlightened aristocracy with the potential of becoming humanity’s salvation as visionaries, creative geniuses, and brilliant leaders. It was a humble aspiration to remake all of society from the ground up.

This attitude, bigoted and socially conservative (e.g., prejudice against “sexual deviancy” in seeking to enforce traditional gender roles), was far from uncommon in the Progressive Era. Keep in mind that, at the time, ‘progressivism’ wasn’t solely or even always primarily identified with social liberalism. Among the strongest supporters of Progressivism were Evangelicals, Mormons, Klansmen, Jim Crow leaders, white supremacists, WASP elites, military imperialists, and fascists — think of one of the most famous of Progressive leaders, President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a racist and imperialist; and even his distant cousin, the Progressive President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was not without racist and imperialist inclinations. Progress back then had a different connotation, and many of these American eugenicists were a direct inspiration to Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders. After all, the enactment of progressive Manifest Destiny was still playing out in the last of Indian Wars all the way into the 1930s, before the remaining free Indians were finally put down. The proto-neocon Civilizing Project was long and arduous and more than a bit bloody. This ideology continued even after the defeat of the Nazis, as sterilization of perceived inferiors in the United States was still practiced for decades following the end of Second World War, all the way into the 1970s. Eugenics has been persistent, to say the least.

Inspired by this idealistic, if demented and distorted, ideology of evolutionary advancement and Whiggish progress, Terman invented the Stanford-Binet IQ Test. During the First World War, he worked in the military to implement the first mass testing of intelligence. His own IQ test was the initial attempt to scientifically measure what is now called general intelligence or the g factor but for which he coined the term “intelligence quotient” (IQ), a mysterious essence that many at the time believed to be inherent to the individual psyche from birth, as genetically inherited from one’s parents. The Stanford-Binet was a measure of academic ability or what today we might think of as ‘aptitude’ — specifically having assessed attention, memory, and verbal skill in measuring ability in arithmetical reasoning, sentence completion, logics, synonyms-antonyms, symbol-digit testing, vocabulary, analogies, comparisons, and general information. The focus was on crystallized intelligence, but it was also culturally biased and coded for socioeconomic class.

The Stanford-Binet was modeled after the intelligence test of the French psychologist Alfred Binet. There was a significant difference, though. Binet used his test to identify those most in need in order to help them improve, whereas Terman saw these ‘deficient’ children as a danger to society that should be eliminated, quite literally with sterilization — this had real world application and consequences: “Terman’s test was also used regularly to determine who should be sterilized in the name of eugenics: individuals with an IQ of under 70 (deemed feebleminded) were targeted for sterilization by the state, such as in the famous case of Carrie Buck. In the United States, over 600,000 people were sterilized by the state for eugenic reasons, often because of IQ test results. For many eugenicists, Terman’s research finally presented a way to efficiently and “objectively” judge the eugenic worth of human lives” (Ben Maldonado, Eugenics on the Farm: Lewis Terman). Instead of helping the poor and disadvantaged, he hoped to use his own adaptation of Binet’s test to identify the smart kids so as to ensure they would become high achievers in gaining the success and respect they supposedly deserved. This was a response to his own childhood struggles as a sickly nerd growing up among other farm kids in rural Indiana.

By the way, this was the specific area that later on would become the stronghold of the Second Klan with the Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson having set up base in Terman’s old hometown. The Second Klan rose to power at the very moment the adult Terman, having left Indiana, began his eugenicist project of IQ testing. That was no coincidence. Following upon a period of moral panic, there was a mix of fear and hope about the future and, central to public debate, threats to the survival of the white race was a major concern (The Crisis of Identity). The purpose of eugenics was basically to show that the right kind of people were a special breed of humans that, in eliminating what held back their genetic potential, would rise up to make America great again and so return Western Civilization to its previous glorious heights. The agenda, of course, wasn’t to create a fair and objective measure of human worth and human potential for the assumptions it was built upon presupposed the race and class of people who, by definition, were the best of the best. Terman was simply seeking to prove what he already ‘knew’ as a true believer of social, moral, mental, and racial hygiene.

With this hope in mind, Terman began in 1921 to gather a large group of children who scored high on his IQ test, a total of 1,521 subjects, including the teenage Ancel Keys. His selection process was highly subjective and idosyncratic. It just so happened that, among a total sample of 168,000 students, Terman included only 6 Japanese-Americans, 2 African-Americans, 1 Native American, and 1 Mexican-American. The vast majority of those chosen were white, urban, and middle class boys largely drawn from the college towns and suburbs of Northern California. These were known as Terman’s kids or ‘Termites’. Betraying scientific objectivity, he intervened in the lives of his subjects, sometimes openly but also behind the scenes. He followed these subjects into adulthood to find out how they turned out and to ensure they gained advantages, such as his having written letters of recommendation for college entrance, job applications, and professional contacts. The eugenics project was not a passive endeavor of neutral scientific observation.

Whatever is to be thought of it, there is no doubt that the study of Terman’s children was the first and maybe only time a hypothesis of social Darwinian eugenics was so fully tested at such an ambitious level. In general across all scientific fields, there is no other longitudinal study that lasted so long and, as some of the subjects remain alive, there are scientists carrying on the work to this day with the last of the surviving Termites still dutifully filling out the surveys sent to them (Ancel Keys remained a participant into his 90s until his death in 2004, two months shy of his 101st birthday). One has to give Terman credit for having dared to scientifically test his belief system in a falsifiable study, ignoring the problems with confounding factors. He put his convictions on the line, although Hitler was even more ambitious in using war as a test of sorts, forcing an end result of either total domination or total destruction, to prove or disprove the hypothesis of German racial supremacy. I guess we can be grateful that Terman took a less violent approach of scientific analysis that didn’t require vast desolation of battlefields and doctors experimenting on unwilling victims in concentration camps.

Terman’s decades-long experiment, continuing as it did into the post-war period, ended in failure by his own standards of expectation. Before his death in 1956, he was able to see how few of the children grew up to amount to much, beyond many of them becoming moderately successful middle class professionals, although a few attained some prominence: “Among some of the original participants of the Terman study was famed educational psychologist Lee Chronbach, “I Love Lucy” writer Jess Oppenheimer, child psychologist Robert Sears, scientist Ancel Keys, and over 50 others who had since become faculty members at colleges and universities” (Kendra Cherry, Are People With High IQs More Successful?). In Cradles of Eminence, Victor and Muriel Goertzel analyzed the Termites according to eminence, defined as having multiple biographies written about someone without their being either royalty or a sports star. It turns out none of Terman’s subjects had even a single biography written about them. Crystallized intelligence, at best, moderately predicted being professionally successful and conforming well within the social order. However, once later tests removed the cultural and class biases, IQ tests stopped even being useful for predicting even this much. When environmental factors and family background are controlled for, almost all IQ differences disappear. A lower IQ rich person is more likely to be successful than a higher IQ poor person. Surprise, surprise!

Interestingly, in comparing the Termites to their peers, “two children who were tested but didn’t make the cut — William Shockley and Luis Alvarez — went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. According to Hastorf, none of the Terman kids ever won a Nobel or Pulitzer” (Mitchell Leslie, The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman). It’s ironic that Shockley later followed Terman’s example by also having become a eugenicist and, through his friendship with Terman’s son Frederick, was hired on as a professor at Stanford where the senior Terman had done his scientific work, the reason his IQ test was called the Stanford-Binet. Shockley and Frederick Terman came to be known as the fathers of Silicon Valley in having developed the high tech start-up model and in having played a central role in bringing in the massive Pentagon funding that has defined and dominated the American tech industry ever since (e.g., Jeff Bezos sitting on a Pentagon board and with numerous government contracts). Social Darwinism, intellectual elitism, and paternalistic technocracy remains the ascendant ideology of Silicon Valley tech bros and the capitalist class of entrepreneurial philanthropists who seek to shape society with their gifted genius, not to mention their wealth (e.g., Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation).

Lewis Terman privately admitted that some of his strongest bigoted views were wrong, but unlike many other eugenicists he never publicly recanted his earlier racism. Nonetheless, he was honest enough to conclude that a pillar of eugenicist dogma was flat-out wrong, in having stated that, “At any rate, we have seen that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.” Of the 730 subjects he was able to follow into adulthood, he divided them into three groups: In Group A of those he deemed successful, only 20% of the kids were categorized. He judged an equal number, 20%, to fall into a Group C of failures. Most of them fell into the middle Group B that included those working in positions “as humble as those of policemen, seaman, typist and filing clerk.” That is rather unimpressive. Writing about this, one person noted that, “The ones among Group A overwhelmingly were from the upper class. The Cs were majorly from the lower class. Majority in the group had careers that were quite ordinary. […] Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his critique of the study, argued showing that Terman’s selected group of children with high IQs did about as well as a random group of children selected from similar family backgrounds would have done.”

Beyond the unsurprising prediction that wealthier people with better chances have better outcomes, the predictive ability of his IQ test was completely off the mark. The Termites, for all their test-taking ability, showed no advantages over the general population. The IQ test did demonstrate academic ability, for whatever that is worth. Among Termites, the rate of college graduates was extremely high (70%, ten times that of their peers), but on average they still were only getting B grades in their classes and a college degree didn’t translate to greater real world accomplishment. They were smart, even if no more successful than their socioeconomic equivalents. If they were wealthy, they did as well as other wealthy people. And if they weren’t wealthy, then they followed the typical path of underachievement. Supposed superior genetics offered no protective advantages beyond the social, racial, and economic privileges given or denied in the lottery of birth.

Even among the successful Termites, there was nothing unusual to be praised. “Rebels were scarce among the Termites, and Henry David Thoreau’s different drummer would have found few followers,” wrote Shurkin in Terman’s Kids. “They did not change life; they accepted it as it came and conquered it.” As good test-takers and students, they were the ultimate conformists, well-lubricated cogs in the machine. They knew how to play the game to win, but the game they played, that of mainstream success and conventional respectability, had rules they followed. These weren’t the types to rock the boat. Rather, Termites were simply well-educated sheep (see: A Ruling Elite of Well-Educated Sheep; & William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep). “This is unsurprising,” Elizabeth Svoboda points out, “given that the kinds of people who ace aptitude tests are, by definition, those specialising at jumping through the hoops that society has set up. If you believe that your entire purpose on Earth is to finish the course, chances are you’ll remain within its boundaries at all costs” (The broad, ragged cut).

As expected, the single greatest factor is environment. It’s not so much who we are, as if we have an inborn psychological profile where character is fate, since who we are is dependent on where we are (Dorsa Amir, Personality is not only about who but also where you are), although we know from epigenetic research it also matters where were our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and on back as environmental factors carry forward in our family inheritance, such as the grandchildren of famine victims having higher rates of obesity. The world is complex and humans are shaped by it. Despite Terman’s ideological failure, many aptitude tests were based upon this model. Our entire education system has since been redesigned to teach to such tests and as a filtering process for educational advancement, in an assumption of a pseudo-meritocratic dogma not all that different from Terman’s eugenicist dream of a better humanity.

As with fascism, the dangers and harms of eugenics linger on within our institutions and within our minds. We are trapped within false and misleading systems of ideological realism. That isn’t particularly smart of us, as individuals and as a society. We’d be better off promoting the development and opportunities of the majority (James Haywood Rolling, Jr., Swarm Intelligence), rather than investing almost all of society’s resources in a privileged elite who we desperately hope will be our salvation. Considering the national and global failure among the ruling class and capitalist plutocrats, maybe we should create a citizenry that can solve their own problems. Basically, maybe we should take seriously democracy, really and fully try it for the first time, not as superficially inspiring rhetoric to cling to in the darkness but as a lived reality. As ambitious experiments go, democracy is definitely worth attempting.

Up to this point, the democratic experiment has been more of a hypothesis waiting to be tested. The oligarchic and filthy rich American ruling elite, for some reason, have never been in favor of testing the potential for self-governance among the American people. Eugenics has been more thoroughly researched over the past century than has liberty and freedom. That speaks volumes about American society. But it isn’t only about eugenics, as authoritarian elitism and paternalism has taken many other forms. Let’s bring it back to Ancel Keys. Even though he was one of the Elect personally groomed by Lewis Terman to be a leading member of the master race, Keys rejected “Terman’s hereditarian bias” and thought that “personal will. . . is a greater factor in success than inherited intelligence” (Richard C. Paddock, The Secret IQ Diaries).

Even so, it appears that Keys carried on the sense of personal superiority that Terman helped instill in him. As part of the supposed meritocracy, he didn’t feel a need to humbly seek to make scientific advancements in workman-like fashion of careful research and cautious analysis. He had such immense confidence in knowing he was right and that inferior minds were wrong that he saw no need for scientific debate and, instead, used his political power and media influence to effectively shut down debate by silencing his opponents. As a self-identified genius imbued with noblesse oblige (with great power comes great responsibility), he wanted to change the world and had the zealous conviction to enforce his will upon others. It was irrelevant that he dismissed the idea that his elitist worth was based on genetics, as it was the same difference no matter what he believed was the justification for his dogmatic mission of dietary evangelism (The Creed of Ancel Keys). Following in the footsteps of Lewis Terman, he aspired to be a paternalistic technocrat who would save the lesser folk from their wrong thinking and behavior. He simply knew what was right.

Ancel Keys, in embracing his role as part of the wise ruling class, ended up being the greatest success story of Lewis Terman’s eugenics project. He also demonstrated its failure, in that it turns out that being smart is not enough. He was brilliant in his aggressive displays of intellectual prowess and he was successful in his professional achievement by climbing the ladder of power and prestige, but he was neither a creative genius nor a a visionary leader. Instead of thinking outside of the box, he forced everyone else into the box of his ideological biases that commanded the stunting effect of groupthink among several generations of scientific researchers and health experts, nutritionists and doctors. Maybe we should be unsurprised by this unhappy result (Quickie Post — Young Prodigies Usually Do Not Turn into Paradigm-Shifting Geniuses).

It could be argued that, at least in this case, the name of ‘Termite’ was aptly descriptive of the harm caused society. Now we are all suffering for it in the tragedy of our ever worsening public health crisis. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we have a new generation of paternalistic overlords who are repeating the same mistake in once again trying to enforce dietary dogma from up on high (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet), in being led by Walter Willett who is the direct heir of Ancel Keys. The experiment of elite rule goes on and on.

* * *

The broad, ragged cut
by Elizabeth Svoboda

Despite initial resistance, the public accepted the notion of a test-driven meritocracy because it twined together two established strands of thought: first, that the spoils should go to the declared winner, and second, that high-performers’ abilities should be harnessed for the good of the nation. ‘To each according to their ability’ became the tacit watchword, a neat variant of the Marxist injunction ‘to each according to their need’.

The first aptitude-testers promoted the idea that each person had an innate, more-or-less fixed intellectual capacity. In the context of the early 20th century’s growing eugenics movement, the tests were often deployed to justify widespread racial discrimination. Terman claimed that what he called borderline deficient scores on the Stanford-Binet were ‘very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes’. ‘Children of this group should be segregated into separate classes,’ he wrote in 1916. ‘They cannot master abstractions but they can often be made into efficient workers … From a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding.’ In Terman’s mind, then, low IQ scores were simply and unarguably the result of objective deficiency.

We now understand just how wrong that notion was. Today, many psychologists understand IQ and aptitude tests to be ‘culture-bound’ to one degree or another – that is, they evaluate abilities prized in the dominant Western culture, such as sorting items into categories, and can privilege those raised in that milieu. Such inequities have persisted despite attempts to make the tests fairer to those from non-dominant cultures.

As the US marinated in social Darwinism after the First World War, the government began devising its own sinister solution to the ‘grave problem’ of which Terman had warned. The US Supreme Court case Buck v Bell in 1927 ruled for compulsory sterilisation of the ‘feeble-minded’ in the name of public welfare. For more than four decades thereafter, US states sterilised thousands of people with low IQ scores; a disproportionate number of victims were nonwhite. In later years, though aptitude tests’ eugenic roots would fade from view, the ranking of test-takers according to perceived social value would continue unabated.

The History of Eugenics in America, Part II
by Steven Vigdor and Tim Londergan

In light of our current knowledge of nutrition and fitness, we now view J.H. Kellogg’s practices as a combination of exceptional insight, mixed with positively bizarre notions on medicine and health. The field of eugenics also combined significant advances in applied science with a set of misguided, and in some cases tragic, biases and prejudices.

J.H. Kellogg was an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, and in 1911 he established the Race Betterment Foundation in Michigan. That Foundation held three national conferences on Race Betterment in 1914, 1915 and 1928. The Race Betterment congresses allowed advocates of eugenics to share their suggestions for the most effective practices that would lead to maintaining or improving ‘racial purity.’ Kellogg himself had a complicated relationship with the notion of racial purity, particularly with respect to blacks. He and his wife had no children, so over the course of their lives they raised a large number of foster children; this included a number of black youths.

On the other hand, Kellogg was a strong supporter of segregation and a firm believer that different races should not mix. Here Kellogg adopted a common theme from the eugenics movement that Nordics, Mediterraneans, Alpines, Mongolians and blacks all represented different ‘races.’ Kellogg warned of “the rapid increase of race degeneracy, especially in recent times,” and urged the adoption of steps that he claimed would result in the “creation of a new and superior human race.”

With his characteristic energy and ambition, Kellogg proposed a multi-step plan to save the U.S. from a calamitous fate. His plan included “a thoroughgoing health survey to be conducted in every community every five years, free medical dispensaries for the afflicted, the inspection of schools and schoolchildren, health education, prohibition of the sale of alcohol and tobacco, strict marriage laws in every state, and the establishment of experiment stations [devoted] to investigating the laws of heredity in plants, animals, and humans.”

A central feature of Kellogg’s plan was the creation of a ‘eugenic registry’ that would establish criteria for ‘proper breeding pairs.’ The idea was that individuals would provide their credentials to a central clearinghouse. Males who met the highest standards for racial ‘fitness’ would be paired with similarly ‘fit’ females and encouraged to marry (the idea was clearly inspired by similar matings with ‘pedigreed’ dogs and ‘bloodlines’ for horses).

Kellogg proposed central record-keeping offices for family pedigrees and the establishment of contests for ‘best babies’ and ‘fittest families.’ A few years later, such contests became common at state fairs across the U.S., as we will describe in the next section. In addition to the fairly sinister aspect of ‘racial purity,’ such contests also placed an emphasis on wellness, and offered useful tips on healthy diets and nutrition for young children. […]

The study of intelligence testing was then taken up by scientists such as Lewis Terman and Robert Yerkes. Terman, a psychologist at Stanford, made major revisions in Binet’s tests. He organized the tests into two parts. Part A included sections on arithmetical reasoning, sentence completion, logics, a synonym-antonym section, and a symbol-digit test. Part B included sections involving sentence completion, vocabulary, analogies, comparisons, and general information. Terman and associates tried out their tests on numerous cohorts of school children. Their aim was to determine the average performance of children in each grade from 3 to 8, and to administer the test to as many students as possible. They also performed numerous statistical tests, and arranged the grading to achieve an average of 100 for every grade, with a standard deviation of 15. The resulting “Stanford-Binet” test fairly rapidly became the standard in the field.

Terman was quite candid about his motives for universal testing. “It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will bring tens of thousands of those high-grade defectives under the surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency.” So, while Binet had insisted that his tests be administered only to provide assistance in improving the skills of slow learners, Terman and his hereditarian brethren were determined to identify, isolate and stigmatize precisely this group of children. Terman had no doubt that his tests represented measurements of innate intelligence, and that intelligence was almost entirely determined by heredity. “The children of successful and cultured parents test higher than children from wretched and ignorant homes for the simple reason that their heredity is better.”

Terman also recommended that businesses use IQ tests in hiring decisions. He argued that “substantial success” as a leader required an IQ of at least 115 to 120. Furthermore, people with IQs below 100 should not be hired for demanding or high-paying jobs. Terman was even more specific: people with IQ below 75 should only be qualified for menial tasks, and the 75-85 level for semi-skilled labor. People with an IQ of 85 or lower should be tracked into vocational schools, so that they would not leave school and “drift easily into the ranks of the anti-social or join the army of Bolshevik discontents.”

The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman
by Mitchell Leslie

Terman, who had grown up gifted himself, was gathering evidence to squelch the popular stereotype of brainy, “bookish” children as frail oddballs doomed to social isolation. He wanted to show that most smart kids were robust and well-adjusted — that they were, in fact, born leaders who ought to be identified early and cultivated for their rightful roles in society.

Though the more than 1,000 youngsters enrolled in his study didn’t know it at the time, they were embarking on a lasting relationship. As Terman poked around in their lives with his inquisitive surveys, “he fell in love with those kids,” explains Albert Hastorf, emeritus professor of psychology. To the group he always called “my gifted children” — even after they grew up — Terman became mentor, confidant, guidance counselor and sometimes guardian angel, intervening on their behalf. In doing so, he crashed through the glass that is supposed to separate scientists from subjects, undermining his own data. But Terman saw no conflict in nudging his protégés toward success, and many of them later reflected that being a “Terman kid” had indeed shaped their self-images and changed the course of their lives. […]

A story of a different kind emerges from Terman’s own writings — a disturbing tale of the beliefs of a pioneer in psychology. Lewis Terman was a loving mentor, yes, but his ardent promotion of the gifted few was grounded in a cold-blooded, elitist ideology. Especially in the early years of his career, he was a proponent of eugenics, a social movement aiming to improve the human “breed” by perpetuating certain allegedly inherited traits and eliminating others. While championing the intelligent, he pushed for the forced sterilization of thousands of “feebleminded” Americans. Later in life, Terman backed away from eugenics, but he never publicly recanted his beliefs. […]

Many who did well in their fields had received no boost from Terman beyond an occasional pat on the back and the knowledge that they’d qualified for his study. For others, like Dmytryk, Terman’s intervention was life-changing. We’ll never know all that he did for his kids, Hastorf notes. But it’s clear that Terman helped several get into Stanford and other universities. He dispatched numerous letters of recommendation mentioning that individuals took part in his project. And one time, early in World War II, he apparently pulled strings on behalf of a family of Japanese-Americans in his study. Fearing they were about to be interned, they wrote to Terman for help. He sent a letter assuring the federal government of their loyalty and arguing against internment. The family remained free.

From a scientific standpoint, Terman’s personal involvement seems foolish because it probably skewed his results. “It’s what you’d expect a mentor to do, but it’s bad science,” Hastorf says. As a conscientious researcher whose work got him elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Terman should have known better — but he wasn’t the first or last to slip. Indeed, the temptation to meddle is an occupational hazard among longitudinal researchers, says Glen Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina. A certain degree of intimacy develops, he explains, because “we’re living in their lives and they’re living in ours.”

It’s difficult to gauge Terman’s influence on the kids because so many are deceased or still anonymous. One survivor willing to speak on the record is Russell Robinson, a retired engineer and former director of aeronautical research at NASA Ames. He was a high school student in Santa Monica when, he recalls, “someone in the school system tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Dr. Terman would like to test you, if you’re willing.'” Robinson, now 92 and living in Los Altos, doesn’t think being in the study significantly changed his life, but he did draw confidence from knowing that Terman thought highly of him. Several times during his career, he mentally invoked Terman to shore up his self-image. “Research is a strange business — in a sense, you’re out there alone,” he says. “Sometimes, the problems got so complex I would ask myself, Am I up to this? Then I would think, Dr. Terman thought I was.”

Others have echoed that sentiment, Hastorf says. In fact, the study meant so much to some of the subjects that the Terman project now runs entirely on their bequests.

Several Terman kids have cited a negative impact on their lives. Some complained of being saddled with an unfair burden to succeed, Hastorf says, while others thought that being dubbed geniuses at an early age made them cocky and complacent. For better or worse, a quarter of the men and almost a third of the women said they felt that being a Terman kid had changed their lives. And since Terman often did his meddling behind the scenes, others may have been influenced without ever realizing it.

His support of the gifted was heartfelt, but an equally fundamental part of Terman’s social plan was controlling the people at the other end of the intelligence scale. Both were aims of eugenics, a movement that gained momentum early in the 20th century.

The eugenicists of Terman’s day held that people of different races, nationalities and classes were born with immutable differences in intelligence, character and hardiness, and that these genetic disparities called for an “aristogenic” caste system. Traits like feeblemindedness, frailty, emotional instability and “shiftlessness,” they believed, were controlled by single genes and could be easily eliminated by controlling the reproduction of the “unfit.” In the United States, the movement peddled a topsy-turvy form of Darwinism, claiming that the “fittest” (defined as well-to-do whites of Northern European ancestry) were reproducing too slowly and in danger of being overwhelmed by the inferior lower strata of society. America was jeopardized from within, eugenicists warned, by the rapid proliferation of people lacking intelligence and moral fiber. From without, the threat was the unchecked arrival of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Together these groups would drag down the national stock.

Terman’s letters and published writings show that he shared these beliefs and argued for measures to reverse society’s perceived deterioration. He was a member of the prominent eugenics societies of the day. “It is more important,” he wrote in 1928, “for man to acquire control over his biological evolution than to capture the energy of the atom.” Yet he wasn’t a renegade howling from the fringe. Eugenics was “hugely popular in America and Europe among the ‘better sort’ before Hitler gave it a bad name,” as journalist Nicholas Lemann puts it. Luminaries who supported at least part of the early eugenic agenda include George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, Calvin Coolidge and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. In fact, Terman sat on the boards of two eugenics organizations with Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan.

Early eugenicists managed to push through several laws. Thirty-three states, including California, passed measures requiring sterilization of the feebleminded. As a result, more than 60,000 men and women in mental institutions were sterilized — most against their will and some thinking they were getting an emergency appendectomy. In 1924, Congress set quotas that drastically cut immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Though pressure to stem immigration had come from many sources, including organized labor, the quotas had an undeniably racist taint. Terman cheered these efforts.

During the 1930s, as the brutality of Nazi policies and the scientific errors of eugenic doctrines became clearer, the eugenics movement withered in the United States and Terman inched away from his harshest views. Later in life, he told friends he regretted some of his statements about “inferior races.” But unlike several prominent intelligence-testers, such as psychologist Henry Goddard and sat creator Carl Brigham, Terman never publicly recanted.

At least one eugenic measure proved as stubborn as he was. News of the Nazis’ mass sterilization program did not put an end to the practice in the United States, where sterilizations of the mentally ill and retarded continued well into the 1970s.

Terman left a difficult legacy. On one hand, his work inspired almost all the innovations we use today to challenge bright students and enrich their education. As he followed the lives of intelligent kids, he also became their best publicist, battling a baseless prejudice. As a scientist, he devised methods for assessing our minds and behaviors, helping put the field of psychology on an empirical and quantitative foundation. He was one of Stanford’s first nationally prominent scholars, and as a department chair for two decades, he transformed the psychology department from a languid backwater into an energetic, top-ranked program. He established the longitudinal method and generated an archive of priceless data. Longitudinal studies have “become the laboratory of the social sciences” and are growing in importance as the population ages, unc sociologist Elder observes.

On the other hand, as biographer Minton points out, the very qualities that made Terman a groundbreaking scientist — his zeal, his confidence — also made him dogmatic, unwilling to accept criticism or to scrutinize his hereditarian views. A similar paradox existed in his social agenda. Terman was a visionary whose disturbing eugenic positions and loving treatment of the gifted grew out of the same dream for an American meritocracy.

“He was a very nice guy, but I have some things I would argue with him about,” Hastorf declares. His conclusion is that Terman was as much a product of his time as a force for change — and that, like many powerful thinkers, he was complex, contradictory and not always admirable.

The Parable of the Talents
by Scott Alexander
from comment section:

Harald K says:
“The IQ pioneers were social reformers who wanted to reduce human suffering.”

Oh sure. By turning as much as possible of decision making over to them, or resisting efforts to take away the privileges they already had, i.e. egalitarian efforts. I don’t hold much faith in the good will of US eugenicists, any more than their German cousins. The decision of which of other people’s genes deserve to survive to the next generation, is one which every human is hopelessly biased, and every decision is hopelessly corrupt.

Sure, many socialists were fooled too by the eugenicists’ crocodile tears for humanity, but it’s an inherently and irreparably selfish practice, only morally compatible with every man for himself/might makes right morality. I could have told them (and many DID tell them).

Binet can get a pass, sort of. His concern was mainly about who would do well in the French school system. Goddard imported the Binet test before Terman turned it into the first IQ test, so hardly “the man who brought IQ tests to America”. I wonder who can look at Goddard’s wikipedia page for arguments that he had such noble intentions, and overlook how he argued that Americans were unfit for democracy, or how he let first and second class skip the intelligence testing for immigration demand on Ellis Island.

IQ tests were invented in America, by Lewis Terman. From the moment Terman touched the test, it was conscripted to the service of racism and elitism.

“Does that sound like radical antihumanism? Nope.”

Yes, it does. Note how it promotes the welfare of humanity in the abstract, at the expense of concrete humans living here and now. But as I’ve argued, even that is just a fig leaf for the crudest power-grab a biological human can possibly make.

Harald K says:
“And ended up making a tool that predicts that the Chinese and Jews should be doing it instead of them.”

Ah, here it becomes relevant that the IQ of today isn’t really Terman’s IQ. Today’s test make Chinese people look good, but Terman’s test didn’t. It didn’t try to be culturally independent at all, so if you administered it to a Chinese person, he’d score horribly. There were even questions which obviously coded for social class, like where would you go to buy certain products.

It was in response to such criticism that they gradually tried to make the tests more independent of culture and language. It was not such a great sacrifice for them to open up for the possibility that some groups may on average do slightly better than your group, once the tests had scientifically established that they, individually, were superior beings.

But as they did so, the tests became less useful for prediction of success. (It turns out upper class white kids are more successful than kids who go to the liquor store to buy sugar, even if the latter kids are otherwise clever. Who knew?).

Elof Carlson says:
There are several difficulties with using a single number to measure intelligence, in a spectrum running from retarded to genius. Issue one is the diversity of talents. As you point out musical genius is not correlated to IQ test genius because there are many people in the 160 plus range who have little music appreciation n or talent. My mentor, HJ Muller, had a 165 IQ measured by Anne Roe, but he had no ear for music. The same might be true for artistic expression among museum quality artists. It might also be true for creativity. The second issue is the role of home environment. This varies a lot. In general those in poverty have lower IQ scores than those who have wealthy home environments. Premeds who take MCAT Kaplan courses do better than those who do not. Those who go to elite private schools do better than those who go to public high schools. Having a private tutor helps even more. The wealthy can afford such luxuries for their children. The poor cannot.

A book that changed my mind about the usefulness of IQ scores was Cradles of Eminence by Victor and Muriel Goertzel. They wanted to compare Terman’s study of 1000 high IQ California kids with eminence. They defined eminence as having two or more biographies written about a person who is not royalty or a sports figure. They found that none of the Terman kids had biographies written about them. They mostly became health professionals, CEOs, lawyers, engineers and solid middle class and contented adults. They found that those who had biographies written about them often had unstable middle class homes (e.g., a neurotic or psychotic parent, an alcoholic parent, a financial collapse in business leading downward in social class, a parent who was a zealot for a cause). They argued that it was the conflict at home (the parents were nevertheless loving to their children) that led these students to creative activities that set them apart. The Terman kids were teachers’ pets, loved school, and aced all their tests. The Goertzel biographees often disliked school (they were bored by it), were often misinterpreted by their teachers as lazy or mentally disturbed or nonconforming. Very few of the high IQ Terman kids were in the arts or wrote fiction. Many of the Goertzel biographees had careers in the arts (but about a majority of both groups chose science careers). None of the Terman kids won a Nobel or Pulitzer. Numerous of the Goertzel biographees did win Nobels and Pulitzers.

I hope you will read that book and comment on it. I believe IQ measures effectiveness in test-taking. That may be innate. It certainly has value in who gets into medical school or who succeeds academically. I believe creativity is independent of IQ score and no one has developed an objective quantitative measure of that creativity in whatever field people excel.

Genetically-Determined Cognitive Ruling Elite

I occasionally read articles from Mauldin Economics, a financial website. That is because my dad sends me them. Much of the economics has a neoliberal bent with that slight edge of right-wing libertarianism. But there is also a large helping of the cynical realpolitik of game theory and geopolitics (George Friedman is partnered with Mauldin Economics). Some of the pieces are better than others, occasionally venturing into more socio-cultural territory such as generations theory. I read them partly out of curiosity.

The last piece my dad sent me is Geek Squad by Jared Dillian. I totally get why my dad liked it, as he is a social and fiscal conservative. Dillian brings up Charles Murray’s infamous take on intelligence, which is the kind of thing that resonates for my dad. Older white male middle class conservatives (specifically of the Silent Generation) have much in common beyond just demographics, as the period of their youth was highly conformist — although that same generation, on the other side of the aisle, produced some of the most radical leaders of the anti-war, anti-nuclear, and civil rights movements; e.g., Martin Luther King, jr.

I’ve written about Jared Dillian before (Frrrreeeeeddoommmm?????) and I can’t say that I’m overly impressed. He is of my generation, maybe a few years older than me (see the About page on his website). That generational detail does seem relevant.

Certain kind of older white conservatives have more of a paternalistic undertone that can soften their ideological stances, such as Murray’s paleolibertarianism that leads him to both condescendingly criticize the poor and argue for a basic income to take care of those who are genetically or culturally inferior, an interesting mix. It’s for similar reasons that my dad donates money and volunteers his time to help the those in need, even as he argues that they don’t deserve his tax money — unless it is to either put them in prison or send them off to war (my dad hasn’t yet quite been convinced by Murray’s far greater paternalism). It’s a concern of moral accounting that is of less of a priority to the the more neoliberal Republicans of Generation X who came of age under the Reagan administration. Someone like Dillian represents more of what the conservative movement has become in recent decades.

Here is the main thing that caught my attention in Dillian’s piece, a point where he finds agreement with Murray, despite other conflicts between the worldviews of neoliberalism and paleolibertarianism:

“Years ago, Murray predicted that society would become stratified by intelligence, and that we would be ruled by a “cognitive elite.” All of this has come to pass.”

It’s sad that people still believe that. Intelligence hasn’t been stratified, at least not in the way that is being implied. Rather the class-based and race-based conditions that promote and suppress neurocognitive development have been stratified. This is not even up for debate and very little speculation is required. We have the historical record to explain what happened and the social science research to explain its implications (research has proven that poverty, especially in a society of high inequality and segregation, stunts/alters brain development and functioning; because of social stress, lack of learning resources, nutritional deficiencies, lead toxicity, limited healthcare, etc).

Speaking of a “cognitive elite” is pseudo-meritocracy on steroids. Conservatives are always blaming liberals for wanting an intelligentsia to rule the world, but some conservatives not so secretly fantasize about an intellectual elite, even if they imagine these inellectually superior people coming from the business sector.

Here is more of Dillian’s wisdom:

“Rewind to a few decades ago. Colleges suddenly became more meritocratic, admitting people on the basis of grades and test scores, instead of other criteria. So the smartest people got into the smartest schools, the less smart people got into the less smart schools, and dumb people didn’t get into schools at all. The results of that sociology experiment are fascinating: the smart people in smart schools started marrying each other and having smart children…”

Tell that to the vast majority who aren’t legacies into ivy league schools, no matter how smart they are. Tell that to the vast majority of kids with immense genetic and neruocognitive potential but were forced to struggle against poverty, racism, segregation, oppression, violence, school-to-prison pipeline, heavy metal toxicity, etc. I’m sure that Dillian considers himself as part of the “cognitive elite” and so that makes his ignorance all the more inexcusable and morally reprehensible. As one commenter put it (Garret Batten):

“Jared – I really enjoy The 10th Man. You have excellent insights into the markets and related issues. However, as a trained sociologist, I must object to your analysis of class, college selection, elties, and intelligence. You extrapolate from a claim about education being more meritocratic (more maybe at the college level but not even close to meritocratic and what about high school and middle school), but the increasing lack of mobility in the United States cannot be explained by smart people marying other smart people. As with Murray, these are highly problematic claims with the implication being that the very wealthy deserve as well as the poor derve their lots in life. I would urge you to stick with markets etc.”

To continue with the article:

“People don’t talk about this. We are obsessed with racism, but people of differing socioeconomic status just do not mix.”

He maybe should actually read Charles Murray’s Losing Ground and put it in context by reading Robert Putnam’s Our Kids. Then put both of those books in an even larger context of info. But the point is that both Murray and Putnam grew up in small factory towns where the poor and wealthy lived together as neighbors — going to the same stores and churches, sending their kids to the same schools, and having the same access to cheap higher education. Is it surprising that socioeconomic mobility was higher at that time? No. Is it surprising that so many poor kids of low IQ, uneducated parents got high school degrees and went off to college? No.

I’ve explained all of this before:
Who Are the American Religious? (comment)

Freedom From Want, Freedom to Imagine
Stranger Danger and Our Kids

Writing about Putnam, Richard Reeves stated that,

“The concatenation of advantages and disadvantages is visible in economic sorting at the neighbourhood level, leading to social sorting in terms of schools, churches and community groups. Putnam writes: “Our kids are increasingly growing up with kids like them who have parents like us.” This represents, he warns, “an incipient class apartheid”.”

That’s a different perspective. Putnam is making the point that this stratification didn’t happen by divine decree or according to the laws of physics. These are social results of social causes. Not all societies have seen such stratification. In fact, the high levels of stratification in the US are extremely unusual, one might even say abnormal. Using the word ‘apartheid’ is not hyperbole, as a permanent underclass (or undercaste) is forming. We don’t yet have eugenics-level of stratification. But if this trend is allowed to continue over centuries, eventually there would be ever more genetically distinct populations. The eugenics vision of a cognitive elite is not a description of reality but more of a rationalization and an aspiration. It doesn’t seem like a direction we would want to head toward as a society.

Sara D. Sparks articulates Putnam’s central point:

“Mr. Putnam, whose 2000 book Bowling Alone looked at declining civic ties among adults, argues that students in poverty growing up in the middle of the last century had greater economic and social mobility than their counterparts do today in large part because adults at all socioeconomic levels were more likely then to see all students as “our kids.””

It’s a bit of a chicken or egg dilemma. Did the increasing inequality/stratification and segregation/apartheid cause our society to become a culture of mistrust that no longer had a shared vision of public good, as once was seen in functioning communities of neighbors who cared about each other’s children? Or did changing values in our society cause the worsening divides and divisiveness?

I’d argue that it is both, as part of a vicious cycle. American society was built on a problematic social order of genocide, indentured servitude, slavery, etc and so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the long term consequences. American history has had a clear trajectory of ever greater concentration of wealth and power, with a momentary blip of equalization because of two world wars and a major depression. It’s not like the colonial aristocracy wielded so much power in the early federal government because they earned their social position through meritocracy nor that Africans were enslaved because they didn’t go the best schools with other smart kids. School tracking is probably not a useful metaphor for understanding the worsening stratification that began during the colonial era.

More from the article:

“This all came to a head in the 2016 election, where we threw out the smart people in academia and journalism and finance and technology and politics—the so-called “experts.””

One thing research shows is that smart people aren’t smart in all ways. For example, high IQ people are worse about certain areas of personal finance. They tend to overspend. This also relates to the smart idiot effect, which is called that because smarter people are more prone to this bias. I’d also throw in how upper class people have less cognitive capacity for certain basic skills, such as being able to accurately discern and empathize with what others experience.

So, smart upper class people are like Trump in that they tend toward being sociopaths that lack many basic practical and social skills, as they are used to others taking care of their problems for them. Those aren’t the kind of people that should be ruling a society. It’s important to note that most Americans didn’t vote for either choice of plutocrat, Clinton or Trump.

Here are some commenters to the article who made similar points:

funderbj@riflemag.com: “I am a physician, graduated MIT in 1966, Ohio State Med school in 1970. My observation about the smartest of the smart, insofar as medicine is concerned, is that being too smart can be a serious handicap. The uber performers often missed the common ailments while exploring the more esoteric diagnoses. We called it “thinking zebras, when hearing hoof beats.” I agree wholeheartedly that the next months and years will be interesting, but I doubt that the elite will be any more successful in the long run.”

ciaran.keogh@xtra.co.nz: “interesting post – however there is one shortcoming with the most “intelligent” will rule effect (which I agree is definitely happening) is that being learned and being wise are two entirely different things. Also it is my observation that the ability to learn comes at the expense of the ability to think. The more “learned” people (and systems) there are running the planet seems to result in less sensible (and moral) people running it. If you said that higher tendency for sociopathy was becoming stratified at the top I think you would need to look no further than Washington or Wall St for convincing proof”

Back to the article:

“Mark Zuckerberg, who is probably going to run for president, made a splash in his Harvard commencement speech when he called for a universal basic income. But I don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors when you give them free money to sit at home and play Xbox.”

Yet more ignorance. This is actually a good example of smart idiot effect. Dillian thinks he is so smart that he perceives his opinion as so worthy as not to require informing himself about the topic before coming to a conclusion. He just knows, because he is smart and educated. He is one of the “cognitive elite,” after all.

But if he were to inform himself, he’d find out that universal basic income experiments have shown that it doesn’t increase unemployment. That is because most people want more than barely surviving and making ends meet while sitting on the couch picking their nose. This is the problem of rich people who actually believe this is an accurate view of poor people. It demonstrates how disconnected from reality they are.

He goes on:

“Cognitive stratification is not stopping any time soon. Cities will get richer, towns will get poorer, a handful of companies will get even more powerful. If you feel like you don’t have a say in any of this… that will probably continue. I wonder about what it will be like to live in a world ruled by people who have won the genetic lottery.”

Dillian admits that our response to this problem matters. Yet he acts as if fatalistically there is nothing we can do about it.

About stratification of intelligence, you’d think smart people talking about such a topic would at least know some basic info that is relevant to the opinions they offer. Consider the following bit from a book I was reading yesterday, although the research mentioned is something I’ve come across many times before (by the way, do I have well informed opinions because I’m smart or because I read books to inform myself before opinionating?).

The book is Linguistic Relativity by Caleb Everett (he is the son of the infamous Daniel Everett, the family having spent several influential years among the Pirahã). The book is specifically about linguistics and the quoted passage is discussing culture, but what is being pointed to are the complex web of causal and contributing factors within the larger environmental conditions. Here is the relevant part (p. 44):

“As a final example of cross-population variation in cognition, consider the example of IQ heritability. There is a strong assumption among some that measures of IQ are primarily determined by genetic factors rather than those associated with family environment. Even within American society, however, socioeconomic status appears to play a significant role in the extent to which IQ is heritable. Turkheimer et al. (2003) present data on twins representing divergent socioeconomic statuses, and these data suggest convincingly that genetic factors play a much more prominent role in IQ variation among members of higher socioeconomic status, whereas factors associated with family environment play a comparatively greater role in those of lower status. The influence of socioeconomic status on heritability of IQ suggest that even cognitive processes with clear genetic influences remain susceptible to contextual influences and, more specifically, that IQ is affected by environmental factors with a western culture. The latter point is perhaps unsurprising but nevertheless worth stressing. If something like IQ, which is associated with an assortment of cognitive processes, can be affected by contextual factors within a given culture, it seems fair to assume that the cognitive processes in question would vary in accordance with the even-wider range of contextual factors evident in multiple cultures. After all, the differences between the childhoods of Americans from lower and higher socieconomic statuses, respectively, pale in comparison to those between childhoods in western industrialized societies and, for example indigenous societies.”

This would be wisely framed within another point made by the author, in quoting from “Beyond Human Nature” by Jesse Prinz (the quote is on p. 48 of Everett’s book). Prinz states that, “Human beings are genetically more homogenous than chimps, but behaviorally more diverse than any other species.” That is to say that the vast social and individual differences seen within human populations can’t be solely or primarily blamed on genetic variation. The just-so stories of arrogant elitists, race realists, and human biodiversity advocates don’t offer any real understanding — just more dogmatic ideology to obfuscate public debate and undermine political action.

It is hard for me to understand how articles like Jared Dillian’s are still being written and taken seriously. Yet hundreds of such articles pop up on the internet on a daily basis. Considering Mauldin Economics is apparently operated as a business, obviously there is profit to be had from pushing genetic determinism. Rationalization as it is, these just-so stories are simply too compelling in how they explain away the oppression and injustices of our society. It might not be so bad if all such genetic determinists were paternalistic enough as Charles Murray to promote basic policies of social democracy and a social safety net, such as a basic income. But most people who are attracted to Murray’s argument aren’t willing to follow it to his conclusion.

I’m not sure how to read Dillian’s conclusion: “I wonder about what it will be like to live in a world ruled by people who have won the genetic lottery.” Does that express doubt about a world dominated by genetic determinists or an earnest sense of curiosity to see such a world play out? Is he feeling uncertainty or anticipation about his role as one of the potential ruling elite who has won the genetic lottery?

* * *

If you’re interested in Eric Turkheimer, I’ll share some previous posts of mine where he is discussed. I’ll also include an article by him and some relevant passages from two books.

The IQ Conundrum
Heritability & Inheritance, Genetics & Epigenetics, Etc
Using Intelligence to Assess Intelligence

Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ
by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, & Richard E. Nisbett

Murray takes the heritability of intelligence as evidence that it is an essential inborn quality, passed in the genes from parents to children with little modification by environmental factors. This interpretation is much too strong — a gross oversimplification. Heritability is not a special property of certain traits that have turned out to be genetic; it is a description of the human condition, according to which we are born with certain biological realities that play out in complex ways in concert with environmental factors, and are affected by chance events throughout our lives.

Today we can also study genes and behavior more directly by analyzing people’s DNA. These methods have given scientists a new way to compute heritability: Studies that measure DNA sequence variation directly have shown that pairs of people who are not relatives, but who are slightly more similar genetically, also have more similar IQs than other pairs of people who happen to be more different genetically. These “DNA-based” heritability studies don’t tell you much more than the classical twin studies did, but they put to bed many of the lingering suspicions that twin studies were fundamentally flawed in some way. Like the validity of intelligence testing, the heritability of intelligence is no longer scientifically contentious.

The new DNA-based science has also led to an ironic discovery: Virtually none of the complex human qualities that have been shown to be heritable are associated with a single determinative gene! There are no “genes for” IQ in any but the very weakest sense. Murray’s assertion in the podcast that we are only a few years away from a thorough understanding of IQ at the level of individual genes is scientifically unserious. Modern DNA science has found hundreds of genetic variants that each have a very, very tiny association with intelligence, but even if you add them all together they predict only a small fraction of someone’s IQ score. The ability to add together genetic variants to predict an IQ score is a useful tool in the social sciences, but it has not produced a purely biological understanding of why some people have more cognitive ability than others.

Most crucially, heritability, whether low or high, implies nothing about modifiability. The classic example is height, which is strongly heritable (80 to 90 percent), yet the average height of 11-year-old boys in Japan has increased by more than 5 inches in the past 50 years. A similar historical change is occurring for intelligence: Average IQ scores are increasing across birth cohorts, such that Americans experienced an 18-point gain in average IQ from 1948 to 2002. And the most decisive and permanent environmental intervention that an individual can experience, adoption from a poor family into a better-off one, is associated with IQ gains of 12 to 18 points.

These observations do not undermine the conclusion that intelligence is heritable, but rather the naive assumption that heritable traits cannot be changed via environmental mechanisms. (Murray flatly tells Harris that this is the case.)

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined
by Scott Barry Kaufman
pp. 6-9

In 1990 the behavioral geneticist Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota published a striking finding: about 70 percent of the differences in IQ found among twins and triplets living apart were associated with genetic variation. 8 What’s more, the identical twins (whose genes were assumed to be 100 percent identical * ) were remarkably similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes, despite spending most of their lives apart.

This study, and the hundreds of twin and adoption studies that have been conducted since then, have painted a consistent picture: genetic variation matters. 9 The studies say nothing about how they matter, or which genes matter, but they show quite convincingly that biological variation does matter. Genes vary within any group of people (even among the inhabitants of middle-class Western society), and this variation contributes to variations in these people’s behaviors. The twin findings shouldn’t be understated; it counters many a prevailing belief that we are born into this world as blank slates, completely at the mercy of external forces. 10

The most important lesson researchers have learned from over twenty-five years’ worth of twin studies is that virtually every single psychological trait you can measure— including IQ, personality, artistic ability, mathematical ability, musical ability, writing, humor styles, creative dancing, sports, happiness, persistence, marital status, television viewing, female orgasm rates, aggression, empathy, altruism, leadership, risk taking, novelty seeking, political preferences, television viewing, and even rates of Australian teens talking on their cell phones— has a heritable basis. * Because our psychological characteristics reflect the physical structures of our brains and because our genes contribute to those physical structures, it is unlikely that there are any psychological characteristics that are completely unaffected by our DNA. 11

Unfortunately there is frequent confusion about the meaning of heritability. The most frequent misunderstanding is the purpose of twin studies. Heritability estimates are about understanding sources of similarities and differences in traits between members of a particular population. The results apply only to that population. The purpose is not to determine how much any particular individual’s traits are due to his or her genes or his or her environment. Behavioral geneticists are well aware that all of our traits develop through a combination of both nature and nurture. Heritability estimates are about explaining differences among people, not explaining individual development. The question on the table for them is this: In a particular population of individuals, what factors make those individuals the same as each other, and which factors make them different?

Therefore, twin studies aren’t designed to investigate human development. In recent years developmental psychologists, including L. Todd Rose, Kurt Fischer, Peter Molenaar, and Cynthia Campbell, have been developing exciting new techniques to study intraindividual variation. 12 Intraindividual variation focuses on a single person and looks at how an integrated dynamic system of behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and other psychological processes change across time and situations. New intraindividual techniques allow researchers to focus on a single twin pair and see how nature and nurture interact in nonlinear ways to explain both their similarities and their differences. 13 Both levels of analysis— twin studies and developmental analysis— are informative, but the results from the one do not apply to the other. 14

Many people also confuse heritability with immutability. They hear the word “heritable” and immediately think of “genes,” which then conjures up pictures of a fixed trait that can’t be altered by external forces. In contrast, many people hear the word “environment” and breathe a sigh of relief, thinking the trait is easily modifiable. This requires quite a strong faith in social engineering!

Just because a trait is heritable (and virtually all of our psychological traits are heritable) doesn’t necessarily mean that the trait is fixed or can’t be developed. Virtually all of our traits are substantially genetically influenced and are influenced by environmental conditions. Even though television viewing has a heritable basis, 15 most people don’t think of the activity as being outside our personal control. Indeed, parents frequently control (or try to control) the length of time their children spend sitting in front of the tube.

Another source of confusion is the role of parenting in the development of traits. A common finding in twin studies is that the environments experienced by twins (or any two siblings) do little to create differences in intelligence and personality as adults. In other words, the heritability of traits tends to increase as one ages and escapes the influence of parents. 16 Judith Rich Harris showed that peers exert a greater influence in creating differences in personality among adolescents than parents. 17 But do these findings mean that parents cannot effectively help their child develop their unique traits? Absolutely not. That’s like saying that water has no influence on a fish’s development because all fish live in water. A nurturing family environment is a necessity to help the child flourish, just as a fish needs water to swim and survive.

Just because a variable doesn’t vary doesn’t mean it has no causal impact on a particular outcome. Genes could “account for” 100 percent of the variability in a trait in a particular twin study, but this does not mean that environmental factors, including parental quality, are therefore unimportant in the development of the trait. Instead it turns out that parenting matters in a way that is different from what was originally assumed: Parents matter to the extent that they affect the expression of genes. Parents can exert important influence in the child’s development by nurturing productive interests and helping the child channel destructive inclinations into more productive outlets.

The importance of parenting becomes more salient when we look at a wider range of environments. Only a few of the twins in Bouchard’s original study were reared in real poverty or were raised by illiterate parents, and none were mentally disabled. This matters. Consider a recent study by Eric Turkheimer and colleagues. They looked at 750 pairs of American twins who were given a test of mental ability when they were 10 months old and again when they were 2 years. 18 When looking at the group of kids aged just 10 months, the home environment appeared to be the key variable across different levels of socioeconomic status. The story changed considerably as the children got a bit older and differences in education became more pronounced. For the 2-year-olds living in poorer households, the home environment mattered the most, accounting for about 80 percent of the variation in mental ability. For these kids, genetics played little role in explaining differences in cognitive ability. In wealthy households, on the other hand, genetics explained more of the differences in performance, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all the variation in mental ability.

Prominent behavioral geneticists, including Bouchard, eventually realized that it was time to move on from simply calculating heritability estimates . In a 2009 paper entitled “Beyond Heritability,” researchers Wendy Johnson, Eric Turkheimer, Irving I. Gottesman, and Bouchard concluded that “given that genetic influences are routinely involved in behavior,” “little can be gleaned from any particular heritability estimate and there is little need for further twin studies investigating the presence and magnitude of genetic influences on behavior.” 19

The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ
by David Shenk
Kindle Locations 1003-1031

But the nature of that genetic influence is easily— and perilously— misinterpreted. If we are to take the word “heritability” at face value, genetic influence is a powerful direct force that leaves individuals rather little wiggle room. Through the lens of this word, twin studies reveal that intelligence is 60 percent “heritable,” which implies that 60 percent of each person’s intelligence comes preset from genes while the remaining 40 percent gets shaped by the environment. This appears to prove that our genes control much of our intelligence; there’s no escaping it.

In fact, that’s not what these studies are saying at all.

Instead, twin studies report, on average, a statistically detectable genetic influence of 60 percent. Some studies report more, some a lot less . In 2003, examining only poor families, University of Virginia psychologist Eric Turkheimer found that intelligence was not 60 percent heritable, nor 40 percent, nor 20 percent, but near 0 percent —demonstrating once and for all that there is no set portion of genetic influence on intelligence. “These findings,” wrote Turkheimer , “suggest that a model of [genes plus environment] is too simple for the dynamic interaction of genes and real-world environments during development.”

How could the number vary so much from group to group? This is how statistics work. Every group is different; every heritability study is a snapshot from a specific time and place, and reflects only the limited data being measured (and how it is measured).

More important, though, is that all of these numbers pertain only to groups— not to individuals. Heritability, explains author Matt Ridley , “is a population average, meaningless for any individual person : you cannot say that Hermia has more heritable intelligence than Helena. When somebody says that heritability of height is 90 percent, he does not and cannot mean that 90 percent of my inches come from genes and 10 percent from my food. He means that variation in a particular sample is attributable to 90 percent genes and 10 percent environment . There is no heritability in height for the individual.”

This distinction between group and individual is night and day. No marathon runner would calculate her own race time by averaging the race times of ten thousand other runners; knowing the average lifespan doesn’t tell me how long my life will be; no one can know how many kids you will have based on the national average. Averages are averages— they are very useful in some ways and utterly useless in others. It’s useful to know that genes matter, but it’s just as important to realize that twin studies tell us nothing about you and your individual potential. No group average will ever offer any guidance about individual capability.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with the twin studies themselves. What’s wrong is associating them with the word “heritability,” which, as Patrick Bateson says, conveys “the extraordinary assumption that genetic and environmental influences are independent of one another and do not interact. That assumption is clearly wrong.” In the end, by parroting a strict “nature vs. nurture” sensibility, heritability estimates are statistical phantoms; they detect something in populations that simply does not exist in actual biology. It’s as if someone tried to determine what percentage of the brilliance of King Lear comes from adjectives. Just because there are fancy methods available for inferring distinct numbers doesn’t mean that those numbers have the meaning that some would wish for.

Kindle Locations 3551-3554

“The models suggest,” Turkheimer wrote, “that in impoverished families, 60% of the variance in IQ is accounted for by the shared environment, and the contributions of genes is close to zero; in affluent families, the result is almost exactly the reverse.” (Italics mine.) (Turkheimer et al., “Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children,” p. 632.)

Immoral/Amoral Flynn Effect?

There is a BBC article about intelligence, The surprising downsides of being clever by David Robson. Like many others before, the author questions our obsession with being super smart. Some of the typical data is trotted out and I don’t deny any of it. But I do wonder about the best interpretation.

The question may seem like a trivial matter concerning a select few – but the insights it offers could have ramifications for many. Much of our education system is aimed at improving academic intelligence; although its limits are well known, IQ is still the primary way of measuring cognitive abilities, and we spend millions on brain training and cognitive enhancers that try to improve those scores. But what if the quest for genius is itself a fool’s errand?

It is fair to correlate increasing education rates with increasing average IQ. Part of what IQ tests focus on, after all, is book learning (e.g., crystallized intelligence). The problem with this line of thought is that the greatest increase in IQ has come from an entirely different area, visuospatial problem solving (e.g., fluid intelligence).

Some of that is picked up from school as well, although much of it is gained from general changes in society and culture. Literacy rates have increased since IQ testing began and so there are more people reading, even outside of school. Urbanization rates have increased and, along with it, the kind of urbanized work and daily activities that requires more abstract thinking skills.

This involves a whole host of changes at a mass level that has never before existed in all of human history. In the US, the majority of whites were fully urbanized about a century ago and the majority of blacks about a half century ago. For all the millennia before that, human society was always primarily rural and most work was manual labor requiring concrete thought. Increasing education was a result of urbanization, not its cause.

As always, correlation doesn’t prove causation. Ignoring that for a moment, the author does make a good point when he observes that, “The harsh truth, however, is that greater intelligence does not equate to wiser decisions; in fact, in some cases it might make your choices a little more foolish.” He offers several examples of smart people not always thinking smart. That shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who has come across the “smart idiot” effect. That is the result of a lack of intellectual humility, something I’ve often thought about. For those who education has come easy, it could create an overconfidence in one’s intellectual ability, including in areas where one lacks experience and expertise.

Being smart in one area doesn’t mean being smart in all areas, not as rational or well informed or capable as might be expected. One example the author gives is that high IQ people can in some ways be worse in managing their money, e.g., overcharging credit cards. There might be an inverse relationship, at least in some cases, between abstract thinking and concrete thinking. I know, for example, that research shows it is hard to be emotional and rational at the same time. Parts of our brain and nervous system can to varying degrees act independently, and this can get expressed in our behavior. Humans are notoriously divided, as studies on dissociation have shown. Also, being smart may have little to do with being self-aware, at least beyond a certain point.

There are some other areas the author missed.

I came across an article recently. It was about kids and technology use. It is altering how they think, unsurprisingly.

It should be noted that games and stories made for the present generation of children are so much more complex than in the past. In certain areas, kids are brilliant these days. Take visual problem solving (fluid intelligence), a skill that has increased more than any other area of intelligence, according to IQ tests. Yet there is research that shows delays in other areas of development, such as reading skills.

Many things in life are a trade off. Socrates complained about literacy because it does change people, not just in how they think but also in how they relate to others and perceive the world. Some argue that increasing abstract thinking is what allowed more universal ideas and ideals, such as Christian universal love. Transforming the mind can transform the world.

The thing is we don’t know the consequences of such changes until after they’ve been happening for a long time, sometimes centuries.

All of that is fascinating. But there is an issue that so rarely gets discussed in these kinds of articles. There are complications involved that go far beyond any of this.

Most of the things that raise intelligence are related to what increases health in general, such as better nutrition and healthcare—all things directly related to increasing urbanization, I might add. Better physical health obviously leads to improved brain and cognitive development. This is also seen in other things like decreasing lead toxicity.

Yet there are other things that have the opposite impact. Mercury toxicity, which has become a common pollutant, is known to cause all kinds of mental health and behavioral problems while oddly increasing IQ test scores. Studies have found a connection of mercury to issues like increasing rates of autism. And in such things as aspergers there simultaneously is higher cognitive functioning in some areas and deficits in other areas.

There are some even stranger examples.

Infection by the parasite toxoplasma gondii has probably increased over the past century, because of an increase of people keeping cats in their homes. In some countries, much of the population is infected. This parasite alters brain functioning. Besides causing mental health problems, it increases intelligence in women while decreasing intelligence in men. It also increases the personality trait of neuroticism, which has been correlated both with higher and lower IQ, but not middle range IQ.

It might be relevant to note that one of the mental illnesses correlated to this parasite is schizophrenia. The same area of the brain related to math ability is also related to schizophrenia.

Anyway, my point is that the source of causality is important. Just because mental health issues sometimes are correlated with higher IQ, it doesn’t follow that educating people to be smarter is what is causing those mental illnesses. In many cases, there is a third factor involved, often physical and environmental.

This goes back to the post I recently wrote about the microbes and parasites we inherit from the people around us. I discussed that specific parasite and I noted, in the comments section, that at the large scale this might shape entire cultures.

All of civilization is a vast experiment. Our environments are constantly being altered, by our own actions and by outside forces. We are normally oblivious to all of this. But the factors we don’t see still can have immense effect on us.

We know that the average IQ has risen over the generations. And we know many other things have gone up over the same period. What we don’t entirely know is what are all of the causes behind these changes.

I’ve previously discussed the Flynn effect. One aspect of this is what has been called the moral Flynn effect. But considering some of the factors that can sometimes increase IQ while leading to other detrimental results, maybe we should also consider that parallel to this there is also an immoral/amoral Flynn effect. Not all things that increase intelligence are entirely beneficial for either the individual or society.

 

Racists Losing Ground: Moral Flynn Effect?

I’ve been ‘debating’ with the new variety of racist who denies being racist. He claims that it isn’t his fault that he is prejudiced against blacks, because he believes their supposed inherent inferiority means they don’t deserve to be treated as equal.

See? He isn’t racist. He is just being realistic. It’s race realism.

Then again, I’m not sure this kind of racism is genuinely new. Your average Klansman or slave owner probably never thought of themselves as racists. They too surely thought they were being realistic. It was just the way the world was. The races were distinctly different. Some people were just better than others from birth. It requires no modern understanding of genetics to think this way.

Anyway, what blows my mind about this ‘realism’ is how unrealistic it is. This guy will point to a few facts and argue it proves he is right. Yet at the same time he will dismiss or simply ignore the dozens of sources of data that I offer. Then later on he will act like all that contrary info doesn’t exist.

It’s a strange cognitive blindness. In some ways, I think he is absolutely sincere in his unacknowledged racism. He isn’t being a troll. He just lacks any sense of objectivity. He simply cannot see what doesn’t fit his worldview. It is the ultimate form of political correctness. He doesn’t merely deny the validity or moral worth of what he disagrees with, for he denies its very existence. What isn’t politically correct in his mind has no compelling sense of ‘reality’ in his experience.

At times, I’d call this willful ignorance. But as I’ve come to believe, I doubt that such people have enough self-awareness to be willful about much of anything. It is so deep in their psyche that it isn’t a decision they make. Their brains are straight-up incapable of processing divergent information.

He is a perfect example of confirmation bias and the backfire effect, which according to studies does strongly correlate to social conservatism and prejudice. One of the saddest results of this is that it has been demonstrated that white people, when presented with evidence of racism, become more racially biased (and undoubtedly, along with it, more socially conservative).

I’d bet a similar pattern is even found with white liberals. It might be along the lines of how liberals who saw video of the 9/11 attacks became more supportive of Republican policies of War on Terrorism. Liberalism gives some protection against such reactionary stances, but even liberalism has a tough time resisting the persuasion of fear.

The difference is important, though, in that conservatives live in a near permanent state of fear that is just below the surface. This takes the form of a background sense of anxiety, a need for order, and a strong disgust response. It is why social conservatism isn’t just correlated to prejudice, but also repulsion toward rotten fruit and hypochondria.

It is also why social conservatives and racists have on average lower IQs. In the studies, it is shown that conservatives have less capacity for abstract thought and cognitive load. To put it simply, they can’t deal well with either complex thought processes or anything that demands too much simultaneous cognitive activity.

This is why conservatives prefer highly focused activities. Conservatives do have a talent for excluding things from their focus, what is called a thick boundary (and for some activities this is an advantage; e.g., surgery). This is obviously related to such things as racism and xenophobia, as a thick boundary also means excluding people from their psychological experience and social identity.

Categories seem more rigid to those on the political right, and racists embody this most clearly. They take reification to heart. An idea like race is never just an idea to them. It doesn’t matter to them that a scientific consensus has formed in support of the view that the folk taxonomy of races is a social construct, rather than a scientifically valid category.

Those on the political right are constantly complaining about liberal political correctness. I’m not saying that political correctness isn’t found on the left, but I don’t think that is what is fueling the complaint. There is an obvious component of projection involved.

I’m not being politically correct when I disagree with racists. I’m not denying the data they cherrypick. I simply point out that they are ignoring a lot of data and alternative interpretations. The data doesn’t speak for itself. There is nothing about the data that forces one to become a racist. Prejudice is what we bring to the data, not what the data proves.

I’ve often argued with racists that I’m not arguing for any particular position. I don’t have a dogmatic ideology to defend, as does the racist. I’m open to multiple perspectives. I’m even open to genetics and culture playing a role, but I’m also open to there being a complex interplay between those factors and everything else, from epigenetics to environmental conditions. Anyone who has to defend a preconceived conclusion and deny all that contradicts it isn’t taking the issue seriously on its own terms.

The problem is there isn’t an even playing field in such ‘debates’. The average non-racist is more intelligent than the average racist. It isn’t even about education, as even when confounding factors such as education are controlled for, this IQ disparity persists. Even more well educated racists tend to have lower IQs than those of comparable education levels.

The ironic part of this is that this phenomenon is largely environmental. As Stephanie Pappas over at Live Science explained:

“People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

“”This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.”

So, interacting with those who are different not only decreases prejudice but also increases intelligence. The two are inseparable. This supports the argument for the Moral Flynn Effect, rising cognitive capacity parallels rising moral capacity, for both depend on brain health and mental development.

The other irony is that it is low IQ racists who are prone to dismiss blacks because of their lower on average IQs. The two demographics are similar, as both demographics have higher rates of social conservatism. The hatred racists feel toward blacks probably is closely linked to an awareness of their similarities. It’s the reason my working class grandfather hated blacks. It’s why so many groups in American society have clung to their group identities, of course seeing their group as better than all others.

Social conservatism also correlates to lower economic class. When one lacks economic security, a sense of group solidarity becomes all the more important, be it solidarity of race, ethnicity, religion, or whatever. Furthermore, the conditions of being on the poorer end of the scale are less conducive toward optimal brain development. The lower classes are more likely to have nutritional deficiences, to live in food deserts, to miss meals because of lack of money, to be exposed to toxic environments, to experience more social stress and child abuse, etc. Studies again and again show the massive impact this has on the developing brain.

An example of this is that social conservatives, both white and black, have stronger support for spanking children. Studies have shown that spanking children correlates to lower IQ. I’m not sure the causal link is proven, but it seems plausible that the regular stress of being hit by one’s parents could cause stunting of cognitive development. It is known that other forms of stress have a direct causal impact on brain growth.

Sure, poor minorities get hit the worst by these dire conditions. But it’s not as if all whites are middle and upper class. Poor whites show all the same kinds of cognitive issues and social problems.

Racism is a bit different, though. The more overt forms of bigotry are more common among the lower classes. Yet, even when poverty is controlled for, racists still show lower IQs. Other aspects of the social environment are just as important as poverty. For example, white flight to the suburbs and later gentrification created the conditions of low diversity, the very factor most closely associated with prejudice. What these wealthier whites share with the poorer whites is this racial homogeneity of their respective communities, as even poor whites tend not to live around as many blacks, poor or otherwise.

On the opposite side, it doesn’t take wealth to make someone more likely to be socially liberal as an adult. It only requires a diverse environment in childhood, especially in the context of a large peer group. The more friends a child has and the more diverse are those friends the more that the child will likely be socially and cognitvely challenged, which is to say that later on they will more likely be less racist and more intelligent, specifically fluid intelligence that includes abstract thinking skills.

When dealing with racists, you are on average dealing with people who have less cognitive capacity. They aren’t pretending to not understand what seems obvious to the non-racist. They really don’t understand.

Dogmatic ideology and groupthink are heuristics. They are ways to simplify thinking. When someone has less capacity for complex thought and abstract thought, they need to rely more on heuristics. A lower IQ racist doesn’t treat people as individuals, which would require greater cognitive load than they are capable of. Instead, they just have to see the outward physical features and apply the appropriate ideological category. This allows for easy pre-formed responses to complex realities.

The Moral Flynn Effect gives us some hope. Even the average conservative has a higher IQ than in the past. They are also less overtly bigoted. I think there is a connection between the two. Racism, if it is to continue to decrease, will have to lessen across generations. Those who are racist right now will likely remain racist, but their children will on average be slightly less racist than they are. This is particularly true as the younger generations move into more diverse urban areas.

However, there are other factors moving in the opposite direction. Some police departments are intentionally refusing to hire anyone with IQs that are too high. This means that they are purposely selecting for police officers who will be more prejudiced. Research has also confirmed that police with less education are more likely to abuse their authority and to support violent tactics used in their departments. It is disturbing to consider that the average police officer has an IQ lower than that of the average secretary and the police profession has an IQ range about the same as that of auto mechanics.

It’s unsurprising that one of the results seen is all the data showing that police have racial biases, which they act on (e.g., more likely to shoot an unarmed black person than an armed white person, and this with the data showing whites are more likely to carry illegal weapons). I’m willing to bet the higher IQ officers act in less biased ways. The problem is that policing plays right into racist beliefs. Racially biased cops arrest more blacks even for crimes whites commit at higher rates. Then racist whites point to this arrest data as proof blacks are more violent and criminal.

An interesting point to consider is that studies show, as lower educated police are more abusive, lower educated and lower IQ people in general are more abusive. Most hate crimes are racially motivated. I’m sure lower IQ racists are on average more likely to be violent and criminal, or at the very least more condoning of the violence used against minorities (both private and state-sanctioned). Stand-your-ground laws, for example, have been shown to increase the number of blacks who get legally killed and the number of whites who get away with such murders. Of course, social conservatives, in particular the most racially biased, are fine with this.

There isn’t much we can do about the present generation of racists. The best response is to promote the factors that decrease the dynamic of low intelligence and high prejudice. For certain, we should make sure that the most important positions in society are filled by the most intelligent people, even as we seek to raise up the intelligence of the entire population.

I disagree with race realists that IQ is genetically determined. Even the average low IQ of racists isn’t simply a fate we must accept. Racists are as much victims of their environments as are the minorities they are racist against.

* * * *

Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes:
Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact
by Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri

Do Racism, Conservatism, and Low I.Q. Go Hand in Hand?
Lower cognitive abilities predict greater prejudice through right-wing ideology.
by Goal Auzeen Saedi

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice
by Stephanie Pappas

Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism
by Rebecca Searles

Liberal or Conservative: Study Finds Childhood Influence
Did you talk back to your parents? Were you fearful or focused?
by U.S. News

White People Are Fine With Laws That Harm Blacks
The futility of fighting criminal justice racism with statistics.
by Jamelle Bouie

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.
by Chris Mooney

High IQ = Liberal, Atheist, Monogamous
by James Joyner

Can Someone Be Too Smart To Be A Cop?
By Katie Rucke

Too smart to be a good cop
By Razib Khan

Police Brutality and Deadly Force; How Bias, Power and Lower IQs Kill
by Thomas Parisi

Ferguson And Keeping High-IQ Folks Out Of The U.S. Police Force
by Gary Robinson

Do You Have A High IQ Score And Want To Be A Cop?… Forget It!
Submitted by SadInAmerica

Modern IQ ranges for various occupations
By IQ Comparison Site

Average IQ by occupation (estimated from wordsum scores)
by Audacious Epigone

The Impact of Higher Education on Police Attitudes Regarding Abuse of Authority
by Cody Webb Telep

Use of Force in Minority Communities is Related to Police Education, Age, Experience, and Ethnicity
by Christopher Chapman

Moral Flynn Effect?

What is causing the IQ increase over the generations?

It’s an important question, as the rise hasn’t been minor. I’m amazed every time I consider that the average IQ used to be what, by comparison to the present, would be considered extremely low intelligence, functionally retarded even if you go back a few generations from present living generations. If you have an average person today take an IQ test designed earlier last century, they would get results, relative to the results when the test was first given, that show them as being quite brilliant.

It makes one wonder what is measured by IQ tests.

This IQ increase is called the Flynn Effect. It was named after James Flynn who wrote a number of papers about it based on his international and cross-generational observations of testing, although Richard Zynn first observed it on a more limited scale in the Japanese population.

The Flynn Effect has been seen in both crystallized and fluid intelligence. The former is basically learned intelligence. This shows what you know and how well you are able to use it. The latter is more about how you are able to think, specifically abstract thinking and non-verbal problem-solving. It is the ability to deal with new and unique problems.

(As a side note, I realized how this applies to my own cognitive abilities. When I was youngr, I was delayed in my crystallized intelligence and precocious in my fluid intelligence. I was so delayed in the one that teachers initially thought I might have been retarded, but IQ testing showed that I measured high in pattern recognition and puzzle-solving. My strengths helped me compensate for my weaknesses. But if it had been reversed, compensation would have been much more challenging.)

The greatest and most consistent IQ increases have been measured in the fluid intelligence. No one exactly knows why, but explanations are diverse. Flynn sees it as primarily an increase in abstract thinking in line with the demands of modern industrialized society with all of its complexities: infrastructures, social systems, economies, technologies, visual media, video games, etc. Flynn points out how rural people even just a century ago didn’t demonstrate much predilection for abstractions (see Luria’s interviews with isolated rural Russians). With a different focus, others propose that the main change has been in terms of health standards and environmental conditions, that have allowed greater brain development.

The reasons interest me less at the moment. I wanted to note that the changes seen across the generations are quite real and significant, whatever they might mean. They are also continuing in many countries, including the United States, although the pattern doesn’t hold in all countries. We Americans haven’t yet hit the ceiling of IQ limits, and that applies to all demographic groups, although those on the lower end of the scale are rising faster and hence the IQ disparities are shrinking.

So, about this trend, what does it represent? Where is it heading?

There are some correlations that I find intriguing. Higher average IQ correlates to greater liberal-mindedness. Many studies have shown this. It seems related to corrleations found between other cognitive abilities and predispositions: openness to experience, thin boundaries, fantasy proneness, creativity, empathy, emotional sensitivity, social awareness, etc.

This probably connects to fluid intelligence, the ability to deal with new, unique, and unusual situations and problems. I’ve pointed out before that the strength and weakness of liberalism is its emphasis on abstractions, both critical thinking and wide-ranging empathy being dependent on this. There is a psychological fluidity with liberalism that appears to be linked to cognitive and intellectual fluidity. I’ve also noted this may be the reason that research has shown it easier to shift a liberal into a conservative mindset than a conservative into a liberal mindset. Liberals easily fall prey to contact highs, both psychological and ideological.

Unsurprisingly, liberalism (in particular, social liberalism) has increased in unison with rising IQ. Also, social democracy has spread and become more dominant following the wide-scale availability of knowledge because of movable type printing presses, mass publishing, public libraries, public education, etc; and is likely to spread further as all of these contributing factors spread further and are magnified by the internet and various new media technologies. Others have observed that the Axial Age began and came to fruition because of the development and popularization of alphabetic writing, scrolls and then bound books, and the formation of libraries. That beginning, uneven and shaky, did more fully take hold during the Enlightenment and greater still with industrialization.

Steven Pinker has made the argument that this corresponds to an impressive decrease of violence per capita across the centuries. This is what is called the “moral Flynn effect.” It’s not just an improvement of social and health conditions, but an actual change at the level of psychological and cognitive functioning, at least so the theory goes.

Fluid intelligence isn’t just about cold analysis, dry logic, and intellectual problem-solving. It’s more importantly about seeing patterns and connections and the ability to shift perspectives, such as ideological worldviews, ethnic cultures, and personal experiences. It’s not just abstract thinking, but it definitely involves abstract thinking. To empathize with someone far different from you requires an abstract capacity of universalizing human nature and seeking commonality in human experience. There is no way to go from concrete thinking to such inclusive extremes of empathy, to go from the known of one’s own experience and into the unknown of imagining other viewpoints.

You can see this mindset having struggled to take hold during the Enlightenment and early modern revolutionary era, and even well into the 19th century. One of the greatest debates at that time, including among the American founders, was whether all humans had a basic human nature. Did all people, even peasants and slaves, have a common experience of self-awareness, thought, and feeling? Did all people feel pain and suffering, desire happiness and freedom? Were all humans really the same on some fundamental level or were some populations more like animals?

These seem like silly questions to many modern people in modernized societies, but that wasn’t always the case. It has only been over this past century that psychological understanding has become common, and this has been in concert  with scientific thought becoming more widespread, the two being inextricably connected. To see the world through a stranger’s eyes requires a quite complex process of cognitive ability. It has to be learned and developed. No one is simply born with this capacity.

It’s amazing that we have advanced so far that we now take so much of this for granted. Still, we have much further to go. It does get me to wondering. Will we reach a tipping point when the American or global population reaches a certain level of IQ and education, specifically in terms of increasing ability of complex thought and perspective-taking? The average American today is smarter and more well educated than was the ruling elite from centuries ago. If you think the present generations of Americans are stupid, you should have seen their ancestors before most of the population was educated and literate.

On the other hand, some worry that increased abstract thought is causing a loss of concrete thought.But I doubt it is a zero sum game. By way of transcend and include, abstract thought moreso builds upon than replaces concrete thought. It’s that combining of cognitive abilities that allows for ever more complex thought. That is what I hope is the case. We are presently undergoing a massive social experiment to test this hypothesis.

* * *

See:

Are We Becoming Morally Smarter?
The connection between increasing IQs, decreasing violence, and economic liberalism
by Michael Shermer

Swords into Syllogisms
by Randal R. Hendrickson

Opportunity Precedes Achievement, Good Timing Also Helps

None of the Above:
What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race.

by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

Flynn brings a similar precision to the question of whether Asians have a genetic advantage in I.Q., a possibility that has led to great excitement among I.Q. fundamentalists in recent years. Data showing that the Japanese had higher I.Q.s than people of European descent, for example, prompted the British psychometrician and eugenicist Richard Lynn to concoct an elaborate evolutionary explanation involving the Himalayas, really cold weather, premodern hunting practices, brain size, and specialized vowel sounds. The fact that the I.Q.s of Chinese-Americans also seemed to be elevated has led I.Q. fundamentalists to posit the existence of an international I.Q. pyramid, with Asians at the top, European whites next, and Hispanics and blacks at the bottom.

Here was a question tailor-made for James Flynn’s accounting skills. He looked first at Lynn’s data, and realized that the comparison was skewed. Lynn was comparing American I.Q. estimates based on a representative sample of schoolchildren with Japanese estimates based on an upper-income, heavily urban sample. Recalculated, the Japanese average came in not at 106.6 but at 99.2. Then Flynn turned his attention to the Chinese-American estimates. They turned out to be based on a 1975 study in San Francisco’s Chinatown using something called the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test. But the Lorge-Thorndike test was normed in the nineteen-fifties. For children in the nineteen-seventies, it would have been a piece of cake. When the Chinese-American scores were reassessed using up-to-date intelligence metrics, Flynn found, they came in at 97 verbal and 100 nonverbal. Chinese-Americans had slightly lower I.Q.s than white Americans.

The Asian-American success story had suddenly been turned on its head. The numbers now suggested, Flynn said, that they had succeeded not because of their higher I.Q.s. but despite their lower I.Q.s. Asians were overachievers. In a nifty piece of statistical analysis, Flynn then worked out just how great that overachievement was. Among whites, virtually everyone who joins the ranks of the managerial, professional, and technical occupations has an I.Q. of 97 or above. Among Chinese-Americans, that threshold is 90. A Chinese-American with an I.Q. of 90, it would appear, does as much with it as a white American with an I.Q. of 97.

There should be no great mystery about Asian achievement. It has to do with hard work and dedication to higher education, and belonging to a culture that stresses professional success. But Flynn makes one more observation. The children of that first successful wave of Asian-Americans really did have I.Q.s that were higher than everyone else’s—coming in somewhere around 103. Having worked their way into the upper reaches of the occupational scale, and taken note of how much the professions value abstract thinking, Asian-American parents have evidently made sure that their own children wore scientific spectacles. “Chinese Americans are an ethnic group for whom high achievement preceded high I.Q. rather than the reverse,” Flynn concludes, reminding us that in our discussions of the relationship between I.Q. and success we often confuse causes and effects. “It is not easy to view the history of their achievements without emotion,” he writes. That is exactly right. To ascribe Asian success to some abstract number is to trivialize it.

The Ethnic Myth
by Stephen Steinberg
pp. 125 -7

At least superficially, the streetcorner men exhibited many of the characteristics of a culture of poverty. They unquestionably had a present-time orientation, in that immediate pleasures were pursued without regard to long-range implications. Their aspirations were low, at least as gauged by the fact that they worked irregularly and did not look for better jobs. Their absence from their families meant households were headed by women. And the feelings of inferiority, helplessness, and fatalism that Lewis saw as endemic to a culture of poverty were in plain evidence. Yet Liebow forcefully rejects the view that these are “traits” that add up to a culture of poverty. He insists that the fundamental values of the streetcorner men are the same as those of the middle-class society, and that their behavior, though in apparent contradiction to those values, is only a response to external circumstances that prevent them from living according to conventional values.

Of paramount importance is the fact that these men are unable to find jobs that pay a living wage. As Liebow points out, the way a man makes a living and the kind of living he makes defines a man’s worth, both to himself and his neighbors, friends, lovers, and family. This operates with the same force as in the rest of society, but inversely, since the streetcorner men do not have jobs that are worth very much, either in status or pay. For Liebow, this is the controlling factor in their lives, distorting their values, their family relationships and their concept of themselves.

Thus if they do not plan for the future, it is not because they are observing a different cultural norm that emphasizes the pleasure of the moment but because their futures are bleak and they lack the resources and opportunities for doing much about it. Similarly their low aspirations are an inevitable response to restricted opportunity, particularly the improbability of finding a decent job. This is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but a resignation born out of bitter personal experience. All the men in Liebow’s study had tested themselves repeatedly on the job market, and had come to realize that the only jobs available were menial, low-paying, dead-end jobs that would not allow them to support their families. […]

Thus, Liebow presents a strong case that the streetcorner men have the same concept of work and family as does the middle class. Indeed, it is precisely because they share these conventional values that they experience such a profound sense of personal failure. The attraction of the street corner, with its “shadow system of values,” is that it compensates for an impaired sense of manhood. In all these respects Liebow’s intepretation of the street corner is in direct opposition to the culture-of-poverty thesis. […]

Thus, similarities between parents and children are not the product of cultural transmission, but of the fact that “the son goes out and independently experiences the same failures, in the same areas, and for much the same reasons as his father.”

For Liebow, then, the poor do not neeed instruction in the Protestant ethic or other values, but jobs that would allow them to incorporate these values into their everyday lives. It is not their culture that needs to be changed, but an economic system that fails to provide jobs that pay a living wage to millions of the nation’s poor.

Conclusion

There is intellectual perversity in the tendency to use the cultural responses of the poor as “explanations” of why they are poor. Generally speaking, groups do not get ahead or lag behind on the basis of their cultural values. Rather, they are born into a given station in life and adopt values that are consonant with their circumstances and their life chances. To the extent that the lower-class ethnics seem to live according to a different set of values, this is primarily a cultural manifestation of their being trapped in poverty. In the final analysis, the culture-of-poverty thesis—at least as it has been used by Banfield, Moynihan, and others—is nothing more than an intellectual smoke screen for our society’s unwillingness or inability to wipe out unemployment and poverty.

pp. 134-5

Berrol’s inventory of educational facilities in New York City at the turn of the century shows that the schools could not possibly have functioned as a significant channel of mobility. Still in an early stage of development, the public school system was unable to cope with the enormous influx of foreigners, most of whom were in their childbearing ages. Primary grade schools were so over-crowded that tens of thousands of students were turned away, and as late as 1914 there were only five high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx. If only for this reason, few children of Jewish immigrants received more than a rudimentary education.”

Berrol furnishes other data showing that large numbers of Jewish students ended their schooling by the eighth grade. For example, in New York City in 1908 there were 25,534 Jewish students in the first grade, 11,527 in the seventh, 2,549 in their first year of high school, and only 488 in their last year. Evidently, most immigrant Jewish children of this period dropped out of school to enter the job market.

Nor could City College have been a major channel of Jewish mobility during the early decades of the twenntieth century. Until the expansion of City College in the 1930s and 1940s, enrollments were not large enough to have a significant impact on Jewish mobility. Furthermore, Jewish representation at the college was predominantly German; Berrol estimates that in 1923 only 11 percent of CCNY students had Russian or Polish names.

In short, prior to the 1930s and 1940s, the public schools, and City College in particular, were not a channel of mobility for more than a privileged few. It was not until the expansion of higher education following the Second World War that City College provided educational opportunities for significant numbers of Jewish youth. However, by the time New York’s Jewish population had already emerged from the deep poverty of the immigrant generation, and had experienced extensive economic mobility.

It was the children of these upwardly mobile Jews who enrolled in City college during the 1930s and 1940s. For them, education was clearly a channel of mobility, but it accelerated a process of intergenerational mobility that was already in motion, since their parents typically had incomes, and often occupations as well, that were a notch or two above those of the working class in general. As Berrol concluded:

. . . most New York City Jews did not make the leap from poverty into the middle class by going to college. Rather, widespread utilization of secondary and higher education followed improvements in economic status and was as much a result as a cause of upward mobility.

Weak Evidence, Weak Argument: Race, IQ, Adoption

This post is a data dump for adoption studies and their analysis.

I found myself in yet another pointless debate with an uninformed person, a hereditarian in this case. I felt compelled to offer some info, even though I know from long experience that there is usually a reason for a person being uninformed while arguing strongly for a particular position. (I really need to stop getting into pointless debates, for I fear it is deleterious to my mental health.)

So, this post is in response to a ‘debate’ or rather that is what initiallly motivated my gathering all of this info and analysis. But my real purpose is to share all of this with others who actually might care to inform themselves.

My problem with this kind of data is as follows. It isn’t overly useful data in proving much of anything: small sample sizes, lack of effective controls and control groups, abundance of confounding factors, difficulty of replicability, etc.

We know through other research that racial biases are immense in our society, and this other research tends to be of a higher quality than the adoption (and twin) research. Studies have found various forms of racial biases in a wide variety of areas, from education to policing. It’s well supported that this is systemic and institutional.

It is also well supported that it is often internalized, and typically unconscious. Studies have shown that even minorities show prejudice against other minorities and that this is worse toward those with darker skin. Plus, studies show an internalized racial bias by way of stereotype threat, where the framing of a situation apparently causes the person to in a sense unintentionally sabotage themselves (because of added stress and cognitive load).

For any of these adoption (and twin) studies to be useful, it would require taking into account all the known confounding factors. I don’t know of a single study that does this or even attempts to come close to doing this. It would be ludicrously counterintuitive to presume that these endemic and internalized racial biases weren’t effecting the results.

All this leaves us is to speculate based on weak and probably misleading data. This means interpretation inevitably will follow ideology, as long as we limit ourselves to this data and ignore the larger context of data.

This is highly problematic, for the issues involved are complex. That is just the way reality is. If you want to deal with complex reality, you better find sophisticated ways of dealing with it. On that account, these studies fail in various ways. Still, they give us some possible insights in new directions to take with better research.

In conclusion, my basic point is that all of this demonstrates how weak is the argument being made by hereditarians. As for those who prefer environmental explanations, they don’t need this data at all, since there is already plenty of other data that supports their position. Given what we know, all of the racial disparities, IQ or otherwise, can be explained without recourse to genetic determinism.

This is an obvious statment, for the simple reason that race itself is a social construct, not a scientific fact. Social constructs and their social consequences need social explanations of social causes. The debate of the racial IQ gap is about as meaningful as attempting to compare the average magical intelligence of those sorted into each Hogwarts Houses by the magical sorting hat, if one were to base a society on such strange notions.

* * * *

https://analyseeconomique.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/transracially-adopted-intermediate-iq-hereditarian-nonsense/

“Whatever the final conclusion one would make, or would like to make depending on ideological inclinations, the samples are very small and most of the relevant informations on adoptees and adoptive/biological parents not available. None of the aforementioned studies provide full longitudinal information on adoptees and adoptive families. And yet, ignorant hereditarians cite this research as an established proof of racial genetic hierarchy. On the other side, however, I usually see that environmentalists have been trapped into the same fallacy as well. They cite transracial adoption data in support of their views without any care about 1) longitudinal data 2) biological parents’ characteristics. If adoption gain is empty in regard to g as was the case for educational intervention programs, we should expect vanishing gains over time. Besides, if shared environmental (c2) effects decrease over time, we may also expect vanishing gains. Hence the importance of follow-up data.”

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Heritability.html

“I have given examples of traits that are genetically determined but not heritable and, conversely, traits that are heritable but not genetically determined. Do these weird examples have any relevance to the case of IQ? Maybe there is a range of normal cases, of which IQ is an example, for which the oddities that I’ve pointed to are just irrelevant.

“Not so! In fact IQ is a great example of a trait that is highly heritable but not genetically determined. Recall that what makes toe number genetically determined is that having five toes is coded in and caused by the genes so as to develop in any normal environment. By contrast, IQ is enormously affected by normal environmental variation, and in ways that are not well understood. As Herrnstein and Murray concede, children from very low socio-economic status backgrounds who are adopted into high socio-economic status backgrounds have IQs dramatically higher than their parents. The point is underscored by what Herrnstein and Murray call the “Flynn Effect:” IQ has been rising about 3 points every 10 years worldwide. Since World War II, IQ in many countries has gone up 15 points, about the same as the gap separating Blacks and Whites in this country. And in some countries, the rise has been even more dramatic. For example, average IQ in Holland rose 21 points between 1952 and 1982. In a species in which toe number reacted in this way with environment (imagine a centipede-like creature which added toes as it ate more) I doubt that we would think of number of toes as genetically determined.”

http://scienceblogs.com/purepedantry/2007/12/10/richard-nisbett-on-iq-and-race/

“During World War II, both black and white American soldiers fathered children with German women. Thus some of these children had 100 percent European heritage and some had substantial African heritage. Tested in later childhood, the German children of the white fathers were found to have an average I.Q. of 97, and those of the black fathers had an average of 96.5, a trivial difference. . . .

“A superior adoption study — and one not discussed by the hereditarians — was carried out at Arizona State University by the psychologist Elsie Moore, who looked at black and mixed-race children adopted by middle-class families, either black or white, and found no difference in I.Q. between the black and mixed-race children. Most telling is Dr. Moore’s finding that children adopted by white families had I.Q.’s 13 points higher than those of children adopted by black families. The environments that even middle-class black children grow up in are not as favorable for the development of I.Q. as those of middle-class whites.”

http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/526/Race-Intelligence.html

“Another approach to these studies measures the IQs of black children brought up in white families. In one study of black, interracial, and white adopted children raised in white families, the white children showed the highest IQ scores, with interracial children scoring in the middle. But it’s not clear whether the white families treated the black children differently; whether the black children had suffered from IQ-reducing environments before they were born; or whether the older average age of adoption for the black children in the study prevented a fair comparison.

“Another study, of black West Indian (Caribbean) children and English children raised in an orphanage in England, found that the Caribbean children had higher IQs than those from England, with mixed-race children scoring in between. But were the black children given more attention by orphanage staff? Were particularly intelligent Caribbeans emigrating to England for better economic opportunity?

“Finally, a study of black children adopted by white versus black families in America showed that the black children raised by whites had higher IQ scores than those raised by blacks—suggesting an environmental cause. When the studies are taken together, the many caveats involved with the role of genetics and environment make it hard to draw firm conclusions. But the balance of data suggests no racial difference in intelligence.”

https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/j/jencks-gap.html

“Some skeptics have argued that scores on tests of this kind are really just proxies for family background. As we shall see, family background does affect test performance. But even when biological siblings are raised in the same family, their test scores hardly ever correlate more than 0.5. Among children who have been adopted, the correlation falls to around half that level. The claim that test scores are only a proxy for family background is therefore false. . . .

“Two small studies have tried to compare genetically similar children raised in black and white families. Elsie Moore found that black children adopted by white parents had IQ scores 13.5 points higher than black children adopted by black parents. Lee Willerman and his colleagues compared children with a black mother and a white father to children with a white mother and a black father. The cleanest comparison is for mixed-race children who lived only with their mother. Mixed-race children who lived with a white mother scored 11 points higher than mixed-race children who lived with a black mother. Since the black-white IQ gap averaged about 15 points at the time these two studies were done, they imply that about four-fifths of that gap was traceable to family-related factors (including schools and neighborhoods).

“A better-known study dealt with black and mixed-race children adopted by white parents in Minnesota. The mixed-race children were adopted earlier in life and had higher IQ scores than the children with two black parents. When the 29 black children were first tested, they scored at least ten points higher than the norm for black children, presumably because they had more favorable home environments than most black children. When these children were retested in their late teens or twenties, their IQ scores had dropped and were no longer very different from those of Northern blacks raised in black families. The most obvious explanation for this drop is that the adoptees had moved out of their white adoptive parents’ homes into less favorable environments. But because the study did not cover black or mixed-race children adopted by black parents, it does not seem to us to provide strong evidence on either side of the heredity-environment debate. . . .

“In theory, we can also separate the effects of parents’ socioeconomic status from the effects of their genes by studying adopted children. But because adoption agencies try to screen out “unsuitable” parents, the range of environments in adoptive homes is usually restricted. The adoptive samples for which we have data are also small. Thus while parental SES does not predict adopted children’s IQ scores as well as it predicts natural children’s IQ scores, the data on adopted children are not likely to persuade skeptics.”

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence

“However, another set of observations have shown that there is a difference in the causes of variation within low SES and high SES populations. In low SES populations, environmental differences account for a larger degree of the variance than in high SES populations where genetic factors explain a larger portion of the variance. This is taken by Nisbett et al. (2012) to mean that high SES individuals are more likely to be able to develop their full biological potential, whereas low SES individuals are likely to be hindered in their development by adverse environmental conditions. The same review also points out that adoption studies generally are biased towards including only high and high middle SES families, meaning that they will tend to overestimate genetic effects. They also state that studies of adoption from lower-class homes to middle-class homes have shown that such children experience a 12 – 18 pt gain in IQ relative to children who remain in low SES homes.[23] . . .

“A number of studies have been done on the effect of similar rearing conditions on children from different races. The hypothesis is that by investigating whether black children adopted into white families demonstrated gains in IQ test scores relative to black children reared in black families. Depending on whether their test scores are more similar to their biological or adoptive families, that could be interpreted as either supporting a genetic or an environmental hypothesis. The main point of critique in studies like these however whether the environment of black children even when raised in White families are truly comparable to the environment of White children. Several reviews of the adoption study literature has pointed out that it is perhaps impossible to avoid confounding of biological and environmental factors in this type of studies.[118] Given the differing heritability estimates in medium-high SES and low-SES families, Nisbett et al. (2012:134) argue that adoption studies on the whole tend to overstate the role of genetics because they represent a restricted set of environments, mostly in the medium-high SES range.

“The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study (1976) examined the IQ test scores of 122 adopted children and 143 nonadopted children reared by advantaged white families. The children were restudied ten years later.[119][120][121] The study found higher IQ for whites compared to blacks, both at age 7 and age 17.[119] Rushton & Jensen (2005) cite the Minnesota study as providing support to a genetic explanation. Nonetheless, acknowledging the existence of confounding factors, Scarr and Weinberg the authors of the original study, did not themselves consider that it provided support for either the hereditarian or environmentalist view.[122]

“Three other adoption studies found contrary evidence to the Minnesota study, lending support to a mostly environmental hypothesis:

“Eyferth (1961) studied the out-of-wedlock children of black and white soldiers stationed in Germany after World War 2 and then raised by white German mothers and found no significant differences.

“Tizard et al. (1972) studied black (African and West Indian), white, and mixed-race children raised in British long-stay residential nurseries. Three out of four tests found no significant differences. One test found higher scores for non-whites.

“Moore (1986) compared black and mixed-race children adopted by either black or white middle-class families in the United States. Moore observed that 23 black and interracial children raised by white parents had a significantly higher mean score than 23 age-matched children raised by black parents (117 vs 104), and argued that differences in early socialization explained these differences.

“Rushton and Jensen have argued that unlike the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, these studies did not retest the children post-adolescence when heritability of IQ would presumably be higher.[22][44] Nisbett (2009:226) however point out that the difference in heritability between ages 7 and 17 are quite small, and that consequently this is no reason to disregard Moore’s findings.

“Frydman and Lynn (1989) showed a mean IQ of 119 for Korean infants adopted by Belgian families. After correcting for the Flynn effect, the IQ of the adopted Korean children was still 10 points higher than the indigenous Belgian children.[123][19][124]

“Reviewing the evidence from adoption studies Mackintosh considers the studies by Tizard and Eyferth to be inconclusive, and the Minnesota study to be consistent only with a partial genetic hypothesis. On the whole he finds that environmental and genetic variables remain confounded and considers evidence from adoption studies inconclusive on the whole, and fully compatible with a 100% environmental explanation.[118] . . .

“Another study cited by Rushton & Jensen (2005), and by Nisbett et al. (2012), was Moore (1986) study which found that adopted mixed-race children’s has test scores identical to children with two black parents – receiving no apparent “benefit” from their white ancestry.”

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/22/3/317/

“Compared mean IQ test performance and response styles to cognitive demands of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) among 23 Black children (aged 7–10 yrs) who had been adopted by middle-class White families (i.e., transracially adopted) and 23 age-matched Black children who had been adopted by middle-class Black families (i.e., traditionally adopted). Findings indicate that while the traditionally adopted Ss received normal IQ scores, transracially adopted Ss showed nearly 1 standard deviation Full-Scale Scoring advantage over them. A multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) indicated significant differences in the styles of responding to test demands demonstrated by the 2 groups of Ss, which were conceptualized as contributors to the difference in average test score observed between them. Multivariate analysis of the helping behaviors adopted mothers exhibited when helping their children solve a difficult cognitive task revealed significant differences between Black and White mothers, which were conceptualized as culturally determined. White adopted mothers tended to release tension by joking, grinning, and laughing, while Black adoptive mothers more often released tension in less positive ways such as scowling, coughing, and frowning. White adoptive mothers were more likely than Black adoptive mothers to provide positive evaluations of their children’s problem solving efforts. It is concluded that the ethnicity of the rearing environment exerts a significant influence on children’s styles of responding to standardized intelligence tests and on their test achievement.”

* * * *

Education As the Cultivation of Intelligence
By Michael E. Martinez
pp. 102-3

“Of the research cited by Nisbett, only the Minnesota study on adoption provides any support for Hernstein and Murray’s claim that the Black-White IQ gap is genetic in origin. In this study, White (n=25) and black or mixed-race (Black-White) (n=130) children were adopted into White families (Scarr & Weinberg, 1976, 1983). When the subjects were older adolescents (mean age of 18.5 years), the adopted White children had the highest IQs (mean IQ=115.5), followed by the mixed race children (mean IQ=109.0), and then children of two Black parents (mean IQ=96.8). At first blush, it seems that this study supports the genetic doctrine. However, when the data are limited to Black children who were adopted before the age of 12 months, a different picture emerges. The average IQ of the Black early adoptees was 110, which was 20 points higher than the IQ of comparable children raised in the Black comunity, and 10 points higher than the population mean. For Black children placed before the age of 12 months, IQ correlations with adopted siblings were “embarrassingly similar” to those between natural siblings (Scarr & Weinberg, 1983, p. 264). It is true that the IQs of adopted Black children averaged 6 points below that of their White adoptive siblings, but this gap is small enough to be accounted for by differences in pre- and postnatal experiences prior to adoption. (IQ differences of 6 points or so are not unusual even among identical twins.) The same study showed that IQs of adopted children were more strongly correlated with their biological mothers (r=0.34) than with their adoptive mothers (r=0.21), reinforcing the belief that genetic forces are not to be dismissed; but these correlations are both rather weak, accounting for, at most 10% of the variance in IQ. More important, these correlations mask the upward shift in IQ enjoyed by the adopted children when compared to their nonadopted peers. Again, we are confronted with the statistical independence of measures of association (i.e., correlation and heritability coefficients) and the actual levels of measured ability (i.e., IQ and mental age). Thus, quite in contrast to the inferennces drawn by Hernstein and Murray (1984) in The Bell Curve, the original investigators concluded that “genetic racial differences do not account for a major portion of the IQ performance differences between racial groups” (Scarr & Weinberg, 1983, p. 261, emphasis added).”

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
By Richard E. Nisbett
p. 30

“Because the environmental variation of adoptive families has mistakenly been assumed to be as great as the environmental variation in the population as a whole, the estimates of between-family environment effects are way off. Stoolmiller calculated that if you correct for this restriction of environmental range, as much as 50 percent of the variation in intelligence could be due to differences between family environments. Since we know that within-family variation also makes an important contribution to IQ, this would mean that most of the variation in IQ is due to the environment. (These numbers would hold, though, only for children. We know that heritability goes up with age to some degree, so Stoolmiller’s estimate for the contribution of between-family differences has to be lowered by some unknown amount.)

pp. 36-7

“The evidence we have just been looking at concerning the effects of genes versus the environment tells us something crucially important about social class and intelligence. The experiences of the children of the professional and middle classes result in much higher IQs and much lower school-failure rates than is typical for lower-SES children. Moreover, we can place a number, or at least a range, on the degree to which environmental factors characteristic of lower-SES families reduce IQ below its potential: it is between 12 and 18 points. Whatever the estimates of heritability turn out to be, nothing is going to change this fact. So we know that, in principle, interventions have the potential to be highly effective in changing the intelligence of the poor. Interventions could also greatly affect the rate of school failure of lower-class children. The minimum estimate for this reduction is about half a standard deviation. The maximum estimate for this is much higher— one standard deviation, or about the same rate that would be found for middle-class children raised by their own parents.

“Note also that it is not just the IQs of lower-SES children that can be affected. One study looked at the IQs of white children who were born to mothers with an average IQ and who were adopted by mostly middle-and upper-middle-class families. The children adopted relatively late had an average IQ in childhood of 112 and those adopted relatively early had an average IQ of 117. This study suggests that even children who would be expected to have an average IQ if raised in an average environment can have their IQ boosted very considerably if they are raised under highly propitious circumstances. Similarly, the cross-fostering study of Capron and Duyme showed that upper-middle-class children can have their IQs lowered if they are raised in poverty. The loss is about 12 points. So children born to poor families are not the only ones who can have their IQs dramatically affected by the environment. All children can.”

p. 98

“One way of testing the heredity-versus-environment question is to look at black children raised in white environments. If the black deficit in IQ is due entirely to the environment, then blacks raised in white environments ought to have higher IQs than those raised in black environments. The hereditarians cite a study from the 1980s showing that black children who had been adopted by white parents had lower IQs than white children adopted by white parents. Mixed-race adoptees had IQs in between those of the black and white children. But, as the researchers acknowledged, the study had many flaws; for instance, the black children had been adopted at a substantially later age than the mixed-race children, and later age at adoption is associated with lower IQ.

“A superior adoption study was carried out by developmental psychologist Elsie Moore, who looked at black and mixed-race children adopted by middle-class families, either black or white, and found no difference in IQ between the black and mixed-race children.”

Unseen Influences: Race, Gender, and Twins

Steven Fraser, in The Bell Curve Wars, discusses the problems with Hernstein and Murray’s genetic argument for IQ.

He points out that the Flynn effect is particularly devastating. For this reason, he finds it puzzling that they don’t recognize or acknowledge the obvious implications. Black people today are on average smarter, as far as IQ tests go, than white people were a few generations ago. By today’s normed IQ tests, white people of a century ago would now be labeled as “retarded”.

I’ve covered that territory before. What caught my attention the other day was what followed his comments on the Flynn effect. He made a further point about the weakness of the genetics hypothesis. He states that a “remarkable phenomenon commented on in the Moynihan Report of thirty years ago goes unnoticed in The Bell Curve–the prevalence of females among blacks who score high on mental tests” (Kindle Locations 914-925); he continues:

“Others who have done studies of high-IQ blacks have found several times as many females as males above the 120 IQ level. Since black males and black females have the same genetic inheritance, this substantial disparity must have some other roots, especially since it is not found in studies of high-IQ individuals in the general society, such as the famous Terman studies of high-IQ children, which followed these children on into adulthood and later life. If IQ differences of this magnitude can occur with no genetic difference at all, then it is more than mere speculation to say that some unusual environmental effects must be at work among blacks.”

This isn’t limited to any race/ethnicity. It is a gender IQ gap found across diverse other populations.

“However, these environmental effects need not be limited to blacks, for other low-IQ groups of European or other ancestries have likewise tended to have females over-represented among their higher scorers, even though the Terman studies of high-IQ individuals from the general population found no such patterns. One possibility is that females are more resistant to bad environmental conditions, as some other studies suggest. In any event, large sexual disparities in high-IQ individuals where there are no genetic-or socioeconomic-differences present a challenge to both the Herrnstein-Murray thesis and to most of their critics.”

This reminds me of the stereotype threat discussed by Claude M. Steele in Whistling Vivaldi. He shows the research about how much simple changes in environment can cause large changes in results, both for tests of academics and other activities. Women tend to test lower on math, for example. However, neutralize stereotype threat and the disparity disappears.

Environments aren’t just different between populations, but also within populations. The environmental factors that will impact a female are different than for a male, including the stereotypes and expectations placed upon genders just as happens with race. Having much shared genetics doesn’t necessarily mean that all influences are being shared.

To emphasize this point, Fraser extends his argument to an even more stark example. Twins also show great differences, something overlooked by early twin studies.

“Black males and black females are not the only groups with significant IQ differences without any genetic differences. Identical twins with significantly different birth weights also have IQ differences, with the heavier twin averaging nearly nine points higher IQ than the lighter one in some studies.’ This effect is not found where the lighter twin weighs at least six and a half pounds, suggesting that deprivation of nutrition must reach some threshold level before it has a permanent effect on the brain during its crucial early development.”

Slight changes in environment can lead to immense differences over the long term. This is because of the cumulative effect of initial conditions. One thing leads to another. Lowered nutrition or increased toxicity has its impact which gets magnified by such things as school tracking. Each effect becoming a cause and all the causal factors combining to form significant differences in end results.

Using Intelligence to Assess Intelligence

“Using my intelligence I take note of the fact that no effort however expensive has ever enabled most blacks to perform and behave as well as most whites.”
(John Engelman, as he commented in response to me in our ‘debate’ on a book review of On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman.)

Why don’t you use your intelligence to take note of the fact that no effort however expensive or cheap has ever even been attempted to objectively test whether it is possible to enable most of the underprivileged to perform and behave in the way seen among the privileged?

The amount of public funding, public support, and political will required to undo the history of racism, sadly, would be more than the American population and the U.S. government is at present capable of, although maybe not if we stopped wasting so much money on military imperialism and socialism for the rich. We don’t know if we could accomplish it because we don’t even know if we want to accomplish it. We don’t know because it is an untested hypothetical, but maybe we should test it.

To be honest, we can’t speak of most blacks and most whites about most things. There is so little data about most blacks and most whites. What little data we have generally isn’t of the highest quality. There are too many biases in the data and too few effective methods in collecting the data for controlling for confounding factors. There is way more we don’t know than we do know. To be intellectually honest we have to be intellectually humble.

However, we shouldn’t dismiss what we do know, no matter how imperfect. We do know that environment has influence on IQ. Yet we have found no genetic racial explanation at all.

Stephen Jay Gould, in The Mismeasure of Man (Revised & Expanded), he has some new comments directed at the authors of The Bell Curve, which speak directly to your arguments:

“Herrnstein and Murray violate fairness by converting a complex case that can only yield agnosticism into a biased brief for permanent and heritable difference. They impose this spin by turning every straw on their side into an oak, while mentioning but downplaying the strong circumstantial case for substantial malleability and little average genetic difference (impressive IQ gains for poor black children adopted into affluent and intellectual homes; average IQ increases in some nations since World War II equal to the entire 15-point difference now separating blacks and whites in America; failure to find any cognitive differences between two cohorts of children born out of wedlock to German women, and raised in Germany as Germans, but fathered by black and white American soldiers).”

So, we do know that most blacks under these environmental conditions apparently do as well as most whites under these environmental conditions. We don’t know what would happen if were able to create the exact same environmental conditions for all blacks and whites in the entire United States.

By the way, the IQ gains aren’t measly. They are possibly larger than the entire IQ gap between blacks and whites. As Richard Nisbett, in Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, explains:

“The difference between the average IQ of the children of the lower third of the socioeconomic status (SES) distribution and the average IQ of the children of the upper third is about 10 points. We know that some of this is due to biological but not genetic factors, including exercise, breast-feeding, and exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke, as well as hazardous chemicals and pollution. And some of it is due to the disruption in schools of lower-SES children and to the fact that peers are pulling intelligence mostly in a down direction. We also know that socialization in lower-SES homes is not optimal for developing either IQ or school readiness. Moreover, a child born into roughly the bottom sixth of the SES distribution will have an IQ 12 to 18 points higher if raised by parents from roughly the top quarter of the SES distribution.”

None of this should surprise us. Why would we even assume that genetics is a major factor when the vast majority of the evidence points in the opposite direction? In The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America, Steven Fraser writes:

“There are a total of seven studies providing direct evidence on the question of a genetic basis for the B/W IQ gap. Six of them are consistent with a zero genetic contribution to the gap (or with very slight African superiority) based just on the raw IQ numbers, and though all of these six suffer from some interpretive difficulties, they mostly boil down to a single objection. If it was very low IQ whites who mated with blacks (or very high IQ blacks who mated with whites), the results could be explained away. (One study, which compared blacks and whites in the same institutional environment, is free from this objection.) The self-selection factor would have had to be implausibly great, however, and would have had to be present under a variety of circumstances, in several very different locales, at several different time periods. The remaining study-the only one that the authors write about at any length-is at least on the face of it consistent with a model assuming a substantial genetic contribution to the B/W gap. But that study has as many interpretive problems as the others, including the two studies which the authors mention only to dismiss. Any reader would surely reach very different conclusions about the likely degree of genetic contribution to the B/W gap by virtue of knowing the facts just presented than by reading the highly selective review presented in The Bell Curve.”

The best evidence we have shows about zero genetic influence. It’s a bit more complicated than this, for the genetic influence is dependent on the environmental influence. David Shenk, from The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ, quotes from the author of a study:

““The models suggest,” Turkheimer wrote, “that in impoverished families, 60% of the variance in IQ is accounted for by the shared environment, and the contributions of genes is close to zero; in affluent families, the result is almost exactly the reverse.” (Italics mine.) (Turkheimer et al., “Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children,” p. 632.)”

Basically, genetic influence is so minor that it can only be detected when all of the negative environmental factors no longer have much influence. It is the same between Europeans/Euro-Americans and other racial/ethnic groups, beyond just blacks. To return to Nisbett, he speaks about Asians and Jews:

“At any rate that has been true for Asians and Jews. There is no reliable evidence of a genetic difference in intelligence between people of East Asian descent and people of European descent. In fact, there is little difference in intelligence between the two groups as measured by IQ tests. Some evidence indicates that East Asians start school with lower IQs than do white Americans. After a few years of school this difference seems to disappear. But the academic achievement of East Asians—especially in math and the sciences, where effort counts for a lot— is light-years beyond that of European Americans. Americans of East Asian extraction also differ little in IQ from European Americans. In any case, the academic achievement and occupational attainment of Asian Americans exceed by a great amount what they “should” be accomplishing given their IQs. The explanation for the Asian/ Western gap lies in hard work and persistence.

“Jewish culture undoubtedly has similarly beneficial effects. Jewish values emphasize accomplishment in general and intellectual attainment in particular. Differences between Jews and non-Jews in intellectual accomplishment at the highest levels are very great. A genetic explanation for this is not required inasmuch as even greater differences have occurred for Arabs and Chinese versus Europeans in the Middle Ages, for differences between European countries at various points since the Middle Ages (with reversals occurring between Italy and England and with movement from savagery to sagacity in scarcely two centuries in Scotland), and for regional differences in the United States. We are left with an IQ difference of two-thirds to a standard deviation between Jews and non-Jews. At least some of this difference is surely cultural in origin.”

A genetic explanation isn’t even necessary, even if significant genetic evidence could be found. Why be cynical and fatalistic? There is no rational reason to see IQ divides as racially deterministic. From Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, Tom Burrell gave an example of a school that had great success using different methods, i.e., changing the environmental conditions:

“Education experts are keeping an eye on the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus (ACECC) in Kansas City, Missouri . The 40-acre campus, which opened in 2007, serves mostly black pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students . Teachers stress cultural pride and “expected greatness” as students strive for academic excellence. In 2007, all the schools on the campus met the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) standard mandated by the national “No Child Left Behind” Act.

“The schools are the brainchild of educator Audrey Bullard, who worked as a teacher in Liberia for 18 months more than 30 years ago. In 1991, Bullard led a grassroots effort with other educators and parents to transform J.S. Chick Elementary in Kansas City into a school with an African-centered curriculum. The school has consistently scored as one of the top schools in the school district, with 48 percent of its students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) fourth -grade math test in 2005 . Comparatively, only 24 percent of black students and 36 percent of white students statewide scored as high that year. Although the approach relies heavily on parental involvement and an innovative curriculum, it offers another important component: students are taught to see themselves as contributors, leaders, potential entrepreneurs, and valuable parts of their communities.”

Most blacks in this school, who were normal kids, did better than most white kids outside of this school. The determining factor was the school the kids attended, not their race.

Such an example doesn’t absolutely prove that this or anything similar could cause “most blacks to perform and behave as well as most whites”. But it sure does offer strong evidence that this probably is the case. We have no reason to assume otherwise.

Americans Left Behind: IQ, Education, Poverty, Race, & Ethnicity

Race realists like to use the example of No Child Left Behind.

They see it as proof that next to nothing can be done about the social problems in this country. In their minds, it is some combination of inferior genetics, inferior culture, inferior parenting, etc; just generally inferior people, individually and collectively.

Hence, we shouldn’t waste money and effort on people who don’t deserve it or, to the extent we do offer some assistance, we should at least not expect much from anything we do. Instead, we should expect failure and so there is no reason to try avoid failure, since it is inevitable, right?

My main focus here is No Child Left Behind, but I want to keep it within the larger context. Also, I want to make clear that this isn’t just a ‘black’ issue about ‘black’ problems. No, these are collective problems involving a society-wide failure.

In this light, I’ll begin with a passage from the perspective of a Scots-Irish white guy from Appalachia, Joe Bageant. He writes about poor whites and the oft-proclaimed ethic of taking personal responsibility and working harder. He only has one mention of No Left Behind, but the way he frames it all is a doozy!

After that passage, there several more passages from other books where No Child Left Behind, along with education in general, is discussed more fully.

* * * *

Meanwhile, the conservative Republicans ballyhoo “personal responsibility” to working-class employees like the guys and gals here at Royal Lunch. Most working people around here believe in the buzz phrase “personal responsibility.” Their daddies and mamas taught them to accept responsibility for their actions. They assume responsibility for their lives and don’t want a handout from the government. They see accepting public help as a sign of failure and moral weakness. Consequently, they don’t like social spending to give people a lift. But self-reliant as they are, what real chance do they have living on wages that do not allow them to accumulate savings? What chance do they have living from paycheck to paycheck, praying there will be no layoffs at J. C. Penney or Toll Brothers Homes or Home Depot?

According to Republican economic mythology, human beings are economic competitors; the marketplace is the new Olympia where “economic man” cavorts; the almighty market is rational and rewards efficiency, thrift, and hard work; and free competition “rationally” selects the more worthy competitor, and thus the wealthy are deserving of their elite status. According to the conservative canon, if you haven’t succeeded, it can only be because of your inferiority. Nearly everybody at Royal Lunch feels socially inferior. But in any case, they feel they can at least be self-reliant. They can accept personal responsibility.

We first started hearing about the average Joe needing to take complete responsibility for his condition in life, with no help from the government, during the seventies, when Cold War conservatives Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz dubbed themselves “neoconservatives.” In doing so, they gave a name to an ultrarightist political strain that passionately hated taxes and welfare of any kind, and that favored a national defense strong enough to dominate any part of the world—or the whole world—at any given time. Neoconservatives hated the counterculture and saw it as the beginning of everything that was wrong with America. And they saw plenty of evidence of a shift toward a welfare state, most notably Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which for the first time funded school districts, college loans, Head Start, Medicare, and Medicaid, and cut poverty in half. America was close to being a Communist welfare state, and people had better start taking some personal responsibility, they thundered. We find neoconservatives today all but owning the Republican Party and attempting to axe Social Security and slash unemployment insurance in the name of “personal responsibility.”

But what sort of personal responsibility is possible in the neocon environment? A wage earner’s only asset is his willingness to give a day’s work for a day’s pay, the price of which he does not determine. So where does he get the wherewithal to improve his circumstances? He gets that wherewithal from the wages he earns. But in the new neocon environment, that wage does not support savings. It does not support higher education. It only allows the wage earner to survive from paycheck to paycheck, hoping he doesn’t lose his job and feeling like a loser down inside. Another beer, please.

Admittedly, a real blue-collar middle class still exists in some places, just as unions still exist. But both are on the ropes like some old pug boxer taking the facial cuts and popping eye capillaries with no referee to come in and stop the carnage. The American bootstrap myth is merely another strap that makes the working poor privately conclude that they must in some way be inferior, given that they cannot seem to apply that myth to their own lives. Hell, Pootie, if immigrants can put together successful businesses of their own, why can’t you keep up with your truck payments? Right now, even by the government’s spruced-up numbers, one-third of working Americans make less than $9 an hour. A decade from now, five of the ten fastest-growing jobs will be menial, dead-end jokes on the next generation—mainly retail clerks, cashiers, and janitors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some of us were born sons of a toiling god, with the full understanding that life was never meant to be easy and that it comes with more than enough opportunities for personal responsibility. But at least we could always believe that our kids had a chance for a better life. I certainly achieved a better life than my parents. These days, it’s harder to believe that. I am quite certain that if I were trying to get into college today with the mediocre grades I made back then, and no family college fund or family home to second-mortgage, I would not make it as far as I have. Years ago, there were college scholarships, loans, and programs out the yin-yang, and a high school education more or less prepared a person for college.

That is not to say the class divide was not a steep and ugly ditch back then. It was. But it is an absolute canyon now, and growing deeper. All you have to do is look back at the unfunded No Child Left Behind program or the scam of “teacher-based accountability.” When it became obvious that Johnny is now so dumb that he can’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the bottom—assuming he can even read the instructions—the elite regime in power was quick to get up a posse to lynch the school marm, then resume the theft of education funds on behalf of the rich. Conservative leaders understand quite well that education has a liberalizing effect on a society. Presently they are devising methods to smuggle resources to those American madrassas, the Christian fundamentalist schools, a sure way to make the masses even more stupid if ever there was one.

Is it any wonder the Gallup Poll tells us that 48 percent of Americans believe that God spit on his beefy paws and made the universe in seven days? Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution. It is no accident that number corresponds roughly to the percentage of Americans with college degrees. So intelligent liberals are advised to save their depression and the good booze for later, when things get worse.

Until those with power and access decide that it’s beneficial to truly educate people, and make it possible to get an education without going into crushing debt, then the mutt people here in the heartland will keep on electing dangerous dimwits in cowboy boots. And that means educating everybody, not just the small-town valedictorian or the science nerds who are cherry-picked out of the schools in places like Winchester or more rural areas. These people end up in New York or Houston or Boston—places where they can buy boutique coffees or go to the art cinema—holding down jobs in broadcasting or research or economics.

But what about the rest of the class? What about this latest generation of kids left to suffer the same multigenerational cycle of anti-intellectualism and passivity? Right now there are millions who will be lucky if they are accepted by the military, and if they are extra lucky they will qualify for a vocational school before they are absorbed forever by America’s passive, ignorant labor pool culture. In Winchester, for example, even though we are getting an influx of Washington, D.C., suburbanites who feel differently, most native hometown kids are not concerned with upward mobility at all. They could give a rip about school, and they care even less about what educated upscale people think of them.

This is a terrible and silent crisis. Working-class passivity, antipathy to intellect, and belligerence toward the outside world start early. They begin at home and continue in grade school. Yet even if the entire working class in America suddenly got religion and wanted to send every child to college, and if all children made perfect grades and wanted to broaden their worlds, it would be financially impossible under the present system. They have no savings and nothing to borrow against. Many people reading this financed their children’s educations with second mortgages. These days, working-class people who own homes have no equity left due to refinancing to pay credit card debt or medical bills. And the working poor have even less of a chance. They rent until they die, with no hope of passing along to their children any accumulated wealth in the form of equity in a home. So over the generations they stay stuck or lose ground. And they stay dumb and drink beer at Royal Lunch and vote Republican because no real liberal voice, the kind that speaks the rock-bottom, undeniable truth, ever enters their lives. Hell, it doesn’t even enter liberals’ lives these days. But it can. I have on many occasions at this very tavern found an agreeing ear to all of the very arguments made above.

One of the few good things about growing older is that one can remember what appears to have been purposefully erased from the national memory. Fifty years ago, men and women of goodwill agreed that every citizen had the right to health care and to a free and credible education. Manifestation of one’s fullest potential was considered a national goal, even by Republicans. Ike wanted national health insurance and so did Nixon. Now both are labeled as unworkable ideas. (Maybe even downright com’nist, Pootie.)

Bageant, Joe (2008-06-24). Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War (Kindle Locations 353-416). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

“Compensatory education has been tried, and it apparently has failed.”
—Arthur Jensen (1969)

“There is no evidence that school reform can substantially reduce the extent of cognitive inequality as measured by ability] tests.”
—Christopher Jencks and others (1972)

“There is no reason to believe that raising intelligence significantly and permanently is a current policy option, no matter how much money we are willing to spend.”
—Charles Murray (2007)

IN 2002 THE U.S. CONGRESS passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated that American schools eliminate the gap between the social classes and between minority groups and whites by 2014. I don’t know if most members of Congress actually believed that such accomplishments are possible. But if so, they are deeply ignorant of the forces that operate to produce high academic achievement.

Intellectual capital is the result of stimulation and support for exploration and achievement in the home, the neighborhood, and the schools. To think that this can be changed by mandate— operating only through the schools —is preposterous. Moreover , the schools attended by minorities and the poor are wanting in ways that cannot be drastically improved overnight. The problems include quality of teachers willing to work in these less rewarding schools, the caliber of school management, the disruptiveness produced by high levels of student turnover, and the nature of the schools’ clientele, whose homes and neighborhoods make it unlikely that they will be encouraged toward high academic achievement.

It should be clear from the previous chapter that there is no theoretical limit on the degree to which the achievement gap between blacks and whites can ultimately be closed. Though there is far less evidence on the native intellectual ability of the extremely broad and diverse group of cultures labeled as “Hispanic,” I see no reason why the gap cannot ultimately be bridged there as well.

On the other hand, it should be clear that unlike the black/ white and Hispanic/ white gaps in achievement and IQ, the social-class gap is never going to be closed. This is true, if for no other reason, because the well-off are always going to find ways to get a better education for their children and are always going to find ways to be ahead in terms of parenting skills and are always going to be able to provide superior neighborhood environments. In addition, there is always going to be at least some difference in the gene pools of the lower class and the middle class. Recall from Chapter 1 that within a given family the sibling with a substantially higher IQ achieves much higher socioeconomic status (SES) than less favored brothers and sisters. And since the higher IQ is attained in part by virtue of a better luck of the draw from the gene pool of the parents, higher SES is always going to be in part a result of better genes for intelligence. So higher-SES people are going to pass along better prospects for intelligence to their offspring by virtue of having, on average, better genes and by offering better environmental advantages to their offspring.

But these considerations should not be cause for pessimism about the degree to which the intellectual lot of lower-SES people can be improved. Recall from Chapter 2 (on heredity) that the effect of an upper-middle class upbringing on children born to lower-SES parents is to raise the IQ by 12 to 18 points. The theoretical ceiling for improvement of lower-SES intellectual capital is very high indeed.

But how much improvement can we realistically hope to produce for lower-SES individuals and for currently disadvantaged minorities?

Nisbett, Richard E. (2009-01-08). Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (Kindle Locations 1840-1869). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Since school makes children smarter, there is no doubt that better schools can make them smarter still. Although vouchers, charter schools, whole-school interventions, and teacher certification or higher academic degrees do not reliably improve education, other factors do— and some matter a great deal. Teachers differ a lot in quality, and so finding ways to improve the quality of teaching could make a great difference. If we could replace the bottom 5 percent of teachers every year with average-quality teachers, the level of children’s academic performance would increase hugely in just a few years. Use of computer-assisted forms of teaching can produce huge gains in the rate of learning, and some types of cooperative learning are highly effective. And recall the Herrnstein demonstration with an intensive program in Venezuela that radically improved the problem-solving skills of ordinary junior high school students . It also raised their IQ scores by a nontrivial amount— 5 points on a typical test of multiple problem-solving skills.

The received opinion about the relationship between social class and intelligence is that intelligence, which is largely inherited, drives social class. Smarter people have better genes so they are destined to rise in society, whereas less smart people have worse genes so they are destined to fall. It is true that intelligence is partially heritable, and more intelligent people on average will be of a higher social class in virtue of their greater inherited intelligence. But I believe that the role of genetic inheritance in determining social class is fairly small. The difference between the average IQ of the children of the lower third of the socioeconomic status (SES) distribution and the average IQ of the children of the upper third is about 10 points. We know that some of this is due to biological but not genetic factors, including exercise, breast-feeding, and exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke, as well as hazardous chemicals and pollution. And some of it is due to the disruption in schools of lower-SES children and to the fact that peers are pulling intelligence mostly in a down direction. We also know that socialization in lower-SES homes is not optimal for developing either IQ or school readiness. Moreover, a child born into roughly the bottom sixth of the SES distribution will have an IQ 12 to 18 points higher if raised by parents from roughly the top quarter of the SES distribution. All of this does not leave much room for genes in the social-class equation. I do not doubt that genes play a role, but I would be surprised to find that the differences in inherent genetic potential of the social classes are very great. Certainly much if not most of the 10 points separating the average of the children of the lower third and the average of the children of the upper third is environmental in origin.

For the race difference in IQ, we can be confident that genes play no role at all. Most of the evidence offered for a genetic component to the race difference is indirect and readily refuted. Virtually all of the direct evidence, which is due mostly to the natural experiment resulting from the fact that American “blacks” range from being completely African to largely European in heritage, indicates no genetic difference at all with respect to IQ. And the difference between the races in both IQ and academic achievement is being reduced at the rate of about one-third of a standard deviation per generation. The IQ of the average black is now greater than that of the average white in 1950.

The No Child Left Behind Act demands that the difference in academic achievement between the classes and between the races be erased in half a generation by the schools alone. This is absurd. It ignores the fact that class and race differences begin in early infancy and have as much to do with economic factors and neighborhood and cultural differences as with schools.

That is the bad news about gap reduction . The good news is that big improvements in IQ and academic achievement for lower-SES and minority children are possible. And we know at least the outlines of what those improvements look like. Half-measures have been tried and are not going to make a lot of difference. We need intensive early childhood education for the poor, and we need home visitation to teach parents how to encourage intellectual development. Such efforts can produce huge immediate gains in IQ and enormous long-term gains in academic achievement and occupational attainment . Highly ambitious elementary, junior high, and high school programs can also produce massive gains in academic achievement. And a variety of simple, cost-free interventions, including, most notably, simply convincing students that their intelligence is under their control to a substantial extent, can make a big difference to academic achievement.

Believing that intelligence is under your control— and having parents who demand achievement— can do wonders. At any rate that has been true for Asians and Jews. There is no reliable evidence of a genetic difference in intelligence between people of East Asian descent and people of European descent. In fact, there is little difference in intelligence between the two groups as measured by IQ tests. Some evidence indicates that East Asians start school with lower IQs than do white Americans. After a few years of school this difference seems to disappear. But the academic achievement of East Asians—especially in math and the sciences, where effort counts for a lot— is light-years beyond that of European Americans. Americans of East Asian extraction also differ little in IQ from European Americans. In any case, the academic achievement and occupational attainment of Asian Americans exceed by a great amount what they “should” be accomplishing given their IQs. The explanation for the Asian/ Western gap lies in hard work and persistence.

Jewish culture undoubtedly has similarly beneficial effects. Jewish values emphasize accomplishment in general and intellectual attainment in particular. Differences between Jews and non-Jews in intellectual accomplishment at the highest levels are very great. A genetic explanation for this is not required inasmuch as even greater differences have occurred for Arabs and Chinese versus Europeans in the Middle Ages, for differences between European countries at various points since the Middle Ages (with reversals occurring between Italy and England and with movement from savagery to sagacity in scarcely two centuries in Scotland), and for regional differences in the United States. We are left with an IQ difference of two-thirds to a standard deviation between Jews and non-Jews. At least some of this difference is surely cultural in origin.

Finally, there is much that we can do to increase the intelligence and academic achievement of ourselves and our children . Everything from the biological (exercise and avoidance of smoking and drinking for pregnant women, and breast-feeding for newborns) to the didactic (teaching categorization, following good tutoring principles) can make a difference to intelligence.

We can now shake off the yoke of hereditarianism in all of our thinking about intelligence. Believing that our intelligence is substantially under our control won’t make us smart by itself. But it’s a good start.

Nisbett, Richard E. (2009-01-08). Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (Kindle Locations 2967-3018). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

Although the premise of “No Child Left Behind” (the Bush administration’s signature education bill) is that racial achievement gaps should be closed completely within ten years, the legislation never came with the kind of resource supports needed to make that goal achievable. Although No Child Left Behind requires certain outcomes, it does not mandate that schools must equalize the resources available to all students in order to make those more equitable outcomes likely. Nor did the law—which has so far been continued under the Obama administration, with very little functional change in its specific policy formulations—seek to put an end to the pernicious tracking practices in our schools that all but guarantee the leaving behind of children. In fact, many states have adopted norm-referenced tests as determinants of their “annual yearly progress” (mandated by the law), failing to appreciate that norm-referenced tests by definition produce a distribution where half of all test-takers will fall below the 50-percentile mark and thus be considered below average.169 In other words, tests that mandate failure and inequity in achievement are being used under a law intended to promote success and reduce inequity! To advocate equity but maintain structures that, by definition, create inequity is the ultimate contradiction.

As a result of No Child Left Behind, schools have been under intense pressure to meet federal guidelines for test scores, so as not to be sanctioned by the Department of Education. This pressure has been especially intense for schools serving mostly students of color, causing many such schools to emphasize teaching to the test, simply to meet federal and even state standards, rather than teaching the kinds of high-level materials given to students in suburbs and private schools.170 High-stakes testing has also created incentives for schools to push lower-achieving students out, rather than keep them in the schools, attempt to educate them and suffer the possible penalty if they fail, in terms of meeting testing requirements.171 In Chicago, for instance, schools have been expelling low-achieving students even by the age of 16, under the pretense that their academic achievement or attendance records make it unlikely that they would graduate by the age of 21. Rather than resolve to educate such students—almost all of whom are students of color—the schools give up, remove the students and thus boost their test-score profile as a result, with blacks banished from the schools at three times the rate of whites or Latinos.172

In post-Katrina New Orleans, supposedly “open enrollment” charter schools—intended to inject competition into the city’s previously failing school system and lauded as having done so—have been pre-screening students to determine which of them are unlikely to pass a state required test the following year. Then the students who fail in the pre-test are pushed out, so as to protect the school’s test scores in line with state and federal mandates. Others have counseled parents of lower-achieving students, or those with inconsistent attendance, to voluntarily withdraw from charter schools or face expulsion. Once these students are removed, the charters are left with the supposedly “better” students, which allows them to meet federal and state standards by selecting their student bodies. Needless to say, virtually all students being pushed out are black.173

Also under No Child Left Behind, schools must demonstrate the elimination of performance gaps between those who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and those for whom English is their native language. Although this is an admirable goal, it cannot be met in most cases for one simple reason: namely, in most districts, once students demonstrate English proficiency, they are removed from the LEP group and their scores are no longer considered part of the LEP group averages. Thus, by definition, the only persons remaining in the LEP group will be those who are not proficient in the language of the test, and who therefore will not likely perform well on it.174

In addition to unequal instruction and regulations under No Child Left Behind that all but ensure disparate racial outcomes in schooling, there is also a substantial amount of evidence demonstrating profoundly unequal discipline meted out to students of color as compared to whites. Nationally, fourteen separate studies have found clear racial disparities in rates of suspension and expulsion from school. Black students are two to three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than whites, even though they do not, contrary to popular belief, violate school rules disproportionately, relative to white students.175 Indeed, when it comes to some of the most serious school rule infractions, whites often lead the pack, and they certainly violate those rules at least as often as black and brown students do, from possession of drugs to drinking and smoking.176 Most of the infractions for which students of color are punished are vague, highly subjective offenses—far more given to interpretation and thus implicit bias on the part of teachers—such as “disrespect for authority,” “making excessive noise” or loitering.177

Significantly, the research suggests that unequal discipline is not due to mere class bias against lower-income students. In fact, even when comparing only blacks and whites of the same economic status, black students face disproportionate suspensions and expulsions relative to rates of misbehavior. As Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University, notes:

“Contrary to the socioeconomic hypothesis, the current investigation demonstrates that significant racial disparities in school discipline remain even after controlling for socio-economic status. In this sample, an index of socioeconomic status had virtually no effect when used as a covariate in a test of racial differences in office referrals and suspensions. Indeed, disciplinary disproportionality by socioeconomic status appears to be a somewhat less robust finding than gender or racial disparity.”178

As with so much of the evidence regarding racial inequity in the educational system, this suggests that colorblind universalism as a way to reduce racial disparities will prove inadequate. There is simply too much race-specific injury occurring to allow for post-racialism (at the level of ideology or policy) to suffice. Unfortunately, teachers often go out of their way to be colorblind— or what educational theorist Mica Pollock calls “colormute”—by failing to discuss race, or even to use basic and benign racial descriptors to describe their students. As a result, educators replicate inequities by failing to get to the bottom of their own biases or the structural impediments to equal opportunity within their schools.179

Wise, Tim (2010-06-01). Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 1544-1604). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And finally, authorize a substantial amount of money, as part of the No Child Left Behind educational reform package, to train teachers nationwide on the various ways that racism and discrimination—both explicit and implicit—can indeed leave children behind, despite the best of teacher intentions. Although No Child Left Behind is problematic in any number of ways, one of its biggest weaknesses is having a mandate for the closing of racial achievement gaps without the resources necessary to actually close them. Those resources, however, are not just material supplies—as is often believed—but also the resources of teacher preparation and an understanding of the specific dynamics that are contributing to the racial achievement gap in the first place. Unless teachers are trained, and consistently so, to recognize the social determiners of the achievement gap, even their best efforts at instruction may not help close those gaps. If the federal government is going to place mandates on local schools and school districts, it should see to it that teachers receive the kinds of preparation needed to make their efforts successful. These trainings should be developed in conjunction with educators in the nation’s teaching colleges, utilizing the best practices known to them for preparing teachers to reduce racial achievement gaps.

Wise, Tim (2010-06-01). Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 2700-2709). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

170. Paul Street, Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in Post-Civil Rights America (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 78.
171. Linda Darling-Hammond, “From‘Separate but Equal’ to ‘No Child Left Behind’: The Collision of New Standards and Old Inequalities,” in Many Children Left Behind, eds. Deborah Meier and George Wood (Boston: Beacon Press, (2004), p. 4.
172. Street (2005), p. 81.
173. Sarah Goff, “When Education Ceases to Be Public: The Privatization of the New Orleans School System, Post–Hurricane Katrina,” submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s of Science in Urban Studies, University of New Orleans (May, 2009).
174. Darling-Hammond (2004), 10.
175. Russell J. Skiba et al., The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment (Indiana Education Policy Center, Research Report SRS1, June 2000), pp. 6, 13.
176. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Youth 2003 Online, Comprehensive Results (2004), http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/yrbss.
177. Skiba et al. (2000), p. 4.
178. Russell Skiba, Robert S. Michael, Abra Carroll Nardo and Reece L. Peterson, “The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment,” The Urban Review 34:4 (December 2002), p. 333.
179. Mica Pollock, Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

* * * *

Education experts are keeping an eye on the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus (ACECC) in Kansas City, Missouri . The 40-acre campus, which opened in 2007, serves mostly black pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students . Teachers stress cultural pride and “expected greatness” as students strive for academic excellence. In 2007, all the schools on the campus met the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) standard mandated by the national “No Child Left Behind” Act.

The schools are the brainchild of educator Audrey Bullard, who worked as a teacher in Liberia for 18 months more than 30 years ago. In 1991, Bullard led a grassroots effort with other educators and parents to transform J.S. Chick Elementary in Kansas City into a school with an African-centered curriculum. The school has consistently scored as one of the top schools in the school district, with 48 percent of its students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) fourth -grade math test in 2005 . Comparatively, only 24 percent of black students and 36 percent of white students statewide scored as high that year. Although the approach relies heavily on parental involvement and an innovative curriculum, it offers another important component: students are taught to see themselves as contributors, leaders, potential entrepreneurs, and valuable parts of their communities.

The Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago, founded by Madhubuti and his wife Safisha, is an institution that teaches black children that they control their lives and futures. It’s a crucial factor, Madhubuti said:

“You can’t minimize the importance of cultural knowledge… you cannot build a healthy child— most certainly, he or she will not have a healthy world view—if he or she does not see himself or herself involved creatively in the development of civilization, culture, industry, science.”

In 2006, the school ranked first in composite test scores among 10 public schools in the Greater Grand Crossing area, where Shabazz is the only charter. Sixty-seven percent of the school’s students met the state’s educational standards. When teaching science, for example, Makita Kheperu, principal at Shabazz, explained how the school makes the subject relevant to a student’s environment: “In science, they examine what kinds of decisions scientists make… and they learn the scientific method by exploring culturally relevant questions like: Why is diabetes more prevalent among African Americans than the general population?”

According to Illinois State data, Shabazz and Woodlawn Community School— another African-centered Chicago school— outperformed several neighboring schools on the 2006 Illinois Standard Achievement Test, with about 68 percent of Woodland’s students meeting the state’s standards.

These schools reflect the unfinished business of educational experiments started after Emancipation with the likes of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the dreamers who sought to establish independent black schools before they were sidetracked by the promise of better education in white schools. These institutions offer templates for educational reform that can reprogram parents and students to help close the achievement gap, and open bold new pathways to unlimited possibility.

Burrell, Tom (2010-02-01). Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority (Kindle Locations 2877-2902). SmileyBooks. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

Test score gaps between minorities and majorities are real, and they measure something that matters for performance in economic and social life. However, they do not estimate all that is important.

Gaps in Soft Skills.

Most discussions of racial and ethnic achievement gaps focus on measures of scholastic ability. Indeed, many analysts measure the achievement gap exclusively by differences in scores on standardized academic tests. This emphasis reflects a broad consensus in American society about the value of achievement tests that are used to monitor the success and failure of schools and students. The No Child Left Behind Act has pushed this focus to what some have described as a mania. The program has created a culture of “teaching to the test” in schools, with consequent neglect of the subjects and by-products of schooling that are not tested.[25]

Success in life requires more than book learning or high scores on achievement tests.[26] As filmmaker Woody Allen put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”[27] While the cognitive skills measured by achievement tests are powerful predictors of life success, so are socio-emotional skills. Sometimes called “soft skills” or character traits, these include motivation, sociability (the ability to work with and cooperate with others), attention, self-regulation, self-esteem, and the ability to defer gratification. Good schools and functional families foster soft skills as well as cognitive skills.[28] Soft skills are as predictive, if not more predictive, of educational success, wages earned, and participation in crime or in healthy behaviors as are cognitive skills.[29] Disadvantaged children of all race groups possess lower levels of soft skills.[30]

Klarman, Michael J.; Sabbaugh, Daniel; Lee, Taeku; Young Jr., Alford A.; Massey, Douglas S.; Wilson, William Julius; Heckman, James J.; Nisbett, Richard E.; Bobo, Lawrence D. (2011-07-14). Daedalus 140:2 (Spring 2011) – Race, Inequality & Culture, Vol. 2 (Kindle Locations 1703-1717). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

25 Daniel M. Koretz, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008); Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (New York: Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press, 2008).
26 Mathilde Almlund, Angela L. Duckworth, James J. Heckman, and Tim Kautz, “Personality Psychology and Economics,” Handbook of the Economics of Education, ed. Eric A. Hanushek, S. Machin, and L. Wößmann (Amsterdam: Elsevier, forthcoming 2011).
27 William Safire, “On Language; the Elision Fields,” The New York Times, August 13, 1989.
28 See the evidence summarized in Almlund, Duckworth, Heckman, and Kautz, “Personality Psychology and Economics.”
29 Ibid.
30 See the evidence cited in Pedro Carneiro and James J. Heckman, “Human Capital Policy,” in Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? ed. James J. Heckman, Alan B. Krueger, and Benjamin M. Friedman (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003); Flavio Cunha, James J. Heckman, Lance J. Lochner, and Dimitriy V. Masterov, “Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation,” in Handbook of the Economics of Education, ed. Eric A. Hanushek and Frank Welch, vol. 1 (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2006).