Skip

are we just not smart enough?
January 16, 2007 12:06 PM   Subscribe

The WSJ's Charles Murray on the problem with public education: not inequality, overcrowding or standardized tests, but kids just aren't smart enough. First in a three-part series.
posted by Lisa S (203 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence."

Yes, yes, yes, but the real question is: can we eat them or not?
posted by Football Bat at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


He's not really "The WSJ's Charles Murray" anymore than "MetaFilter's Own Adam Savage".

This is the same old Charles Murray who wrote the odious The Bell Curve and has been blowing this sort of trumpet for a long, long time.
posted by briank at 12:31 PM on January 16, 2007


If Charles had read some Marx: "from this quote: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." his three part article would have been a lot shorter.

The one thing I've never really understood about programs like No Child Left Behind - there's so much potential, in so many directions, in any random group of kids that it's silly to only measure, say, reading comprehension and based on that tell a kid he or she "failed" (and cut school funding as a result). But then again, I don't live in the US, I don't have to understand it...
posted by DreamerFi at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2007


from this quote:
posted by DreamerFi at 12:33 PM on January 16, 2007


Charles "Racist Sumbitch" Murray? Charles "Credibility Zero" Murry? Now I know you don't mean him.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


GET OFF MY LAWN YOU STUPID, STUPID KIDS!
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 12:36 PM on January 16, 2007


I was going to say "He's citing The Bell Curve?!", then I saw that he wrote it!
LOL, etc
posted by mrnutty at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2007


He must have just watched "Idiocracy."
posted by billysumday at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2007


Regardless of what you think of this guy, he's actually right. There are plenty of people that are simply not smart enough to learn. In fact there are plenty right here in the blue...
posted by tadellin at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2007


Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence.

Crap, critiquing Murray's drool-thin argument is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Without engaging the question of whether or not there is any such thing as "general intelligence" to begin with, this same ground truth has by definition obtained for every open-enrollment school in the history of humanity - yet some have still been able to produce better results than others. Now why is that, Charlie?

And, OK, it's an ad-hominem of sorts, but Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which is like holding the Ray Kroc Chair in Nutrition and Health at McDonald's University.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


And from the reactions of others I gather that "not living in the US" also means "not knowing who Charles Murray" is.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2007


a century of psychometric evidence has been augmented over the last decade by a growing body of neuroscientific evidence .... like it or not g [intelligence quotient] exists

Really? I know of no such evidence and can't imagine what it would be, given our current state of knowledge of the brain. Can anyone help me out here, what does he mean?
posted by grahamwell at 12:42 PM on January 16, 2007


yeah, half the people may be below average. doesn't mean our education system isn't broken.
posted by mrnutty at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2007


Is it racist to say that people of african lineage are more likely to get sickle cell anemia? That people of asian lineage are shorter on average than caucasions? The fact is there is no proof that there is not a difference in average intellectual ability amoung different ethnic groups, it is a fair question for study especially given the large existing gaps in the measured IQ of different ethnic groups. Looking into the problem might find that a lot of the difference can be explained by prenatal nutrition. This information could be used to correct some inequality. Or you can plug your ears and shout down people that even dare to challange the popular lie that all men are created equal.
posted by I Foody at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2007


More on Charles Murphy. The reasons for children's success in school is multi-part. Good family (role models, encouragement, stability, genes, etc.), good environment (less iPod, TV, more sports, low community violence and drinking, etc.), good health care, access to educational opportunities, and well feed. It is complex, but genes are likely one aspect something that well get more attention as more is known about which gene combinations affect intelligence and other character attributes as well as increases in our ability to manipulate them directly or indirectly (i.e. choose which fertilized embryos to IVF based on which have the most desirable gene combinations.) Genes affect the ability of groups of individuals to provide a nurturing environment, good role models, health care, and what not -- thus everything is tied in a Gordian knot and there are lots of feedback effects.

It's an unfortunate fact that half of us will always be below average in intelligence. ;-)
posted by bhouston at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've got this quotation over my desk at school:

We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.--Jerome Bruner.

See, here's the thing, according to Jerome Bruner, whom we should trust a lot more than Charles Murray: Anything can be taught to anyone.
When Murray writes, "It is not within his power to learn to follow an exposition written beyond a limited level of complexity, any more than it is within my power to follow a proof in the American Journal of Mathematics," he's right: At this moment in time, he can't understand it. With the right intervention--and sensitive teaching techniques--and enough time, he would be able to understand it.

That's what I think he's getting at. It takes time and money to educate students properly. I get the sense that he's not willing to advocate either.
posted by John of Michigan at 12:51 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


The fact is there is no proof that there is not a difference in average intellectual ability amoung different ethnic groups

This is very true, I Foody.

But do you know who Murray is? He's a discredited fraud, who committed the scientific equivalent of a capital crime in his bullshit treatise The Bell Curve (he fudged data and misrepresented facts to get the result he wanted). This is well documented and pretty much beyond dispute.

So while intelligence and racial distribution of intelligence are worthy of study, Murray is not someone to do that study. It's disgusting that the WSJ would even print the fucking bastard.

So your comment doesn't have a lot of relevance to this thread (oh, and the study and evidence we do have tends to 100% contradict the conclusions Murray likes to come to, before he does his "research").
posted by teece at 12:55 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Or you can plug your ears and shout down people that even dare to challange the popular lie that all men are created equal.

Strawmannus exemplicus. Nobody here has done any such thing.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2007


It's like i'm reading vdare, but all from the convenience of my MetaFilter account.
posted by chunking express at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2007


Or you can plug your ears and shout down people that even dare to challange the popular lie that all men are created equal.

Strawmannus exemplicus. Nobody here has done any such thing.

At any rate, it's quite clear that some of us are more equal than others.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2007


Newsflash: extremely privileged people are terrified that the only thing that differentiates them from hoi polloi is privilege itself. This guy's entire world view is based on the concept that there's something fundamental that separates him from the teeming masses, and he'll jump through whatever rhetorical hoops are necessary to reassure himself and his friends that they're right.

Most of the manifestations of this I see are pretty tasteless-- millionaire scions talking about how they built their businesses from nothing but elbow grease (Mom and Dad didn't help at all, honest!). But claiming that it's not useful to offer opportunity to everyone regardless of their background? This guy is a grasping, gaping asshole.

huh. how did this axe of mine get so sharp?
posted by phooky at 1:00 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Half of all children are below average in intelligence."

Totally profound, maaan.

WTF, like somehow if we make them study hard enough they'll ALL be smarter than average? Does he even understand what 'average' means?

I Foody writes "The fact is there is no proof that there is not a difference in average intellectual ability amoung different ethnic groups, it is a fair question for study especially given the large existing gaps in the measured IQ of different ethnic groups."

Ever consider that it's related to social class, and some ethnic groups are economically disadvantaged with their education suffering as a result? It's not really a fair question to ask unless all other factors (e.g. economic, educational, and cultural) are ruled out.
posted by mullingitover at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2007


So, let me see if I get this:

Some kids are just stupid; so let's just give up, because they deserve to fail.

Right?
posted by lodurr at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2007


I Foody writes "The fact is there is no proof that there is not a difference in average intellectual ability amoung different ethnic groups, it is a fair question for study especially given the large existing gaps in the measured IQ of different ethnic groups."

Indeed. Now do that study in many different (developed or not) countries, and then wonder whether your results say something about the ethnic groups, or the countries.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2007


Crap, critiquing Murray's drool-thin argument

My drool is rather thick and frothy.
posted by sourwookie at 1:09 PM on January 16, 2007


Come on, is it really racist to write an entire book alleging that black people are innately less intelligent than white people while offering no convincing evidence whatsoever? I mean, is it? Is it? You can plug your ears and shout people down, you cowardly liberals, but IS IT?

Oh, wait. It is.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:10 PM on January 16, 2007


At any rate, it's quite clear that some of us are more equal than others.

Speak for yourself, imperialist pig-dog.
posted by lodurr at 1:11 PM on January 16, 2007


"Half of all children are below average in intelligence."

Not necessarily. If "average" is shorthand for the arithmetic mean (and it usually is in common usage), and if intelligence is quantified, say as IQ scores, then there is no reason that extreme values won't result in more than half of all children being below (or above) average.
posted by found missing at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2007


The American Psychological Association published a paper in 1995 (available here{I apologize for the web design}) though it is critical of the bell curve in places it is on the balance positive in its assessment of the work.

Or you can plug your ears and shout down people that even dare to challange the popular lie that all men are created equal.

Strawmannus exemplicus. Nobody here has done any such thing.


Sorry I take calling a study that is fairly well respected by psychometricians crap and dismissing its authors as racists for bringing it up as dismissing unwelcome truths. There are plenty of legitimate critiques of the bell curve and even more refinements. And this is fine. The science was not dishonest and claims that it was are certainly up for debate. IQ is something that people are profoundly uncomfortable talking about.
posted by I Foody at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2007


I don't get it.

*picks nose, drools*

(seriously, intelligence is overrated. people find out you have brains, they start expecting shit:

Knowledge is power, got your books go read 'em
Wisdom is ignorance; stupidity I call freedom
)
posted by jonmc at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Although, come to think of it, doesn't Charles Murray's own existence prove that some people are so profoundly stupid that no amount of social and educational privilege can make them more intelligent?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:19 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


No explanation of school failure that holds responsible either the children or their parents will ever be politically acceptable. The blame will always fall on a) the teachers b) the education bureaucracy, or 3) the funding mechanisms and the politicians behind them. But if you dare suggest that Johnny can't read because of Johnny, and the six hours of Playstation that Johnny's mom allows him at home, Johnny's mom is going to get your ass fired.
posted by LarryC at 1:20 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Come on, is it really racist to write an entire book alleging that black people are innately less intelligent than white people while offering no convincing evidence whatsoever? I mean, is it? Is it?
game warden to the events rhino

Only the book only had one section that made up a small portion of its girth dedicated to the question of race and IQ.
posted by I Foody at 1:20 PM on January 16, 2007


The thing that's really interesting to me about this piece is that Murphy doesn't seem to give a shit about the country he lives in.

I could say, "he doesn't give a shit about society," but an unreconstructed big-C Conservative like him would immediately dismiss any assertion with the word "society" in it as pinko ranting. So I'll say it in terms that someone like him would be obliged to listen to: It hurts the country to give up on education.

That's a pretty simple and hard to dispute assertion. John of Michigan's reference to Jerome Bruner is apt, here: We have an obligation not just to the kids (and I think we do, but never mind that for now), but to our nation, to get education as right as we can get it. Writing off the 'idiots' is the stupidest mistake we can make. We have to live them those idiots, Mr. Murphy, whether you like it or not; they aren't going away. In point of fact, they are the fucking economy, so American industry has a profound vested interest in keeping them powerful and making sure they have at least enough expendable capital to buy stuff with.

(Of course, you could also argue that they have a vested interest in keeping the idiots stupid, but let's also forget about that for now.)

There's a wonderful bit in Wealth of Nations that I can never find when I look for it, where Smith argues that the education is the proper province of the state, not of private industry (or of the gentry, which is a non-issue these days -- well, sort of). The main point, as I recall, is that industry will educate people in a short-sighted way: They'll teach people what it's obvious that they'll need, without a longer view in mind. Which is to say, looking out for the interests of industry, but not of the Nation. One of these days, I'll find that passage again...
posted by lodurr at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


found missing writes "Not necessarily. If 'average' is shorthand for the arithmetic mean (and it usually is in common usage), and if intelligence is quantified, say as IQ scores, then there is no reason that extreme values won't result in more than half of all children being below (or above) average."


Ack, you're right. I'm thinking of median. My former statistics profs are collectively hanging their heads in shame right now.
posted by mullingitover at 1:26 PM on January 16, 2007


John of Michigan: At this moment in time, he can't understand it. With the right intervention--and sensitive teaching techniques--and enough time, he would be able to understand it.

In theory, but in the real world, there's a finite amount of time, effort, resource & motivation that can be expected. So, Johnny with an IQ of 70 may be able to understand some calculus after 2 years of training, but that won't happen. So for practical purposes, the education system can't do much for some kids.
posted by Gyan at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2007


The glorification of the "Aryan" race takes up only a small portion of the girth of Mein Kampf.

/now that's how you Godwin, bitches
posted by found missing at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2007 [8 favorites]


"But if you dare suggest that Johnny can't read because of Johnny, and the six hours of Playstation that Johnny's mom allows him at home, Johnny's mom is going to get your ass fired."
posted by LarryC

But what has that got to do with Johnny's basic intelligence?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:28 PM on January 16, 2007


There are studies that show if you tell a teacher a kid is smarter than his scores show, and she believes and acts on that, amazingly enough the kid will show vast improvement in schoolwork.

If you assume a kid is dumb, dumb is what you will get. And having had a kid who basically decided to blow off his little kindergarten pretest to the tune of getting offered summer school after his kindergarden year (the same kid who then managed to show himself brilliant when actually AT school), I would not trust any mechanism that would purport to divide the wheat from the chaff, intellectually speaking.
posted by konolia at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


"How about raising intelligence? It would be nice if we knew how, but we do not."

Bullshit, intelligence is genetic right? So lets get some eugenics up in here.
posted by banished at 1:31 PM on January 16, 2007


Did you even read that paper, I Foody?

Capsule description, for those with busy lives: I would hardly regard it as "on the balance positive," or evidence that Herrnstein and Murray are "fairly well respected by psychometricians," considering that the paper explicitly says that it "does not enter [the] debate" around The Bell Curve.

It's an inventory, a reasonably scrupulous accounting of
"What are the significant conceptualizations of intelligence at this time? (Section I);
What do intelligence test scores mean, what do they predict, and how well do they predict it? (Section II);
Why do individuals differ in intelligence, and especially in their scores on intelligence tests? Our discussion of these questions implicates both genetic factors (Section III) and environmental factors (Section IV);
Do various ethnic groups display different patterns of performance on intelligence tests, and if so what might explain those differences? (Section V);
What significant scientific issues are presently unresolved? (Section VI)"
Nowhere in my reading does it offer anything that could fairly be characterized as support of the Bell Curve thesis, especially where an advocate might expect it to (i.e. in Section V).

Better luck peddling your thesis elsewhere.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:32 PM on January 16, 2007


It is not within his power to learn to follow an exposition written beyond a limited level of complexity, any more than it is within my power to follow a proof in the American Journal of Mathematics.

I'm disappointed to find that I'm the first person here to be surprised that the author of a popular book involving statistics freely admits that he is unable to comprehend articles in a mathematics journal.

On the positive side, this strongly suggests that my plans to author books that make use of fraudulent science to advance theories that will financially benefit me are likely to go unnoticed by even the snarkiest reviewers.

I do plan to hire an editor, though.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:33 PM on January 16, 2007


It seems like a reasonable article to me. We're currently testing performance without testing ability. If a kid has an IQ of 80, should we be penalizing schools for "failing" to educate him well enough to get a score on a standardized test comparable to an average student's?
posted by callmejay at 1:33 PM on January 16, 2007


The best thing about this post is the tag "eduacation."
posted by phearlez at 1:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [6 favorites]


There are studies that show if you tell a teacher a kid is smarter than his scores show, you're

(a) lying;
(b) putting your own self-esteem ahead of the kid's best interest; (c) not fooling anyone but yourself at any rate, because the teacher is after all exposed to the child each and every day;
(d) at most, simply reinscribing the rather banal truth that there exists such a thing as confirmation bias;
(e) setting your kid up for later disappointment, heartbreak, and failure, when they're tracked into classes they can't handle.

Can we get a moratorium on edjamacational strategies copied from Christian self-help books?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Half of all children are below average in intelligence.

And wouldn't the other half be above? Maybe I'm unsure of what constitutes "average" in this discussion. As a statistical mean it just expresses that if intelligence were quantified somehow, the resulting statistical analysis would give a number that represents what the average of all the scores would be. Because of outliers and other real life weirdness that statistics isn't so good at accounting for, many students could be above or below the average, no matter what the average was taken to be.

On Preview: ah, found missing already has it.

Anyway, I can't quite tell what's being advocated in the article. Would the education system be better served to recognize the differing abilities of children and teach them appropriately? Sure. But, there is this sense of 'that one's too stupid, train him to collect trash' to the article, like we should give up on those considered less able. I guess we are already doing this, though, using race, class and family connections as our metric...
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:40 PM on January 16, 2007


Also, I Foody, I find it highly revealing that your only source for that document was a Southern-seccession advocacy site. What does that imply to you about their interest in framing the report's findings?

I tell you what, I wish critical thinking (and simple reading) skills development hadn't been slashed from the curriculum. Otherwise we might not be in such a terrible mess, huh?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2007


Education is important, but we as a society only have finite resources. And some people cannot be taught some things. Or at the very least can only be taught somethings at the expense of being taught many other more ability appropriate things. How we want to allocate education is an important question.

Now there is a danger of writing people off. And there are serious feedback effects that will magnify existing differences in cognitive ability. So we should proceed carefully but there will be people that will never be able to read no matter how hard anyone tries, and there will be even more people that will not be able to do algebra no matter how hard they try. So we can dedicate money and time that can be used elsewhere trying to cram a square peg into a round hole or we can recognize that there will be people that can't do something and that is ok.
posted by I Foody at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007


I find it troubling too, but the report was released by the American Psychology Association. Which is a reasonable organization. And yes I read the paper and since on most points it agrees with the information presented in the bell curve I present it as evidence that the bell curve is not the boogey man that people make it out to be.
posted by I Foody at 1:52 PM on January 16, 2007


What IQ is necessary to give a child a reasonable chance to meet the NAEP's basic achievement score? Remarkably, it appears that no one has tried to answer that question.

This whole line of inquiry is retarded. My IQ on paper? 141. My cumulative GPA through the end of my sophomore year of high school on the other hand? 0.3571 (no lie--I know it to this degree of precision because my loser friends and I were actively competing to see who could keep the lowest GPA). Not to mention my other friend, the one reputed to have the highest IQ of all of the geeky gifted-kid underachievers I ran with in high school--somewhere in the upper 160 range): He dropped out of school in 9th grade and got his GED.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2007


Can we get a moratorium on edjamacational strategies copied from Christian self-help books?

No, it's a sociological fact. Studies were done wherein teachers were given false test scores for certain students that indicated that they were the smartest students in the class. At the end of the year, they gave another test that showed that it had actually come true. Because the teacher believed that the child was smart, they spent more time with them, had higher expectations for them and were more willing to write off setbacks that they saw as "small", given that they knew that the kids were really smart. It was an example given in my Intro to Sociology class, and stuck with me. It is certainly not bullshit.
posted by 235w103 at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If the name "Charles Murray" weren't a factor in this discussion . . .

If America's history of stereotyping various ethnicities as stupid weren't looming in the background of this discussion . . .

would you guys have a problem with the idea that some people just don't learn things as quickly as other people do? That some people don't take to books and ideas and abstractions the way that other people do?

I don't share the conclusions of the article. I think that you should push students to maximize their potential. At the same time, I'm sensing a huge amount of defensiveness here around the idea that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2007


we're not actually debating the fact that kids these days are way dumber than their counterparts say, twenty years ago, are we?
posted by phaedon at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2007


I would not trust any mechanism that would purport to divide the wheat from the chaff, intellectually speaking.

I think we ought to let the kids themselves divide the wheat from the chaff, by making the grade system into something more like college. Every kid takes all of the basic courses for his or her grade, plus a couple of electives, and every kid goes as far and/or wide with those electives as he or she wants to. We did this in high school, to some extent, and I can tell you that I was most interested in the electives. For the first time, I got to spend time with something I actually wanted to learn while in school. Heck, my entire career can be traced directly to the computer classes I took while in high school.

IMHO the problem with education in America is not the innate intelligence of the kids, nor the education system itself, though both of these obviously contribute to it. I think the anti-intellectual atmosphere in this country is the number-one problem, because it's this that keeps kids from wanting to learn. School is important in other countries I can think of, and intelligence is among the highest social values. That's just not true here, and until we make it true, we can't be surprised that kids don't take education seriously.

on preview:
So we should proceed carefully but there will be people that will never be able to read no matter how hard anyone tries, and there will be even more people that will not be able to do algebra no matter how hard they try.

Yes, and those people are called "mentally retarded", as in IQ of about 70 or less. Sorry, but I do not buy the idea that people of average or slightly below average intelligence "will not be able to do algebra no matter how hard they try". Somebody with "an IQ of 100, in the 49th percentile" (as quoted by the article) can certainly learn to read and to do algebra, and the idea that we ought not to try to teach them is just plain ridiculous. There is NOTHING taught in high school that somebody with an IQ of 100 cannot learn, assuming that they want to learn it and have a teacher who wants to teach it. Even the "IQ of 88" kid in the article is capable of learning these things. And I say this as someone who certainly does NOT believe that "all people are created equal". Human equality is a myth, but that doesn't change the fact that Murray is purposefully including in his argument kids who are fully capable of schoolwork.
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Of course we could make things more challenging, but then the stupider students would be in here complaining, furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation.
posted by dhammond at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2007


there will be people that will never be able to read no matter how hard anyone tries

... and I'm sure we'll have a perfect unbiased system for making that determination so we don't waste valuable resources.

Oh, wait, no we won't, because that system like every other is made up of human employees, many of whom are lazy, bored, hung over or just cruising through their day, and Jimmy StutterDrool won't touch a copy of See Spot Run because his mannerisms fit the demographic on a photocopied handout even though his unique neural layout actually allows him tremendous yet specific cognitive skills.

As a race we're not smart enough to categorize ourselves accurately or fairly, so everyone has to get the same chance.

I think that's written down somewhere.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:07 PM on January 16, 2007


It's very important to examine the underpinnings of intelligence, and even exactly what entails intelligence. I've no doubt that intelligence varies from one section of the globe/country to another, but I am much more in the camp of environmental factors, such as diet, and cultural factors, limits to education, differences in needed situational knowledge then ethnic ones. Even phrasing these arguments in terms of "race" seriously diminishes any scientific credibility. That is not to say that well researched project may prove me wrong, but the evidence had better be actually evidence and not fictional bullshit. Murray has consistently compromised any shred of scientific integrity he may have had prior to The Bell Curve. The guy can be said objectively to be a racist asshole. He does not deserve the print the WSJ has given him, and only retains credibility to the extent that people are willing to print his claptrap drivel.
posted by edgeways at 2:09 PM on January 16, 2007


we're not actually debating the fact that kids these days are way dumber than their counterparts say, twenty years ago, are we?


Actually, baseline IQ scores are adjusted over time, so no matter how much actual performance increases, the average score stays around 100. Not the best link on the subject, but here's one I found quickly:


IQ testers reset the baselines every few years. (You may be surprised to learn that baselines have been increasing. Worldwide, if IQ tests have any validity, people have grown about 30 percent smarter over the past 40 years!)


In other words, today's kids are in fact WAYYYYYY smarter. Even the dumb ones.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:09 PM on January 16, 2007


I'm sensing a huge amount of defensiveness here around the idea that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields.

OK, I'll bite.

You're not "sensing" that defensiveness from me, I hope, because I don't disagree with that (very basic and very banal) statement. But it's a classic strawman, because I don't see anyone here arguing that people either start with an equally blank slate or are able to leverage educational opportunity equally efficiently. Nor do I see anyone arguing that intellectual ability is equally distributed across individuals. (Hell, I don't do particularly well with abstractions.)

But this discussion is not about that belief considered in a vacuum, it's about that position as advanced by Charles Murray, as preamble to an argument whose direction it is transparently easy to divine.

See, the number of potential policy positions one might derive from a belief that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields is large. If one cared about civil society, one might, for example, plausibly argue that extra care and attention be paid to the needs of those with less innate ability. We know what Charles Murray has to say on the topic, by contrast, and we have ample reason to believe that his motivations are different (and are, in fact, other than what he claims). His own words and acts indict him.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2007


teece:

> do you know who Murray is? He's a discredited fraud, who committed the scientific equivalent of a capital
> crime in his bullshit treatise The Bell Curve (he fudged data and misrepresented facts to get the result he
> wanted). This is well documented and pretty much beyond dispute.

As of today the Bell Curve Wikipedia article hasn't heard much about this. Seems as if fraud that is "well documented and pretty much beyond dispute" would get a bit more play than one accusation from one assistant prof. at the University of Oklahoma. Sure you didn't hear this from the tooth fairy?
posted by jfuller at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2007


But we know from the mathematics of the normal distribution that 36% of fourth-graders also have IQs lower than 95.

Also, from this passage, it appears that Murray is assuming the normal distribution of intelligence--which means that, yes, on average, half of the population has always been and will always be below average, by Murray's reckoning, so there's no special reason to make this argument now. The claims he makes about average intelligence are tautological and trivial--they add literally nothing to the discussion.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2007


Sure you didn't hear this from the tooth fairy?

nah, the tooth fairy is Aryan
posted by matteo at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2007


adamgreenfield: If one cared about civil society, one might, for example, plausibly argue that extra care and attention be paid to the needs of those with less innate ability.

Or you might conclude that it doesn't make sense to give (the next) Stephen Hawking extra lessons in marathon running just to get him to run the requisite amount of miles within the ISO standard number of seconds, and try to get him to be his best in the field it does make sense to work extra hard on, given that particular individuals (special) abilities.

We're talking individuals here, people. All I've seen so far are generalisations. I sometimes weep at the amount of progress we miss because we tell people they are failures because they don't meet the standard.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:31 PM on January 16, 2007


But can the kids tell mushrooms apart?
posted by drezdn at 2:32 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


A few obvious points:

Education <> intelligence

There are supposedly different kinds of intelligence...analytical, emotional, etc, right?

People learn things in different ways. Personally, (ostensibly my IQ when tested 30 years ago was around 140) I cannot understand people telling me things (eg complex system data flows and processes) but 10 seconds staring at a diagram will be instantly recallable 25 years later. Speaking and writing are definitely strong points though, so its not a general verbal thing.

People are uncommfotable talking about race and intelligence for good reason...it is prone to misuse and accusations of misuse.
posted by sfts2 at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2007


Or you might conclude that it doesn't make sense to give (the next) Stephen Hawking extra lessons in marathon running...

Or you might conclude that it doesn't make sense to ensure that "stupid" people were marginally competent in things that actually matter for civil society, like reading, arithmetic, and basic critical thinking ("is this guy trying to con me?"). That is, instead of setting up straw men.
posted by lodurr at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what does an "IQ of 95" mean, anyway? It means that person could probably be a carpenter or a truck driver. Heck, even people who have an IQ of 80 can work in factories. Are we supposed to believe that people capable of being carpenters, truck drivers, or modern factory workers are so dumb that they can't be taught to read? Come on, Murray. This entire article is disingenuous to the extreme. When he talks about kids having "an IQ of 95 or less", he's lumping perfectly-normal-but-not-bright kids in with the developmentally disabled! He's actually claiming that A THIRD OF OUR CHILDREN are innately incapable of learning to read! I cannot believe that the WSJ printed this utter dross.
posted by vorfeed at 2:41 PM on January 16, 2007


Charles Murray should have been "left behind." What a troll.

Sure "36% of fourth-graders also have IQs lower than 95," but things like basic algebra and literacy aren't things that we should only expect average students to be able to do; they're things that most of those below-average students should be able to do as well.

On preview, what vorfeed said.
posted by juv3nal at 2:42 PM on January 16, 2007


If you want to read a qualified opinion from someone respected in such matters I suggest: Jonathan Kozol.
posted by basicchannel at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2007


He's actually claiming that A THIRD OF OUR CHILDREN are innately incapable of learning to read!

He never makes such a claim. He claims that "the substantial proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expected to meet [the NAEP's definition of basic achievement for fourth graders] could well be close to 36%."

Does anybody want to discuss what the article says, or is this thread going to be 100% ad hominems and straw-men?
posted by callmejay at 2:45 PM on January 16, 2007


the substantial proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expected to meet [the NAEP's definition of basic achievement for fourth graders] could well be close to 36%.

What does that mean?

It weasels all over itself... If you broke the sentence done it basically says

"We do not know the proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expect to meet..."

Instead, it throws out a statistic ("Let's say 36%").
posted by drezdn at 2:49 PM on January 16, 2007


I'm not going to read it, but "not smart enough" for what?

If there really was a problem that kids just weren't smart enough to meet school standards, wouldn't that just mean the standards were too high?
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:49 PM on January 16, 2007


This article is stupid. He doesn't try to explain why it would be a problem that students might be unintelligent... to him, education isn't about educating people, it's about kids getting good grades. He was one of the kids who got good grades in school and who lorded himself over those who didn't, seeing it as a moral fault to get bad grades.

Sure, the "academic performance" of the dumb kid will never be anywhere near as good as that of the smart kid. But it's much more in our civic interest for the dumb kid to be educated. The smart kid can handle herself and besides, even if we went to the effort of making her exceptionally well-educated she's still fairly likely to end up as an un-productive member of society. Like, she might run off and become a newspaper columnist. (Oh, snap! I kill me.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2007


Not necessarily. If "average" is shorthand for the arithmetic mean (and it usually is in common usage), and if intelligence is quantified, say as IQ scores, then there is no reason that extreme values won't result in more than half of all children being below (or above) average.

Shoot the geniuses. Problem solved.
posted by chundo at 2:55 PM on January 16, 2007


"We do not know the proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expect to meet..."

That is exactly his point. We don't know because nobody wants to find out. Are 36% of students failing to meet the standard because of bad education or because of low ability? He's simply arguing that the ability half of the equation is being completely ignored.
posted by callmejay at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2007


And what does an "IQ of 95" mean, anyway? It means that person could probably be a carpenter or a truck driver. Heck, even people who have an IQ of 80 can work in factories.

I don't like the implication that <1 00 iq=manual labor. some of the most intellectually gifted people i know are metal workers, mechanics, carpenters. my father-in-law, may he rest in peace, never tested well, but he read obsessively when he was home from swing shift at the steam plant. (and his daughter is wicked smart, but then i'm biased.) an iq of 85 is approximately the standard deviation line between normal and less than normal. an 85 iq means they can pretty much do what most people do. they may be white collar or blue collar. outside of that that standard deviation, you start getting into developmental disability territory; this is the point where they try to do early intervention with children. below 70 is when you start getting into what we call the retarded in this country. even then, above 50 they can do basic office work. i've worked with them. and that's where the problem with 36% under 95 comes into play. the reality is that 36% of em>adults are below 95. In fact, they may even be more if 100 keeps shifting upward. Why don't we just write off the 40-50% of adults who are "stupid" by his definition?

It's not racist as much as it's selfish, egoist, and somewhat eugenic. But since Godwin's already been invoked, I'll not say what this reminds me of.
posted by dw at 2:58 PM on January 16, 2007


I agree with the message in the Op-Ed in general, that the current NCLB policies are sorely misguided in that they try to enforce a standard of achievement among students, when every child requires a different level of effort to educate (especially since we're not allowed to paddle kids asses anymore!). But you could even leave inherent intellectual ability out of the equation. I live in a state where some schools have an enrollment of 70%(!) non-English speaking students. These students are expected to perform at the same level as English-speaking students on their reading and writing tests. When they come up short, the school is labeled as "failing." I consult for the DOE on certain projects, and my head has exploded around 1083 times, just this past year.

Also, this discussion is beginning to dance around whether we have a means of predicting ability based on testing. Let me just say that until we steal the alien technology that allows us to benchmark our brain power and quantify the additional variables of luck, persistence, and the accumulated effect of a lifetime of outside influences on the human brain, this is all distraction. We'll just start crapping Godwin, Marx, and Huxley all over this thread. I mean, moreso.
posted by krippledkonscious at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2007


dw:

Why don't we just write off the 40-50% of adults who are "stupid" by his definition?

But he's not saying that -- he's just saying that low IQs may be the reason they're not meeting the standard, rather than inferior education. Nowhere does he say we should "write them off" or that they're worthless or that they can't do white-collar work.
posted by callmejay at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2007


So let's summarise:
Charles Murray is no good, the article is crap therefore intelligence is not a factor in education.
Nope - that's not what you meant (I hope) but that's sure how it comes across.
This may reflect the fact that intelligence (other than in the CIA sense) is almost a taboo concept in the US where all men are created equal and every soldier carries a Field Marshall's baton in his kit bag. (Or was that France?) In Europe, in contrast, some people are extremely intelligent, some are dumb, most are in between and most people recognise that this is the case.
There are difficulties in defining and measuring intelligence - I'll leave that the the psychologists. However if you want to look at numbers, particularly average numbers, "averages" include:
Arithmetic mean: As already noted almost useless in this context.
Median value: Half above, half below used for trends and arguably of limited value in this context.
Modal value: (Or values in multi-modal cases) The most common value(s). Probably the most useful "average" in this context.
posted by speug at 3:07 PM on January 16, 2007


That IQ varies between different ethnic groups is the left's version of global warming. Just because it's unpleasant to come to terms with doesn't change the fact that it is widely accepted among qualified scientists.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2007


a) IQ tests are the linear combination of a bunch of questions, so the central limit theorem assures that IQ will be nearly normal. Ergo, half above, half below the mean.

b) As Saul Goodman cites, IQ growth has been prodigious world-wide when measured using cultural-bias-free measures (i.e., the Raven inventory). This means that even below average kids should be able to learn everything Mr. Murray learned as a tot. Or, I should say, failed to learn.

c) The contents of our primary and secondary education should be basic skills and knowledge that every good citizen needs to provide for oneself and to participate in a democratic society. That is, Steven Hawking doesn't need to learn to run a race, only to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

d) Yes, there are children so deficient they can't be taught these basic tools, but they are a very small fraction of the population and are generally recognized as having limited ability. While not always institutionalized, they are at least usually given assistance by loved ones and acquaintances.

e) What were we talking about again?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:16 PM on January 16, 2007


If the name "Charles Murray" weren't a factor in this discussion . . .

If America's history of stereotyping various ethnicities as stupid weren't looming in the background of this discussion . . .


If the world were a wonderful place where we could all get along...

If pigs could fly...

What's your point? In this world, yeah, damn right there's "defensiveness around the idea that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields," just like there's defensiveness around the idea that not everybody has equal "right to life" or that Jews have some special ability to control things or any number of other topics that might, in some other world, be interesting subjects for idle curiosity and disinterested research but in this world, for good and sufficient reasons, carry a stench that makes decent people wrinkle their noses and move away.
posted by languagehat at 3:16 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


jfuller, DID YOU NOT READ THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE???

One? And, U of Harvard Education isn't credible enough for a topic like this?
posted by shownomercy at 3:16 PM on January 16, 2007


pump up the jam
posted by phaedon at 3:20 PM on January 16, 2007


So, Johnny with an IQ of 70 may be able to understand some calculus after 2 years of training, but that won't happen.

After two years of training, Johnny's IQ may be higher. IQ is truly not a reliable measurement. It's a test of reasoning skills, but by no means a quantification of potential. To see it that way is just a misguided understanding of what intelligence is (remember this story?). It is to our collective benefit to assume greater capacity and attempt to push people to do better.

That doesn't mean we should disregard non-intellectual skills, or put constant pressure on kids to go to harvard or whatever, but it seems reasonable to stay committed to reaching certain standards through high school, and then encouraging a variety of possibilities (including recognizing skilled labor, athletics, arts, etc as worthy pursuits) when the kid reaches an age of self-determination.
posted by mdn at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2007


> He doesn't try to explain why it would be a problem that students might be unintelligent.

The problem hardly needs explaining. It is that in the past there were plenty of useful roles and productive occupations for dullards. Most people earned their living on farms, and most farm work can be done perfectly well by persons of dull-normal intelligence. But the useful, productive roles for dullards are disappearing in developed societies--indeed they're pretty much gone. In today's society of information workers the demand for brains no longer matches the natural distribution of brains, and there's very little that education can do about this. (And a totally broken education system can't even do that little, but that's another flame for another day.)
posted by jfuller at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2007


damn right there's "defensiveness around the idea that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields," just like there's defensiveness around the idea that not everybody has equal "right to life" or that Jews have some special ability to control things or any number of other topics that . . . in this world, for good and sufficient reasons, carry a stench that makes decent people wrinkle their noses and move away.


Wow. You just compared the idea that there is a range in human intelligence, that some people are smart, some people are dumb, with a majority of average people in the middle to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!

I guess I must not be very decent.

:(
posted by jason's_planet at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2007


He's actually claiming that A THIRD OF OUR CHILDREN are innately incapable of learning to read!
He never makes such a claim.

Yes, he does. From the article:
"Now suppose the boy sitting behind her is getting a D, but his IQ is a bit below 100, at the 49th percentile. We can hope to raise his grade. But teaching him more vocabulary words or drilling him on the parts of speech will not open up new vistas for him. It is not within his power to learn to follow an exposition written beyond a limited level of complexity". [...] "Now take the girl sitting across the aisle who is getting an F. She is at the 20th percentile of intelligence, which means she has an IQ of 88. If the grading is honest, it may not be possible to do more than give her an E for effort. Even if she is taught to read every bit as well as her intelligence permits, she still will be able to comprehend only simple written material."

In summary, he is claiming that a person with an IQ of about 88-100 can only learn to read at a limited level, and he is also claiming that about 36% of people have an IQ of 95 or lower. When these claims are taken together, they suggest that more than 36% of people are incapable of learning to read at more than a limited level. This is ridiculous in the extreme. People with an IQ of 88 can certainly learn to read English at a normal level of comprehension, and it is incredibly disingenuous for him to suggest otherwise. As dw pointed out, an IQ of 85 is the low end of normal. Not anywhere close to severely retarded, and not even what we used to call "a little slow". And Murray is claiming that such a person can "comprehend only simple written material"! Please. How many people do you know of who turned out to be totally incapable of learning to read at a fourth-grade level, no matter how they were taught? Hint: the answer is not 36 percent of humanity!

Here is a sample test for the 4th Grade NAEP. Murray suggests that a basic achievement score on the reading section of this test may be forever out of reach for 36% of students, based on their IQ. Well? You tell me if more than a third of human children are innately incapable of answering that wombats are from Australia, given an article about wombats that begins with "As we rode along the highway sixty miles northeast of Adelaide, Australia..."

Yes, some people are naturally dumber than others, but one third of the population is NOT as naturally dumb as he is claiming they are. Period.
posted by vorfeed at 3:38 PM on January 16, 2007


I think society in general would be better off if we worried less about controversial measurements of "intelligence" like IQ tests and more about matching individuals with careers that match their abilities and temperments. And then I'd like a pony.

Unfortunately, most people these days think that learning a trade, or pretty much any sort of blue-collar work, is for slack-jawed yokels who weren't "smart" enough to go to college, so there's a cultural bias against it. If there weren't so many people who think it's a sign of failure to have a job where you don't wear a tie to work, there wouldn't be so much hand-wringing over grades, IQ tests, etc..

Now, where's my pony???
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation.

You're going to want to think about what that statement on the Wiki link means, jfuller.

Murray is not qualified to defend the statistics in the book (as are few in the social sciences). James Heckman has published a pretty thorough critique of the statistics in that book.

And the statistical problems are only the beginning.

In short, there was nowhere near enough evidence to make the claims that Murray did regarding race and intelligence, and there is still no evidence to make that claim, today.

So you wonder why he made them...
posted by teece at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2007


Oh, and I forgot:

f) Right-wing cranks like Murray are willing to argue that some individuals are innately less capable if it means not spending more money on education, but turn the question around into whether we should be spending money to support those less able to support themselves, and see how fast those same individuals are blamed for their economic shortcomings. That's what I love about these guys: they have no shame.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:42 PM on January 16, 2007


In today's society of information workers...

Maybe in your isolated little pocket of existance, "information workers" are all you see, but I'm afraid to tell you that 1st world countries are still full of people who grow crops, and cut hair, and repair power lines, and plant gardens, and catch fish, and paint rooms, and operate registers, and care for the elderly, and cook meals. You're living in a serious bubble if you think society really runs on information now.
posted by Jimbob at 3:49 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


vorfeed:

He never makes such a claim.

Yes, he does. From the article:


To be fair, I claimed he never claims a third of our children can't learn to read. He does, as you point out, that a third of our children may not be capable of passing that test. Those are very different claims.

Frankly, I have zero expertise in the matter, so I have no idea whether his assessment of the potential of children with below-100 IQs is reasonable or not. If someone has some data on the subject, I'd be interested to see them.
posted by callmejay at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2007


> jfuller, DID YOU NOT READ THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE???

Carefully. teece wrote

do you know who Murray is? He's a discredited fraud, who committed the scientific equivalent of a capital crime in his bullshit treatise The Bell Curve (he fudged data and misrepresented facts to get the result he wanted). This is well documented and pretty much beyond dispute.


So I went looking for documentation of such blatant (and discovered) fraud. I found only one accusation of fraud in the article, which I called out: asst. prof, Oklahoma U.


> One? And, U of Harvard Education isn't credible enough for a topic like this?

Gardner, of Harvard Ed, is quoted in the article as saying

The authors seem to show the evidence and leave the implications for the reader to figure out; discussing scientific work on intelligence, they never quite say that intelligence is all important and tied to one's genes, yet they signal that this is their belief and that readers ought to embrace the same conclusions.


"they never quite say... but they signal..." heh. That, shownomercy, is an accusation of implied spin, not remotely an accusation of scientific fraud--let alone one that is "well documented and pretty much beyond dispute." And as for the credibility of Fair Harvard, I point out that Arthur Jensen, Murray's precursor in the IQ wars, published his notorious paper "How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Scholastic Achievement?" (short answer--not much) in the Harvard Educational Review.
posted by jfuller at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2007


Although it would be difficult to boost a populations average IQ, both animal studies and human studies have shown that an individual's IQ can be boosted considerably by early childhood education. What was the question again?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2007


Murray doesn't take into account that most students with IQs < 70 aren't in mainstream classes. These kids test low because because they have developmental disabilities.

Kids in mainstream public school classes are not representative of the whole range of IQs; on the whole, most of the kids he's talking about are of average or above average IQ.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2007


Murray doesn't take into account that most students with IQs < 70 aren't in mainstream classes./i>

They account for less than 3% of the population, who may be balanced on the other end by people with higher IQs being more likely to attend private school.

posted by callmejay at 4:00 PM on January 16, 2007


(Oops, tag. )
posted by callmejay at 4:00 PM on January 16, 2007


An international comparison of math and reading skills among 15-year-olds. Compare the rankings for Canada and the United States.

The difference in results can't be explained by innate differences in intelligence between Canadians and Americans.

Why is public education in the US in such bad shape? A big issue is reliance on local property taxes, which vary widely, rather than state-wide funding. If there's any teachers reading this, perhaps they could contribute their views. There's also been social changes--perhaps students in general are less motivated, and parents are less involved--but those would presumably apply to Canada as well as to the United States.

Scientific American published an interesting article in the late 1980s or early 1990s comparing American and East Asian educational methods. (Unfortunately I can't find it online.) The authors suggested that in the US, students are seen as having innate capabilities ("bad at math", "good at writing") to be developed, whereas the East Asian view is that students are more plastic, if you like: the average student should be capable of mastering the material. The authors also identified things that East Asian teachers do better than American teachers, e.g. spending more time one-on-one with individual students (contrary to the rote-learning stereotype).
posted by russilwvong at 4:01 PM on January 16, 2007


languagehat: topics that might, in some other world, be interesting subjects for idle curiosity and disinterested research but in this world, for good and sufficient reasons, carry a stench that makes decent people wrinkle their noses and move away.

Yeah, lets avoid researching certain topics, not because of their merits, but simply because it bothers the delicate sensibilities of 'decent' people. Sounds just like the 'arguments' against stem cell research.
posted by jsonic at 4:03 PM on January 16, 2007


So... not everybody can be President?
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on January 16, 2007


Fuck it, I had this great polemic about how all of you are are ignorant brainwashed idiots, but I just realized that this is the internet, and you are all probably in the 49% or lower anyway, so I might as well go do something someone in the 99% percentile would do, since arguing on the internet is so much like the Special Olympics.










No matter if you win, you are still retarded.
posted by daq at 4:07 PM on January 16, 2007


Just an anecdote. My uncle has been a teacher at an elementary school in a small southern town for 25 or so years. He says that -- save for the occaisional learning disability-- it's very clear what makes the difference. Kids who do well have parents who care, sign report cards, show up for open houses, encourage reading at home , etc. Kids who don't do well have parents who are MIA due to jobs, maybe just repeating the way their parents raised them, or a million other reasons. It's not all about what happens in the classroom.
posted by the jam at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2007


> any number of other topics that might, in some other world, be interesting subjects for idle curiosity
> and disinterested research but in this world, for good and sufficient reasons, carry a stench that
> makes decent people wrinkle their noses and move away.

O Languagehat, you have a spiritual soulmate in the the wife of the Bishop of Worcester, who said (concerning Darwin's new theory) "Let us hope that it is not true. But if it is, let us hope that it does not become generally known."
posted by jfuller at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2007


daq, that post just wasn't the same without the IMG tag.
posted by anthill at 4:35 PM on January 16, 2007


"But the useful, productive roles for dullards are disappearing in developed societies--indeed they're pretty much gone."

Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find something useful and productive if you put your mind to it.
posted by klangklangston at 4:36 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


So I went looking for documentation of such blatant (and discovered) fraud. I found only one accusation of fraud in the article, which I called out: asst. prof, Oklahoma U.

I've read about Murray's methods, jfuller, and they were very sketchy; but it might have been his actions subsequent to the book's publication that struck me as fraudulent. I don't remember where I read that currently, and don't have time to find it right now. When I do, I'll post it (or point out that I was remembering incorrectly). But I distinctly remember coming away with the impression that there was absolutely no meat to the Murray argument, and that he had done some nasty things in defending that argument.

Maybe I'm getting carried away in memory, but the man is wrong nevertheless.

But set the fraud charge aside, let me repeat: the APA said:

The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support. There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. At present, no one knows what causes this differential.

The claim Murray made that pissed people off was that because blacks were less intelligent than whites (via a measure of IQ), one could explain the difference in "success" between blacks and whites solely on something innate (called g), which was "intelligence."

That is one of the primary theses of the book, and the APA report completely contradicts it.

At the time of the APA study, there was no support for saying something innate (g, a genetic factor) was the reason whites were scoring better than blacks on IQ tests. Something was causing the differential, obviously, but there was no evidence that it was something innate. Murray made that claim any way, and acted as if his statistics also made that claim.

Today, in 2007, that claim is much, much worse. The gap has narrowed, which pretty largely destroys the idea that something innate was causing the difference.

An innate g, which is a measure of intelligence, is at the center of Murray's arguments regarding races. There is no known innate g which means what Murray thinks it means: it certainly is not IQ.

Murray was wrong: period. See this and
this Atrios reprint of Heckman conclusions for a jumping off point on that idea.

Not everything Murray said was wrong: but he was completely wrong on the conclusion that got him in hot water.
posted by teece at 4:36 PM on January 16, 2007


If our goal is to fix the wide gaps in educational attainment and intellectual ability that exist in our country (which, I admit, Murray's is decidedly not), and we agree with Murray that we're never going to raise the bottom (which I decidedly do not), Vonnegut had some good ideas about how to do that.
posted by PhatLobley at 4:42 PM on January 16, 2007


Frankly, I have zero expertise in the matter, so I have no idea whether his assessment of the potential of children with below-100 IQs is reasonable or not.

Murray is clearly misrepresenting what these IQ scores mean. An IQ of "a bit below 100" is perfectly normal. An IQ of 100 is, by definition, the average score. "It is not within his power to learn to follow an exposition written beyond a limited level of complexity." Would you say that this sentence describes a person of average intelligence? That no matter how you teach the average person, he can never learn to read beyond "a limited level of complexity"?
posted by vorfeed at 4:48 PM on January 16, 2007


The jam echoes what my teacher friends say.

daq, we'll accept you as a class member of the "49% or lower" contention you posited, simply based on your putting the (weak) punchline to a joke that everyone here has heard a million times a number of lines below your main post--as if it was a brilliant surprise and delightful insight rather than the sunken turd it actually is.
posted by maxwelton at 4:50 PM on January 16, 2007


Here's what Konolia was referencing above.

Also, there's another study (of course, I can't find the link now) that exemplifies this effect. Two groups of Psych 101 students were each given a litter of rats and told to teach them to run a maze. One litter ostensibly came from Stanford, the other from North Dakota State. The end result? The "Stanford" rats ran the mazes faster AND the students took better care of them.

The hitch? The rats came from the same downtown Rats-r-Us pet shop.

Teacher perceptions of how smart or talented their students are plays a HUGE role in how they're treated.

And yes, there are several different types of intelligence.
posted by John of Michigan at 4:52 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading the comments about halfway down - but here's my take.

Putting aside this guy's history and previous work, this article is compelling, but of course it is incomplete as a work (it's part 1 of 3). This piece is where, I assume, he sets out the problem; it's also the "grabber" that will make people read the next two columns. Now, aside from the fact that the idea is distasteful to idealists, it's actually pretty right. No matter what the metric, half the kids are going to be under the bar. And even if we say there's no real problem until, say, the 25th percentile, that's still a lot of kids who are, if not functionally, then practically incapable of the advanced work that will be expected of them later. I don't really know what the solution is, but a stratification of the education system might be the best course to prepare those kids and teach them in a way that works for them. There's the danger of "abandoning" the kids, and of course it's our responsibility not to.

The idea here is realism and understanding of what our kids are and how they work. If it really is the case that some kids need to be taught differently then we should do that instead of having some kind of pride attack.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:00 PM on January 16, 2007


Teacher perceptions of how smart or talented their students are plays a HUGE role in how they're treated.

Exactly. Which is the most salient reason why it's a terrible idea to spread "scientific" crap about how a bunch of kids (and come on, we all know who they are) just can't learn and should be gently shunted into tracks befitting their lesser humanity. But of course there are always those who consider it daring and honest and above all rational to ignore silly people with their silly irrational qualms who just want to sweep the rational, scientific TRUTH under the rug and pretend everybody's just alike! Yeah! You rock, fearless rationalists! I'll spare you the historical analogies this time, because I don't want to hurt your rational little feelings, but yeah, I think it stinks.
posted by languagehat at 5:05 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


On non-preview:

aside from the fact that the idea is distasteful to idealists, it's actually pretty right.

You mean: because the idea is distasteful to idealists, it's actually pretty right. Because anything that's distasteful to idealists is bound to be right: those silly, irrational idealists are always trying to cover up the nasty truth about the world that YOU are BRAVE ENOUGH to face! Rock on!
posted by languagehat at 5:07 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, probably a waste of time to read the comments before spouting your opinion. Especially if the comments have already laid waste to your opinion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:15 PM on January 16, 2007


No matter what the metric, half the kids are going to be under the bar.

Huh? That's just silly. What if the metric is "breaths: yes or no?"

We get to decide what a meaningful metric is. We would only decide that half of the students are under the bar (and thus not worth trying to help, by Murray's thinking), only if it made sense to put the bar there.

"Not everyone can be an A student." Right? WRONG. That depends entirely upon what it means to be an A student, and it's very, very important not to lose sight of the fact that such metrics are hella imperfect and very subject to making serious mis-measurements.

There is not any good reason to believe, with the current evidence, that we must put the bar somewhere such that huge swaths of kids are simply written off (ie, forced off into the dullards school where they are trained to dig ditches or whatnot).

And given the stupendous implications (both moral and economic) of doing such a thing, we damn well better have some really fucking good reason to believe we should be writing people off that way.

We absolutely do not have those reasons right now.
posted by teece at 5:17 PM on January 16, 2007


To respond to ifoody's comment way upthread. What do you mean by ethnic categories? It sounds like you're talking about racial categories (as you mentioned Caucasian). It is of interest that the very word 'Caucasian' is a total invention and a racist one at that: the idea was that Mount Caucasus region in central Asia (Georgia) had the purest stock of humans and that other 'races' had regressed from that ideal (contrary to the modern scientific idea that all people came from Africa). It didn't signify any genotype, it was pure fantasy; but somehow the idea is still around. The fact that we can use it now to somehow 'objectively' 'discover' differences in races is strange, and can probably only lead to more inequality and racism. Of course, it is hard to dispute that we are all different - I don't think that's controversial. In fact, the idea of a communitarian society is that we are not all equal, but that we should try in a participative way to ethically achieve a fair society. In America, to the contrary, we generally accept the liberal (not liberal in the political sense) philosophical idea that everyone is equal and ethically we must only provide equality of opportunity. What is interesting here is that the author is using a communitarian idea - that we are not all equal, which isn't all that controversial - probably to promote some odious ideas (how do conservatives always use good ideas in completely odious arguments?)
posted by faux ami at 5:18 PM on January 16, 2007


> He doesn't try to explain why it would be a problem that students might be unintelligent.

jfuller: The problem hardly needs explaining. It is that in the past there were plenty of useful roles and productive occupations for dullards.

Oh, come on. He isn't saying anything like that. He didn't say anything at all about the workplace, all he's talking about is IQ and grades.

Would you say that none of the people you work with are dullards? No, I didn't think so. Those are the people I'm talking about. Difficult though it is to swallow, it's better for all of society that they're out in the world, working with us, rather than in an expensive full-care or partial-care home somewhere.
posted by XMLicious at 5:19 PM on January 16, 2007


Yes, and 'A' students were always the smartest in my opinion. It had little to do with how ambitious, or brown-nosing, or compulsive, or perfectionist they were. It certainly had little to do with their class selection. No siree, everyone of them a certifiable genius.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:20 PM on January 16, 2007


> how do conservatives always use good ideas in completely odious arguments?

"there is a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority of fact." (Emerson)
posted by jfuller at 5:24 PM on January 16, 2007


For what it's worth, I took a Mensa test and was 3 points short of qualifying: I.Q. 137. Hence the implicit critique in "for what it's worth."
posted by davy at 5:30 PM on January 16, 2007


"there is a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority of fact."

Well, Emerson got it half right.
posted by teece at 5:32 PM on January 16, 2007


There's actually a lot of work about how stereotypes affect performance: remind an Asian woman that she's female before she takes a math test and she'll perform worse; remind her that she's Asian and she'll perform better. If you cue people to things they are supposed to be "good" or "bad" at, they'll live up or down to your expectations.

There was also a neat study that my college statistics professor cited before he began the class, which looked at how researchers studied why Asian students in a particular school performed better than others. Apparently, they studied together in groups-- and when they set up a "black scholars group," that group began performing just as well.

Of course, there are innate differences in intelligence which are obvious to anyone who has ever seen a bunch of children and it's absurd to think that setting the same standards for everyone is going to do anything more than drag down the top people and bore the hell out of them and confound those on the bottom. But there are also problems with labeling and tracking and intelligence is remarkably enhanced by practice and diminished by lack of opportunity for practice.

So, if we're going to improve education, it's gotta be done in a complex, nuanced way that America seems currently incapable of even considering.
posted by Maias at 5:33 PM on January 16, 2007


mdn: IQ is truly not a reliable measurement.

I just used 'IQ' as a shorthand for intelligence, not as the defining metric.

faux ami: the idea was that Mount Caucasus region in central Asia (Georgia) had the purest stock of humans and that other 'races' had regressed from that ideal (contrary to the modern scientific idea that all people came from Africa). It didn't signify any genotype, it was pure fantasy

Ignoring the etiology of the race concept, there are consistent genotypic differences among the self-identified races.
posted by Gyan at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2007


Maias, that study of Female vs. Asian stereotypes sounds fascinating - anyone have a reference to it?
posted by anthill at 5:41 PM on January 16, 2007


Hah! How is it conservative to say that we should be educating the people who would get good grades anyways? Waste of the taxpayers' money, I say. Cut em' loose and let 'em fend for themselves, since they're the ones who can. And I especially think that we ought to outlaw academic merit scholarships - I still seethe to think that I paid a higher college tuition to fund people who were on scholarship getting a degree in philosophy or history or something because they weren't going to have any student loans to pay off. I am more conservative than thou art.
posted by XMLicious at 5:46 PM on January 16, 2007


Unfortunately, most people these days think that learning a trade, or pretty much any sort of blue-collar work, is for slack-jawed yokels who weren't "smart" enough to go to college...

Most trades require a fair amount of thinking. Try to be successful as an engine mechanic without strong analytical skills -- good luck. Try being a successful plumber or cabinetmaker without decent arithmetic skills.

But people don't recognize that, because certain kinds of work -- "trades", for example -- are marked and coded as inferior.

Menial work, on the other hand -- people who pick up garbage, or ask "Do you want fries with that?" -- doesn't require much at all in the way of brains. Though people can be taught to apply thought to menial work, and it usually makes them happier. Makes them feel as though they have control over their situation.
posted by lodurr at 5:47 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just used 'IQ' as a shorthand for intelligence, not as the defining metric.

Thinking very much like this leads Murray astray in his book, Gyan. It's a really messy, difficult question: is there such a thing as intelligence. We obviously choose to answer that yes. But quantifying intelligence with math is extraordinarily tricky, and all of the conclusions would have to be drawn from that. So right from the start, any metric like IQ has major issues. But that is not important with Murray: his statistics are just plain bad, so the intelligence metric becomes secondary.

But assuming that intelligence is quantifiable is classical question begging, so even if Murray had done his statistics right, he'd still be in trouble (I actually think the H guy did most of the stat, the author that died right after publication).

Phenotype is a tricky genetic issue, too. Many folks that are "genetically" black appear completely white, and vice versa. And we have far more genetic variation among races, rather than between races.

In any event, those are just two tidbits -- I'm not sure what your bigger point was.
posted by teece at 5:48 PM on January 16, 2007


That people of asian lineage are shorter on average than caucasions?

Yes. It certainly isn't true. Asians raised in the U.S. are as tall as any other ethnic group.
posted by delmoi at 6:01 PM on January 16, 2007


teece: I'm not sure what your bigger point was.

I was replying to mdn who objected to me using IQ as a marker of intelligence. Like I said, forget the specific metric one uses.

Many folks that are "genetically" black appear completely white, and vice versa.

I'm not sure how this contradicts the cited study. Skin color was the original (and remains the most popular lay) marker for ethnicity but even if that marker is weaker than earlier thought, the imputed concept of population subdivisions is indeed supported by the study.

And we have far more genetic variation among races, rather than between races.

Asserting this claim is a remnant of a pre-Chaos algebraic thinking mode, where differences in input linearly correlate to differences in output. The whole epigenetic milieu within which genes are translated and phenotype results from intertwined complex cascades means there may be a consistent and significant difference due to only a few genes being different; in theory, maybe just one different gene could result in significant differences. None of this directly implies that such differences do, in fact, exist but the algebraic claim often cited does not lead to the implied conclusion.
posted by Gyan at 6:09 PM on January 16, 2007


languagehat: crap about how a bunch of kids (and come on, we all know who they are) just can't learn and should be gently shunted into tracks befitting their lesser humanity

Despite your idealist vs. realist rhetoric, there is nothing controversial in the idea that some students learn at a sub-average rate.

"And come on", you're the one implying that these students belong to a specific group (race?).
posted by jsonic at 6:34 PM on January 16, 2007


Something also of note to this discussion is that a one standard deviation shift in family income correlates to a 300-point increase in SAT score. Given that the SAT is also a widely used 'metric' in our society, should one conclude that low scorers are dumb and shouldn't get into top universities, or aren't so much of below-average intelligence, but hindered by socioeconomic status? Thus, this could be a jumping off point for discussion about how to ethically respond to a society with variation in socioeconomic status, as well as differences in aptitude. My point is that, instead, what the discussion invariably turns to is, well, these guys are stupid, so it's not the system's fault. (This is, in fact, exactly what some are saying with respect to our health system. These people are 'racially' different and thus inequalities health are not the system's fault, or due to history, culture, wealth, and education... but to genetics.) Problem solved. How convenient.
posted by faux ami at 6:38 PM on January 16, 2007


Fuck this IQ-worshipping bastard. A test designed by a bunch of elitist academics should not be used to measure a person's worth to society in any way, let alone "separate the wheat from the chaff". There is a difference between somebody who learns cripplingly slowly and somebody who simply has no desire to pursue a career dealing with books, numbers and spreadsheets.

Honestly, how fucking in-denial are we as a society? Those who form the backbone of our economy and industry (physical jobs) get looked down upon all the time as failures, by those of us studying for or working in high-profile, high-salary -- in all honesty, fairly superfluous -- jobs.

Fuck IQ. A person's going to do what they're good at; they've gotta do what they gotta do. This guy is an asshole for saying they're only doing it because they are "trapped in the 49th percentile." Fuck him.
posted by tehloki at 6:45 PM on January 16, 2007


You know what's interesting here (as the debate centers around academic arguments) is how we seldom pay enough attention to the political aims of education critics. It should be clear to everyone that access to good education=access to opportunity (at least, more opportunity than without one). Education is one of the most effective ways of extending opportunity to traditionally disenfranchised groups. And when you think of it that way, the right's constant bizarre criticisms (such as Murray's, and the guy who thought boys needed more recess and girls needed to arrange flowers and go around in their bare feet), accusations of socialism, and attempts to completely dismantle or cripple public education appear in a different light.

Education is under constant attack by the right, and when one criticism doesn't work, they just drop it and take up another. This is just the latest volley. We can debate its "merits" but I think we're better served by asking what the motivations of critics like Murray are about. We liberals play into their hands by letting ourselves be drawn into debates about year round school, "boy friendly" classes, or whole language, or pick your topic.

Most people have no idea this heated battle is going on. Education seems such a mundane topic--going from K to 12 such a routine series of steps, for most of us, however we were taught. The fact that more educated kids is an unalloyed Good Thing can't really be up for debate. And yet, our school systems are constantly caught up in pitched battles over educational theory and funding, because of the immense amount of power at stake.
posted by emjaybee at 6:57 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Agree with MJB; this isn't driven by dispassionate interest in performance of our youth. There has been an ideological war waged on universal education by the right for some time, and this is just another salvo being fired. Sometimes it seems as though the philosophy of the conservative boils down to the mantra "Don't take my money!" The arguments all seem to converge on ways to reduce the take of government from private coffers. Hence the argument that welfare isn't needed on the one hand, because people should stand on their own two feet, and that we shouldn't try to educate all children on the other, because some of them just don't have the wherewithall to get it. In a logically consistent world, both of these would not be argued by the same philosophical proponents, but they are. I say, follow the money.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:13 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Teece articulates what I realized was bothering me about the SLOE and indeed any IQ discussion. Intelligence as a human concept involves so many different ideas and abilities (for example "book smarts" vs. "street smarts"), that to objectively measure them seem nearly impossible.
posted by drezdn at 7:33 PM on January 16, 2007


I just used 'IQ' as a shorthand for intelligence, not as the defining metric.

But what do you propose we use as the defining metric? The whole problem is centered around the assumption that intelligence is a specific pre-determined capacity as opposed to an active practice and ability. I'm not doubting that there's a range of potential, but I very much doubt that we have already maxed out the possibilities of human beings. If we're collectively capable of much more than we currently fulfill, then even the dumbest among us could go significantly further with the right guidance. Determining that someone has a certain "quotient" of "intelligence" as if it's a certain amount of space in the brain or something is just the wrong way to approach things. It's more like a muscle you flex - yes, we're not all heavyweight champions. But we can all train to get our own bodies in the best shape, and if we actually spend 6 hrs a day, 5 days a week with the right coach, any of us can have serious muscle definition.

I teach some community college classes, and see a real range of ability - and sometimes I make assumptions about who's bright but not well educated, and who's just not really that bright (I try not to, but things subconsciously slip in). And then I get surprised by an insightful comment, or a perceptive question, and I have to remind myself, all learning grows out of previous learning; there is no way to know how far someone could go if they got interested and had the opportunity. Yes, absolutely, some of these kids should not and will not focus their lives around intellectual pursuits. But I can't say with certainty which ones...
posted by mdn at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


""And come on", you're the one implying that these students belong to a specific group (race?)."

Whatever race you are, you obviously weren't bright enough to pick up on that sarcasm.
posted by klangklangston at 7:59 PM on January 16, 2007


The key word there is "objectively", drezdn. I would argue that one of the main responsibilities of a society is to define subjective concepts like "intelligent" and "strong" in terms of that society's cultural values. Like it or not, IQ is among the ways our society measures intelligence. I think we do ourselves a grave disservice when we talk about not measuring, as opposed to measuring using a more appropriate method or working to increase people's scores under the current method.

To me, when we say things like "everybody is equal" or "how can we possibly measure something like intelligence", we're admitting that we don't care whether or not our people are the best. "Best" can be defined however you like -- it's fine with me if your society thinks that buttering bread ought to make up the first three sections of the test -- but if we don't define it at all, how can we work toward a better citizenry? What meaning does "better" even have without a set standard? Sure, whatever standard we choose is never going to be perfect, by definition, but we have to try.

I think the current American attitude toward this sort of thing ("I am what I am and that's OK", or to quote tehloki, "they've gotta do what they gotta do") is sub-optimal when compared to another one we could have ("I am what I am, and that's OK, but I can be even better if I try"). But for some reason, we seem to have decided that the latter is an insult to what we are (it isn't), and that the comfort of not having to be compared to others ought to come before working to be the best we can be (it shouldn't, at least not unless we're going to re-define Best in terms of the Comfort Quotient, and start lauding people based on how laid-back they are).
posted by vorfeed at 8:33 PM on January 16, 2007


As someone who has scored in the 99th+ percentile of every IQ test I've ever taken, I'm of the opinion that the entire concept of IQ is a load of horse-shit.
posted by empath at 8:43 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hmm.

I stopped reading these comments about 2/3 of the way through, and maybe I miss out on being part of the conversation by not being a totally compulsive metafilter reader, but...

Has anyone here besides me read Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man? It was published before the Bell Curve was written, and happens to anticipate many of the arguments that were purportedly made in the Bell Curve.

I say this without actually ever haven read the Bell Curve, but the fact that the second edition of Mismeasure of Man had an appendix was a refutation of the Bell Curve that basically said, "see, what I was saying a few chapters ago basically anticipated the arguments in the Bell Curve, and if you actually take it as a whole, just read this book as the argument against Murray's argument..."

Just sayin'... IMHO, Gould does a decent job of tearing apart the idea that standardized tests measure what they think they measure. Maybe "IQ" really is something real, but in terms of measuring something that's worth measuring it's not clear(define intelligence... If you're trying to measure something that actually predicts success, well, you've got your work cut out for you if you're trying to come up with an argument that says that IQ is the important thing independent of things like social class, money, etc.)

Sorry that I'm coming to the discussion late and that I don't have any inter-webby links to add, but this idea that the important metric that should determine who we educate is "intelligence" is a bit bogus. I suspect that when he says "average" in his editorial that he means "median," which as other people have pointed out is a completely meaningless statement (since it's tautological.) The ability to follow proofs in journals of mathematics may have more to do with schools of higher education failing to prepare their students to write well. And the fact that standardized tests are regularly renormalized means that it's expected that averages aren't going to go up, no matter how much money or resources we throw at it.

No, the argument that we should be educating people to some reasonable standard because that will make them better citizens seems to be a winning argument to me, and it hasn't been adequately proven that this is an unreasonable goal.
posted by grae at 9:31 PM on January 16, 2007


There seems to be a pretty serious misunderstanding of what IQ means. IQ is mental age over actual age X ten. I'm using round numbers here to make the math easier at the expense of accuracy but someone with an IQ of 80 at twenty is as smart as the average 16 year old. Now applying the numbers to someone in there late teens is even a little misleading. (An 80 IQ will probably leave you about as a dumb as a 14-15 year old since IQ as tied to mental age is pegged to younger ages where mental ability grows faster than it does in the late teens.) A Ten year old with a 95 IQ is as smart as the average 9 year and sixth month old. Which is to say it isn't that big of a difference.

Second these racists who study race and IQ put Pacific Asians above whites by a significant margin which even though it does fit with stereotypes doesn't fit in well with the white man's hegemony scar stories being told.

Being retarded in and of it self isn't different from being stupid it is just being stupid enough to have a different name for it. Some people are retarded because of a specific condition other people who are retarded are simply just very low in intelligence.

Yeah I think it is bad to make too much of this in practice, I don't want classes of eagles and sparrows or whatever. I do believe that feedback effects are powerful and small differences will be magnified. But I think structuring education to bring the bottom quintile into the third quintile is seriously stupid, as in broken beyond repair. As in obviously silly. And I'm not saying that anyone in this thread is making the claim that that is how things ought to be, I am making the claim that it seems to be sort of a guiding philosophy behind a lot of education programs.

I don't believe that worst deserve more attention than those in the middle or top of the heap.

IQ isn't bullshit, it isn't perfect but it correlates with most of the stuff that you would think that it should correlate with. The fact that you can throw me a sample with a population of one that runs counter to this claim means exactly jack shit.
posted by I Foody at 9:50 PM on January 16, 2007


Most trades require a fair amount of thinking. Try to be successful as an engine mechanic without strong analytical skills -- good luck. Try being a successful plumber or cabinetmaker without decent arithmetic skills.

Exactly what I said, or meant to say. The vast majority of the jobs I've had, despite being available only to "highly educated" (i.e. those with college degrees) individuals, were complete monkeywork and could have been performed by virtually anyone. I could train most people to carry out the bulk of my duties as a librarian in a weekend, but I would imagine it would take much longer than that to become a decent mechanic or plumber.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:55 PM on January 16, 2007


An international comparison of math and reading skills among 15-year-olds. Compare the rankings for Canada and the United States.

Completely aside from the discussion at hand, did anyone who read the above link figure out what the heck they were trying to do in that study? Even forgetting the fact that for some reason there aren't any hard numbers, only rankings, am I reading it correctly that they're offering a 95% chance that the US ranks somewhere between 12th and 23rd? They might as well have said there's a 100% chance that the US is either 1st or 40th or in between.

In a thread long past I voiced my extreme skepticism about the general quality and relevancy of the statistics produced and quoted by social scientists, to disclose my bias here...
posted by XMLicious at 10:32 PM on January 16, 2007


@XMLicious:

There are two rankings: the ranking of the top two (of six) proficiency levels, and the bottom two.

So, the wider the spread in rankings, the more a country's education system comparatively favours it's top performers.

The rankings have a 95% chance of being the correct one (this number is derived from the sample size).
posted by lastobelus at 1:09 AM on January 17, 2007


Something to chew on: The US state education system is designed to give all students a "liberal arts" education, through the 12th grade. The aim is to prepare almost every student to enter college or university upon graduation from high school.

This is in stark contrast to many European state education systems, in which students are separated, usually after a couple of years of high school, into two tracks - the university-bound track and the trade school/apprenticeship track. I'm not sure how Canada's system is set up, but I'd be interested to hear from someone who knows.

This difference in the educational systems / goals should not be forgotten when comparing said systems.

For instance, international ranking tests are often performed on the general student population in the US and performed only on the populations of university-bound students (usually the top students) in European countries. This difference in populations has a marked effect on the outcomes of international ranking tests.

Furthermore, it would seem that the Europeans, by offerring two tracks, tend to agree with some of Murray's ideas. Those students who are capable and motivated to learn more demanding scholarly subjects are able to do so. Those who are less capable, less motivated, or not interested in university are able to spend the last years of high school learning a useful trade.
posted by syzygy at 5:50 AM on January 17, 2007


I Foody: There seems to be a pretty serious misunderstanding of what IQ means. IQ is mental age over actual age X ten.

What is "mental age", and how is it determined?

Also, it really just can't be that simple. If IQ is "mental age over actual age X ten" (let's say m/a*10), we could actually run some numbers:

A person with a "mental age" of 15 and an actual age of 15 would have an IQ of 10.
15/15*10=10

A person with a "mental age" of 20 and an actual age of 20 would have an IQ of 10.
20/20*10=10

So I'm thinking you really mean 100, not 10. In any case, here's where it gets really interesting. If we assume that people stop "aging" mentally -- which is a pretty reasonable assumption, depending on how you define "mental age" -- you could imagine someone with a "mental age" of 40 and a physical age of 80, for an IQ (by your formula) of 5 (or 50).

I don't believe that worst deserve more attention than those in the middle or top of the heap.

You seem to keep trying to make this about 'deservedness', and as I read this thread, you're speaking to a mostly-straw man. Sure, some people here think that everybody deserves a shot; but most of us are arguing, at base, that it's of value to society to educate everyone to as high a level as we reasonably can. We're not only not doing that now, we don't seem to have a fucking clue how to do that. And Murray isn't helping.
posted by lodurr at 5:55 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


... on postview:

I would argue that if you have to pick one or the other, there is greater benefit from expending extra effort educating the bottom half than from educating the top half -- simply because idiots can do a lot of damage, especially when manipulated by clever con men and politicians (but I repeat myself).

Fortunately, we don't have to choose to do one or the other. We can choose to do both.
posted by lodurr at 5:59 AM on January 17, 2007


I left out a zero it is mental age over actual age times 100 not ten. That was a typo.
posted by I Foody at 6:28 AM on January 17, 2007


And the definition is meaningful for children and adolescents only.
posted by I Foody at 6:29 AM on January 17, 2007


I don't think we should educate everyone to as high a level as we reasonably can is a reasonable position to agree on, because people have such wildly different ideas of what costs are reasonable to incur in pursuit of educating people. So I could agree with your statement that we ought to educate everyone to as high a level as we reasonably can, and believe that we ought to educate people either radically more, or radically less, or in radically different topics than we currently do and believe that my version is reasonable.

What I actually believe is that a more vocational system with media studies and statistics and less chemistry and euclidean geomotry and classics would be superior for those that are left gifted (or frankly those that would prefer such an education for whatever reason.)
posted by I Foody at 6:38 AM on January 17, 2007


I'm a strong proponent of "everybody should be educated at the same level through high school", but I think that the "university track" vs. "trade track" idea makes a lot of sense. However, this is only so if children get to make the choice themselves. I am so deathly afraid of a system where the state itself "assigns" societal roles to people based on its own judgement of their intellectual prowess.

However, structuring the education system to make "university diploma bound" the goal for everybody (it is most certainly not the norm, and society might just crumble if everybody was getting a degree and some office/scientific job) just doesn't make a lick of sense. Focus on teaching people how do to what they're good at and make money doing it.
posted by tehloki at 6:47 AM on January 17, 2007


Oh, and upon reading more of the thread:

"It takes arithmetic skills to be a carpenter, plumber, whatever"

Arithmetic skills are something that the foundation is laid for in early, early grade school... multiplication, division, basic exponents... these are all things that somebody with a "very low IQ" can learn -easily- within 5-10 years.

Case in point: I've met career drug dealers who didn't attend a single class of high school beyond grade 9... yet they could whiz through the arithmetic related to their profession faster than I could think.
posted by tehloki at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2007


Charles Murray probably has an IQ below 100. What an idiot. If it truly is higher then he is the classic underachiever. What an idiot.
posted by caddis at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2007


tehloki -- not sure what your point is. Mine was simply this: I've never known a tradesman who was good at his job who wasn't pretty smart. But because of the domain within which them smarts is exercised, we tend to devalue them.

Many of those folks would do poorly on standard IQ tests. Many of them have superior analytical skills with regard to many of the office workers I've known.
posted by lodurr at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2007


I Foody: And the definition is meaningful for children and adolescents only.

That makes it a pretty problematic concept on which to base a standardized measure of intelligence. (Or whatever it is that IQ measures.) Especially when you consider that people don't really mature neurologically until they're in their 30s -- and sometimes never, intellectually.
posted by lodurr at 7:06 AM on January 17, 2007


klangklangston: Whatever race you are, you obviously weren't bright enough to pick up on that sarcasm.

Nobody in this thread was arguing that sub-average performance was unique to a specific group/race. That is, until languagehat came along and implied that this was the real motivation of his perceived opponents. But please don't let the facts interfere with your oh-so-witty one-liners.
posted by jsonic at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2007


What I actually believe is that a more vocational system with media studies and statistics and less chemistry and euclidean geomotry and classics would be superior for those that are left gifted (or frankly those that would prefer such an education for whatever reason.)

I have a hunch that cutting out classics isn't going to save you much time or money. When I went to school in the '70s, I had to get my own damn education in classics, thank you very little; if the experience of my fiance's kids is anything to go by, that's even more the case now than it was back then.

But again, this illustrates your point about differences in perspective. To start with: What is "media studies", and more to the point, who pays for it? Wouldn't it make more sense to teach kids basic critical and structured reasoning skills (which, incidentally, both Geometry and Chem are pretty good at inculcating, if taught well)?

Statistics? Why that and not Geometry? Or Chem? We're not even talking about Calculus. Sure, it would be great for citizens to have a grasp of statistics that lets them determine that they're being played by a guy like Murray. But teaching it in isolation is a bit like

Algebra and Euclidean geometry have both been very useful to me in my ordinary life -- they compounded to train me in analysing everyday problems. To algebra I owe the ability to assess whether it was a good idea to make bi-weekly payments on my new car loan; the spatial reasoning processes I learned in Geometry class are useful to me when I figure out how to pack the car for long family trips. Chemistry? Without a little chemistry, I'd have to take someone's word for it that I shouldn't mix bleach and ammonia.

It really is a slippery slope. We live in a complex world, and deciding that some arbitrary cutoff determines whether or not Johnny or Belinda get Chem and Geometry can determine whether they are ever able to cross a certain class boundary.

And it's fine and dandy to say "Let's let testing and parental and child choice drive the process," but if we're honest we all know that leads to tracking, which eventually brings us right back here again, having this discussion all over.

And that doesn't even begin to approach the question of what vocational skills you teach in a world where change is so rapid that the only really valuable skill is the ability to learn new skills. Which is to say: Critical thinking. Which is aided by the basic mental calisthenics and rigor of things like geometry, chemistry, algebra, and supprted by the nourishment of sound education in history, and an exposure to at least some of the better narrative reasoning (which is what stories are, after all) through literature and at least some analysis of literature. And finally, you have to teach them to read and write clearly -- the core baseline skills in the larger skillset of skill-aquisition.

I'd love to see people re-visit the old Deweyesque ideals, and see if we can't find a way to help people be productive when the graduate high school or community college. But to just say "let's track the dummies into VoTech" is short-sighted in the extreme.
posted by lodurr at 7:27 AM on January 17, 2007


See, I had chemistry in school and having not used it years have long forgotten why bleach and amonia shouldn't be mixed in any chemistry related sense, (I know they release deadly chlorine gas but I don't have any special knowledge of why). I don't think that vocational skills like auto maintenance are any worse at teaching that all important and suitably vague critical thinking than chemistry, the difference is that they are far more likely to be useful for most people. People seem to want to say that people who practice trades are sharp (which I think is often true) but believe that teaching a trade to people is not a good way to exercise cognitive ability.

I might be being unrealistic, especially about the humanities, but chemistry and formal geometry are useful to almost no one. And statistics would be useful and develope the same skill sets. Which is nice. Same with enginering and mechanically oriented vocations. Learning these things doesn't need to be easier than chemistry, the difference is that chemistry requires a tremendous amount of rigour to bear any practical fruit and carpentry or plumbing don't.
posted by I Foody at 7:48 AM on January 17, 2007


... the difference is that chemistry requires a tremendous amount of rigour to bear any practical fruit and carpentry or plumbing don't.

For me, the truth is precisely the reverse: carpentry and plumbing would require a degree of rigor that I'm loathe to expend.

People seem to want to say that people who practice trades are sharp (which I think is often true) but believe that teaching a trade to people is not a good way to exercise cognitive ability.

Most people don't learn trades in public schools. They learn them in practical settings, with practical aims, and the "critical thinking" that's applied (when it's applied at all) is very limited.

This goes to Adam Smith's point about education as the proper province of the state: When education is limited to what's useful and practical to business or industry, you are planning for the present -- not the future. To plan for the future, you teach foundational skills, including skills that are not obviously useful for the task of, say, operating a Jaquard loom.

Do those include chemistry? I would argue that they do, to a certain level. They don't require that you be able to balance chemical equations, but they should entail a basic knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry, after all, is as much of a fact of life as statistics: It's a basic grasp of physical chemistry that allows you to assess (based on something other than trust and personality) whether climate change arguments make sense. You may not think of it that way, but that's what it is.
posted by lodurr at 8:04 AM on January 17, 2007


"Wouldn't it make more sense to teach kids basic critical and structured reasoning skills (which, incidentally, both Geometry and Chem are pretty good at inculcating, if taught well)?"

Actually, from about fourth grade through high school, I was part of the Open Schools, which were a magnet set in my local district that emphasized a philosophy of self-directed learning with an emphasis on critical reasoning skills. Sometimes they were more successful than other times, but on the whole, classes like Creative Problem Solving have helped me again and again (thanks Tom Dodd!). The Open Schools here have basically overgrown their mission by now, due to the incredibly high demand (mostly by rich white folks who notice that the high school sends an inordinante percentage to Ivy League schools), but the school system and school board still sees the program as a bastard stepchild and goes out of their way to undermine it and to not meet demand for new schools that follow this philosophy.
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2007


I expect a good deal of that resistence is due to the fact that a) an "open school" model is hard to get right (as productive as it can be when gotten right), and b) traditionalist educators find the model threatening, because most people who get into teaching are in the profession out of a desire to impose order on the world, and "open" model schools seem to them like chaos.
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on January 17, 2007


I Foody, yet chemistry and geometry uses a formal type of problem solving which you have likely not forgotten. Theoreticians and philosophers have dedicated many volumes regarding the discussion of scientific reasoning and euclidean logic but I don't recall ever hearing about texts on Theories of Plumbing Reasoning.

Basic education is more about providing the building blocks necessary to be a useful functioning member of society and to make critical analysis about many things. Geometry is an absolute necessity for reasoning. A science class such as chemistry is an excellent introduction in how to formulate hypothesis and test them in the real world. Physics would do just as well. Carpentry, not.

Intelligence is not a measure of accumulated facts, it is more a measure of effectively applying systems of thought and reasoning to any real world problem. An intelligent person can solve many problems.
posted by JJ86 at 8:17 AM on January 17, 2007


Carpentry, not.

You could teach carpentry that way. It's not likely that it ever would be taught that way, though.
posted by lodurr at 8:40 AM on January 17, 2007


Nobody in this thread was arguing that sub-average performance was unique to a specific group/race.

jsonic, such an argument is central to Murray's thinking. Context matters.
posted by teece at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2007


mdn: But what do you propose we use as the defining metric?

We are arguing about different things. Forget about how to measure intelligence. Murray seems to be arguing the following point:

a)Not everyone is equally intelligent. Duh.
b)Ergo, not everyone is capable of keeping up at the pace that the classroom progresses at.
c)This factor is ignored when setting standards of performance for schools. In fact, the assumption is made that it is feasible via some wishful but unspecified nurture to get almost everyone to keep up.

That's all. The measure of intelligence only comes in after you acknowledge the above and then decide to take it into account. Then we ask

1)can intelligence be quantified?
2)If so, with a single number?
3)If so, are the standard IQ tests it?

These questions may very well have a negative answer but that doesn't impinge on Murray's point.

But you did bring up another point which I'll tackle: "The whole problem is centered around the assumption that intelligence is a specific pre-determined capacity as opposed to an active practice and ability."

Like everything else, it's both. Intelligence need not be 100% genetic for its flexibility to be limited. In fact, it could be 100% nurture and still have limited flexibility. Humans have at most 2 hands and only 24 hours in a day to deal with. So, maybe Johnny with a low learning capacity (I'll avoid IQ) can learn calculus in either 2 extra months or 2 extra years with the right training. If the former's the case, then there's no need for radical changes in education policy and a judiciously tailored pedagogy can help all but the extremely slow learners. If the latter's the case, then for practical purposes, Johnny's beyond help. But in order to figure this out, Murray's point has to be acknowledged and then research done to see what can be done. The defenses in this thread seem to either deny the issue or wave it away.
posted by Gyan at 1:11 PM on January 17, 2007


To me, when we say things like "everybody is equal" or "how can we possibly measure something like intelligence", we're admitting that we don't care whether or not our people are the best.

My primary issue is that IQ is commonly perceived as a static measure of an innate quality, rather than just a test to compare your current skill level to the population.

These questions may very well have a negative answer but that doesn't impinge on Murray's point.

of course it does. If we cannot measure who has more or less capacity, then the fact that they have different capacities is completely irrelevant to our goals. For all intents and purposes we will have to treat students as if their potential is broadly comparable if we have no way to distinguish higher & lower intellectual possibility.

As I said above, I agree with yr point "a", that we're not all equally intelligent. However, I don't agree that that means we should stop pushing some kids to meet certain standards.

First of all, I think intelligence is complex and non-linear. People can be brilliant about one thing and then stupid about something else; they can have trouble conceiving of what seems to you like the simplest concept, and then immediately grasp what you had imagined would be way over their heads. People learn in different ways, find different subjects intuitive, etc. Second, the absolute best way to guarantee stupidity is to not bother training the mind at all. Sure, even serious training is not going to make the severe asthmatic into a triathlete or whatever, but everyone can improve, and aiming for basic standards is a positive thing.

I support training for skilled labor type work as well, and ultimately what matters most is that the kids feel like they're getting into something that interests them. Education should be interactive enough that teachers can help individuals work out where to concentrate their energy - but basic "reading, 'riting & 'rithmetic" does not need to be specialized. We can all attain that with the right schools.
posted by mdn at 1:50 PM on January 17, 2007


I can't believe the mixture of misunderstandings, unsupported assertions, strawmen, and political ax-grinding in these postings. (Oh, right, it's MeFi.) I don't think intelligence is the same as fact-based knowledge, nor is it the same as intellectual accomplishment. The description of IQ as the ratio of mental to "actual" age was baldly asserted without bothering to support it with either a link or a citation. And no one suggested that we would make the bottom fifth into the third fifth, only that we should educate our (non-dysfunctional) children to a reasonable standard, rather than blow them off or whatever it is Mr. Murray would like to do.

Geez.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:14 PM on January 17, 2007


mdn: of course it does. If we cannot measure who has more or less capacity, then the fact that they have different capacities is completely irrelevant to our goals.

Wrong. If we cannot measure capacities, then we are hindered in figuring out what the goals ought to be, but the effect of differential capacities on achieving a goal still remains.

For all intents and purposes we will have to treat students as if their potential is broadly comparable if we have no way to distinguish higher & lower intellectual possibility.

But we do. IQ is second-order reliable, i.e. it's not good enough to rank-order a 110 above a 105 but it is good enough to rank-order a 115 above a 95.

As I said above, I agree with yr point "a", that we're not all equally intelligent. However, I don't agree that that means we should stop pushing some kids to meet certain standards.

We should, if the goals are unrealistic for those kids and there are negative psychological, social and other effects resulting from mismatched expectations.

they can have trouble conceiving of what seems to you like the simplest concept, and then immediately grasp what you had imagined would be way over their heads.

With all due respect, this is idealistic rhetoric. Can you site a demonstration that shows precisely this: lack of grasp of the "simplest concept" and 'immediate grasp of concept "way above" their heads'? Your basic point is acknowledged but your framing it in such hyperbolic fashion may subconsciously prime you to expect a much greater effect of nurture than is possible. Yes, cognition is not a monolithic process subserved by just one or two capacities, but neither is it a bunch of largely independent modules. Just like a wave, it may fluctuate, but there's a still a measure such as the root mean square.

but basic "reading, 'riting & 'rithmetic" does not need to be specialized. We can all attain that with the right schools.

The standards agency will have provided some specific meaning of that term whereas in this conversation, it just carries a colloquial connotation. We don't know whether the 'basic' standard is indeed achievable by, say, 90% of students or not. Maybe it's 75%. In which case, 25% need a different tack or a different standard. But we don't know that until Murray's point is acknowledged.
posted by Gyan at 2:15 PM on January 17, 2007


"Can you site a demonstration that shows precisely this: lack of grasp of the "simplest concept" and 'immediate grasp of concept "way above" their heads'?"

Yeah, easily. I've known musicians who could play an incredibly complex piece by ear after hearing it only a couple of times, or vamp off into improvisations that are complex with regard to music theory, yet can't read music or can't discuss even the simplest math of sound. This happens a lot with creative people, where some very complex aspects of something they practice are grasped immediately, whereas some of the very basic theories behind what they do ellude them.
posted by klangklangston at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2007


klangklangston: Yeah, easily.

Then do so. You haven't cited anything. Moreover, in your anecdotal summary, who and how is it decided what qualifies as "very complex" and "simplest"? Also, you are confounding the issue by comparing complexity across domains ('playing by ear' and 'music theory' and 'math'). Finally, we also know the Wstereotype of idiot savants who can calculate the product of two 10-digit numbers and yet be just average in other domains. These people are famous because they are exceptions. This discussion is about regular kids in the lower half or third of basic cognitive ability.
posted by Gyan at 2:37 PM on January 17, 2007


From the article Genetics of brain structure and intelligence. in the 2005 Annual Reviews of Neuroscience (highest impact factor among neuroscience journals):

In psychometric research, statistical analysis can distill from multiple tests a measure of mental ability that is independent—as far as possible—of the subject matter of the tests. In computing the g factor, for example, factor analysis isolates a component of intellectual function that is common to multiple cognitive tests, but not specific to the task being performed. IQ tests come in different forms, but they typically assess visuospatial, deductive, semantic, and symbolic reasoning ability. Specific subtests may evaluate a subject’s ability to perform inferences, to detect similarities and differences in geometrical patterns or word patterns, and to process complex information quickly and accurately.
People differ substantially in their performance on these tests, but those who do well on one test tend to do well on others. The high correlations among scores on tests of spatial relations, logic, vocabulary, picture completion, and even reaction times support the notion that there may be an overarching skill that underlies intellectual ability, rather than many distinct and independent abilities. Scores on a range of tests can be factor analyzed to give g, a single summary measure of cognitive ability. g is composed of a small number of (non-independent) subfactors representing more specific abilities (Carroll 1993, Deary 2001), but each of these correlates closely with g. One of the best tests for measuring “pure g” is thought to be Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a nonverbal test of inductive reasoning.

The validity of g as a single, unitary measure of intelligence has been hotly debated by its advocates and detractors (Jensen 1969, Brand 2001, in favor; see Gould 1996, Kamin 1997 for contrary views). Most psychometric researchers agree that the g factor is sensitive to individual differences in abilities to learn, reason, and solve problems. It predicts scholastic achievement, employment, lifetime income, and even health-related parameters such as life expectancy (Gottfredson 1997). From a scientific standpoint, some argue that the basic general factor of mental ability (g) can explain performance variations on individual mental tests (Spearman 1927, Jensen 1998). Most mental ability tests correlate with g, and the degree to which they do has been termed their g-loading [analogous to an octane rating for gasoline (Jensen 1980)]. Performance variations on different tasks may therefore depend on how much each task draws on a general cognitive process underlying mental ability (the unitary intelligence theory). Advocates of unitary intelligence have typically pointed to physiological parameters in the brain that are correlated with g, including reaction times, nerve conduction velocity, or cerebral glucose metabolism during problem solving (Haier et al. 1988). Other brain-based correlates of g have been observed in recent MRI studies showing that differences in frontal gray matter volumes correlate with g (p<0 .0044; p<0.0176 after correction for multiple tests; thompson et al. 2001a; see also haier et al. 2004).

posted by Gyan at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2007


"Then do so. You haven't cited anything. Moreover, in your anecdotal summary, who and how is it decided what qualifies as "very complex" and "simplest"? Also, you are confounding the issue by comparing complexity across domains ('playing by ear' and 'music theory' and 'math'). Finally, we also know the Wstereotype of idiot savants who can calculate the product of two 10-digit numbers and yet be just average in other domains. These people are famous because they are exceptions. This discussion is about regular kids in the lower half or third of basic cognitive ability."

Irving Berlin couldn't read a lick of music and resisted learning it. He did, however, write some of the most amazing tunes ever.
As to "confounding," you're the one who insists on a correlation between all forms of intelligence. The point that I was supporting was that some people are very intelligent in one area and fairly dense in another. (Like your apparent ability to cite cognative theory without being able to consistently spell "cite). As to your point about "idiot savants," they're traditionally associated with autism, which (as I just heard this on NPR as I drove around looking for a parking space) as many as 1 in 20 kids are born with (though there is a debate over whether the incidence has always been this high, and autism went undiagnosed, or if there has been a trend toward more autistic children being born). And regarding the thought that these are the bottom 40% or so, that's absolutely meaningless without a) a specific metric against which to measure, and b) the removal of all confounding variables (I've known more than one underachiever in my life. Merely being in the lower half of scholastic achievment doesn't correlate well in my experience with intelligence).
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on January 17, 2007


klangklangston: The point that I was supporting was that some people are very intelligent in one area and fairly dense in another.

The reason that does not support your point is that even proponents of unitary intelligence distinguish between crystallized and fluid intelligence. The former refers to stored knowledge and experience like vocabulary, equations, images, principles...etc; the latter refers to problem-solving and reasoning ability. In order to understand a college-level advanced math text, you need to have assimilated the prerequisite basic mathematics, but starting from a similar base of crystallized intelligence, the difference in ability to grasp newer skills is a function of fluid intelligence and most psychometricians hold this latter intelligence to be unitary.

(I've known more than one underachiever in my life. Merely being in the lower half of scholastic achievment doesn't correlate well in my experience with intelligence).

"lower half or third of basic" cognitive ability, not school grades. The inference direction is from ability to grades, not the other way around, although the process of discovery will start in the latter direction.
posted by Gyan at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2007


If we cannot measure capacities, then we are hindered in figuring out what the goals ought to be, but the effect of differential capacities on achieving a goal still remains.

not if we don't know what the differential is, though! The point is, at this stage we have no way to assess whether IQ scores are reflecting innate capacity or quality of education. If we 'swapped at birth' low IQ & high IQ kids, would each individual have the same score brought up a different environment? Or are other factors (including nutrition, home life, etc, as well as education) significant enough that the numbers would change? It seems to me that until we actually start with a level playing field, it is premature to declare the differences to be genetic. I'm not saying there's no genetic component, but just that we should assume some environmental component as well, and therefore give these kids the benefit of the doubt instead of writing them off as retards.

With all due respect, this is idealistic rhetoric. Can you site a demonstration that shows precisely this: lack of grasp of the "simplest concept" and 'immediate grasp of concept "way above" their heads'? Your basic point is acknowledged but your framing it in such hyperbolic fashion may subconsciously prime you to expect a much greater effect of nurture than is possible.

cite :). My point is not that anyone can be taught anything, but that intelligence is sometimes surprising or hidden. That mysterious moment of "getting" something is hard to pin down. Consider base systems - I find philos of math interesting so later in life became familiar with thinking in bases, but I was brought up with base 10. i sometimes meet younger people these days who grew up with "new math" and are naturally comfortable counting in other bases. But most people my age who majored in liberal arts think I'm a freak for knowing that stuff. Same with so much computer oriented stuff - young people are growing up with it so it is just not complicated; some portion of very smart older people think it takes a kind of intelligence they just don't have. But really it is just practice.

Yes, cognition is not a monolithic process subserved by just one or two capacities, but neither is it a bunch of largely independent modules. Just like a wave, it may fluctuate, but there's a still a measure such as the root mean square.

I'm not so much debating this as arguing that it's hard to know how to measure anyone's capacity, and kids who may come across as slow because they never learned things that you take for granted, might actually have greater potential than you realize if we could help fill in the gaps.

But we don't know that until Murray's point is acknowledged.

I don't really see the benefit of making this assumption. We do not expect all kids to go on to academic careers or nobel prizes; we already recognize there are differences. The point here is whether we should assume these differences are innately racial and inherently unchangeable. If we were truly providing the exact same educational opportunity to every kid, and there was still a racial gap, then we could address this. But as it is, the kids scoring lowest are also the kids in worst schools. I think the correlation there is likely to reflect something about the impact of education on intelligence, rather than the reverse.
posted by mdn at 5:44 PM on January 17, 2007


mdn: If we 'swapped at birth' low IQ & high IQ kids, would each individual have the same score brought up a different environment?

From Genetic and environmental influences on the development of intelligence.:
---
Measures of intelligence were collected in 209 twin pairs at 5, 7, 10, and 12 years of age, as part of a longitudinal project on intelligence, brain function, and behavioral problems.
. . .
Genetic analyses show significant heritabilities at all ages, with the expected increase of genetic influences and decrease of shared environmental influences over the years. Genetic influences seem to be the main driving force behind continuity in general cognitive ability, represented by a common factor influencing FSIQ at all ages. Shared environmental influences are responsible for stability as well as change in the development of cognitive abilities, represented by a common factor influencing FSIQ at all ages and age-specific influences, respectively.

---

My point is not that anyone can be taught anything, but that intelligence is sometimes surprising or hidden.
. . .
kids who may come across as slow because they never learned things that you take for granted, might actually have greater potential than you realize if we could help fill in the gaps.


a)"sometimes hidden" is not a good reason to base policy on. It extrapolates from the anecdotal to the general.
b)We can't fill in the gaps if we don't know what the gaps are. There aren't enough resources to individually tailor education for each low-achieving student, so any reform will generally have to focus on wholesale pedagogical practices. And it's far from clear that even most low-achieving students possess hidden intelligence in the same domain, so the reform may not help most of them except by good fortune.

I don't really see the benefit of making this assumption.

Helps focus resources in a more efficient way and stops a possibly Sisyphean endeavour that aims to correct a defect supposedly resident in the 'service' (rather than the consumer).
posted by Gyan at 6:19 PM on January 17, 2007


from far upthread but as a recurring theme:

I'm sensing a huge amount of defensiveness here around the idea that people might not have equal amounts of ability in all fields

Even the need to couch it in those terms ("in all fields") shows the discomfort. MeFites have recently commented on how uncomfortable people are with the subject of class. That is nothing compared to how uncomfortable people are discussing different levels of intelligence. You can call someone ugly, poor, clumsy, or just about anything else with signficantly less social akwardness than you can call someone stupid (if you're really talking about intelligence and not just using it as a blanket insult). Just watch the qualifiers flow... "when it comes to math"... "as far as `book smarts` go"... etc.

That being said, I agree that, given our limited ability to measure aptitude not performance, and our seemingly unlimited ability to misuse pet theories about differences between humans, we should endeavour to teach all the basics no matter the slightly higher or lower cost of educating an individual, and let individuals sort out the rest according to their interests. Though there is still the significant damage done by the "you can do anything" refrain which is certainly not true, inspirational anecdotes notwithstanding. That at least is the individual's own time and effort spent, not the state's.
posted by dreamsign at 10:14 PM on January 17, 2007


We do not expect all kids to go on to academic careers or nobel prizes; we already recognize there are differences. The point here is whether we should assume these differences are innately racial and inherently unchangeable.

No, few would make that point. As far as I can tell, even Murray isn't making that point. It's always a resource game, and btw, one of those resources is the student's time, itself. If it takes a student a year to learn what another student learns in two weeks, then maybe spending that year isn't the best use of that student's time. He or she isn't going to get it back. Maybe that difficulty comes by way of genetics, maybe socioeconomic factors, maybe a learning-hostile environment, but that's all part of the package the student arrives in the classroom carrying. (change it if you can; often you can't)

I’m not sure what people are going to do if we do in fact find a gene, or a suite of them, that greatly affects intelligence, since what’s likely to come with is the finding that some have it and some don’t. And heaven forbid it isn’t distributed equally.
posted by dreamsign at 10:30 PM on January 17, 2007


"That is nothing compared to how uncomfortable people are discussing different levels of intelligence."

Which from a historical context is totally understandable. The simple fact is that Foucault is more often a reliable predictor than whatever current theories exist about the genetic underpinnings of intelligence (especially when espoused by people with clear ideological agendas).

So far, Gyan has convinced me to look into the literature surrounding this issue, and I am curious (though I only seem to be getting fulltext on about half of the articles linked through the bibliography, and can't seem to get the fulltext of the article he linked to, which has a different abstract than what he gave). But I, and probably Teece, have strong political reservations about how arguments from nature of inferiority and superiority have been used for out of proportion to undermine the equal rights and fundamental assumption of some shared cognizance as necessary for a just society. Mill ties education to liberty for good reason. From there I'd say (and I know the objection) that I appreciate the ways that empirical science can and should shift how we percieve the world, but I have serious qualms about what extrapolations are made into the realm of policy.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on January 17, 2007


That is nothing compared to how uncomfortable people are discussing different levels of intelligence.

Why would that surprise you? "Intelligence" is seen as the primary potency in the American system. We are -- or at least, we like to think of ourselves as being -- a meritocratic society. (Note, for example, the insistence on seeing this as an issue of deservedness versus one of political and social pragmatism.)

Put another way: If you're stupid, you'll be poor all your life. Unless you were born rich, and then you'll just be ridiculed all your life, like Paris Hilton. If you're smart, you can become RICH, RICH, RICH!

And while I'm at it: Why should it surprise anyone if people who think of themselves as having pulled themselves up by their own neurons -- folks who were raised middle-class because they or their parents went to a school that treated them as though they could be something and then subsequently had access to an inexpensive, high-quality, state-subsidized tertiary education -- suddenly start thinking that maybe not just everybody['s kids] deserves that kind of a chance, when it comes time for their own kids to compete for monetary and ideological resources?

This whole debate is mostly a proxy for class defensiveness. In America, intelligence is largely mapped to class.
posted by lodurr at 4:45 AM on January 18, 2007


But I, and probably Teece, have strong political reservations about how arguments from nature of inferiority and superiority have been used for out of proportion to undermine the equal rights and fundamental assumption of some shared cognizance as necessary for a just society.

You can add me to that list. I'm too lazy to do the research myself, but please post (or e-mail me) whatever conclusions you reach if you do investigate further; since we share a similar set of prior assumptions, I'll take what you have to say a lot more seriously than I take the words of people who clearly enjoy putting the deltas in their place.
posted by languagehat at 5:32 AM on January 18, 2007


Why should it surprise anyone if people who think of themselves as having pulled themselves up by their own neurons

Because intelligence is still the villain's quality. Cleverness at best for the hero, but better still, braun and determination and an aw, shucks attitude. America (well the english west in general) is quite anti-intellectual, so yes it is surprising that people will regard an insult to, say, looks (which gets a lot more overt attention) as being a far lesser thing than an insult to intelligence.

There are loads of people out there who don't pride themselves on intelligence, and yet the subject is as prickly as it were. That is interesting.

As for it just being a conduit for class defensiveness, I just don't see it. Again, a far lesser issue with most people (you don't have money, so what? most don't), at least most people I've known. Remarking that someone has no money or even no prospects for money is largely a comment on circumstances. Remarking that someone is a dullard is about as personal as you can get.

Or to put it another way, back in line with this thread: remarking that an ethnic/racial group is poor and is likely unable to change that is one thing, again perhaps largely circumstantial, but charging that an ethnic/racial group is less intelligent -- even marginally -- is dynamite, and not because it's really some stealth comment about their likely ability to acquire money/property/standing.
posted by dreamsign at 5:50 AM on January 18, 2007


Gyan, were those twin pairs split up into right & wrong side of the railway tracks? Otherwise that does not address the issue at all.

The rest of your argument is basically that it is too hard to give too much attention to kids who might just be stupid. I might eventually agree with you, but I think we have to roll the rock to the top at least once before we can start giving up on the enterprise. Anyway I probably side with Camus on this one: all human tasks are Sisyphean. that's why we like them.
posted by mdn at 6:24 AM on January 18, 2007


Because intelligence is still the villain's quality. Cleverness at best for the hero, but better still, braun and determination and an aw, shucks attitude. America (well the english west in general) is quite anti-intellectual, so yes it is surprising that people will regard an insult to, say, looks (which gets a lot more overt attention) as being a far lesser thing than an insult to intelligence.

It's nice enough to say things like this, but at best this tells only a very small part of the story.

Americans like villains, and we like smart villains best of all. "Smart" and "clever" are interesting distinctions -- I value the distinction highly, obvioiusly you do, too, but most people don't. In any case, in the American mythos, a smart strong villain or hero will trump one who's just strong any day. The more typical ideal trope is that the smart guy/gal becomes also strong/beautiful. Mere beauty or strength is as often as not cause for ridicule. Again, what's the first thing they say about Ahnold when making apologies for his political career? "He's actually a very smart guy."

As for it just being a conduit for class defensiveness....

Just to be clear, that's not what I said. What I said was this: "This whole debate is mostly a proxy for class defensiveness. In America, intelligence is largely mapped to class."

I'll add that race and class are also cross-mapped.

At no point am I arguing, or would I, that these are hard mappings. It's the fact that they're soft mappings, of fluid territory, that makes the whole discussion so treacherous.
posted by lodurr at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2007


Looking at the Long View, the problem is that among hunter-gatherers stupid people didn't live very long and weren't very successful at reproducing, but agriculture favored the mentally slow, as does the old-style assembly-line work which next employed peasants. Now those options are closing down.

A few ideas on what to do:

Make higher education free for everyone who wants it. (But grade a little harder: stop giving everybody a B just for showing up.) Do the same with the trades, even old-fashioned ones like shoe making.

Allow the workers in a "redundant" factory to form a collective to take it over and run it themselves. Also make it easier to form collectives to establish factories and trades-centers.

Favor repairing old buildings over new construction.

Legalize possession of marijuana for personal use, trade in personal-use amounts, and manual horticulture for such purposes. For that matter, encourage small-scale gardening for such as tomatoes and cucumbers too.

Make Welfare easy to get but contingent on non-reproduction, and make birth control, sterilization and abortion free for the poor and easy for everyone.
posted by davy at 12:12 PM on January 18, 2007


The description of IQ as the ratio of mental to "actual" age was baldly asserted without bothering to support it with either a link or a citation.

For Fuck's sake it is the dictionary definition, the first one, give me a fucking break. From Miriam Webster:

IQ: 1 : a number used to express the apparent relative intelligence of a person: as a : the ratio of the mental age (as reported on a standardized test) to the chronological age multiplied by 100 b : a score determined by one's performance on a standardized intelligence test relative to the average performance of others of the same age group.
posted by I Foody at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2007


AHEM: that would be Merriam....
posted by lodurr at 1:21 PM on January 18, 2007


klangklangston: can't seem to get the fulltext of the article he linked to, which has a different abstract than what he gave

In my first cite ("Brain structure"), that's an excerpt from the fulltext, not the abstract.

mdn: were those twin pairs split up into right & wrong side of the railway tracks? Otherwise that does not address the issue at all.

From the brain structure review cited above,

---
"Finally, empirically we (Devlin et al. 1997) showed that monozygotic twins reared apart are more alike—for many cognitive measures including IQ—compared with fraternal twins raised together. This underscores the relevance of genetic factors in shaping intelligence and brain structure."
---

but I think we have to roll the rock to the top at least once before we can start giving up on the enterprise

One thing to continue while being aware of the futility, like Sisyphus, but another to not recognize it. Hopefully, you are not treating education as an 'absurd' endeavour.
posted by Gyan at 1:47 PM on January 18, 2007


The point is, we don't know how futile it is yet, and it's an endeavor crucial enough to the success of future generations that it would be foolish to give up before we've begun. Perhaps it will ultimately have very little effect. But at this stage, the evidence is limited. Your twin studies a) don't address issues of severe environmental difference and b) are concerned with people who are genetically the exact same person, not those who are purported to share racial characteristics.

As I said repeatedly above, I have no doubt there are some people who will never get very far intellectually. The problem is, we have no way to identify which ones they are, so we have to treat all students as having potential. If they go through 10 years of high quality education and it's clear their interests and abilities point toward skilled labor or unskilled labor or some other path, that is great. We should have avenues that assist citizens in finding the right sort of work etc. BUT: in the US at the current time, our educational system is drastically different in different neighborhoods, largely depending on income level, which often correlates with race, so lots of the kids who are scoring lower are minorities. I am not convinced that that is due to their genetic make-up.

No, few would make that point. As far as I can tell, even Murray isn't making that point.

The first article, at least, does not explicitly address the racial difference, but based on his previous work, presumably he is going to extrapolate from the notion of innate difference to point to the current differences in scores, and conclude from that that we should therefore not expect the lower scoring minorities to be capable of improving their numbers. I believe this is simplistic and ignores countless social, cultural, and discriminative factors. Until we really have a double blind equivalent we don't know how much expectations are affecting things ( and whenever I think I really can control my expectations, I go look at the mcgurk effect to humble myself a bit...)
posted by mdn at 6:48 AM on January 19, 2007


mdn: Your twin studies a) don't address issues of severe environmental difference

You are moving the goalposts now. Your original point was

"My primary issue is that IQ is commonly perceived as a static measure of an innate quality".

To which I cited studies showing genes are the primary force driving cognitive ability and their influence apparently increases with age. So, IQ is not static, but its foundations are more innate than not. Now, you are asking for effect on the fringes i.e. severe environmental differences. I'm fairly sure that a severely malnourished and understimulated kid of genius parents may be more cognitively stunted than an adequately brought up kid of averagely intelligent parents. But these are outliers. Education policy has to necessarily deal with the masses, and not assume such cases to be typical.

are concerned with people who are genetically the exact same person, not those who are purported to share racial characteristics

First of all, this discussion is just about a person's intelligence and their ability to assimilate education and how the system doesn't look at that. You and others bringing up race because of Murray's background and the particular situation in the US, but that's really besides the point in terms of analysis. Take a homogenous society like, say, Finland, and this would still be a factor to look at within the context of the performance of the Finnish educational system. I am fairly certain that not everyone in Finland scores As or Bs and among those who don't, not all are slackers. This focus on race, like I said, stems mostly from looking at the source of the argument. But just incidentally, to take up your point about genetics vs. race, I point you again to the very first study I cited in this thread..

From Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies:
---
We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population. Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.
---
posted by Gyan at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2007


Ezra has done a great job of collecting the criticism of Murray and his poorly asserted claims to an inherent g factor of intelligence is a major determining factor in "success."

Here it is.

It also reminds me of why I thought the guy was a fraud (the way he published the book). I also think I was confusing Murray with a gun control nut, who was a blatant fraud.

In any event, there are very, very serious criticism of a simple metric like IQ being the innate or determining factor in test scores (and the links Gyan gives by psychometrics folk seem to be falling for a very problematic mathematical interpretation of correlation. Again: You MUST read and understand the Heckman's critique of such thinking. Even the psychometricians seem not to understand the math well enough).

Heckman destroys the assertions of The Bell Curve completely.

IQ/g is a determining factor in "success." It is not the determining factor, by any stretch of the imagination. By all measures, it's pretty minor.
posted by teece at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2007


In Roman times the civilized world thought that the Germanics and the British islanders were kind of dim.

Just shows what a thousand years of times tables and birch rodding can do for you.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2007


teece: You MUST read and understand the Heckman's critique of such thinking.

Certainly something to look at. How does one decide if one has understood the critique 'correctly'?

IQ/g is a determining factor in "success." It is not the determining factor, by any stretch of the imagination.

a)Intelligence is the variable we are interested in. IQ is just a purported metric, which is roughly indicative but no more. 'g' is a more direct relation.
b)This discussion is about success in absorbing education, not in life, overall. Murray agrees with you in the latter respect.
posted by Gyan at 6:33 PM on January 20, 2007


Here are parts two and three for those still listening.

Mind you, I think he's right about the too many people going to college thing. I remember Clinton saying we should be sending all kids to college. I thought it rubbish then and I think it rubbish now. As if we had no need of butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

Remember the Father Guido Sarducci skit on SNL lo those many years ago? For something like ten dollars, he would send you everything you could expect to remember from college ten years after graduation. So- economics? Supply and demand. Ten buck, please. Came with a diploma.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:49 PM on January 21, 2007


As if we had no need of butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

I suppose it depends on what you think college is and what you think it's for.

If by college you mean the since-1962 or so "tradition" of a place where kids go to "find themselves" and to either get exposed to a lot of pseudo-intellectual maundering or (and this seems to be the modern variant) exhaustively exercise their id in an atmosphere unrestraint -- well, then, I agree with you, that's not for everyone. And we might well be better off if we re-thought that whole idea.

But where do you suppose those butchers and bakers learn their trades? Mostly at college.

Yes, Community Colleges are colleges, after all. And I damn well want just about everyone who can haul their ass out of bed to get to class going at least to a competent community college -- especially in view of the crappy functional educations they're getting in the NCLB-era high school.
posted by lodurr at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2007


And I damn well want just about everyone who can haul their ass out of bed to get to class going at least to a competent community college -- especially in view of the crappy functional educations they're getting in the NCLB-era high school.

So we would be forcing kids to suffer through twelve years of a lousy education to get a useless diploma, at the end of which they will be compelled to take out loans to pay for another two years to learn the skills that the educational system failed to teach them during the preceding twelve.

That strikes me as stupid, inefficient and unjust. Why not make a high school diploma a meaningful degree instead?
posted by jason's_planet at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2007


From part two above:

Combine those who are unqualified with those who are qualified but not interested, and some large proportion of students on today's college campuses--probably a majority of them--are looking for something that the four-year college was not designed to provide. Once there, they create a demand for practical courses, taught at an intellectual level that can be handled by someone with a mildly above-average IQ and/or mild motivation.

Seems pretty consistent with my own experiences at a large state school. A lot of people there were just sleepwalking through it and enjoying the opportunity to extend their adolescence for a few more years. They weren't learning anything. They weren't challenging themselves.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:18 PM on January 22, 2007


That strikes me as stupid, inefficient and unjust. Why not make a high school diploma a meaningful degree instead?

That's a great idea. Perhaps the shade of John Dewey will come back and help us out.

For the present, though, community colleges have by and large replaced the high schools as the place where you learn things that are actually useful.
posted by lodurr at 2:09 PM on January 22, 2007



But where do you suppose those butchers and bakers learn their trades? Mostly at college.

A good number of tradesmen I know learned their skills at their fathers' knees (or someone else's father's knee). But point taken, and I think we agree more than we disagree. I also think that America stretches out the whole education way process too long. Highschools used to teach what the community colleges or the FITs, CIAs, RISDs or other dedicated tradeschools- waste of time and money, really.

Might we also bring back apprenticeships as a going concern, as in, say, Germany? Besides its obvious benefits, it forces adolescents to spend more time in the company of adults and learn our ways. Puts a break on some of the excesses they learn when left primarily to their own kind.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:59 PM on January 23, 2007


... it forces adolescents to spend more time in the company of adults and learn our ways.

This made me smile. It's a good point, though, and a good thing to aspire to. As I see it, the single biggest problem with the college experience in America (and maybe elsewhere) is that it's (as someone phrased it upthread) basically devolved to a way to extend adolescence for another four years.

The really big problem with that is that it's four years when the kids are shaping patterns and mental habits that will drive the course of the rest of their lives.

The really big barrier to changing that is that there's a lot of money in making sure that people stay adolescents as long as possible.
posted by lodurr at 3:57 AM on January 24, 2007


You are moving the goalposts now. Your original point was

"My primary issue is that IQ is commonly perceived as a static measure of an innate quality".

To which I cited studies showing genes are the primary force driving cognitive ability and their influence apparently increases with age. So, IQ is not static, but its foundations are more innate than not.


My concern here has been how the IQ score of a 7th grader is going to affect his or her education and future career options. If the student is a minority in a low income neighborhood who is not expected to do well and is hardly given sufficient opportunity in the local school, they may have a lower IQ score than a similar individual in a good neighborhood where expectations are higher. There are two possible approaches here: the kids in the low income neighborhood have lower IQ scores because they are genetically less capable, or because they have been given less attention & opportunity. I think we should generally assume the latter, at least until we have truly made opportunities equal.

Take a homogenous society like, say, Finland, and this would still be a factor to look at within the context of the performance of the Finnish educational system. I am fairly certain that not everyone in Finland scores As or Bs and among those who don't, not all are slackers.

I have no problem with a percentage of a classroom doing poorly - there ought to be a range of grades in any group. If it is a difference of individuals and there are no presumptions of which individuals do better or worse, I do not have a problem with some percentage of the population being non-intellectual. The problem only comes in if we expect a specific portion of the population to do poorly. How do we know we are not affecting the outcome? If we start from the stated or unstated assumption that the black kids will be better at sports but the asians at academics, we a)influence our own judgments (ie, if we read the paper without reading the name, would we grade it the same way); b)influence the kid's efforts (I'm no good at this anyway); and c)are unfair to the outliers even if the average shows a mild statistical dis/advantage. It's generally a small difference, and at this point there is no way to know it's not primarily cultural.

If we are not talking about group differences at all but only the fact that some percentage of the classroom across the board (equally among every neighborhood, race, class etc) is going to do poorly, it seems as if that is largely a matter of determining what our aims ought to be. I do not think we can argue at this stage that we are expecting too much generally of our public school students. There may be a point that would be unreasonable to pass in terms of basic requirements, but it is hard to imagine we have approached it yet.
posted by mdn at 4:42 PM on January 24, 2007


I wrote earlier: Scientific American published an interesting article in the late 1980s or early 1990s comparing American and East Asian educational methods. (Unfortunately I can't find it online.)

Found it offline: Harold W. Stevenson, "Learning from Asian Schools," Scientific American, December 1992. A review.
posted by russilwvong at 3:26 PM on February 14, 2007


Quote from the Stevenson obit: "The Japanese and Chinese believe that people are basically the same and that the difference between success and failure lies in how hard you work," Dr. Stevenson said in 1987. "Americans give more importance to native ability, so they have less incentive to work hard in school."
posted by russilwvong at 3:27 PM on February 14, 2007


« Older Economic States   |   Joe Meek demos Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post