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Carlos Is an Asian at Heart
July 23, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Why do Asian-American students achieve higher grades than Latino-American students? Despite the fact that the students come from the same socioeconomic background (median annual household incomes below $50,000 in working-class Los Angeles neighborhoods), Asian-American students disproportionately get better grades, attend AP courses, and go to college than their Latino-American counterparts. Students at Lincoln High School sit down for a frank discussion of why that is.
posted by jabberjaw (234 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
1. Asians have higher IQs
2. Their parents push them like crazy, which may be a function of 1.
posted by plexi at 6:03 PM on July 23, 2008


effect and cause much, plexi?
posted by yort at 6:07 PM on July 23, 2008


These sound like great kids all around.

Claude Steele, who teaches psychology at Stanford, has a good partial answer for the achievement gap.

Also, we may want to avoid pat answers about IQs.
posted by ferdydurke at 6:12 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


At the risk of being un-pc I noticed the same thing when I looked at elementary school rankings in the Bay Area. If you look at the breakdown by race, students at all schools score (the is the CA API score) in groups correlated with their race - the Asian groups scores in the 900's, Whites in the 700-800s and Hispanic students in the 600-800s. So when you look at a school's overall score it's determined more by the ethnic makeup of the student body and less by and actual differential in teaching - white students tend to perform the same even in schools with a poor overall score for example. And the only schools with really high API scores are ones that have a nearly 100% asian student body (e.g. Cupertino). Once I got to that point I stopped looking at the test score data because I figured it wasn't going to tell me much about whether a given school would be right for my kids.

I have no explanation why this is the case, but it doesn't take someone with a PhD in statistics to see the correlation between race and academic achievement (well, standardized test achievement). The data is pretty straightforward at least in the gross manner it's presented.

As a side note, students whose parents have graduate degrees tend to get high scores, so I figure my kids don't even need to study. They can just cruise by on my degree alone.
posted by GuyZero at 6:14 PM on July 23, 2008


Diet perhaps is one influence? I wonder if corn (maize) consumption has anything to do with it. High fructise corn syrup seems to have some correlation with making Americans fatter and less motivated; I wonder if the prevalence of corn in the Latino diet has a similar effect.

Certainly, the relative abundance of cheap high-sugar, high-carbohydrate foods in the US plays havoc with the cultural habits of Latinos accustomed to greater scarcity -- if you're poor in a Guatemalan village, eating as many tortillas as you can is a necessary cultural adaptation. In the US, even on minimum wage you can get so much more, and the cultural habit of eating as much as you can turns into fat and super-sized health problems.
posted by orthogonality at 6:17 PM on July 23, 2008


I'd like to suggest that before we get into this much further that people clarify whether they're talking about genetics or culture.

I suspect there are little, if any, genetic factors improving the scores of asian students, and I suspect there are some fairly major cultural factors that are doing so.
posted by Ryvar at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


Gosh, race or culture. Hm.
posted by maxwelton at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or what Ryvar said.
posted by maxwelton at 6:20 PM on July 23, 2008


I work late night in a University Engineering Complex. When I trot down to the breakroom at 3:00 in the morning, I mostly see Asian students sitting behind piles of books.
posted by RavinDave at 6:20 PM on July 23, 2008


Asian parents are more likely to pressure their children to excel academically, the students agreed.

wow. took the down-zelled times (see what I did there? so clever. I stole it, too!) only 800 words to state the obvious.
posted by krautland at 6:24 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When I was in college, I interviewed a professor for the student newspaper. He was one of three professors on campus that had taught at the school non-stop since the school's first class in the early 1950s.

I asked him the usual questions about what the school was like in those days, how it had grown and changed. I turned to the question of the students, and he compared/contrasted students from the various decades.

One thing, though, hadn't changed at all, he said. In an area of the country (Southern California) that had always had a huge Hispanic population, Hispanic students were still the outliers within their own communities. They made up 60-70 percent of the general population of the county, and only 10 percent of the school's population. Moreover, many were regarded almost as pariahs for attending college.

He said one student in that first class in the 50s asked that the professor to never call his house, because his parents didn't know he was going to college, and if they did know, they would make him quit. Thirty years later, another student asked him essentially the same thing, not that his family would make him quit, but that it was an uncomfortable subject at home.

So, if you ask me, why do Asian-American students achieve higher grades than Latino-American students ... it's largely because their families simply ask them to.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:25 PM on July 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


As an Asian from the Asian education system, it's more about parents, teachers, and the rest of society pushing them, than anything to do with their IQ. Often they're just "school smart" but not "life smart" - they complete tests well but have no idea how to function in the real world outside school because there isn't something concise to study or someone to spoonfeed them with information. They never develop skills in learning, critical thinking, and creativity - basically, they're not academically independent.
posted by divabat at 6:27 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


"They only start paying attention if I don't do well," said Karen Chu, 15, whose parents emigrated from Vietnam. "They don't reward me for getting straight A's. I don't get anything for that. But if I get a B, they're like, 'What's this?' "

Yep, I'm pretty sure this is your answer. It's not that complicated.
I still get annoyed when I think of my parents forcing me to read SAT preparation books... in 5th grade.
posted by naju at 6:29 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ryvar writes "I suspect there are little, if any, genetic factors improving the scores of asian students, and I suspect there are some fairly major cultural factors that are doing so."

I suspect it's both, thought I know that suggesting race influences IQ is terribly unfashionable. But suspecting is a poor substitute for well-designed empirical studies.

Among Africans from malarial regions, the sickle-cell mutation isn't bred out of the population, even though having both parents heterozygous for the mutation means on average one out of every four children will die of the disease. But heterozygotes gain a resistance to malaria ,the benefit of which (in living to have additional children) equals the cost of losing one child in four.

Among Ashkenazi Jews, the genes for Tay Sachs and cystic fibrosis are also not bred out of the population. So what's the offsetting benefit? Possibly greater intelligence.
posted by orthogonality at 6:30 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is there any reason to think that the Asian students aren't genetically better equipped for academic study? Any actual evidence for or against? Any reasonable person would want all human populations to be equal in this regard, but is there solid evidence somewhere that this is the case?
posted by nowonmai at 6:31 PM on July 23, 2008


I was expecting some pseudo racist garbage, but this article was a wonderful relief. It's really great to see that these kids know exactly the reasons for the discrepancies.

It's also good that, besides a weird blip at the beginning of the comments, MeFites seem to get it to. (Yes, culture can explain it. Yes, it really can. I know, I know, we all thought intelligence was genetic, but across human differences, for the most part, it really is a matter of upbringing.)
posted by Alex404 at 6:33 PM on July 23, 2008


... it's largely because their families simply ask them to.

Ask? No. Demand.
posted by tkchrist at 6:35 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


To clarify:

Acceptable stereotype: Asians perform better because their parents push them harder.
Unacceptable stereotype: Asians perform better because they are genetically predisposed towards higher intelligence.

Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another? I don't know. I do know that if you even suggest that it's worth investigating whether race plays a role in intelligence, you will be decried as a bigot. It seems incredibly close minded to say that it's not possible genetics play a role here.
posted by christonabike at 6:35 PM on July 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


If we're comparing Chinese Vietnamese immigrants to El Norte immigrants, the differences may not even be that cultural.

The Chinese were already a minority in Vietnam, a country that had suffered under 30 years of civil war (not to forget 50 years of brutal French and Japanese occupations), and generally strived for middle class occupations, as merchants etc. To get here, for most of them, required buying the services of a boat, packing your entire life & family onto it, and casting off eastwards in the hope of being intercepted by a commercial ship, then spending months if not years in a crowded refugee camp in Hong Kong until US immigration got to your case.

Once here, the Chinese Vietnamese are still a minority but have the familial history and connections for to succeed in their middle class expectations.

Race, culture -- let's not forget family.

“Every happy family is the same, but unhappy families are all different.”
posted by yort at 6:40 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


it's appropriate that this discussion is occuring in a high school as that's precisely where it belongs.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:42 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


My "disaster thread" senses are tingling.
posted by Avenger at 6:43 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


All you people claiming it's something genetic seem to forget that there's more than one type of "Asian". India mean anything to you? Indonesia? Uzbekistan? Would Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people all be "the same"?

While many things differ across these varied Asian cultures, one thing that's common is the importance of education. It's something that a lot of Asian philosophy and religion centres on - the importance of learning more and doing well.

In one way it is a class marker: you wouldn't often see schoolkids in Asia working (unlike those in Western societies that take part-time or summer jobs) because the expectation is to spend all your time studying. Even extra-curricular activities are frowned upon in the exam years. If you are working when you're meant to be studying, it's usually an indication that your family is poor - and, by extension, will never aspire to leave the lower working class.

You can't afford extra tuition (usually populated by middle-class kids who already know the information but want the extra boost from A2 to A1 because of parental expectation), you probably still can't afford school even though it's "free", and you can't afford to do anything else but work to make a living. Problem is, because you can't afford to do all that, you won't get the required papers that allow you to get a better job and earn more money and make a more comfortable living. The Ivory Tower is not an insult - it's an aspiration.

What I notice with Asian migrant families is that there's a lot of "your grandfather sacrificed so much to come to this country and make sure you are not poor! Do you want to disappoint him?! NO! So study!". Education is seen as the great entryway to a better life. Filial piety is strong. Do what your parents say - or risk getting disowned. This is tied to a very materialistic view of life - success is determined by how much money you have, or how prestigious your job title is. That was what determined your class and social structure in the "old country" (well, even now really) and that's how you're meant to make a better life to support your family like they supported you.

I've read a lot of books and seen movies where some non-Asian families don't like the idea of their children aspiring for college, "they won't be good enough anyway". You'll hardly, if ever, see this mindset in Asian families, and it puzzled me a lot when I read it. Formal education is the ticket to everything - so why not succeed?

The book Doing School by Denise Clark Pope of Stanford has a case study on an Asian student that was pressured by her family and by society to do every extracurricular and take every AP available. Why? So that she will go to Harvard. Nothing else is good enough, no matter what she herself wanted. It became such a strong competition that she kept her volunteering work at a hospital a secret from her friends - in fear that her friends would start doing it too and make her less special in Harvard's eyes. Her health suffered majorly, and she was eating crap - but it was all apparently worth it (to her) to attain this success. Good grades = Harvard = great job = more money = better life.
posted by divabat at 6:50 PM on July 23, 2008 [18 favorites]


This post needs more tags.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:56 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you come up with a way to measure intelligence that isn't affected at all by cultural factors, then you can look for your genetic race/intelligence link.
Even then though, what possible benefit could be gained from such a study? I understand the purely academic curiosity, but you must realize the results of such a study would only be used for evil.
posted by rocket88 at 6:57 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another?

Because the racial argument in the absence of overwhelmingly convincing data support is unproductive to the larger question of how we can get all students to achieve their potentials.

It seems incredibly close minded to say that it's not possible genetics play a role here

To treat people with the individual dignity they deserve we should strive to reduce prejudice and pernicious bigotry.

Now, I am not so PC perfect that I deny that the genetics of IQ distribution might, in fact, be a factor, but given the overwhelming effects that familial, community, cultural, economic, etc factors exert I just don't see much "there" there in asserting that some collections of millions of people might be stupider than the average thanks to their genes.

(I have no problem with the opposite assertion that some people may be smarter than the average thanks to their genes since it's easier to test for that)
posted by yort at 6:57 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I remember an asian kid in my 5th grade class bring said class to a complete standstill by sobbing uncontrollably for a good 15 minutes after being told he had just earned his first detention, albeit for doing his homework wrong (FYI the entire class had done likewise and earned the same punishment). In between sobs he blubbered about how his parents would most assuredly wail on him with a feather duster once notification of this double whammy of detention/bad homework got to them.

Also, I am selling lawnchairs and popcorn here at stall #77. Mention this thread for a discount.
posted by nudar at 6:59 PM on July 23, 2008


I just noticed an apparent contradiction in my earlier comment. I mention that extra-curriculars are frowned upon as they get in the way of study, but then mention the Asian girl who did everything imaginable to get into Harvard.

Schools around here (I was brought up in Malaysia) only use academics as a measure of suitability for higher education, and often for jobs. The concept of looking beyond a person's grades or transcripts are relatively new here, and mainly confined at non-traditional industries or institutions (i.e. creative, international, etc). Entrepreneurship is also looked at strangely unless you become a big business tycoon earning millions. If you bring up the "As don't matter that much!" argument (which I do all the time), you get a lot of opposition from people going "As are the only way you'll get into university! As are the only way you'll get a job!" even if a lot of evidence exists to refute that.

In places like America, grades aren't the only deciding factor. Extra-curriculars often make the difference, so there's more pressure to get involved in anything just for the sake of making your resume longer. Even then you're expected to take the hardest classes and score all As. In this sense, it's less about extra-curriculars/no extra-curriculars and more about doing whatever it takes to get into Prestigious Top University.
posted by divabat at 7:05 PM on July 23, 2008


nudar: There are kids in Malaysia killing themselves for getting a single D in exams. Honestly, between the suicide and the societal grilling they'll get for a lot of their life (which led to the suicidal thoughts), I don't know what's worse.
posted by divabat at 7:06 PM on July 23, 2008


Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another?

Because the conception of race based on genetics is intellectually vacuous. It has been conclusively shown that genetic differences between individuals trump differences between racial groups. So in terms of genetics, race does not even really exist.
posted by AceRock at 7:06 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Students at the school I teach at call any mark below 80 an Asian fail.
posted by trigger at 7:09 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know what's worse.
posted by divabat


Agreed. I didn't post that anecdote to redicule that kid. I posted it because I remember I was thanking jeebus my parents weren't that nuts.
posted by nudar at 7:13 PM on July 23, 2008


Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another?

One race-based stereotype is okay if it soothes guilty feelings about other race-based stereotypes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:14 PM on July 23, 2008


Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another? I don't know.

Unless you just arrived from space, I'm pretty sure you do know. In the event that you are from space - I apologize for assuming that you were being disingenuous, and am sorry to have the duty to inform you that - far from being something that it hasn't occurred to anyone to study or think about - humans are sort of just now coming away from the tendency to attribute everything to race. There's a long and ugly history of that sort of thing, actually.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:16 PM on July 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yes it is much less insulting to my sense of human dignity and equality to believe that all people of a given ethnicity have the same attitude towards a particular pursuit rather than believing that all people of a given ethnicity happen to have, through chance historical genetic events, an enhanced propensity for success in a given activity.

Compare:
(a) Asians achieve highly in math because all asian parents choose to ride their children until they're freshmen at Harvard.
(b) Asians achieve highly in math because of a chance higher proportion of a given gene or set of genes that confers relatively enhanced visuospatial cognition in asian populations.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 7:16 PM on July 23, 2008


A bit off topic but I am reminded that Kurt Vonnegut's son became (after a troubled early life) a doctor and was on the admissions board for medical school at Harvard. He said that ilf the group;were really honest in admissions, most of those admitted--some 9-0 percent--would be Asian.

My son taught English in Korea for a few years and told me that young students there were great at math but in learning were not allowed to use calculators.

I won't attempt to enter the fray about Nature and Nurture and what parents want etc but it might be worth exploring what family life is like in a variety of cultures. In the Black community, huge number of out-of-wedlock children and single family homes; in Hispanic homes, may be even worse. Asian homes? Now there may be some connection in this cross-cultural study.
posted by Postroad at 7:22 PM on July 23, 2008


divabat's characterisation of Asian students rings very true from my experience of high school & university.

Anectodally, I was constantly amazed that in my Masters course, I was one of only about two or three white Australians in any class (of 30-40 students) that I took. The overwhelming majority were Asians or subcontinentals.

(admittedly, a proportion were only enrolled for migration purposes - spend long enough as a student & you can claim residency status, then eventually citizenship. Private "English language colleges" do very well out of this business)

In part, I put this down to a generational mentality related to immigration. The first generation of immigrants (those born overseas) struggle to build a better life for their kids, often working in manual jobs, and far below their qualifications (if educated).

Their kids (the second generation) are pushed hard & strive to succeed in some kind of professional or business field.

I believe that the rot sets in with the third & subsequent generations. Born into a privileged society & distanced enough from the hardships back in the mother country, these are the generations that tend to follow their interests rather than strict financial success, and end up slacking off, travelling the world, pursuing liberal arts degrees or artistic careers, working for nonprofits or charities, and so on.

As a grandchild of European refugees, this is where I fit into that model, but It should be quite soon that the more recent Asian migrants & refugees reach the generational level where they become lazy, hedonistic Aussies like the rest of us, where the good life is something you're born with and take for granted, not something you need to strive particularly hard for.

(of course, this goes no way towards explaining the supposed Asian v Latino thing, but we don't really have Latinos - in the American sense - here in any significant numbers, so I won't comment)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:22 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Great article, thanks for the FPP.

Have we magically returned to the late 1800s? The defenses of race-based intelligence here are really weird to read -- surely some of this is tongue in cheek, no?

Purely anecdotally, I have known a bunch of Asian and Asian-American kids who were very glumly pursuing science- and medical-based careers under intense family pressure, despite their desire to follow a very different direction. It's a phenomenon that transcends any one culture, obviously (the same thing happened to my uncle forty years ago, for example); the family pressure, though, is so overt and so intense in some cases that it is really tough on the poor kids.
posted by Forktine at 7:23 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


My dad came over from Japan after college. He hated Japan and the culture there and didn't even go back to visit for 25 years. He did about all he could to drop Japanese culture and be as American as possible. He changed his name from Katsuhiko to Tony. Tony!

He also made me study really hard and I went to Harvard.

I think it's genetic, but not that we're genetically smarter. Asians are relatively small people, and all look the same. We can't get ahead with our strength or our looks, so we use our brains to get ahead in life.
posted by snofoam at 7:23 PM on July 23, 2008


maybe something like....
"Why there so many Jewish doctors? Because there a so many Jewish mothers"
posted by robbyrobs at 7:28 PM on July 23, 2008


Asians are relatively small people, and all look the same. We can't get ahead with our strength or our looks, so we use our brains to get ahead in life.

Wait, what?

WHAT

NO WAIT STOP

YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW
posted by Avenger at 7:30 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't care what races you all are. You're all idiots.

It's like you all said, "Hmm, how can we best show our ignorance about the science of intelligence, genetics, and show that we didn't read the article?"
posted by Eideteker at 7:39 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


(You're not all idiots. Those of you who are not idiots know who you are. Those of you who are idiots think you know who you are, but you're wrong, because you're idiots.)
posted by Eideteker at 7:40 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dude went to harvard, man. Cut him some slack.
posted by zpousman at 7:43 PM on July 23, 2008


A bit off topic but I am reminded that Kurt Vonnegut's son became (after a troubled early life) a doctor and was on the admissions board for medical school at Harvard. He said that ilf the group;were really honest in admissions, most of those admitted--some 9-0 percent--would be Asian.

Totally off topic (although relevant in terms of parental expectations of their children), but this reminded me of an old interview with Vonnegut:

Vonnegut said he was disappointed in his children only because ''they aren't more urban people. I'd hoped they would get interested in the problems of the cities. But I'd made sort of a naive mistake. I'd raised them in the country so they didn't know anything about the city.

''A couple of them are starting to get the idea and become urban. But one is a goat farmer in Jamaica, and is probably the happiest of the bunch, and I admire his doing this.''

posted by Forktine at 7:43 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the topic od this Asian stereotype - See also: Ricky from We Can be Heroes
posted by nudar at 7:43 PM on July 23, 2008


We can't get ahead with our strength or our looks, so we use our brains to get ahead in life.

But you all know martial arts, which would pave the way for success through fear.
posted by jonmc at 7:47 PM on July 23, 2008


It doesn't surprise me at all that Asian-Americans do well. Those Israelis are smart cookies.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:50 PM on July 23, 2008


Just to throw this out here: Any genetic theory that explains a minority's comparatively high educational attainment needs to be able to explain why African-Americans do so poorly in school and African Immigrants do so well—better than Asian-American students, statistically. I'm all ears.
posted by Weebot at 7:55 PM on July 23, 2008 [12 favorites]


So in terms of genetics, race does not even really exist.

This is misleading, though. Race might not exist but distinct ethnic groups do. Are you going to deny that a person in an ethnic group known as "Ashkenazi Jewish" is more likely to have Tay-Sachs than a random person? That people of black African descent are more likely to have sickle-cell anemia?
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


and African Immigrants do so well—better than Asian-American students, statistically. I'm all ears.

Cite? I'm not denying it, I've just never heard that before.
posted by Justinian at 7:58 PM on July 23, 2008


A useful link that may be good reading for everyone here is wikipedia's race and intelligence page.
posted by sien at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2008


Both race and culture are pretty undermining to the individual but if metafilter is supposedly open minded and not very racist and open society is very racist, we all ought to join some kind of an Asian Supremacy group. I can't believe I didn't read a single comment about the downsides to positive stereotypes. Asia's best and brightest are the people that moved to other countries; perhaps that skewed the sample somewhat as well...Suffice to say, jumping to either racist or culturalist conclusions based on something that is inherently complex and impossibly hurtful to non-conformist is counterproductive but it seems to be happening here on metafilter.

You can help to stop the spread of stereotypes and generalizations right here and now.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


here's my three part proof and prediction:

1. Brian Eno. Not asian. Also, not strong and not strikingly handsome. He did lots of great stuff. Smart stuff. Stuff too smart to be commercially successful, but later he made a killing producing U2 records. Relevance of this part? Minimal.

2. Early mammals. They were small, nondescript creatures. Dinosaurs were big-ass animals with horns and weird shit, but small brains. Look where mammals are now.

3. In 1971, McDonald's Japan President Den Fujita declared: "The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years." Going further, he says: "If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white, and our hair blonde."

Asians will outsmart the other races, then "McDonald's-ize" to become big and sexy and eventually dominate the world. It happened with mammals and Brian Eno, it will happen with asians.
posted by snofoam at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2008 [15 favorites]


Asians will outsmart the other races, then "McDonald's-ize" to become big and sexy and eventually dominate the world. It happened with mammals and Brian Eno, it will happen with asians.

Just look at Godzilla, man.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 PM on July 23, 2008


Race might not exist but distinct ethnic groups do. Are you going to deny that a person in an ethnic group known as "Ashkenazi Jewish" is more likely to have Tay-Sachs than a random person? That people of black African descent are more likely to have sickle-cell anemia?

Those statements don't necessarily follow, though. There are traits that are more pronounced on the whole in groups that we can identify - but that doesn't mean that "race" exists. People of northern European extraction are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than people from anywhere else in the world - but that doesn't mean that "northern European" is a distinct ethnicity - any more than Italians, who are more likely than Swedes to have dark hair and brown eyes, constitute a distinct ethnic group.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:08 PM on July 23, 2008


any more than Italians, who are more likely than Swedes to have dark hair and brown eyes, constitute a distinct ethnic group.

the proof is in the meatballs.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 PM on July 23, 2008


Again, I would go back to cultural factors. I note the comment that there are many Jewish doctors because there are many Jewish mothers. But why do Jewish mothers want their sons to be doctors?
And no. More complicated than it being a fine profession. Jews were highly regarded as doctors because like Arabs they began to experiment on the body whereas Catholic dogma forbid this.
Jewish families preferred sons to become rabbis. In America, under assimilation, the Jews, still a people of the book, became doctors and lawyers. Interestingly, many became academics but were unable to go into administration at universities. That all has changed of course, and so too, Italians have followed this path into medicine, lawyers, academics, and yes, administrators. Jews relished books, given biblical explication early on, and transitioned into writing and academia. Blacks by contrast were forbidden to learn to read and write under most state laws during days of slavery.

I am puzzled why issues such as broken homes, outof-wedlock children etc are so seldom studied by exploring historic cultural roots. The Nazis hated the number of Jews in govt and asserted a snake-like duplicity on their part, and yet the same Nazis hated the gypsies, a people with no jobs, mostly. Why? The gypsies were rootless and the Germans touted blood and soil. The Jews fell into this grouping too: they were a wandering tribe with no real roots in Germany. European nations also used this nonsense and booted Jews out of Spain, England and France.
posted by Postroad at 8:10 PM on July 23, 2008


norabarnacl3: come to Malaysia and you will see situation (a) true on a NATIONAL level. When the Government will only give overseas scholarships to "top" (read: Oxbridge/Ivy) universities, when only students who go there get the front page of newspapers, when just adding the word "Harvard" could affect your pay scale immensely...why NOT the pressure?
posted by divabat at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2008


It's got fuck-all to do with race and everything to do with culture, culture, culture.

There will always be exceptions, but in a large enough sample, children will generally live up to, or down to, the expectations of their families and peer groups.
posted by chimaera at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Justinian: Here you go.

NYT, Lewis Mumford Center analysis of the 2000 Census, SF Chronicle, and depending on how skeptical you feel, you can check out Wikipedia's article on the subject.
posted by Weebot at 8:12 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


why can't we all just get along
posted by doogyrev at 8:14 PM on July 23, 2008


Also, there are way too many serious discussions about why people think asians are so smart, and way too few about why people think asian chicks are so hot. Can we just accept that we're at a dead end on the asians=smart debate and spend our energy trying to figure out the hot asian chicks conundrum?
posted by snofoam at 8:15 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


the proof is in the meatballs.

Each to their own. I prefer to think that the proof is in the putana.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:15 PM on July 23, 2008


My son taught English in Korea for a few years and told me that young students there were great at math but in learning were not allowed to use calculators.
So? You become great at math by learning about math very in depth. Calculators are tools to aid in the problem-solving process after you become great at math. I'm not seeing what is so unusual about what your son observed in Korea.

In any case, my family came to the US from Greece, and for a little bit I was taking a class in Greece, and my teacher explained the culture like this: each small village has a doctor, a teacher, a priest, and a policeman. So parents push their children to be doctors, teachers, priests, and policemen.

What it comes down to is what all the parents view "success" to mean for their children. For some parents, it means "to work and have a steady job." For other parents it means "be like the most respected person in our old hometown." For others it means "join the next rung in the social class system." Depending on the parents' ambition for their children, they're going to raise them differently and have different academic expectations and demands for them.
posted by deanc at 8:16 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Diet perhaps is one influence? I wonder if corn (maize) consumption has anything to do with it. High fructise corn syrup seems to have some correlation with making Americans fatter and less motivated; I wonder if the prevalence of corn in the Latino diet has a similar effect.

Wow. That was just about one of the dumbest things I've ever read.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 PM on July 23, 2008 [12 favorites]


Weebot: Thanks!
posted by Justinian at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2008


Asia's best and brightest are the people that moved to other countries; perhaps that skewed the sample somewhat as well.

Ding! I can't believe enough people haven't recognized the effects of brain drain. People from all over the world (and Asia in particular) claw and fight and struggle to get into this country, since immigration is so tough here, and admission requires an education, money, or both. (A significant portion of Latin Americans have a less difficult battle to cross the border.)

So in a way it's both genetic and cultural. It's genetic because the people who do make it over here are likely genetically superior in intelligence compared to the countrymen they left behind. In addition, Asian cultures have a strong sense of education as the path to enlightenment.

Of course, reverse brain drain (coming here to the US for a great education and then going back to home country) is a real phenomenon as well, and is certainly apparent in the Chinese and Indian communities.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:20 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and seconding delmoi on his analysis of the earlier corn diet comment. The original corn diet comment was really about as stupid as the thing I quoted about Japanese people eating McDonald's hamburgers and becoming tall and blonde. Let's not blame tacos.
posted by snofoam at 8:21 PM on July 23, 2008


By the way, when people talk about the success of Asians in the U.S. it's important to remember that many of the Asians that came over here were at the top of their society or already middle class.

Look at the situation with the Hmong, who actually have pretty low academic achievement, from what I recall. There's probably not much genetic difference between them and other south east Asians, but they didn't have the same sort of academic culture, etc.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 PM on July 23, 2008


I prefer to think that the proof is in the putana.

or in this case, puttanesca.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2008


I eat plenty of tacos and ingest entirely more high-fructose corn syrup. I also hold a physical science degree from a highly regarded institution. Re: your corn theory -- I refute it thus!
posted by chimaera at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Japanese people eating McDonald's hamburgers and becoming tall

Uh-oh. this means that sushi-eating Americans are going to shrink.
posted by jonmc at 8:25 PM on July 23, 2008


That should read "entirely more high-fructose corn syrup than I probably should."
posted by chimaera at 8:25 PM on July 23, 2008


Also, regarding the idea that immigrants are genetically more intelligent than the folks that don't get the gumption to go somewhere better. I think there's a whole scientific concept of falling back to the mean. Like, if you have a 7 foot kid, their kids are probably not going to be 8 ft tall, but they're likely to be back towards normal height. Even if there is genetic superiority in intelligence in some individuals, like other attributes it probably is largely dropped the next generation. Someone surely knows the name for this, but I can't think of it right now.
posted by snofoam at 8:26 PM on July 23, 2008


So, ehm, I wonder if anybody is familiar with the Model Minority Stereotype.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:28 PM on July 23, 2008


Someone surely knows the name for this, but I can't think of it right now.

Regression Toward the Mean.
posted by deanc at 8:29 PM on July 23, 2008


A useful link that may be good reading for everyone here is wikipedia's race and intelligence page.

Yeah, because what could be a better way to learn about race and intelligence then a page written by random people on the internet obsessed with race and intelligence.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Compare:
(a) Asians achieve highly in math because all asian parents choose to ride their children until they're freshmen at Harvard.
(b) Asians achieve highly in math because of a chance higher proportion of a given gene or set of genes that confers relatively enhanced visuospatial cognition in asian populations.


The problem with that comparison is that we actually have lots of evidence that (a) might be true, (the history of Confucian cultures emphasizing education and sociological evidence that shows modern Asian* familes tend to also emphasize education) and we have zero evidence that anything like (b) would be true. Why people here keep giving both hypothesis equal weight is baffling.


* I hate using the word "Asian" to refer to vastly different ethnic groups who compromise about 2/3rds of the earth's population, but it seems like fighting a losing battle against it at least in the states. It's even more annoying that "Asian" in Britain is usually assumed to be someone from the Indian Subcontinent, while in the states it is usually assumed to be someone who is East Asian.
posted by afu at 8:32 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Acceptable stereotype: Asians perform better because their parents push them harder.
Unacceptable stereotype: Asians perform better because they are genetically predisposed towards higher intelligence.

Why is one stereotype more acceptable than another? I don't know.


Wow, it must be tough going through life with such a low IQ.

I do know that if you even suggest that it's worth investigating whether race plays a role in intelligence, you will be decried as a bigot.

Because you would actually be a bigot! Funny how that works.
posted by delmoi at 8:34 PM on July 23, 2008


Regression Toward the Mean

See. I'm psychic. I knew someone knew what it was called.

Doesn't that principle kind of undercut the idea of genetically superior asian intellect? Unless one assumes that asians are genetically different enough to have a different mean intelligence. In America, asians are also breeding with other races at much higher rates than any other ethnic group. (Although, to be fair, there's less asians, so there are more potential mates of other races.) This trend should also erase any genetic differences relatively quickly. (Not that there are genetic differences in intelligence to erase.)
posted by snofoam at 8:35 PM on July 23, 2008


"If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will

explode in a big bang that will cause its very own grease universe"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2008


The original corn diet comment was really about as stupid as the thing I quoted about Japanese people eating McDonald's hamburgers and becoming tall and blonde.

Well, there's plenty of empirical evidence that the Japanese have been growing taller & taller, as more western food has crept into their diet in the latter part of this century* (especially, more red meat & other animal proteins). Apart from the becoming whiter & blonder part, it's a true enough observation.

The corn comment was stupid more because HFCS is a refined sugar, quite unlike the complex carbohydrates provided by the ground corn in tortillas. Sugar spikes & lows are a fair enough explanation for performing beneath one's potential.

* You can see the same gradual height increase in Western societies, too. For example, military records show that the average WW1 soldier was something around 5'6" tall
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:37 PM on July 23, 2008


Well, there's plenty of empirical evidence that the Japanese have been growing taller & taller, as more western food has crept into their diet in the latter part of this century*

Woah woah woah. It has nothing to do with "western foods" it has to do with not living in a poor, war-torn society. But yes Japanese have been getting taller, which actually illustrates how even something like height is determined as much by environment then by genetics.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on July 23, 2008


Based on my experiences as an undergraduate at a very competitive university, I have to agree with the "Asians-perform-better-academically-because-their-parents-push-them-harder" camp. During undergrad, I had many Asian friends, and all of them, at one point or another, remarked on their difficult relationship with their parents.

One summer I briefly lived with a very quirky but very sweet girl who needed an extra roommate to help with the rent. She was "Chinese" (I always feel weird describing people as Chinese who are American as far as I'm concerned, but there you go. Also, for the record, I am white). I lived in the "office" and slept on a futon mattress next to the phone. Nearly every day I lived there, I was woken up by the grating, heavily accented voice of my roommate's mother (who, for the record, born in China) barking into the answering machine: "LILY! THIS IS YOUR MOTHER. ARE YOU STUDYING FOR MCATS. IT IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT YOU STUDY FOR MCATS. IT IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR FUTURE, LILY." Variants on this theme continued for at least a couple of minutes and then (mercifully) ceased.

Unfortunately, Lily was not studying for the MCAT. She had stopped going to class and was, at that time, working full-time as a waitress to support a serious drug habit. I honestly believe that her addiction was at least in part rooted in the guilt that she felt for not living up to her family's expectations. But anyways. One day her mother came to visit. During this time, I had to stay out of the apartment because, according to Lily, she was not allowed to have roommates or friends during the pre-MCAT period, during which she was supposed to be studying 24/7. I did my best to avoid her mother, but one day she and Lily came in and caught me eating lunch. I quickly concocted a lie that I just came over there to eat between classes on campus, but her mother, looking at me straight in the eyes, declared Lily had TO STUDY FOR MCATS AND WHEN THE TEST IS OVER, THEN SHE HAVE TIME TO BE WITH AMERICAN FRIENDS AND (glancing at the ravioli I was eating) EAT AMERICAN FOOD. She berated me for twenty minutes at least. All the while I nodded like a maniac. Lily was behind her mother's back, a look of despair on her face, pulling at her hair.

After that visit, her drug problem got considerably worse. It got to the point that she was smoking crack in the bathroom while I was taking a bath (her boyfriend also lived with us, and she was doing her best to hide her habit from him). By the end of the summer, she was rail-thin. I did my best to be there for her, but I had no experience in dealing with drug addiction and honestly, I was relieved when I moved out at the end of the summer to spend the semester abroad.

Granted, this is somewhat of an extreme story (and I apologize if the way I wrote the mother's dialogue seems offensive, but trust me, her words made a deep impression on me, and that is exactly how she talked). But I have never, ever witnessed such pressure coming from a parent, before or since: her desire for her daughter to succeed was so intense that she didn't even notice that her child was unraveling before their eyes. While I am sure that it is possible for a parent from any background to act this way, it was a complete shock for me.

At the very least, this story has a happy ending: Lily cleaned up, took the MCAT, and--you guessed it--went to medical school.
posted by duvatney at 8:42 PM on July 23, 2008 [19 favorites]


I always find it funny (funny strange, not funny ha-ha) that people who claim Asians are genetically smarter than whites will not say the same thing about Jews if they can help it. Because, you know, it's not kosher (ha-ha) to make any racial claims about Jews. Because of, you know, that whole Holocaust thing.

Asian kids are better at science and math and everything else for the reason Jewish kids are better at science and math and everything else -- their parents beat it into them.

Fun thing I read once: Jewish culture celebrates education because the Jewish religion places an emphasis on Torah study as a pillar of the religion (in fact, it's one of the hundreds of Jewish religious commandments). Now, you can't very well study the Torah unless you can read ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:47 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we're going to even entertain the ridiculous notion that asians are genetically smarter than other races, can we also just entertain the notion that because asians have squinty eyes, they have to extrapolate things outside their squinty field of vision and therefore develop superior conceptual thinking skills? 'Cause those things are about equally sensible as far as I'm concerned. If possible, we can entertain these notions while totally ignoring the fact that bullshit theories about the genetics of intelligence have been used to justify slavery, racism, etc.

It's pretty crazy that in our american dream, pull yourself up from your bootstraps society people can for even one second get away with this "maybe there's genetics" bullshit. If anything, it goes to show that the white majority still has a significant influence on discourse in this country. The academic achievements of asians versus hispanics or blacks are just a diversion. The real issue is, how can someone do better than white folks, and how can we justify keeping them from reaping the full dividends of their hard work.

The exact same thing happened in the mid-20th century when there was a huge panic about how many jews were getting into ivy league schools.
posted by snofoam at 8:53 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


At the very least, this story has a happy ending: Lily cleaned up, took the MCAT, and--you guessed it--went to medical school.

Wow, that's good. Because that story was super-depressing man.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 PM on July 23, 2008


It's funny stridently Divabat reminds us of Asian etnic diversity, but then quickly slips into broad characterizations and gross generalities. The extreme emphasis on education is certainly a characteristic of the Confucian-based East Asian cultures, and with them the Chinese diaspora around the world. But I don't think it's true of many of the other cultures in Asia. Are the ethnic Malays this way? I know in Thailand the Thai-Chinese are certainly very education focused, but the ethnic Thais, Lao, Mon, Khmer are not, at least not nearly to the same degree. And of course there all the many hill tribes who don't bother sending their children to school at all. So this idea of a broad Asian focus on education is silly. It's a Confucian thing, not necessarily Asian.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:08 PM on July 23, 2008


I asked this before, but no one answered.

If Hispanics are genetically stupider than white people, then are the Spanish genetically stupider than, say the Polish?
posted by dirigibleman at 9:11 PM on July 23, 2008


WHAT!?

There are hoards - hoards - of slacker remedial Asians. Some even come from families who give/gave a shit (but of course, many are from families who don't).
posted by porpoise at 9:11 PM on July 23, 2008


If Hispanics are genetically stupider than white people, then are the Spanish genetically stupider than, say the Polish?

And if so, where does this leave Tasmanians?
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:12 PM on July 23, 2008


I don't want to enter the racial discussion because the Malcolm Gladwell article near the top does a good job of showing what bullshit that is.

I don't want to enter the cultural discussion because I'm neither Latino nor Aisan, though what those kids were saying rings pretty true to my observed experience.

I do know that expectations from teachers makes a huge difference, though, from having benefitted from it greatly myself.

Now, I'm a very smart guy, not to toot my own horn too much, but very lazy as well. I was always top of my class in elementary school, where being a grade level or two above your peers makes all the difference in the world. In Junior High, where they start actually expecting some degree of work from you, I started to flounder a lot. I couldn't get used to the workload.

I pulled myself out of the hole, not by learning how to work harder, but by learning how to charmm the teachers into believing that I was above all of the other students. It worked. The teachers would smile as they let me blatantly skipped their classes, and would make a point of bumping my grades up to "what I deserved" in their minds. Undergrad was much of the same, though I didn't try as hard because it was film school and grades didn't mean anything.

Now I'm in law school, and though my LSAT's were 99th percentile, I'm at the bottom of my class. The very bottom. I believe this is because the grading in law school is blind, and none of my previous techniques for making a professor think I deserve better than I've gotten can work anymore. I've finally gotten what my study habits earn, and it sucks, but well, I've earned it.

Still, most of the Latino kids who aren't expected to be doing well will never have the chance that I have now, because of early discrimination, no matter how unconscious or subtle. The Latinos in my law school class are straight-up kicking my ass, though, and part of me thinks it's because of their determination in spite of expectations that's carrying them through it.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:13 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yes it is much less insulting to my sense of human dignity and equality to believe that all people of a given ethnicity have the same attitude towards a particular pursuit rather than believing that all people of a given ethnicity happen to have, through chance historical genetic events, an enhanced propensity for success in a given activity.

Taking the word 'ethnicity' as synonymous with 'culture' in your comment causes me to wonder what your definition of culture is. How is it insulting to ascribe a value to a culture (or group of cultures), when culture is defined in terms of values? Your reactionary argument for equivalency doesn't seem to stand up to the rather plausible explanations of Asian-American attitudes towards education. Additionally, your simplification of the positions is disingenuous: no one is making a universal statement about the tendencies of every last Asian person.

I don't mean to impute a motive on you, but the arguments you make for the equality of these two positions really only serves to elevate the decidedly more specious claim that race is a factor in the academic performance of the two groups of people discussed. Is that what you intend?
posted by invitapriore at 9:17 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes it is much less insulting to my sense of human dignity and equality to believe that all people of a given ethnicity have the same attitude towards a particular pursuit rather than believing that all people of a given ethnicity happen to have, through chance historical genetic events, an enhanced propensity for success in a given activity.

You're very confused.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2008


snofoam writes "Oh, and seconding delmoi on his analysis of the earlier corn diet comment. The original corn diet comment was really about as stupid as the thing I quoted about Japanese people eating McDonald's hamburgers and becoming tall and blonde. Let's not blame tacos."

It's not completely without merit to consider a cultural diet staple or exposure explaining the difference. The way lead in wine and other foodstuffs via sapa is debated to have had an observable effect on the behaviour of Romans and possibly a contributing cause to the decline of the empire.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2008


I guess porpoise and I hang out with the same crowd. I, too, have met my share of no-account Asians, male and female, and I've know a few from perfectly good middling class families who did not fit the good nerdling mold or even stay in high school.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:26 PM on July 23, 2008


Then these poor kids with excellent work ethic and grades in well paying, steady, technical prestigious jobs grow up and wonder why they can't break into upper management because they never learned how to socialize with everyone else and network( drink/play golf with) their bosses, the salespeople, the marketers etc. Its sad to watch them hit the ceiling in mid-life. But at least they get the steady, well paying job at a good company... until they get laid off.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:27 PM on July 23, 2008


I don't think any one is disputing that not all Asian people perform exceptionally in school. The point of interest is the elevated scores of Asian students averaged across the number of them attending school, as compared in this case to Latinos.
posted by invitapriore at 9:28 PM on July 23, 2008


Then these poor kids with excellent work ethic and grades in well paying, steady, technical prestigious jobs grow up and wonder why they can't break into upper management because they never learned how to socialize with everyone else and network( drink/play golf with) their bosses, the salespeople, the marketers etc.

This is the reason why the families of those kids encourage them to go into things like medicine: the amount of shmoozing required to attain relatively high pay and status is much less, and the financial and professional rewards come more from brute force hard work.

You see a lot of families who manage to come to the US and get green cards on the strength of their technical background but guide all their children into professions like medicine.
posted by deanc at 9:33 PM on July 23, 2008


There are hoards - hoards - of slacker remedial Asians.

Hordes of them, even. Maybe one of the non-slacker ones can teach you to spell.

ZING!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:36 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just to throw this out here: Any genetic theory that explains a minority's comparatively high educational attainment needs to be able to explain why African-Americans do so poorly in school and African Immigrants do so well—better than Asian-American students, statistically. I'm all ears.
posted by Weebot at 7:55 PM on July 23


This is (perhaps unexpectedly) really easy to explain. If these differences were genetic, they'd be a very straightforward example of the founder effect. African-Americans must surely be genetically distinct from Africans; a tiny subset of them came over on those slave ships.
posted by Jpfed at 9:36 PM on July 23, 2008


Actually, I think socialize is the wrong word, what is also missing is rhetoric and the ability to give presentations and communicate and persuade in non-official capacities. The head down, nose to the grindstone only works to a certain extent.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:41 PM on July 23, 2008


So, what I got from this is a better understanding of why Asians do better at school.

It's because they're Jewish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:41 PM on July 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


K.A.C.: It's true of South Asian society - I'm Bangladeshi and education is a HUUUUUUUUGE thing. In Malaysia the ethnic Malays prize it as well.

You have to remember that Hinduism and Buddhism, including local associated philosophies, travelled far and wide - South-East Asia was a big trading area and had traders from everywhere. The people stayed, and so did the attitudes. Malaysia's multicultural and yet the "education trumps all" mentality is prevalent across the whole country, regardless of race.
posted by divabat at 9:57 PM on July 23, 2008


The screwed up history of people trying to twist science to support a race-intelligence correlation is not a reason to discard such theories out of hand. We should be hypervigilant about it, as much as with claims of alchemical transformation of lead into gold, cold fusion, and HIV deniers. But I feel that science isn't about rejecting something because it 'feels' wrong (yes, that is a bit of self referential mockery).

Cool Papa Bell, several organizations out there are collecting the slacker remedial Asians, hence the confusion. I'm kidding, not racist snowboardist.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:58 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


To add on that: in Malaysia you'll see races competing against each other. "We can't let the Chinese win!" "The Malays get everything!" "Nobody remembers the Indians!" (well, nobody remembers the Others but that's a different story). Malaysia is very racially divided despite its multiculturalism so this kind of competition occurs often.
posted by divabat at 10:01 PM on July 23, 2008


(I'm a slacker Asian, for what it's worth. Someone upthread mentioned the new generation that's less about straight As and more about self-fulfillment - that's me. Yet I did pretty well at school, which annoyed a lot of hard workers. What can you do, eh.)
posted by divabat at 10:03 PM on July 23, 2008


Aside from the grouping of "Asian" being enormous and thus making genetic arguments sort of ludicrous, there is another fatal flaw in the genetic=High IQ argument here. Perhaps those of you asserting that Asians are genetically more intelligent than Latinos are unaware of the fact that about 15-20,000 years ago Latinos were Asians.
posted by anansi at 10:04 PM on July 23, 2008


There are hoards - hoards - of slacker remedial Asians.

Hordes of them, even.


Dude, I've been hoarding slacker remedial Asians for years. It's the next economic bubble, and dammit I'm going to be ready.

(Actually, I have a (distant) relative who is basically a remedial Asian, in that although he is about as Asian as George W Bush, he is convinced that he is really secretly Asian, substituted at birth, and if he just studies Asian-y stuff that little bit harder there'll be a big explosion and smoke and everyone will see him as the Asian guy he really is. In the meantime he watches a lot of anime and bad kung fu movies, tries to date Asian-American girls, and is basically a total creep.)
posted by Forktine at 10:04 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Malaysia's multicultural and yet the "education trumps all" mentality is prevalent across the whole country, regardless of race.

Really? Even amongst the tribes of Borneo?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:07 PM on July 23, 2008


Perhaps those of you asserting that Asians are genetically more intelligent than Latinos are unaware of the fact that about 15-20,000 years ago Latinos were Asians.

That's where the hoards/hordes of slacker Asians were hidden: Latin America. Who knew?

1. Send slackers to New World.
2. Subvert US from within using corn to fuel stupidity machines on the internet.
3. World domination!
posted by Forktine at 10:07 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Reading this thread feels like being punched in the stomach. I'm 2nd generation Mexican/Filipino on both sides. I just had a discussion with two friends of white/Mexican and Mexican heritage. We were all born in the USA.

We came to no conclusion on Asian/Latino disparities except that the whole situation is really complicated and can't be reduced to generalizations. We mainly discussed the generalization that Latinos do poorly in academics. There's so much to consider that you've got to pick one factor to discuss and maybe you'll get somewhere. They range from attitudes towards education and work, intra and inter cultural attitudes, the role of the parents, gender roles, religion. Basically everything but genetics. I'm not sure you white people out on Metafilter are aware of this, but the "Latino" population has a high level of recent admixture that includes European, Amerindian, and Black ethnic groups. Certainly Asian populations aren't uniform either.

Don't worry Metafilter. There are members of our little racial classification that are well aware of the problems that we face. We know of the apathy towards education that parents have, the crushing self-inflicted assertion that education is not worth it because "you'll just end up in the fields anyway." And every day we face and work to break down the stereotypes from outside that tell us that we will amount to nothing.

The article, however, highlights what I find very worrisome: unless there is discussion taking place between the groups involved, people within the groups won't be aware of the reasons why academic disparities exist. How many Latinos or Asians accept their performance in the world of education because that's just the way it is and no one questions it? The Blue... hell, we'll just go ahead and say the majority White-American racial group can talk and talk and taaaaaaalk all they want. It will amount to nothing unless there's dialog between all parties involved.
posted by Mister Cheese at 10:08 PM on July 23, 2008 [16 favorites]


Actually, I think socialize is the wrong word, what is also missing is rhetoric and the ability to give presentations and communicate and persuade in non-official capacities. The head down, nose to the grindstone only works to a certain extent.

As I understand it, the entire process of qualifying for Medical degrees here was changed specifically to get around this problem of academic achievers who either couldn't communicate effectively with patients, or who had little to no interest in medicine beyond making money or satisfying some kind of family pressure or social status ambition.

These days, there are a lot more interviews to see if students really are suited to becoming doctors, and a greater emphasis on language & communication skills than the previous model, which was more about rote learning enormous quantities of factoids.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:17 PM on July 23, 2008


The screwed up history of people trying to twist science to support a race-intelligence correlation is not a reason to discard such theories out of hand.

The reason to discard theories of race-intelligence out of hand is that there is ZERO scientific evidence that they are true, while there are mountains of evidence that culture plays a huge role in IQ.
posted by afu at 10:19 PM on July 23, 2008


Really? Even amongst the tribes of Borneo?

Ooh, you have no idea how contentious that question actually is for Malaysians. There's already enough controversy about whether their "bumiputra" ("natives of the land"; it gives you certain privileges) status is respected by the ethnic Malays that are also "bumiputra", or whether some people think they are really Malay or Chinese or some weird mix. (as I mentioned before, if you're not neatly Malay/Chinese/Indian you really fall into a black hole with many institutionalised and social things.)

I have friends who are (at least part) indigenous Borneo and they've mentioned such struggles. It's all really complicated. (And then there's the Orang Asli in the Peninsula that, while really the true natives of the land, don't get any sort of protection or help. They're lucky if they get to school.)

The indigenous in Borneo are quite a substantial chunk of society, and Sabah & Sarawak (the Malaysian parts of Borneo - Borneo is NOT a country, people) are quite modernized, at least up to par with many Peninsular states. It's very likely that those that are part of the modern school system are sucked into the "get all As" thing too. I'll ask, though; their experience can be quite interesting. I can't tell from your questions, but it sounds like you're assuming they're all village people who live in huts in the jungle somewhere.
posted by divabat at 10:22 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the reason why the families of those kids encourage them to go into things like medicine: the amount of shmoozing required to attain relatively high pay and status is much less, and the financial and professional rewards come more from brute force hard work.

That seems a little mercenary, if they knew it was going to be a problem, wouldn't it make more sense to try to teach their kids the importance of networking and shmoozing?

The screwed up history of people trying to twist science to support a race-intelligence correlation is not a reason to discard such theories out of hand.

Um, yes it is. This isn't like evolution denial; it's more like global warming denial or HIV stuff. It goes a lot farther then simply having people wonder around with wrong information, into an issue where it causes real harm, at lest in the past. But unlike the HIV and intelligent design, this was the dominant mode of thinking for centuries. You can go back just a few decades and find 'real research' by 'real racists', and then that same research gets churned up again and again by people who keep claiming to be courageously representing "the science."

I mean, if some crank were to dig up old nazi research showing how Jews really were greedy or something, they'd be dismissed out of hand as a nazi and an anti-Semite. I believe that is also the correct response to people who bring up innate genetic racial inferiority.

Ultimately science is about answering interesting questions, but why would the question of race and innate genetic intelligence be interesting to people who are not racists?

Furthermore, it does not even appear possible to measure, given the different education levels received by people in different races, cultures, and ethnic groups. An experiment would have to take place outside of society, which is obviously never going to happen.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


The reason to discard theories of race-intelligence out of hand is that there is ZERO scientific evidence that they are true, while there are mountains of evidence that culture plays a huge role in IQ.

No, that is a reason to refute said theories. Are arguments from authority really going to help the situation?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:45 PM on July 23, 2008


A smart and funny woman of Puerto Rican heritage with whom I work once related that her husband had chided her for saying that the snow was starting to "accumulate". It was too fancy a word, who did she think she was, stop acting white, etc. (she soon after caught him cheating on her and divorced him.)
posted by longsleeves at 10:50 PM on July 23, 2008


Intelligence as a general concept is almost impossible to measure, and I'd argue that most attempts to do so are soft science at best. I'd think (talking out my ass here) that measuring a subset of intelligence like spatial awareness or mechanical inclination might be do-able, and if it were strongly correlated with a particular set of genes that might be useful information (leaving race off the table for a moment). Admittedly, the uses to which such information would be put are almost all bad (GATTACA was cheesy, but the underlying fears are correct).

There is a reason I mentioned alchemy, cold fusion, and HIV deniers in the same paragraph as race-intelligence correlation.

Also, do you really think that a cultural-intelligence correlation can't be put to equally bad uses as a race-intelligence one?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:52 PM on July 23, 2008


I'm on the lawn of the capitol building at a Willie Nelson concert in the mid 90s, ran into a friend, who introduced me to her new friend, an English guy, lived most his life in London and London is where he lived when I met him, traveled to Austin on music related activities once or twice a year. A cool guy, a good guy, plus he talked funny, and we got on, and became good friends, over the years.

One afternoon, out of his mouth, and out of nowhere, came a racist spiel as stupid and hateful and rabid as any I've ever heard here in the states -- I'm white, blue-collar heritage, from the very racially segregated Chicago area, I've lived in Florida and Texas, traveled in the south some, married a woman from Arkansas once, etc and etc -- and that rant filled with the exact same complaints and accusations and blame and shaming as any racist rant I've ever heard. "These people" are thieves, they're stupid, they're impossibly dishonest, and lazy, they will never rise above any of this because they are all scum, it's in their genes. On and on. He really got wound up, his blood running hot.

I was shocked. Amazed. Sortof appalled. And very, very amused.

Why amused? Because it wasn't black people he aimed this at.

Irish. It's the Irish that are "these people" who are thieving and stupid and dishonest and lazy; they are scum, and always they will be scum.

And I've Irish blood running my veins, and Scottish, and lots of other stuff by way of Dear Sweet Mom, even some Blackfoot Indian -- my maternal ancestors came over the pond from Scotland long ago and caroused about in the American fashion of the times.

So my buddy is talking about me, but, more than that, and the point of this post, he's talking in a remarkably racist fashion about a subset of people in his society the exact same way any racist here would do it (except he talked funny). And in America of course Irish is just swell, nowadays, they had their time of being down -- Irish Need Not Apply, that whole thing -- but they've moved into cultural American suburbia, or something.

I learned, that afternoon -- and not head learning, either, not from some book or class but rather through direct human experience -- I learned that culture is where it's at.

It seems to me, now, my eyes open, that humans need to have societal scapegoats, and hierarchies, sometimes untouchables. Or at the very least any or all of that is possible in any social system. And all of the human beings involved in this whole messy affair seem to know 'the rules' and act in accordance. So to me it is culture that determines all of this, and not genetics, though color is surely involved, makes it more difficult to get into suburbia maybe, probably.

The Way Out? Education. Or so it seems to me. Break out of the strata through books and common experience with those already in the suburbs. I've a buddy, a black guy, super-cool, plays violin at a very high level, he can do it in concert with any band or in classical settings, and while he did fall into the street in his late teens, and crackhead thuggery jive, he was able to get back out, he had an exit strategy laid out by his destiny -- his parents had both broken out and gave him everything they could. He's moved, now, he's in Florida, through mutual friends I know he's been in some kind of sales gig but doesn't like it and he's going to go back to school for something else. His older brother fell and is not going to get out, he liked to play with guns, he's in prison, it's a done deal, so it's slippery, but it appears that it's doable if you hold your hand just so, and get lucky.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:52 PM on July 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


I can't tell from your questions, but it sounds like you're assuming they're all village people who live in huts in the jungle somewhere.


Well, I was thinking of the villagers in the jungle, but I wasn't assuming that they all live that way. My point being that the indigenous tribes people who do live in the villages of the jungles are also "Asian" but don't fit the education-mad stereotype -- there are huge differences amongst the ethnicities and cultures of Asia, as of course you know, and not all Asian cultures prize schooling.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:55 PM on July 23, 2008


Is there a better book out there now than Mismeasure of Man for reading up on this stuff?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:56 PM on July 23, 2008


K.A.C. - Here's a response from one of my friends who is half Malay, half indigenous from Borneo (don't know what tribe tho):
IMO, it's rather more complicated than "simply" ethnicity or culture -- class, urbanity and other factors play into it, as well as what one defines as "education". My father received a scholarship and worked his way from being a farmer's son (albeit a privileged one due to my grandfather's status) to a comfortable petit-bourgeoisie city life by the time I finished primary school. He was a qualified lawyer and saw formal education (note "formal") as the key to a better life for me and my siblings. Of course I got caught up in the rat race. I *cried* over my *UPSR*[primary school exam] results cos they weren't up to mark. With my mother, it was a matter of family tradition and a religious upbringing -- she was taught that Islam exhorts its followers to gain knowledge, and so educated I must be.

Incidentally, my mother grew up in a small town as part of a large, respectable family.
posted by divabat at 10:57 PM on July 23, 2008


Ultimately science is about answering interesting questions, but why would the question of race and innate genetic intelligence be interesting to people who are not racists?

Because they're curious about the universe they live in?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:57 PM on July 23, 2008


Kraftmatic, like Hmong?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:58 PM on July 23, 2008


delmoi: Wow. That was just about one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

Out of all the comments, that was the one you chose to criticize. Wow.
posted by sluglicker at 10:59 PM on July 23, 2008


Because they're curious about the universe they live in?

There is a nearly infinite number of possible correlations between different data sets. Why would the correlation between race and inborn intelligence be more curiosity piquing then the correlation between consumption of carrots and choice in literature? or hair color and laughter, or the size of someone's nose and the size of their hands? That stuff isn't interesting and so no one looks into it.

Look, if someone wanted to make a serious study about whether Jews were inherently greedy, everyone would consider them an anti-Semite, right? Or would you say that it's possible that person was just 'curious about the universe they live in'?
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Out of all the comments, that was the one you chose to criticize. Wow.

You mean out of the first five? Um, yeah...
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on July 23, 2008


an English guy, lived most his life in London [...] out of his mouth, and out of nowhere, came a racist spiel as stupid and hateful and rabid as any I've ever heard here in the states

Typical bloody Pom - always whingeing about one thing or another.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:20 PM on July 23, 2008


No, I mean out of the first 64.
posted by sluglicker at 11:21 PM on July 23, 2008


Look, if someone wanted to make a serious study about whether Jews were inherently greedy, everyone would consider them an anti-Semite, right?

Of course, because there's no plausible link between biology and greed. But there is between intelligence and biology, as evidenced by how diet affected the Romans, mentioned upthread. I personally don't believe intelligence is based on genetics, but I can see how scientists would think it merits research.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:38 PM on July 23, 2008


Completely anecdotal, but I remember seeing only a single student of Asian ancestry in any of the post-grad math lectures I attended. This stood in contrast to a substantial Asian population in other classes, especially those falling into the Pre-Med and Engineering tracks (e.g. Orgo, comp sci, etc). My inference at the time was that, if cultural biases were involved in course selections, they would more likely be based around specific career goals (such as doctor or engineer) than general achievement in mathematics and science per se.

What was more interesting was that the further I advanced from applied to theoretical math, the more diverse and truly democratic the whole bunch got - by gender, by age (everything from precocious teenage genius to older industry vets), and by national origin (with Russians taking a slight, inexplicable edge). I learned that the desire to be a mad scientist, the freak scribe of a cosmic mother tongue... who grabs the universe by its parentheses and spanks it over a bent knee until it howls out all its secrets... is common (or equally uncommon) to us all.

But beware of Russians.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:38 PM on July 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


maybe its just the values different cultures teach their children.

I am middle class and white, grew up in a farming community in Oregon and lived in seattle for a while. None of it makes me an expert but I'll throw in some observations I've made.

It seems like the latino-americans place a huge emphasis on family and communal effort. My dad used to work on christmas tree and blueberry farms and there would be whole families of latinos out there working every harvest. It wasnt just this one farm either, and I've heard that this is just how it is for them. They do things as families.

the asian-americans want their children to succeed in america, no matter what the cost is. If it harms the family or the kid well, thats the cost of progress. I saw and met many families in seattle where the parents were living in abject poverty and working crazy hours to pay for their kids to go to college. you can also bet the kids were studying their asses off too. they damn well better achieve higher grades.

as for the uh white-americans or whatever we're called this week... it seems like we have devolved to the level of doing what is fun today. tomorrow? nah, who worries about that anymore? it seems like its the white americans who are responsible for things like the credit debt (public and private).

if it wasnt for the fact that us white people were destroying everyone elses chances at living their own dream what im about to say would have a little more credibility, but im going to anyway. is it bad for latinos to teach their kids family first values? is it good for asians to work themselves and their sons and daughters into unhappiness in order to succeed? is there not some higher purpose than monetary success? who should decide what values (money, education, family, etc) my children decide are important? the state? the media? metafilter? (id choose mefi of the three)

like i said, not an expert. but those are my observations and they are not just based on a few people ive met. i think putting together stereotypes, face-to-face interactions, statistics, and hearsay gets closer to whats really going on than sticking with only the statistics, only the people, or ignoring everything and just trustin NBC cause they tell the truth goddamnit.
posted by Parallax.Error at 11:40 PM on July 23, 2008


Also, on a subject possibly related to cultural pressures to achieve, one might want to ponder the differences in per capita suicide rates by race.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:45 PM on July 23, 2008


BrotherCaine, right, the Hmong are a good example of an Asian ethnicity that does not fit the studious stereotype. The Hmongs' poor record of assimilation in the U.S. is largely due to being so strongly rooted in an animist tradition that doesn't emphasize formal education.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:46 PM on July 23, 2008


It is a model theorem that p -> p. Surely its possible that p must be true. Thus p. But it is a model theorem that p -> p. Therefore p.

I just noticed that the Ritz crackers in the cellophane tube I'm munching on are not in any order. Some are salt-coating facing up, some are down. Some are back-to-back, others are not. There is no order to to this tube.
posted by sluglicker at 11:47 PM on July 23, 2008


chance of success on a given task in a certain environment
is a self-consistent problem
whose solution depends on the individual involved,
the given task,
and the environment (of the problem and from which the individual comes)

from my experience,
I would hazard to guess that,
while the given that the task is the same,
the individuals are not statistically significantly different,
but the environment very much so

especially summed over a significant sample set

ie, it's the cultural expectation as primarily expressed by the parents influence, pressure, and demands
posted by sloe at 12:05 AM on July 24, 2008


I'm fascinated at the generalizations people can draw from their own experiences with Asian-Americans (or even Chinese-Americans), Latino-Americans and white Americans. Are these not the basis of stereotypes - whether they be positive or negative? Perhaps there is some confirmation bias going on.

I can guarantee you that in every ethnicity - even white or hispanic - you will find people like Lily's mom. It is not unique to Chinese families. Similarly, in white and Asian cultures you will find families that encourage work over education. What you will also find is that it is not as uncommon or exceptional as it sounds.

What struck me about the article was not the genetic disparity that so many people seem to read into it, but the following:

1. The students seemed to casually accept the educational disparity without much question.
2. The teachers and administrators seemed to unknowingly facilitate the disparity.
3. The teachers and administrators seemed unwilling to discuss the disparity (or even really acknowledge it) out of fear of sounding racist.

It has gotten to the point where kids who were under-achievers are called "Mexican" and over-achievers are "Asian", regardless of their race. Sounds counter-intuitive to me, and dangerously self-perpetuating. I understand that parents and community have a lot to do with how educated a child becomes, but it is much easier to change the mindset of the young than the mindset of parents and a community.

How can we address the problem - how can we fix it - if we can't get past the discussion on genetics, and in the face of these self-perpetuating stereotypes?
posted by jabberjaw at 12:40 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


After further reflection, I just came back to say I'm wrong, race-intelligence correlation arguments should only be refuted when they come up in peer reviewed journals. In popular/lay press and non-science blogs the arguments should probably be dismissed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:12 AM on July 24, 2008


Ritz crackers are baked on a sheet. The crackers get randomized during the sheet -> stack operation.
posted by ryanrs at 1:39 AM on July 24, 2008


Ritz crackers are baked on a sheet. The crackers get randomized during the sheet -> stack operation.

But so are saltines, yet they are in order.
posted by sluglicker at 1:50 AM on July 24, 2008


In my high school, the students came from three different communities: Redwood City, East Palo Alto, and Woodside/Portola Valley. Redwood City, and especially East Palo Alto were mostly working class neighborhoods with pretty meh middle schools. EPA schools seemed particularly bad. But Woodside and Portola Valley were very wealthy communities with top-notch public schools. Kids from Portola Valley take a very different course load than kids from Redwood City, just because Portola Valley middle schools are so much better.

Portola Valley and Woodside are white, Redwood City is white & hispanic. So at my high school, hispanics are going to perform worse than whites, on average, because their schools aren't as good.
posted by ryanrs at 1:55 AM on July 24, 2008


Saltines use a different type of machine. Saltine crackers are baked as a contiguous sheet with perforations. The saltine stacking machine must cut apart the sheets of crackers, whereas the ritz machine might pull cookies from a hopper.
posted by ryanrs at 1:59 AM on July 24, 2008


(I know nothing about cracker manufacturing...totally making it up as I go.)
posted by ryanrs at 2:01 AM on July 24, 2008


It was only a matter of time before someone brought up the crackers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 AM on July 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wasn't there some study done recently showing how negative thoughts about one's group ability to do Y, prior to taking a test, actually resulted in lowered test scores?

How can we address the problem - how can we fix it - if we can't get past the discussion on genetics, and in the face of these self-perpetuating stereotypes?

Jabberjaw, I think you have the essence of the problem in your question. The problem seems to be due to the fact human beings are predisposed to thinking in terms of stereotypes and generalities, for whatever reason. This may be hundreds of thousands of years of evolution or social conditioning we are attempting to counter. There's a stunning lack of awareness about how we learn, and how we think about things, and how one kind of thinking will be a hinderance in a different situation.

There's obviously an individual benefit for thinking in terms of stereotypes and generalities, at least when it comes to other people. One feels secure in one's assumptions, one makes quicker decisions, and the world seems simpler and more manageable.

The negative is a loss for everyone, of course. Many people will go through life not doing X because its been believed members of their group do poorly at X. A loss for them, and loss for us.

My only idea on how to "solve" something like this is to teach, starting at the elementary level, how strange and interesting the human mind really is. One topic: why we group things, why we generalize, why this might be helpful and why it might be unhelpful. Another topic: simple stuff like even how a piece of bread will look different to us if we're hungry or if we're full.

For some reason many of us go through life being crammed with a bunch of facts, and most of us are never really taught anything about the actual mental tools we have at our disposal--and its flaws and strengths in different situations. How utterly strange! I went through the majority of my life thinking my thoughts were inevitable, and I didn't have a choice in how I thought about something.

Apologies for the ramblies. This is an interesting thread.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:20 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


an English guy, lived most his life in London [...] out of his mouth, and out of nowhere, came a racist spiel as stupid and hateful and rabid as any I've ever heard here in the states [in this case directed at the Irish]

Well, what did you expect? As anyone's who's ever watched any historically accurate Hollywood movies can tell you, it's well known that the English are genetically predisposed to being the bad guys.
posted by rhymer at 2:50 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


AceRock: It has been conclusively shown that genetic differences between individuals trump differences between racial groups.

I'm not sure the above fact excludes the possibility of an attribute (e.g. skin color) that remains uniform within a group and different between two groups; in fact, these same attributes are how we've historically (and crudely) defined the idea of race.

This is further complicated by the difference between measuring genetic differences as information (permutations of the alphabet GTCA), and measuring the expressions those differences create (e.g. skin color). In a very oversimplified way, it's analogous to looking at sentences on a level of strict letter and word content, and then looking at them on a level of interpreted meaning. Taking inspiration from your username, we could let sets of sentences represent races - sets AESOP, COCK, and SO:

set AESOP = { "Aesop Rock is so my favorite!" , "So be sure to play the Aesop Rock CD at the party." }

set COCK = { "Cock Rock is so my favorite!" , "So be sure to play the Cock Rock CD at the party." }

set SO = { "Aesop Rock is my favorite!" , "Be sure to play the Aesop Rock CD at the party." }

Now, just looking at the frequency of included words, there's more of a jump between two sentences in the same set than between the sets collectively. However, once read for meaning, one set contains statements about a very different thing than the two others. Even though not much information gets changed quantitatively between the sets, mishearing "Aesop" as "Cock" produces a huge qualitative shift in the party, not to mention the dress code.

This isn't meant to be a defense of the idea that intelligence varies with race, because, for one thing, I don't think we've historically defined race that way. We've based our racial sets on glaringly superficial phenotype characteristics - skin, eyes, hair - and it's something of a leap to assume that this kind of categorization miraculously lines up with another post facto, though there is always the off chance that one kind of inbreeding fosters another.

However, we could always make race correlate with IQ by simply defining a new race as all 160+ scorers, regardless of ancestry. Whether the results would carry over unspoiled to the next generation is still totally uncertain, but if they did then we could flag and remove the upper percentile and stow them away in a pocket Rand utopia where they'd all be forced to inbreed. And then the Omega generation would roll out of the Hawking Pleasure Dome like Krishna in a wheelchair and school us.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:43 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I relate so much to that Carlos kid. Like him, I was a gifted Latino kid. So gifted that, yes, people often asked me whether I was really Latino.

I am. My parents grew up in a village in Mexico and came to the United States as immigrants. I grew up in a 2-bedroom house that we shared with two other families.

Education meant nothing to my parents. I was sent to school because it was the law. By the time I was in 2nd grade, teachers were telling my parents I was a prodigy. By 3rd grade, I recall, our math teacher had asked me to speak to the class about transcendental numbers. I also spoke a bit about the concept of higher dimensional toplogies, but I don't think anyone understood what I was talking about. My parents reaction to all of this was more of a shrug. I spent a lot of my free time playing chess with this Chinese kid.

I do remember that by the time I was 12 my father was already trying to get me to work with him doing manual labor. I was fantastically awkward. By this time I had discovered the concept of computers (this was 1979) and had taught myself how to write assembly code on the new 6809 processor. I was scribbling out small programs on pieces of paper. A friend and I sold some of these to a small software company. My father, of course, was disappointed in me. I remember that he asked me to trim some trees and left me to myself. Hours later, seeing how little I'd done, was so frustrated that for the first time, he said it, he said I was "useless" something I gather he had been holding back for a while.

Another incident. I saw this offer in a magazine for an encyclopedia. We had no books in the house. I almost lived in our local library. The idea of having an encyclopedia in the house was a dream of mine. I ordered the books in that "we'll bill you later" plan that they allowed. I didn't have the money of course. When my mother found out, she was furious. She took one of my books and smashed it against the wall. "God! What were you thinking! You and your stupid books!" Again, I was 12 years old.

After such incidents, I went out and started working, delivering newspapers, working part-time retail jobs. All so that I could afford my own books. I ransacked garage sales for old magazines and paperbacks.

By the time I reached high school my grades were dropping fast. My life plan was that I would just get a high school degree and then get a job, any job, maybe something clerical, enough to buy food and books and live out my life in cultural and intellectual isolation. This was almost my fate.

Then She stepped into my life. Not some new romance but, rather, a high school counselor. She called me into her office and screamed at me. What the hell are you doing? You're one of the brightest kids in this school and you're sitting around wasting away! Your math teacher says you ace all the tests but never do any homework so he has to give you a bad grade. Your English teacher says you are lazily scribbling nonsense. I needed this kick in the butt, desperately.

I started getting good grades. Not for me, not for my parents but for her. She actually went around telling all the gifted kids in school, that I was smarter than them. I dont know what she was thinking but I suppose it worked. She created a small culture of expectation on her own. By the time I reached high school, I began to feel confident that I might be able to get into one of the University of Californias. She called me into her office again and said "Oh. I think you can do better than that..."

Junior year I received a call from some guy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was after the PSAT scores had gone out. He said he was from the recruitment office and his college would really appreciate it if I would consider applying. What place is this? my mother asked me. Its called Harvard, I told her. She said it sounded very far away and I should consider staying closer to home. I decided then that getting away from home is exactly what I needed to do.

On my father's side I have almost 30 cousins. Only three of us went to college. Two female cousins, one who wants to be a nurse, another who became a physical therapist. I recall vividly one of my other cousins telling me when she was little that she wanted to be a dentist. These days she's a receptionist. I wish I could pinpoint where it all goes wrong, the moment in which dreams collapse, finally eroded away by our culture of low expectations.
posted by vacapinta at 4:17 AM on July 24, 2008 [67 favorites]


It has the fuck all to do with race OR culture. You people are talking about IQ as a metric for intelligence. Because you can't talk about genes that code for how well you'll do in school, but intelligence is something that's supposed to have a genetic component. Fine, except IQ does not measure intelligence; it is a predictor of scholastic performance. That is all it was designed for, and that is all it measures. So you're chasing your own tail here.

Aside from the text of the article, the issue actually most central here is why our schools aren't set up to correlate success with intelligence, and instead are focused around standardized tests. We've essentially gone backwards; Binet devised the IQ test to figure out how students would perform in the classroom. Now our classrooms are designed around passing standardized tests; so, in a way, by defining 'intelligence' around performance on a standardized test, we've also limited 'intelligence' to how well one performs on standardized tests.

It's no wonder you're idiots; the FPP was not presented as a multiple choice question.
posted by Eideteker at 4:41 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


How hard can this be? Students who do well in school work harder. Students who don't do so well are mostly trying hard to look cool. Fuck cool - there's your solution. Easy, isn't it?

And please keep genetics out of this. Correlating school grades with genetics is just saying that some kids are born stupid and no efforts, no help, praise or encouragement will ever change this, so we shouldn't bother and just let those kids fail. How is this different from the old prejudiced view that the son of a thief will also be a thief because it's in his blood?

Also important: there should always be a way to study later if you were fed up with school as a teenager. The door to higher education and better jobs should not be closed just because you didn't bother at 15.
posted by Termite at 4:51 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Any genetic theory that explains a minority's comparatively high educational attainment needs to be able to explain why African-Americans do so poorly in school and African Immigrants do so well—better than Asian-American students, statistically."

Those aren't necessarily genetically identical groups, since neither are a representative sample of all Africans.

African-Americans whose families pre-date the Civil War are mostly descended from:
- west and central Africans
- the losers in intra-African wars during the slave trade period
- docile slaves who did not resist their enslavers/owners to the death
- white rapist slaveowners (genetic testing has found that ~17% of American blacks' ancestors were white)

Recent African immigrants and their offspring are mostly descended from:
- east, south, and southwest Africans
- the winners or nonparticipants in intra-African wars during the slave trade period
- people who had the resources and initiative to voluntarily immigrate
- people who had the educational or professional background to meet US immigration standards
- much more "pure" African genes

Obviously there are huge cultural differences between the groups as well, but just because both groups' genes are originally from the continent of Africa doesn't mean that they're all the same genes. If intelligence, character, etc. traits are indeed partially genetically determined then I wouldn't expect to see identical distributions of the relevant genes between those two groups because their vastly different histories over the past 400 years would select for different traits.

(Before anyone screams OMGRACIST! at me, I'd like to note that while racial/ethnic genetic differences in intelligence seem plausible, I personally think that environmental differences in pre-conception, pre-natal, and early childhood nutrition and medical care are currently much more significant, as are educational opportunities and culture. Let's solve those inequities first and then see what, if any, difference remains that is explained by genetics.)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:15 AM on July 24, 2008


That breakdown of African vs African-American misses that Afro-Caribbean immigrants (just as mixed, just as marked by slavery) do very well, at least for the first or so generations.

If intelligence, character, etc. traits are indeed partially genetically determined then I wouldn't expect to see identical distributions of the relevant genes between those two groups because their vastly different histories over the past 400 years would select for different traits.


The problem with statements like this is that they can be used to justify any reading of a situation. Do you want to emphasize that African-Americans have lower test scores and educational attainment? Ah ha! 400 years of slavery and miscegenation leading to genetic selection for docility and low test scores! But wait -- what if we want to tell a different story, of 400 years of genetic selection for something else? The same sentence still works, since this is all racial hogwash -- we can just bend it to fit whatever our view of the world already is.

Genes really matter, but this thing we are calling "intelligence" is very heavily a cultural construct. And when we start defining racial groups in careful ways to selectively pick our results, it gets even worse. You see this here, as people use "Asian" to mean "high achieving Chinese and Japanese families," and "black" to mean "everyone who is of African descent but who isn't a recent Caribbean or African immigrant, and sometimes not people who identify as 'biracial,'" or in the example of how the definition of "white" has been expanded to include people of Irish, Polish, and all kinds of other descents.

And when we are relying on stereotypes, it's easy to forget the complexities of real life. Everyone knows the stereotype of the Jewish doctor -- but what about all those Jewish professional athletes a century back, or the Jewish gangsters? We are telling stories, and the power of stories comes from the details, and from constructing a compelling narrative; whether or not the story is actually true is much less important for whether or not it will have an impact.
posted by Forktine at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Ultimately science is about answering interesting questions, but why would the question
> of race and innate genetic intelligence be interesting to people who are not racists?
> posted by delmoi at 1:40 AM on July 24 [4 favorites +] [!]

I asked my high-IQ magic 8 ball (which has no dog in this fight) and it said "Because everything is interesting."

And then, a few moments later (this doesn't happen very often so I take special note when it does) it added "OMG! DUH!"
posted by jfuller at 6:38 AM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised at the level of ignorance here... this discussion has pretty much been had and resolved by social scientists...

Parental expectations, whether shaped by culture or individual drive, are the defining element in the academic achievements of children.

Asians are "smarter" because their parents expect them to be.

There was a study that I can't find now on black families in an affluent mid western city. Everyone expected that with better schools, richer parents, and better neighborhoods these kids would perform like their white counterparts. They didn't. The difference? Parental expectations.

Further, the variables at play here aren't connected. Genetics doesn't determine intelligence, and intelligence doesn't determine academic achievement. Intelligence is pretty much prenatal nutrition. Academic achievement is pretty much parental expectations.
posted by ewkpates at 6:41 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


People, people, people!

Never say that race exists, or that there are genetic differences between races. Never ever! It's too painful, and we have to compensate for all those years of ignorance by being ignorant in a different way. You can't be a good liberal unless you devote yourself to these precepts! You're a good liberal, aren't you?
posted by Edgewise at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


plexi, a non-asian, claims that asians are genetically superior in intelligence.
snofoam, an asian, claims that race doesn't play a significant role in achievement.

If plexi is to be consistent with his premise, he should agree with snofoam, who is, according to plexi, smarter than him.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2008


This story, posted by a blogger who called himself The literary thug, is relevant here. The blog doesn't exist anymore, so I'll post my saved copy here.


I decided to walk to Sam and Terry’s barbershop to get a hair cut. For 50 years Sam and Terry’s has been one of the few enduring institutions in the African American community in Tacoma. I got my first haircut there in 1983, at the tender age of five from Sam Moore, the co founder still going strong in his 9th decade. Any one with a inkling of sense, history or any sort of cultural sophistication knows that the African American barbershop is one of America’s great conservative institutions, a sort of folk lyceum, where a democracy of Ideas is permitted to flow free from politically correct discourse and dogmatism. A lot of my pragmatic Hurstonian conservative philosophy comes from the hundreds of conversations I have overheard and had at Sam and terry’s, as well as my taste in soul music and African American literature. I also owe a lot more to Sam personally, because he was the last man to cut my fathers hair when he was in the hospital, rife from the spiral meningitis and complications from diabetes that would kill him only a few weeks later; an act he didn’t have to do, because for the last 20 years of his life my father was a degenerate dope fiend.

Over the past several years, however, my contrarian paradise has crumbled. The barbers that I was raised with have either retired or died off, and a new generation of kids, raised on the brutal ethos of the streets and filled with the same sense of brutal entitlement that gangstadom has spawned, have made it a different place altogether from my memory. A deep division between young and old( over the discovery that one of the younger barbers was just cutting hair as rouse for his burgeoning crack dealership, which explained why he drove to work in a Bentley), led to a mass exodus of people, and the tacky gangsta nationalism of most of the young barbers, which not only demands you accept their psycho-racial-sexual dogma but ostracizes you if you don’t Individually follow each of their dogma’s tenants , turned off many people who had got their hair cut there.

And on that particular day, my number was called. My crimes that afternoon were two fold. I committed the transgression of wearing a tweed jacket, black sweater, black slacks and glasses, a no no for the “ thug barbers" there because to be an appropriate African American by their standards was to wear saggy pants, sport jerseys and doo-rag caps. My second transgression was to bring a book, James Baldwin’s Notes of A Native Son. It didn’t matter that Baldwin was one of the greatest prophets on race relations in the history of the 20th century. The fact that I brought a book to read deeply offended their sensibilities, because to read, in their mind, was acting white.

As I was reading, one of the barbers cracked up. Looking to see what was funny, I saw that the butt of his joke was me.

“what’s wrong with you, n*gga” he asked

“excuse me?” I replied

“ why you acting like an herb”

For those who don’t know, an herb is a derogatory name that the hip hop generation of African American’s have for people who seek knowledge and don’t want to be gangstas. Now, it would be something different altogether if I “wore” whatever knowledge on my sleeve, condescending to whoever was there. But being tagged with the “ dumb ghetto n*gger” label for most of the first 22 years of my life, I’m highly sensitive about that.

“What’s your problem, brother? Why you on me so much? Im just trying to get a haircut?” I said. But it went on, a kind of vulgar grilling on my blackness, with Sam being my only defender in the shop. I consider myself a relatively tough SOB, ( both living on the hill and taking the bus to white schools will do that to you) but leaving that shop that afternoon, I was emotionally cut deep. One of the few safety zones I have ever had, one of the few places in my life that people saw my intelligence and not my color was gone. I had to prove, and too an extent still have to prove to too many white people that I am a person of substance, and not a beast who was going to rob and brutalize them.( yes I have my half dozen racial profiling stories with the police, but that’s another article). I didn’t have to do that at Sam and terry’s, people used to respect me and appreciate the fact that I liked to read books. Not anymore.

But halfway back home, I looked at broader aspect of what happened and started to cry. Because if those thugs did that to me, a 25 year old college student, Imagine the hundreds of young kids they have done it to also. Kids younger than me, who didn’t have my brilliant loving mother or my beautiful griot of a grandmother. Kids who faced the same brutal disadvantages I had, and personally lord knows what I went through to get to where I am. Kids who had the chance to discover the love of knowledge snatched away from them by some monosyllabic racist thug. Is there anything legal under the law more destructive, more pernicious and more horrifying than the death, no execution, of an inquisitive mind.


posted by Termite at 7:03 AM on July 24, 2008 [17 favorites]


Well ...

I was once told by a chem/bio-weapons expert that race did not exist in the sense that you could target it (among the other reasons that it would be a bad idea.) I'm fairly certain he wasn't a 'good liberal', so ...

What you have to consider in this argument is that "Asian people are so smart' is a fairly recent stereotype. If you look at turn of the last century depictions of Asian people, this isn't the picture you get at all -- you get 'strange food eating', violent, shiftless, lazy opium addicts who are willing to work for far less than the Irish (what with the railroad building and whatever). As you may or may not be aware, soon thereafter came a so called 'gentleman's agreement' which cut off Asian immigration into the United States. Asian immigration re-started much later, and at that point, only people with degrees and such were let in. Not coincidentally, this is about when the 'model minority' stereotype started showing up. If your parents are scientists or doctors or whatever (because otherwise they weren't getting in legally), well, of course you're going to have a leg up. There are, of course, Asian populations who were not part of this wave, and they don't do as well. (For example, as someone else pointed out, the Hmong).

A new book's just come out: "The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans facing Racism". Here's an excerpt from an interview with the author:

Q: Many Asian American high school students feel that competitive colleges hold them to a higher standard than they do white students, and some view this as an impact of affirmative action. What are your thoughts?

A: I, Rosalind, have a personal story that relates to this question. When I was applying to colleges when I was a junior in high school, I bought one of those college guides you get at the bookstore. They had a quiz in the first few pages of the book that would give you a score at the end determining how competitive you would be for colleges. The higher the score, the more lucrative you were as an applicant. You would get two extra points for being in the top 5 percent of your class, two points for playing sports, two points for volunteering, 2 points for being Black or Latino etc. If you were white you neither had to add or subtract points, BUT you were to deduct 3 points if you were Asian American. This was a reputable college guide that I had purchased brand new, it was 1993, and it was so blatant and obvious to me that there was a different standard for Asian Americans compared to any other group.

Nowadays, I think it is something that is cloaked, but the issue is so complex. The educational playing field is not even and the circumstances for each racial group are greatly varied. I do not buy into the cultural argument that some racial groups value education more than others. Asian Americans are used as a marker by whites to accuse blacks and Latinos of being educationally deficient. This issue is much more complex than these sweeping generalizations of racial groups. We cite a documentary in our book that shows that Japanese Americans living on the West Coast that were interned actually pushed their children to perform well academically as a response to the horrific racist experience of internment camps in hopes that it would be a protective measure from future discrimination. When that generation of Japanese Americans started to perform well in school, the media blew up the story and the ideology of Asian Americans as great students emerged. I do believe we should still affirmatively act to level the playing field.

posted by Comrade_robot at 7:08 AM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Asians are "smarter" because their parents expect them to be."

What if having high or low expectations for your children is partially genetic?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:11 AM on July 24, 2008


Of interest from William Saletin. (NB: note a defense--just relevant and readable.)
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:14 AM on July 24, 2008


African-Americans whose families pre-date the Civil War are mostly descended from:
- west and central Africans
- the losers in intra-African wars during the slave trade period
- docile slaves who did not resist their enslavers/owners to the death


Please, before you make ridiculous statements, do some research. There is an enormous amount of scholarship that documents the day-to-day resistance to slavery. Resistance is much more than violence. At the risk of being ad-hominemish, I'm going to say that this statement, "docile slaves who did not resist their enslavers/owners to the death" is the most ham-fisted, offensive, and stupid argument that I have read in this thread so far, and damn, that's an achievement. If you were in my personal space right now, you'd see how fucking docile my genetic inheritance is.
posted by anansi at 7:16 AM on July 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


I do not buy into the cultural argument that some racial groups value education more than others.

I think the author is being a weasel with this statement. It's certainly true that valuing education does not come from the color of one's skin. However, certainly some ethnic/cultural groups that come to the US do place a huge priority on education, and that affects outcomes in a big way.
posted by deanc at 7:30 AM on July 24, 2008


I relate so much to that Carlos kid. Like him, I was a gifted Latino kid. So gifted that, yes, people often asked me whether I was really Latino.

I'm with you on that vacapinta. My brother and I grew up in an all white community, excelled, and everyone assumed we were from Iran. The idea of a mexican being on top academically just didn't fit with the prevailing culture, from both mexicans and especially whites. Even my americanized last name was too confusing for people and administrators had an incredible time pronoucing it even though they had no problems pronouncing, say, a polish name.

My parents, however, pushed education like crazy and the reason is because my dad had an experience like you. My grandfather had a 6th grade education, my grandmother didn't finish high school and my dad's high school class had a graduation rate in the 40s. He did the how slack, excell, slack, work manual labor, and saw education as a way to a better life. He forced himself and my mom to use as much formal education as possible to propel him into a better life. Real life had a way of kicking his ass and wanted to try to save my brother and I from that. And, to do that, my father did everything he could to run away from his mexican past. He moved, he stopped speaking spanish, he embraced American culture as much as he could; to him, the culture was a form of poison and one to run away from. As he got older, he gradually stopped believing that, but the idea that there is some prevalent mexican culture that is so heavily tied to familial relationships to the point of holding back an individual is something that my parents fully disagreed with.

And, like some of the commenters in this thread, I think that is one aspect of the cultural clash that is causing Mexicans from excelling as a group. Mexicans are suppose to stay close to home, to work, to make money and to buy Louis the XIVth inspired furniture. Work, in a lot of ways, is worth more than education because work provides money now and gives a man a sense of worth. Intelligence and education is valued but "worth" means more. And worth does not necessarily mean wealth; family, honor, tradition....these are the things that wealth supports and that generates worth and education really doesn't have to play apart of it. But, as the generations go by, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation mexican-americans are so culturally assimilated into the prevailing American culture that those traditional pillars of worth are replaced by the idea of worth being tied exclusively to money and then education becomes something worth pursuing. Education can be a way towards something "better"; but what really is better is something that culture defines and Mexican-American culture defines it as something different than Asian-Americans, White-Americans or African-Americans.
posted by Stynxno at 7:30 AM on July 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Of interest from William Saletin. (NB: note a defense--just relevant and readable.)

It's interesting that you would link to that article, and not his apology for writing that article based on the work of racist crackpots.
Many of you have criticized parts of the genetic argument as I related them. Others have pointed to alternative theories I truncated or left out. But the thing that has upset me most concerns a co-author of one of the articles I cited. In researching this subject, I focused on published data and relied on peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue. As a result, I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.

For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "the scientific study of heredity and human differences." During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime ("Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous") and heresy ("Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people"). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.

I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I'm sorry. I owe you better than that.
See what I mean? A whole bunch of the "science" on race and intelligence is no better then the "science" on intelligent design or global warming denialism. It's agenda driven bullshit put into scientific form in order to fool people, and it does fool people, obviously.
posted by delmoi at 7:30 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


My Chinese-American boyfriend went home for July 4th weekend. At some point during the 4 days, his Mom sat down and gave him Chinese language flash cards. He's nearly 29, but his parents do not stop constantly imparting structured education to their adult children. This tells me all I need to know about why Asian-Americans adapt easier to the education system, than say, other cultures who don't typically have the drive for their children to achieve everything possible.

I'm not American, but I am from a poor white UK background, and even though I was smart, no one took the interest in my achievements to push me as a kid to achieve anything. There was a massive culture of "why are you reading that book? You read too much! Ugh, you got an A grade, you're such a keener! Stop being so smart! You're achieving slightly more than everyone else, you don't need my help." I came second top for my year in school (losing out to, guess what! The only Chinese girl in the school!) without even trying.

Thus: my boyfriend is an engineer with a career, and at 24, I am still floundering about, barely employed, uninterested in most professional careers and will take years to get up to speed. We're not unequal in intelligence, but we have very clearly different backgrounds, and looking back, I know that had I had the same influence that his family gave to his life, I would be so so much more right now. It's not about race, it's very much about what the parents input into the child's life. And that means that any child, given the right adults behind them, can achieve anything. How awesome is that?

Sidenote: regarding Maths being a particularly specific talent, I've often heard it's because if you have a poor grasp of the English language, it's the one piece of homework you can help your kids with when they get home from school.
posted by saturnine at 7:36 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Missed a sentence. At the end of that second paragraph, I meant to say "But the lack of support crippled my confidence/willingness to continue in education."
posted by saturnine at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2008


I'm kind of surprised at the level of ignorance here... this discussion has pretty much been had and resolved by social scientists...

No, it hasn't. Unless what you mean by "resolved" is that there's unanimous agreement that IQ, like virtually everything else, is a product of the very complicated interaction between genes and environment. But it's flat-out wrong to claim that somehow everyone's concluded that genes have no role. In fact, the opposite -- that genes most definitely do play a major role in determining IQ, and if I may cavalierly extend from that, intelligence -- is much closer to factual accuracy.
posted by decoherence at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2008


ewkpates: Asians are "smarter" because their parents expect them to be.

Culture doesn't stop in the home, and the reinforcement of one's peers also has a lot to do with whether someone chooses the science club over the football team. Look at the LA Times article - at least half of the story is about how the school itself is a social maze imposed by the other kids, how simply doing well entails navigating racial boundaries.

"I think Carlos is Asian at heart," said Julie Loc, 17, causing Carlos to laugh good-naturedly. Asian students who get middling grades often get another response, she said. "They say, 'Are you really Asian?' " Julie said.

Johana Najera, 17, said the Academic Decathlon offers a not-so-subtle cue about who belongs. We already know that it's Asian, and they kind of market it more for Asians," Najera said. She noted that the shirts for the Academic Decathlon team have a logo done in the style of anime, Japanese animation.

High recalled a good Latino student she had a few years ago. He also was a gang member. "He would wear baggy pants, and he would load up his pants with books," she said. "He looked around to make sure no one was seeing him so he could look like the baddest kid in the block."
posted by kid ichorous at 7:40 AM on July 24, 2008


An interesting followup note is that I got Harvard just as a fellow Mexican-American there was getting arrested for armed robbery. Yep, armed robbery.

The judge, who could have imposed a maximum 15-year term, was asked by the defense to consider Mr. Razo's achievements. He was a high school football star, Boys Club ''Boy of the Year '' and outstanding student at Servite Roman Catholic High School in Anaheim.

''I don't know how it is that a boy such as Jose Razo stands before this court facing 15 years in state prison,'' said his lawyer, John Barnett. ''Perhaps the gap between the barrio of La Habra and Harvard University was just too wide for him to pass.''


And, one of my other Mexican-American classmates wrote a book about it. I knew these guys. I mean, there at most 30 of us in every Harvard class.
posted by vacapinta at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Delmoi wrote: It's interesting that you would link to that article, and not his apology for writing that article based on the work of racist crackpots.

That's not at all a fair characterization. The article wasn't "based on the work of racist crackpots." It had references to work by one racist crackpot (Rushton) among other scholars, statisticians, etc. He apologized omitting the damning info about Rushton and for not leading the conversation in the direction he wanted. Obviously, you have to be extraordinarily careful with this stuff, and he generally is. That's what makes the piece worth reading.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:28 AM on July 24, 2008


I think the author is being a weasel with this statement. It's certainly true that valuing education does not come from the color of one's skin. However, certainly some ethnic/cultural groups that come to the US do place a huge priority on education, and that affects outcomes in a big way.

I think it's more accurate to say that some _people_ place a huge priority on education. To put it another way: In the late 1800's, Chinese people coming to the United States were being brought over as cheap labor. The newspapers were not, at that time, full of stories about how smart these people were, the newspapers were full of stories about how these Chinese people were degenerate and after the white wimmin. (SEE: Ming the Merciless, etc.)

In the 1960's, Chinese immigration was limited to engineers, scientists, doctors, etc. My father was one of these people -- he graduated from the best university in the entire country and came here to study engineering at one of the best universities in the country. He was not the only one (or even the only one in his family to do this; his sister did this too.)

Both I and my siblings have done quite well, scholastically speaking, with the advanced degrees and everything. This is less because we're members of some sort of monolithic Asian race, and probably more due to the fact that my parents took the time to, for example, tutor me in calculus when I was in 7th grade. If you, similarly, look at children of doctors/engineers/professors, etc., as a whole, I think you'll find they do pretty well too. It's not really a "Chinese culture" or an "Asian culture" type of thing is what I'm saying -- otherwise why not the people who were here to build railroads?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2008


I know that had I had the same influence that his family gave to his life, I would be so so much more right now. It's not about race, it's very much about what the parents input into the child's life. And that means that any child, given the right adults behind them, can achieve anything. How awesome is that?
posted by saturnine at 10:36 AM on July 24


Your problem with your parents isn't that they failed to push you to achieve. It's that they raised you in such a way that you say things like "I would be so so much more right now". Are you nothing now, because you aren't an engineer with a career? You are bright, and more important you have insight into your own situation and circumstances that he probably doesn't have, because at 29 he still allows his mother to do flash cards with him. That is something extremely valueable. That is wisdom. And it can't be learned in school or from flash cards.

So this process you're going through, where you fell stuck or depressed and recognize yourself to be stuck, is more likely for you to become a net positive experience, a turning point, where you mature as a person and through which you will come to direct your mind and passion to something that you want to do, not something to keep your parents happy. When that happens, and believe me it will happen, you will come to see him as being immature.

Also, for the people who still think IQ is a measure of anything--IQ is simply a battery of tests, and there has never yet been a test devised that can't be beaten.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:41 AM on July 24, 2008


This fucking thread sucks, and it's all your fault. Here's why:

-Your stupid fucking anecdotes about how you know one non-white person and therefore have deep insight

-Your inability to read the fucking article, especially the part where they admit that the school is systematically racist against Latino students

-Your unwillingness to lay any blame on the constant white-produced barrage of media that says to Latinos: "you are a maid, you are a gardener, you are ignorant, you are a servant"

-Your inability to shut the fuck up about subjects about which you know nothing, because after all, you're white and educated, so why wouldn't everyone want to hear every single whimsical notion you have about race
posted by sondrialiac at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have often wondered why so much emphasis is placed on individual test scores at school, and very little on group projects that require students to develop skills in leadership and cooperation--after all, learning to work with others is a viable job skill. Maybe if the standards by which we measure "success" in school were different, the values of different groups would be represented. We could emphasize both personal and communal achievement. Students would learn new skills, yes, but more importantly, they would have the chance to excel in different areas instead of thinking that just "one group is smarter/better than the other."

But who am I kidding, with today's education budget and No Child Left Behind, this kind of revitalization of the system is a bit of a pipe dream.
posted by duvatney at 10:12 AM on July 24, 2008


If you were white you neither had to add or subtract points, BUT you were to deduct 3 points if you were Asian American.

Some pieces of research have borne this out, finding race-based admissions beneficial to admissions rates of Blacks and Hispanics, neutral or surprisingly even somewhat beneficial to those of Whites, and detrimental to those of Asians. The first paper runs simulations on admissions to some elite universities while the second considers the actual results of certain systems which eliminated race-based admissions. Another author dissents somewhat, claiming "negative action" (discrimination) against Asians has more of a detrimental effect for Asians than Affirmative Action for Blacks and Hispanics.

As the first article is not openly available, I'll quote two interesting bits, the first an attempt to quantify the benefits and detriments of admissions properties in terms of SAT scores:

African American applicants receive the equivalent of 230 extra SAT points (on a 1600-point scale), and being Hispanic is worth an additional 185 SAT points. Other things equal, recruited athletes gain an admission bonus worth 200 points, while the preference for legacy candidates is worth 160 points. Asian-American applicants face a loss equivalent to 50 SAT points. The underrepresented minority advantage is greatest for African-American and Hispanic applicants whose SAT scores are in the 1200-1300 range, and not for applicants near the lower end of the SAT distribution...

and from the conclusion (note that they're discussing "highly selective universities" so this may or may not generalize):

...even though athlete and legacy applicants are disproportionately white and despite the fact that athlete and alumni children admission bonuses are substantial, preferences for athletes and legacies do little to displace minority applicants, largely because athletes and legacies make up a small share of all applicants to highly selective universities.

posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:12 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


sondriliac: Writing "fuck" a lot doesn't actually convince us of your authority.
posted by decoherence at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2008


I think you might find vacapinta's comment enlightening, sondrialiac. You may find that it's not just "the white-produced barrage of media" that discourages Latinos from excelling in educational fields.
posted by chimaera at 10:19 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


We could emphasize both personal and communal achievement. Students would learn new skills, yes, but more importantly, they would have the chance to excel in different areas instead of thinking that just "one group is smarter/better than the other."

Then you'd have a whole new group of racial stereotypes to deal with in which "one group" was the race of "individual achievers" while "another group" was the race of "natural leaders" and some other group would be the "communal workers."

Personally, I think it's important to pick an academic standard that the school system decides to value and make sure that the students measure up to their potential. Evading this responsibility by just creating "different standards" for people who don't measure up is just a bad idea.
posted by deanc at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2008


sondriliac: Writing "fuck" a lot doesn't actually convince us of your authority.

Oh no!
posted by sondrialiac at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2008


1. There is no generally accepted science linking intelligence and genetics.
2. There is a documented link between nutrition and intelligence.
3. Parents are the greatest variable in academic success.

These are the scientific elements of the discussion. Everything else is just anecdon't and opinion.

I really like sondrialiac's comments... they suggest that, despite the science, personal failure can be blamed on social injustice. This has been an attractive argument for many people across many generations. Again, its science-free, and hey, we all know how that works out.
posted by ewkpates at 10:29 AM on July 24, 2008


I think you might find vacapinta's comment enlightening, sondrialiac.

I read it. I respect her opinion and appreciate her perspective, especially in a thread dominated by people who have no idea what they're talking about.

I don't feel the need to be "enlightened", which apparently means "in agreement with chimaera"

You may find that it's not just "the white-produced barrage of media" that discourages Latinos from excelling in educational fields.

Did I say that it was the only factor? Or did I say that the majority of the posts in this thread were completely blind to institutionalized racism and the impact it has on academic achievement?
posted by sondrialiac at 10:34 AM on July 24, 2008


ewkpates, thanks for the "scientific" information. Cite, please?
posted by sondrialiac at 10:37 AM on July 24, 2008


deanc, I realize my idea is not perfect. I would just like it if "achievement" in schools did not translate as "high score on a standardized test." In the current frenzy of testing, which begins as early as elementary school, a lot of kids who are capable of good academic work (and are naturally skilled in other areas) end up getting prematurely shuffled into a class of underachievers.
posted by duvatney at 10:38 AM on July 24, 2008


I don't feel the need to be "enlightened"

You see, I think that's your problem right there.

I, personally, do feel the need to be enlightened, which is why I seek out places where generally intelligent people speak their opinions and of their experiences. I found vacapinta's story very enlightening, as I've never had experiences like his.

But it seems you've come here with a chip on your shoulder, not apparently in any interest to discover something new, but to find things which reinforce your existing opinions, and to declare all the rest of us "people who have no idea what they're talking about."

I'd be more careful where I point that accusation of ignorance. It may backfire.
posted by chimaera at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why people are so insistent on defending the strange notion that there's no link at all between intelligence and genes. Most studies on the subject demonstrate significant heritability of IQ. Now, not being able to establish precisely how much of it is inherited doesn't mean that the psychological community is still agnostic on the question of whether any of it is inherited. Check out the Wikipedia article on IQ and the heritability section for a summary and some good references.

Furthermore, lacking strong evidence that intelligence doesn't have a genetic component, what reason would there be to think that it doesn't? People seem to have no problem accepting the heritability of a huge variety of other human traits, both physical and psychological. Yet when it comes to intelligence, the default assumption runs the other way: somehow intelligence is unique in its capacity to be completely undetermined by genes. This doesn't make much sense.
posted by decoherence at 11:19 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I worked at a summer school program for migrant workers' kids (probably 99% Latino, mostly Mexican), and the boys were expected to stay out of school and work once they reached 13 or so. Some of the preschoolers I worked with told me they would rather be in the fields with their families. These attitudes were definitely influenced by familial and cultural expectations.

However, I think there is a significant institutional bias at play here. In my middle school, when we studied ancient cultures and their contributions to modern societies, we studied mostly Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures, plus the Greeks and Romans. What about the Aztecs, Mayans and Inca? When we studied "world history," Latin America and Spain were almost completely omitted. Similar omissions exist in other high school curricula and text books that I have looked at.

It's interesting that this thread has focused mainly on expectations of families/communities with regards to education and not our educational system's expectations of these students. While the effects of family and culture are certainly important, our educational system (curricula and teachers both) simply values students of some backgrounds higher than others.
posted by amarie at 11:42 AM on July 24, 2008


I think there is a significant institutional bias at play here. In my middle school, when we studied ancient cultures and their contributions to modern societies, we studied mostly Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures, plus the Greeks and Romans. What about the Aztecs, Mayans and Inca?

What about China and Korea?

Pastabagel raised the issue that tests can be "beaten." Similarly, school systems can be "beaten" if the goal is to do well and get a well-paying job (or whatever your goal is). The question is whether the parents are looking at the school system, looking at what needs to be learned and what academic values in the school system are rewarded and going after that.

I suspect that peer and parental influence plays a lot more of a role than ancient history, for which few students, white, asian, black, or latino, are particularly interested in and are mostly probably bored by.
posted by deanc at 11:52 AM on July 24, 2008


Though I am anglo, I have a long familiarity with Latino/Hispanic culture. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic town on the border of Mexico, and I live now in Southern California.

It's all about the community identity. There are explicit and implicit institutions of class and race in Hispanic society. They even have names identifying their status, mestizo, indigeno, and so on. Latinos are extremely conscious of their socio-economic status. It's part of their strong family identity and community bonding.

The tragic part of this, is that they are deeply entrenched in their class. It's considered a rejection of their class, community, and family to try to improve their status. If you come from a working class family, you literally insult your family if you try to advance your education. It can lead to tremendous conflict, even violence.

This isn't cast in stone. Every now and then a young man or young woman grows up secretly hating the system, understanding the psychic bondage, and wanting more for themselves. Their kids might grow up with encouragement to achieve more, and some of them do. It's tough. Those that try then have to face the resentment and anger of their peers. "You think you are better than us?" Many of them fail. Another generation later, and their kids have the opportunity to break the bonds of class, and they have a better chance of succeeding.

It takes generations, it takes strength, and it demands that their be real opportunities for them to take advantage of. But it's a long haul, and the cards are not in their favor.
posted by Xoebe at 11:59 AM on July 24, 2008


I think segregation has something to do with poor performance amongst Latinos/blacks as well. Reference this map of Milwaukee (PDF) showing percentage of adults without high school degrees by census tract. Milwaukee is the most segregated metro area in the country. The green areas are almost exclusively African-American neighborhoods. The blue areas south of the Interstate are heavily Latino. Besides parents, if you don't have any other role models who have finished high school, what's the motivation to bother?

Segregation may actually help Asians. San Francisco is the most segregated city in the US for Asians.
posted by desjardins at 12:11 PM on July 24, 2008


I meant, the green/blue areas in the first linked map, not the second.
posted by desjardins at 12:12 PM on July 24, 2008


What about China and Korea?

I did say Eastern, which at least in my school, did include China and Japan - perhaps more that I can't remember now.
posted by amarie at 12:15 PM on July 24, 2008


I guess my point, which I did not articulate very well, was that academic and intellectual achievements as well as societal and cultural advancements from Hispanic countries and cultures were not valued.
posted by amarie at 12:17 PM on July 24, 2008


I'm not sure why people are so insistent on defending the strange notion that there's no link at all between intelligence and genes.

I don't think that anyone has said that.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:52 PM on July 24, 2008


Segregation may actually help Asians. San Francisco is the most segregated city in the US for Asians.

I'm not really understanding the implications of this map. I'm very familiar with the neighborhoods of San Francisco, and while the marked areas do show neighborhoods with significant Asian populations, many other cultures live there as well. So what exactly does the phrase "segregated" mean in this case, and how is the map showing that?
posted by oneirodynia at 1:11 PM on July 24, 2008


People seem to have no problem accepting the heritability of a huge variety of other human traits, both physical and psychological. Yet when it comes to intelligence, the default assumption runs the other way: somehow intelligence is unique in its capacity to be completely undetermined by genes.

This is because "intelligence" is a very nebulous concept. Unlike the shape of your ears or your predisposition to certain metal illnesses, there is no good way to measure intelligence. We can't even agree whether it can be measured, because there is no definition for it. (Who is smarter, the Ph.D. with a 120 IQ and an endowed professorship, or the 160 IQ retired garbageman who spends all day watching "Hee Haw"?)

In response to this ambiguity, some people declare that intelligence is not genetically determined at all. Others still say it is entirely determined by genetics. Some people say it's a 50-50 mix, or 60-40, or 99-1. All of these views are falsely assertive because they are based upon the assumption that there is no ambiguity, that it is possible to measure something that, lacking a definition, effectively doesn't exist. Until someone can come up with a way to define (in terms of measurable behavior) what it means to be smart, any argument about the genetic or environmental or nutritional components of intelligence is fundamentally empty.

Now, success in school is something that we can actually measure. But whether a student gets good grades depends on a whole list of things, like parental attitudes and the availability of reading material around the home. As I recall, that's what this post was originally about. How "intelligence" got mixed up in it I shall never know.
posted by Commander Rachek at 1:15 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


oneirodynia: you have to delve pretty deeply into the statistics of the study to determine exactly what the Census Bureau means by segregation. It doesn't mean Jim Crow or forced ghettos. Without going into the specific formulae, it means the mathematical difference between the reality on the ground and an idealized world where groups were evenly distributed across a given geographical area. The map is not saying that only Asians live in the indicated areas; rather it is saying that of the Asian population, a statistically significant proportion of them live in those areas relative to the general population.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2008


In fact, the opposite -- that genes most definitely do play a major role in determining IQ, and if I may cavalierly extend from that, intelligence -- is much closer to factual accuracy.

Fail.

That's not at all a fair characterization. The article wasn't "based on the work of racist crackpots." It had references to work by one racist crackpot (Rushton) among other scholars, statisticians, etc.

It is a fair characterization. He may have mentioned other authors' work, but Rshton's work formed the basis of the article.

Obviously, you have to be extraordinarily careful with this stuff, and he generally is

What do you mean? He was extraordinarily careless, in particular in the very article you linked too. Here is another article in slate about that article
In a semi-retraction, labeled "Regrets," Saletan writes, "The thing that has upset me most concerns a co-author of one of the articles I cited," and goes on to describe how that author is pretty clearly a white supremacist. This Clintonian admission is technically true—Saletan did cite the work of J. Philippe Rushton, and and some may consider Rushton, based on his comments and connections, to be a dyed-in-the-wool, old-fashioned racist. Rushton is not the author of "one of the articles" Saletan cited. Rushton is the author of the article from which Saletan draws almost all of his ammunition. Rushton's paper, co-authored with Arthur Jensen, "Thirty Years of Research Into Race Differences on Cognitive Abilities," is a meta-analysis, a purportedly even-handed review of all the relevant research on race and intelligence. The majority of Saletan's facts come to a reader, therefore, not secondhand, but third-hand, and via the prism of two highly biased researchers.
Saletan was taken in by racist hucksters the same way less then intelligent people are taken in by 'scientific' arguments denying global warming, or evolution, or whatever. A patina of 'studies' and 'references' on top of bullshit.

Probably the same thing happened to decoherence
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on July 24, 2008


I'm still curious what you mean by 'segregation may help Asians'.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2008


Intelligence is a nebulous concept, but that doesn't mean it effectively has no center. After all, we've been successfully using the word for a very long time to communicate a common idea. The general concept is one we do all understand in the abstract.

Measuring intelligence is another story. But an inability to precisely quantify intelligence in any one person doesn't mean that the word is meaningless, or that we can twist it to suit any definition we'd like. It still must be anchored in our common usage of the word.

IQ roughly accords with our shared ideas about intelligence. It comes close to meaning what we mean when we speak of intelligence. We also know that IQ does has a strong genetic component. So it's simply a stretch to claim that intelligence doesn't have a strong genetic component as well.
posted by decoherence at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2008


delmoi: I'm not even claiming that IQ or intelligence has a racial basis. I'm just claiming that it has a genetic component. That's quite different, and unlike the former claim, it's far from controversial. The burden of proof is really on anyone who wants to claim that intelligence is one of the few human traits that has no genetic basis whatsoever. That's a very strong claim -- a much stronger, less supported, and less facially valid claim than to say that intelligence is at least partly determined by one's genes.
posted by decoherence at 1:52 PM on July 24, 2008


delmoi: I'm not even claiming that IQ or intelligence has a racial basis. I'm just claiming that it has a genetic component.

Oh, okay.
posted by delmoi at 1:53 PM on July 24, 2008


K.A.C. Here's another response from a friend from an indigenous Sarawakian culture, which gives more insight into their relationship with education:
Here's the thing: there's a drastically different situation involving the indignenous tribes and the middle class, Valleyite problem of being boxed up. And that is one of poverty. Incredible, terrible poverty.

One of my friends in Form Six was planning on quitting at Form Five because he had siblings to look out for. The average salary of a non-politically affiliated person per MONTH in Sarawak is several hundred, sometimes even less than RM 500 per month. I know at least one son who had to quit his studies in the University of Malaya -- a government-funded institution -- because he couldn't afford it.

How do I know this? I know people who sign their pay slips. And my father keeps a very close relationship with the people in our longhouse, a place that I now rarely visit. In the longhouse, the children would be happy to receive second hand clothing.

The reason why there is no pressure of getting As is because the young are still stuck in a way of life where they have to struggle just to survive. There is no pressure to get into universities by rank or show off your As because in the very first place, it is never even a luxury that one could choose.

I think that the people in your Facebook list are an exception, and are by no means reliable info on this. They are all members of the more priivleged indigenous group -- including myself -- who all have enough money, earned by the upwards mobility, luck, and foresight of our grandparents or parents, to have middle class problems like pressure on getting A's. We do not represent the vast majority of the Sarawakian and Sabahan indigenous (well, I know that I cannot represent the Sarawakian indigenous). The majority are struggling to survive on a salary that qualifies being below the global poverty line.

So the short answer: there is no struggle to grab A's. In fact the opposite is true, and even more tragic: there is pressure to quit school in order to find a job and make a living, to support a large family.
So to me (though I could be mistaken), once you get past the issue of poverty and actually obtain enough privilege to get to school, you'll get sucked into the straight As race by virtue of the school system (though you'll probably also get caught in the middle of inter-racial rivalry). If you aren't in the urban public school system, you're pretty free from the education rat race.
posted by divabat at 2:20 PM on July 24, 2008


Here is my proof that genetics isn't involved in Asian uber-academic performance.

Asians and North American aboriginals likely share the same genetic profile (or it is at least very, very close).

Now compare the scholatic achievement of those of Asian descent with aboriginals.

If genes were the overwhelming factor we should see aboriginal outcomes being very close to Asian outcomes. But we don't.

Ergo genetics is not the overriding factor.

QED. Please send me my sociology Phd degree as I believe I have earned it. Thanks.
posted by storybored at 2:57 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Measuring intelligence is another story. But an inability to precisely quantify intelligence in any one person doesn't mean that the word is meaningless, or that we can twist it to suit any definition we'd like. It still must be anchored in our common usage of the word.

A fair point. I should have said that the word is meaningless in anything but a colloquial sense, so it isn't something you can use as a basis for decisions or meaningful opinions about other people. It is one thing to say "Fred is a pretty sharp guy." It is quite another to say "Fred is the most intelligent person in my class" or "Fred is the most likely to succeed because he's so smart" or "Fred is the smartest person in the class, therefore he should get special treatment." (Or, conversely, "Joe is the stupidest person in the class, so he'll never amount to anything.")

IQ roughly accords with our shared ideas about intelligence. It comes close to meaning what we mean when we speak of intelligence.

Does it? My point is that we don't really know what we mean when we talk about intelligence. In my own vague understanding and inconsistent use of the word, I don't think IQ correlates with intelligence at all closely.

We also know that IQ does has a strong genetic component.

Do we? I'm no neurologist, but I am thoroughly unconvinced of this point. All your IQ really means is how good you are at taking IQ tests. There are a lot of factors that go into being good at that particular set of tasks, only one of which is your genes. My mind is open to the idea that there is a partial genetic component, but to say that it is "strong" does not square with my experience or knowledge of the subject.

The burden of proof is really on anyone who wants to claim that intelligence is one of the few human traits that has no genetic basis whatsoever.

No, the burden of proof lies on anyone who wants to make a definitive statement. I'm not saying you're wrong, but you have as much an obligation to back up your statements as anybody else. None of us is in a particularly good position to be citing data and proving anything right now, of course, so this discussion is somewhere close to useless on that front.
posted by Commander Rachek at 3:26 PM on July 24, 2008


My point is that we don't really know what we mean when we talk about intelligence. In my own vague understanding and inconsistent use of the word, I don't think IQ correlates with intelligence at all closely.

This is something I disagree with: when we say, "Fred is a pretty sharp guy," we generally mean that he sees how to solve problems and has a good memory that allows him to connect previously-seen problems to the present. These are generally the same skills that academic classes reward in the form of grades: the ability to solve problems and remember facts and concepts and connect those that are related to each other.

Now, to a degree, many of these are learned skills that are nurtured. However, it would be helpful with what your own "vague understanding and inconsistent use of" intelligence is. As I said, IQ seems to correlate to "what classes reward you for doing well." There may be a chicken-and-the-egg issue involved, but that seems to be my impression.
posted by deanc at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2008


African-Americans whose families pre-date the Civil War are mostly descended from:
- west and central Africans
- the losers in intra-African wars during the slave trade period
- docile slaves who did not resist their enslavers/owners to the death
- white rapist slaveowners (genetic testing has found that ~17% of American blacks' ancestors were white)


I believe most African-Americans whose families pre-date the Civil War are descended from west and central Africans and tended to be losers in intra-African wars.

That the KKK was such a strong political force in the early 1900s and that anti-miscegenation laws and Jim Crow held for so long after the official end of slavery in the 1860s is evidence that the slave system was terribly pervasive and tyrannical. Had I been black in the deep South and owned by another and faced the culture there at that time, I'd be docile too.

Regarding white rapist slaveowners, there were also a lot of European indentured servants in the 1600s who freely intermarried or intermixed with indentured servants and slaves from Africa, not to mention Chinese laborers brought over to the South after the Civil War and Native Americans.
posted by millardsarpy at 3:48 PM on July 24, 2008


Is this thread I come to call people racist? Or is this one I come to call people stupid?

MetaFilter is an odd place. A place where people all ways say "there is no such thing as race" and "intelligence is hard to define" but seem to have no problem calling each other stupid racists.
posted by tkchrist at 4:04 PM on July 24, 2008


Intelligence may be hard to define, but stupidity stands out like a sore thumb.

One particular form of stupidity is ascribing a common set of negative traits to a large & diverse group of people, solely based on their similar appearance or ethnic background.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:50 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't feel the need to be "enlightened"

You see, I think that's your problem right there.

I, personally, do feel the need to be enlightened, which is why I seek out places where generally intelligent people speak their opinions and of their experiences. I found vacapinta's story very enlightening, as I've never had experiences like his.


How nice for you. You are not responding to my original comment in any way. Your didactic attitude is humorous, though, keep it up.
posted by sondrialiac at 6:21 PM on July 24, 2008


Commander Rachek: All fair points. My real, overarching point though isn't that the data definitively shows that intelligence is heritable. It's just that given what we know about the heritability of most other human traits, shouldn't the default assumption be that intelligence is heritable in some degree too? That's not an awfully strong claim. Correspondingly, I don't think it requires awfully strong support to believe it. It squares with common observation (i.e., that smart people tend to have smart kids), it's supported by the majorty of studies on this topic that do show IQ is partly heritable, and as I said, it comports with what we know about the heritability of lots of other traits. So lacking evidence to the contrary, I just don't see any reason to take the opposite, much stronger position -- that intelligence isn't heritable even in the least. It's certainly possible; I just don't see why people think it, though, and are so eager to defend it.
posted by decoherence at 6:40 PM on July 24, 2008


Sondrialiac, your original comment, aside from some quaint racist noise about how White people shouldn't be talking about race (what is this, survey American Studies 101?), calls out the thread for not addressing Latino stereotypes in the "White-produced" media, and for ignoring Lincoln High's institutional racism against Latinos.

However, in the original LA Times article, there is no emphasis placed by primary sources on the "White-produced" media. Moreover, in the entire article, I find only one charge of racism laid at the feet of Lincoln High itself - that Latino students might be asked more often for hall passes. Otherwise, the article paints a school that is in fact trying its best to remedy an existing problem of cultural imperatives being carried by the students and their families. A system that is institutionally racist against Latinos does not decry the "racial achievement gap" separating Asian and non-Latino white students from Latinos and blacks, much less try to undo it:

Barbara Paulson, who coordinates Lincoln's magnet program and teaches AP biology, said it had been understood for a long time that teachers needed to try harder to recruit Latino students for AP classes because "the Asian kids come on in droves." [...] Olmedo said many capable Latino students refused to take AP classes or join other academically rigorous activities.Teachers said they were saddened by self-defeating attitudes. "I think the thing I always hear from the Latino kids is, 'Oh, well, Miss, he's Asian, she's Asian. Of course they do well,' " said Alli Lauer, who teaches English. "It's frustrating to hear them do it to each other."

Sorry if this clashes with a preconceived worldview where White people create these performance gaps ex nihilo and become teachers in minority classrooms in order to exacerbate them.

In summary, you're suggesting that we place some kind of magical cache on the statements of non-Whites, re-read the FPP article, and then promptly ignore the majority of non-White opinions expressed therein. This argument is self-contradictory on its face.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:16 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


How nice for you. You are not responding to my original comment in any way.

I'm sorry, I didn't get the impression that you were interested in what anyone here had to say.

I thought you were encouraging all of us to "shut the fuck up about subjects about which you know nothing, because after all, you're white and educated" ?

Or am I taking away the wrong thing from that?

Or would you like me to respond more directly to your profanity-laden, racist diatribe?
posted by chimaera at 7:16 PM on July 24, 2008


OK, so I think comments like "segregation may help Asians" are kind of a strange thing to say, partially because historically, this 'segregation' was forced. As Helen Zia's "Asian American Dreams" puts it:

In the late 1870s, the anti-Chinese "Yellow Peril" movement gripped the West. Cities erupted in riots against the Chinese -- homes, laundries, and shops were burned to the ground. Murders and lynchings of Chinese were commonplace. Chinese women--the very small number who were admitted to the United States--were molested by angry gangs of whites. In rural areas, white farm workers set fire to the barns and fields where Chinese lived and worked....

The Chinese called this the driving-out time ... The Workingmen's Party in California, a white labor party with a large Irish following, adopted the slogan "The Chinese must go!" One of its ideas was to drop a balloon filled with dynamite on San Francisco's Chinatown. The "Chinese question" framed the labor stance for Democrats and Republicans: while Democrats exploited the race hysteria to win the support of labor, Republicans supported the business ideal of an unlimited supply of second-class, low-wage labor. Caught between the racism of both political parties, the Chinese were used to inflame and distract white workers, frustrated by rising unemployment and an economic depression.

From Los Angeles to Denver, from Seattle to Rock Springs, Wyoming, Chinese were driven out. In Tacoma, Washington, hundreds of Chinese were herded onto boats and set adrift at sea, presumably to their deaths. Mobs burned all the Chinese homes and businesses in Denver in 1880. Newspapers from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle stirred fears that the Chinese, together with the newly freed black population, would become a threat to the Republic. Years earlier, orator Horace Greeley had captured the sense of the intelligensia: "The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy beyond all conception without any of the higher domestic or social relations; lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every female is a prostitute of the basest order."

The anti-Chinese fervor led Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, not only barring Chinese from immigrating but forbidding legal residents from becoming citizens ... The ugly legislation was also the first ever passed by Congress targeting a group based on race.

posted by Comrade_robot at 8:03 PM on July 24, 2008


Vavapinta, as noted in the article you linked, this kind of thing has happened before, and has inspired not only a book, but also a TV movie as well as a very famous music video.

Sometimes ones homelife is not enough to escape the destructive path that is set by a negative environment and the twisted expectations that it breeds. Despite the fairytale ending of that video, the strength of character required to reject environmental influences is not insignificant. For this reason, I'm sure that this sad phenomenon will continue happening.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 8:24 PM on July 24, 2008


OK, so I think comments like "segregation may help Asians" are kind of a strange thing to say, partially because historically, this 'segregation' was forced.

I think segregation is a loaded word to use in this context and I'd like to replace it with "clustering." Clustered ethnic communities - however they originated - tend to self-perpetuate cultural behavior. In the case of Asians, one behavior seems to be heavy pressure to excel in school. With Latinos it appears to be the lack of such pressure. I'd be interested to see whether groups in less-clustered cities (i.e. more assimilated groups) still exhibit these traits in such a pronounced manner.

Taking it out of the context of race and IQ for a moment: I'm from Wisconsin, where binge drinking is a state hobby. Colleges are pronounced clusters of binge drinkers. Kids are likely to be encouraged to drink by watching the behavior of those around them. Move the same kid to Utah and statistically, I'd bet he'd be less likely to drink because there are fewer drinkers in Utah.
posted by desjardins at 8:24 PM on July 24, 2008


Please forgive me for mispelling your name vacapinta
posted by Stu-Pendous at 8:26 PM on July 24, 2008


with Russians taking a slight, inexplicable edge

Don't Russians have Russian math school that they send their kids to after school? Can anyone back me up on this?
posted by fermezporte at 9:18 PM on July 24, 2008


Russian math school? Well, here in Armenia (Former Soviet Union) kids do go to tutors after school closer to graduation in order to prep for university exams. And some families start these tutors earlier than the last year of school. Tons of families pay for language and music tutors for their kids at various ages.
posted by k8t at 12:34 AM on July 25, 2008


Look, girls are good at math now. Either their genes got better or their parental standards did. Huh.
posted by ewkpates at 3:52 AM on July 25, 2008


Never say that race exists, or that there are genetic differences between races. Never ever! It's too painful, and we have to compensate for all those years of ignorance by being ignorant in a different way. You can't be a good liberal unless you devote yourself to these precepts! You're a good liberal, aren't you?

Exactly.

---

It's ridiculous to accuse someone of racism simply because they are interested in the question of whether there is a link between race and intelligence. The charge doesn't deserve an answer, but I must share this quote:

[Brief discussion of Flynn effect]

'In other words, black Americans' test score results in 1995 would have given them an average IQ just over 100 in 1945. Only the repeated renorming of IQ tests upward created the illusion that blacks had made no progress, but were stuck at an IQ of 85. But we would never have known this if some researchers had not defied the taboo on studying race and IQ imposed by black "leaders" and white "friends."'

source

---

For a moment, let's ignore the debate over whether intelligence and race 'exists'. Thomas Sowell in his review of 'The Bell Curve', makes an argument which shows that a genetic link is unlikely, and also the limitations of assigning the difference to 'cultural bias'.

'...Herrnstein and Murray do an excellent job of exposing the flaws in the argument that tests are culturally biased by showing that the greatest black-white differences are not on the questions which presuppose middle-class vocabulary or experiences, but on abstract questions such as spatial perceptual ability...'

'In short, groups outside the cultural mainstream of contemporary Western society tend to do their worst on abstract questions, whatever their race might be. But to call this cultural "bias" is misleading, particularly if it suggests that these groups' "real" ability will produce better results than their test scores would indicate. That non sequitur was destroyed empirically long before Herrnstein and Murray sat down to write The Bell Curve. Whatever innate potential various groups may have, what they actually do will be done within some particular culture. That intractable reality cannot be circumvented by devising "culture-free" tests, for such tests would also be purpose-free in a world where there is no culture-free society.'

We can hope, and perhaps expect, that as distinct cultural groups (many of which are at least partially defined by ethnicity) embrace the values of the West that the IQ of those groups will rise. But if a given culture, which has scored comparatively low on IQ tests, remains distinct, it is reasonable to predict that they will continue to demonstrate lower average intelligence than that of mainstream Western society.

---

And on the utility (!) of IQ (also from Sowell's review):

'Empirical data from a wide variety of sources establish that even the differing educational backgrounds or socioeconomic levels of families in which individuals were raised are not as good predictors of future income, academic success, job performance ratings, or even divorce rates, as IQ scores are. It is not that IQ results are infallible, or even that correlations between IQ and these other social phenomena are high. Rather, the correlations simply tend to be higher than correlations involving other factors that might seem more relevant on the surface. Even in non-intellectual occupations, pen-and-paper tests of general mental ability produce higher correlations with future job performance than do "practical" tests of the particular skills involved in those jobs. '
posted by BigSky at 12:10 PM on July 25, 2008


"...and another thing I don't like about your mother is..."
posted by blue_beetle at 12:34 PM on July 25, 2008


"This racism. . . is killing me"

BigSky, you proffer your argument with a discussion of The Bell Curve and the scholarship of Thomas Sowell. Sowell, being a fellow of the Hoover Institute and sharing that honor with such luminaries as, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D'Souza, Shelby Steele, Edwin Meese and Pete Wilson. Do you thin k that there might be some bias in the work of people who associate themselves with such august personage? This is not to say that they are not reputable scholars (with the exception of D'Souza, he's a fucking hack) but let's just say that perhaps we are only seeing one side of the story here.

I've asked this before in threads similar to this and I have never received a cogent answer, but here goes again. What exactly is at stake for those of you that are so convinced that intelligence is genetic and correlated to race? Seriously, what do you expect to get out of this? Does it validate something for you? Does it explain certain things to you? What is it about race/intelligence/biology that you are so wedded to?
posted by anansi at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2008


It's ridiculous to accuse someone of racism simply because they are interested in the question of whether there is a link between race and intelligence.

I think it's valid to ask if there's a genetic component to intelligence, but useless to ask if there's a "link between race and intelligence," because "race" is so vague and loaded a term to be meaningless outside of a sociological context. Human beings do not naturally occur in "races," and there's no categorization into which they naturally fall. What we perceive to be "races" are arbitrary lines drawn across what are in reality smooth gradations (e.g. there are a range of skin tones, a range of face shapes, etc., and what we decide qualifies as "black" versus "white" or "European" versus "Asian" is inherently arbitrary). It is a completely invented, socially-constructed concept.

The genetic question is interesting and worthy of study, but only if it's made clear that it is not a "racial" question. Genetics is something that can be studied quantitatively and with some degree of rigor in a scientific context, "race" is not.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:19 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Human beings do not naturally occur in "races," and there's no categorization into which they naturally fall."

Not exactly.

http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/01/race-current-consensus.php
Most interesting bit: "The basis for this assertion comes from a paper (open access) by a different set of researchers at Stanford, who assembled a group of Americans who identified themselves as either African-American, white, East Asian, or Hispanic. They followed a similar protocal as the studies in the first section-- they took DNA from all individuals, looked a hundreds of different DNA variants, and applied a clustering algorithm. They then looked to see if their clusters corresponded to self-reported group. And indeed, in 3631 out of 3636 cases (99.85%), the individuals were clustered by the algorithm into the "correct" racial group."
posted by Jacqueline at 2:29 PM on July 25, 2008


Not exactly.

I'm not exactly sure how 'legitimate' gnxp actually is, links to it come up often when people are arguing the race/intelligence stuff. Either way, the clustering stuff, if you want to try to cluster people into races by genetics it's not uprising it would work, but that don't mean the concepts of 'races' is legitimate.

There is a lot of genetic variation in humans that's geographic, but there are no 'walls' between those gradients really. If you picked arbitrary boundaries, you could probably cluster those groups just as easily as you could 'traditional' races. So you could cluster Chinese and Vietnamese, east Africans from west Africans, eastern Europeans from western Europeans and so on. You could probably find clusters that would contain multiple 'races' if you wanted too.

The fact that 'race' is tied to geography somewhat, and genes are also tied to geography, does not mean that the concept of distinct races is legitimate.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2008


It's ridiculous to accuse someone of racism simply because they are interested in the question of whether there is a link between race and intelligence. The charge doesn't deserve an answer, but I must share this quote:

Obviously no one likes to be called a racist. Unfortunately some people actually are racist. It's odd that you would argue so forcefully that we be allowed to discuss the innate inferiority of Africans on the one hand, and whine so loudly about how unfair it is you get called a racist.

Interestingly the last thread about this featured both and comments by BigSky and links to GNXP. What an unusual coincidence!
posted by delmoi at 3:22 PM on July 25, 2008


Hmm, just looking at the front page of GNXP, one of the articles is about how blacks are more susceptible to HIV, two are about the interplay between race, intelegence, and economic outcomes. One is titled "Colder climates favor civilization even among Whites alone" (wow even among whites!?). And one of them positively mentions Steve Sailer, a notorious racist. That's about half the content.

Who ever writes for that blog is clearly pretty obsessed with this stuff, and apparently very, erm, sympathetic to the B.S. racist point of view.
posted by delmoi at 4:06 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Additionally, it is interesting how some of our resident racists have used this opportunity to turn a post about Asians and Latinos into a, "black people are genetically inferior" bullshit-fest. Obsess much?
posted by anansi at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2008


anansi,

I'm a pretty big fan of Sowell, I would guess that I've referenced him more than anyone else in my posts here (possible exception: Ron Paul). He's guided my thinking on far more than just race. His books were my first serious readings in economics and his distinction between the visions of the utopian and the constrained realist, is the most insightful presentation of contemporary politics I've come across. I don't find his association with the Hoover Institute to be distasteful, after all it's where Milton Friedman set up camp. Which isn't to say I have much regard for Condoleezza Rice, Dinesh D'Souza, Shelby Steele, or Edwin Meese, I don't.

But that has nothing to do with your question. What's at stake? The discussion pushes a couple of different buttons.

One of the aspects that gets my goat about this discussion is that pointing out the obvious disparities in scores is often answered with either the allegation that just noticing and talking about it is the sure sign of a racist, or that the disparities are due to institutionalized racism. In other words, I have to buy into a foreign (progressive) world view before I can understand. If I think that putting the responsibility for low IQ scores on institutionalized racism is nonsense (see the change in Jewish IQ scores early 20th century - from the review linked to above), then there's nowhere to go. Many whites who are committed to some notion of abstract, radical equality, fear the label 'racist'. Since they mistake equality of outcome for equality of opportunity, it's easy enough to convince them that curiosity about the distribution is racist curiosity.

This same pattern of argument at lower amplitude shows up in political discussions which undoubtedly increases my sensitivity to it. Some are convinced that they need to support policies like affirmative action or hate crimes legislation in order to "counter institutional racism", and others figure out that pointing out how the policy privileges minorities, and thus subverts equality, is taken to be the sign of a racist, in other words, a big no-no.

Every so often in these threads, there's a bit of a stress on rhetoric as performance, that we should be more concerned with the conclusion than the question. As in making sure that one asks a question that fits in with the big picture. Doing this, destroys conversation. It typically goes hand in hand with the idea that human nature is infinitely malleable, that we just need to make the right presentation, create the right effect, and all done. It's a view of reality as perception, so there's a focus on the symbol, the gesture, the slogan. But it isn't so, there are limits to the changes that can be brought about in people's beliefs through controlling the conversation. Some people are going to be curious about the taboo subject and then it becomes a sticking point. As you might guess, those subjects tend to draw my interest. I think we're best served by taking a real look and then the issue will likely dissolve. This concern over how the question fits in is also implicit in making people justify their question. As if there was ever any real justification for curiosity beyond a desire to know.

I'm not sure why you think I have a vested interest in proving a relationship between race and IQ. I do not. I think it very unlikely that there is any. Since I have some limited egalitarian sympathies myself, it's psychologically comforting to find evidence supporting that belief. I've certainly posted more than my share on the subject, especially since I too believe it comes down to culture, no doubt. The mob action tends to rile me up. Most of all, it's what I see as the disingenuous handling of the subject that does it.

Making specious arguments that there is no such thing as intelligence or race is just a whole lot of hand waving; it doesn't convince. When we use those words, we know what we're talking about. These same arguments don't get floated if the terms are needed for a claim that a progressive wants to make. In an earlier thread on this subject, there was a link to a blog that made an analogy from race in humans, to breed in dogs. Perhaps the analogy was fatally flawed, I don't know. But no one took the time to refute it. Instead this was labeled a racist trope and so the analogy and the larger argument it served could be summarily dismissed. That also, does not convince. Going back again to Sowell's review of 'The Bell Curve', he doesn't insult anyone's intelligence by claiming that the material can be ignored since there is no absolute definition of race or pretending that IQ scores don't mean much of anything. It's an even-handed discussion of the material, without avoiding the most sensitive, namely,

>'Long before The Bell Curve was published, the empirical literature showed repeatedly that IQ and other mental tests do not predict a lower subsequent performance for minorities than the performance that in fact emerges. In terms of logic and evidence, the predictive validity of mental tests is the issue least open to debate. On this question, Murray and Herrnstein are most clearly and completely correct.'

He presents their mistake,

>'their conclusion that this "phenomenon seems peculiarly concentrated in comparisons of ethnic groups" is simply wrong.

>When European immigrant groups in the United States scored below the national average on mental tests, they scored lowest on the abstract parts of those tests. So did white mountaineer children in the United States tested back in the early 1930s. So did canal boat children in Britain, and so did rural British children compared to their urban counterparts, at a time before Britain had any significant non-white population. So did Gaelic-speaking children as compared to English-speaking children in the Hebrides Islands. This is neither a racial nor an ethnic peculiarity. It is a characteristic found among low-scoring groups of European as well as African ancestry.

>In short, groups outside the cultural mainstream of contemporary Western society tend to do their worst on abstract questions, whatever their race might be.'

without overstating the conclusion,

>'Couldn't the mean of blacks move 15 points as well through environmental changes? There seems no reason why not--but also no reason to believe that white and Asian means can be made to stand still while the Flynn effect works its magic.

>But the issue is not solely one of either predicting or controlling the future. It is a question of the validity of the conclusion that differences between genetically different groups are due to those genetic differences, whether in whole or in part. When any factor differs as much from Al to A2 as it does from A2 to B2, why should one conclude that this factor is due to the difference between A in general and B in general? That possibility is not precluded by the evidence, but neither does the evidence point in that direction.(2.)'

And that is persuasive. It's also inspiring, I doubt I could be so detached and fair minded in examining material listing the deficits of me and mine, but I aspire to be.

Finally, I don't believe all cultures are equal, far from it. I also enjoy presenting Sowell's argument because I love what it suggests about the West.

---

delmoi,

All of your points are stupid.

I don't recall whining, loudly or not, about how unfair it is that I get called a racist, but never mind that.

You really show your colors with the shocking revelation that I posted twice in the last thread that linked to GNXP. What a slimy little bullshit tactic that is. You're careful not to go too far and say I posted a link to GNXP (as if posting a link meant endorsement!) because that's easy to check. And at the same time careful not to mention that you yourself have many times more posts on both that thread and this one. But I guess that's irrelevant, you're on the 'right side'.

It's pretty much exactly what I would expect from you and your ilk. It points directly to both your inability to make an argument and your desire to make associations for which you lack evidence.

And you're pretty goddamn lazy to boot. I'm sure I've made enough racially sensitive remarks here, that with this lefty crowd for an audience, you could make me out to be the mirror image of 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillman.

Pathetic.
posted by BigSky at 10:31 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article is about the high school in my neighborhood. I imagine one unspoken factor is the demographic differences between the Asian and Latino families--bearing more kids at a younger age simply means fewer resources of time, money and expectations spread among the school age generation.
posted by Scram at 3:25 AM on July 26, 2008


You're careful not to go too far and say I posted a link to GNXP (as if posting a link meant endorsement!) because that's easy to check.

That's a bit rich coming from someone who likes to hype spurious correlations. In any event, this is what you actually said about GNXP in that thread:
Curiosity requires no defense. People wonder and they discuss. And I have seen no proof that the GNXP post is racist dreck. An analogy of races to dog breeds doesn't do it. All that he was illustrating there was an isolated population...


Another critical quote for all those too lazy to read the GNXP blog:
"In fact, economists Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann report that the association between economic outcomes and measured intelligence appear to be even higher within developing African countries than within Western countries. (pp 13-15) Similarly, at the national level, psychologists Earl Hunt and Werner Wittmann found that the relationship between GDP and national average IQ was stronger for the mostly African developing countries than it was among the developed industrial countries. (0.70 vs 0.58)" (Psst! This means IQ is real, and it matters. As in it has real world effects.)
So you didn't link to it, but you did defend it, and you did excerpt it approvingly.

Pathetic.

Really? Well, you're the one crying like a baby, not me.
posted by delmoi at 3:43 AM on July 26, 2008


I think the most profoundly wrong thing with this whole race/IQ sidetrack is this assumption that IQ scores are single-variable functions of a static innate intelligence and aren't raised and lowered by a horde of lifestyle factors, including the regular mental exercise involved in schoolwork. We're neural nets for crying out loud, not vending machines.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:34 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


BigSky,

Thanks for the in depth answer. I get it. Don't get me wrong, I completely disagree with you on many points, I think that this stems from a fundamental paradigm difference. You are a true believer in the value of western culture. I am most emphatically not. But although I think that you are wrong, you have put quite a bit of thought into your perspective, and I appreciate the explanation that you have given above.
posted by anansi at 4:45 PM on July 26, 2008


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