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January 18, 2007

Murray on Education

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I found Charles Murray's three-parter (one, two, three) for the WSJ about America and education realistic, sensible, and humane. Of course this may simply mean that I agree with him and I like his writing style. (Link thanks to ALD.)

In any case ... Murray 1) reminds us gently that half of all children will always be of below-average intelligence; 2) contends that we fetishize college, and that too many American kids are in college with no good reason for being there; and 3) argues that our especially-gifted kids need to learn humility and wisdom. I can't disagree with him on any of that.

My favorite passage from the series:

Like it or not, g exists, is grounded in the architecture and neural functioning of the brain, and is the raw material for academic performance. If you do not have a lot of g when you enter kindergarten, you are never going to have a lot of it. No change in the educational system will change that hard fact.

That says nothing about the quality of the lives that should be open to everyone across the range of ability. I am among the most emphatic of those who think that the importance of IQ in living a good life is vastly overrated.

No, wait, maybe my favorite passage is this one instead:

The spread of wealth at the top of American society has created an explosive increase in the demand for craftsmen. Finding a good lawyer or physician is easy. Finding a good carpenter, painter, electrician, plumber, glazier, mason -- the list goes on and on -- is difficult, and it is a seller's market. Journeymen craftsmen routinely make incomes in the top half of the income distribution while master craftsmen can make six figures. They have work even in a soft economy. Their jobs cannot be outsourced to India. And the craftsman's job provides wonderful intrinsic rewards that come from mastery of a challenging skill that produces tangible results. How many white-collar jobs provide nearly as much satisfaction?

Though god knows that I'm grateful for my cozy white-collar job, I've often wished that I'd developed a hands-on, sellable craft instead ...



posted by Michael at January 18, 2007


I think this is solid guidance to any young person with at least average intelligence:

1- Get a degree (AA or BS) in a science or technical field
2- Learn how to write competently
3- Learn a trade

Posted by: PA on January 18, 2007 1:51 PM

MB, maybe you should have tried emigrating someplace where you have no connections, very sketchy familiarity with language and oversupplied market of natives for your white-collar profession.
You'll be hard-pressed to actually do something about your wish.

First question they asked me at the emigrants-assisting agency's job cancellor, a week after arival: "What can you do with your hands?"

Posted by: Tat on January 18, 2007 1:54 PM

Well, I live near at least three contractors (handimen), and while they all have steady work, it sure is hard and they put in long hours. I can see the guy across the street in his garage until 10 PM all summer. All of them get hurt once a year, and their backs and hands are a mess.

Posted by: yahmdallah on January 18, 2007 1:58 PM

I laid carper and tile during my student years, and then way into my late 20s. It was very satisfying work, and it's great to have those skills now. But after a few years of doing this, the knees and lower back really start feeling it.

Posted by: PA on January 18, 2007 2:38 PM

And,while some are lucky enough to go with a large enough company for employment that offers benefits, most are self-employed with all the lack of health insurance, 401K's, pension programs, stock options, etc. that bring that high income back down to lower middle class levels.

Posted by: susan on January 18, 2007 2:40 PM

The real problem is that we are training many kids for "white collar jobs" that either don't exist, or will not exist in the very near future. Blue collar work is certainly no picnic (my Dad was an electrician, and I remember the shape he used to be in when he got home) but we're not doing kids any favors by training them for non-existent jobs. College can be great, but costs are going through the roof, and there are an awful lot of kids out there with BA degrees delivering pizzas right now.

Posted by: tschafer on January 18, 2007 4:19 PM

There is an equal shortage of qualified people to fill many highly technical jobs. It's not attendance of college itself that should be questioned, but the types of courses and majors that are being chosen by young people. As an English major, I lament not having picked a more technical major, as I was going to read those books anyway.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 18, 2007 4:27 PM

No Michael, We live in lake Woebegone, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all of the children are above average.

Posted by: Kurt9 on January 18, 2007 8:34 PM

I always figured that if IT outgrows the need for me, I'd hie myself unto a trade school and learn how to fix cars.

Posted by: CGHill on January 18, 2007 8:41 PM

I think Murray is full of bean by-product. The main thing is that he moves his goal-posts around all the time and the second main thing is that he thinks he and IQ tests are the measure of all things.

My IQ, SATs, GRE's, National Teacher scores are all up there real nice. The limit of my ability to understand is a Stephen Toulmin U of Chicago Philosophy of Science class -- I can't quiiiite make it out, but almost. I can follow GNXP website MOST of the time. I can write, I can cast bronze, I can do database entry, and I'm not in a cozy white-collar job because I cannot take orders from ninnies. (Anyway I'm retired.)

My resume shows ten years of teaching on the Blackfeet reservation where I had one kid who tested at 185 -- he had a nice white-collar job with the state and dumped it because of the, well, bean-by-product. Now he drives truck, is his own boss, and makes more money. I had kids whose IQ's tested so low that we didn't legally have to take them in a public school -- in those days. One of those kids worked in the foundry alongside me and was better at it than I was. When I looked at the IQ scores of my Indian students, I automatically added ten points for culture disadvantage. You can kind of tell how bright a kid really is and they didn't match their scores. I've had forty years to find out how they would turn out -- those who lived and thrived were not the highest IQ kids. They were the warmest and most dependable.

Murray talks about college education when he means "college educations" plural, depending on where you go. Just about anybody can get through some college somewhere. He makes no allowance for creativity, flair, or human engagingness or simple stubbornness. (I probably COULD have eventually understood Toulmin if I'd tried hard enough, maybe had a little tutoring.) Neither does he make allowance for the economic times, lousy nutrition, bad location, family abuse, and a host of other influences. Believe me, plenty of really stupid people get through really fine schools -- need I mention our president? Ever hear of a "gentleman's C" ?

NAW. No sale, Murry.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 18, 2007 11:59 PM

I think Murray makes a lot of good points. I notice that many here have fallen back on the idea of "trades" for those of low IQ. Boy, I wouldn't want those guys working on my house! For one thing, crafstmen have to be good at reading drawings, planning work so it can be done efficiently and without wasting materials, and know building codes, some law, how to organize a work crew, budget, come up with bills of material, etc. Its not just connecting wires or cutting a piece of wood. Most of the really good craftsmen I have met are fairly intelligent people. They're not the 90 IQ types talked about in this article. I remember after Katrina, people were floating around the idea that the welfare dependent blacks would be the ones to rebuild New Orleans. Really? High school droputs, many of which can barely read, have no experience, are going to somehow figure out how to read plans, pick up sometimes complicated work skills, show up on time, etc, work well and cooperatively with others? Not likely! They'd rather scam the welfare state or sell drugs for easy money. The lack of prospects for these people is one reason why the gang and drug problems are bad and getting worse. they don't want dead-end, hard, tedious, low-paying jobs.

Low skill, decent paying factory jobs are disappearing, and other jobs, such as driving trucks, buses, janitor, etc., are becoming de-unionized. The prospects for these kids are basically low wage non-union jobs, if they can find some not filled by illegal aliens. This is a bad situation and getting worse, and its very serious.

I stumbled into a technical field as a young guy. I could always do math and physics, and so I got a science degree. My job is basically local, though there is an increasing H1-b love-fest in my field too. Luckily, I have enough experience to be a bit higher up on the food chain to be affected by that, so I am very glad to have gotten the degree I have. My job will never be outsourced either.

Both of those statements you highlighted are Murray's way of putting a smiley face on the situation, but both are wrong. You can look at a lot of studies that show that the quality of life is better for the smarter, better educated types, from finding challenging, well compensated work, to staying married to a spouse, to enjoying better health, a longer life, of living in a nice neighborhood, to enjoying the arts, etc. Of course, there is variation in any group. But Murray wants to avoid two charges--one of being a complete pessimist, given the trends of the increasing number of the low IQ in our society, and the other of being a racist (in this case, noticing broad group differences in IQ which are real and unchangeable). It doesn't really matter--those who don't like the truth will call him a racist anyway, and anyone who can correctly see the situation he describes knows the future is clouded at best. I congratulate him for having the guts to tell the truth in spite of certain attack. Those immune, for whatever reason, to his straight talk will be sadly disappointed as time goes on, as well as unprepared for our Clockwork Orange future.

BTW, I agree with the Patriarch. I don't understand why anyone would pay $40-$160k over four years to read books you can get at the library for free. Now that the job prospects for many such Liberal Arts degrees is getting poorer, I would hope that people would wise up. Though in the future, I suspect that there will be many far more affordable options to the larcenous marxist indoctrination camps, thus happily unemploying one group of high IQ troublemakers who are vastly overpaid and woefully unproductive.

Posted by: BIOH on January 19, 2007 3:08 AM

Mary takes a rhetorical approach I see often among liberals (I'm not saying that she is a liberal). Namely: talking down IQ in general, while talking up her own IQ.

I think Steve Sailer pointed out this paradox somewhere. Something about how liberals feel superior to conservatives by being enlightened enough to know that IQ is meaningless while simultaneously believing (incorrectly) that their own IQ is superior to the conservatvies'.

BTW, I'm not otherwise commenting on Mary's post, which is interesting as usual. Just pointing out something that struck me as a recurring motif.

Posted by: PA on January 19, 2007 7:49 AM

BIOH, I was being somewhat glib my Liberal Arts degree. I value it highly and learned many things while getting it, things I most likely would not have stumbled upon myself. The decline of the usefulness of a liberal arts degrees is a troubling thing to me, and not only because I have one. We are moving more and more to a world of specialization and compartmentalization and other long words ending in -ation.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 19, 2007 10:39 AM

Oh PA, you can confidently say Mary is a liberal. Lithmus test: if somebody is proud of Jummuh Carter's handshake, she is a liberal all right. If somebody "takes off points for culture disadvantages", she's a liberal all right. Etc.

Chaz, as a supplement to your bright future as a car mechanic: I believe any homeowner who survived owning his residence for a minimum of 3 years is qualified to be a handyman of highest expertise.

Posted by: Tat on January 19, 2007 11:44 AM

Liberal is not an adequate description and I think I added other measures than just IQ. (YOU try figuring out what Toulmin is talking about in a fast-paced lecture!) Don't forget, Tat, that while I shook Jimmy Carter's hand I had a pocket full of dog poop and was wearing my pajamas under my jeans. In fact, I was herded into line by Secret Service. (It's nice that you remember the story!)

Of course, you are quite right about home-owners learning to do things. I would certainly not want a low-IQ person doing any wiring (I'm very much afraid of fire!) but I haven't minded doing a bit of plumbing repair since it was pretty much amateur ad hoc anyway. I did study some library books first. It helps that now one can get away with flexible tubing instead of having to sweat copper joints.

I wish we had different categories than liberal/conservative. How about "experimental?" "Tentative?"

But as long as we're talking categories, notice how Murray side-steps gender. You can be the most brilliant white-collar person on the planet, but if you're female, you can resign yourself to "assistant" jobs unless a token is needed. I suppose his assumption is that "little women" have little brains.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 19, 2007 12:57 PM

""You can be the most brilliant white-collar person on the planet, but if you're female, you can resign yourself to "assistant" jobs unless a token is needed."

That not so per my observation. I work in a technical/creative industry and my observation is that men and women's technical positions are commensurate with their objective qualifications.

So far as leadership positions go, this gets more subjective, as intangibles such as command presence, confidence, ability to make people like you, and a genuine desire to tell others what to do come into play.

But I've never seen a situation where a brilliant and objectively qualified woman is relegated to a lesser position against her wishes (and if that happened, she'd just leave the firm and go to another one).

PS: Amen to flexible tubing!

Posted by: PA on January 19, 2007 1:36 PM


I don't think for a minute that a liberal arts degree, if its from an institution that actually has high standards and is not the familiar marxist indoctrination, is a fabulous thing. I wish I had more time to learn languages, read history, literature, philosophy, and what not. Its just that that kind of cash is an immense outlay for any middle class family or kid, and its getting increasingly hard to justify given the job prospects out there. I always feel that I have to make up for not having learned that stuff in the past. But there is the material question that we all face.

Posted by: BioH on January 19, 2007 8:41 PM

I remember thinking in college, as I chose a major, that it was going to be a lot easier to have a library in my house's basement than to have a chemistry lab.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on January 19, 2007 9:05 PM

I've been thinking a lot about picking up a craftsman's trade - something I could do with my hands, as my own boss, that gave me great satisfaction in making physical things.

Right now I've got a good job where I work fifteen days a month, with benefits.

What's a good, mathematically and physically stimulating trade to pick up on the side?

Posted by: secret asian man on January 20, 2007 12:11 PM

Interesting stuff. I agree with Murray about one thing, although I think my emphasis would be different. The title of one of his columns is “What’s wrong with vocational schools?” and my answer would be, the same thing that’s wrong with many four year colleges and junior colleges. They are often not nimble enough to deal with changes in the job market and cannot respond fast enough to offer the best courses of instruction to match current jobs, and none of them can magically predict or train for the jobs of the future. I think that expanding the availability of college scholarships without drastically overhauling college curricula would be pointlessly expensive, and that most government training program schemes are a waste of time, again because they typically end up trying to prepare people for jobs that no longer exist.

However, I would have been much more impressed with Murray had he announced that he had given up punditry in order to become a master craftsman.

Overall, I think that Murray is the conservative equivalent of Al Gore. His version of an inconvenient truth is just as wrong as Gore’s harping on the supposed global warming crisis. In both cases, available data is being misinterpreted to lead to unsupportable conclusions. I chuckled over how Murray blathers about clear thinking and then goes on to litter his columns with errors in logic. A few tidbits:

Murray blabbers about the reality of g and then goes on to note, “If you are average in math ability, you may struggle with algebra and probably fail a calculus course. If you are average in verbal skills, you often misinterpret complex text and make errors in logic.”

Separate verbal and math skills immediately suggest that g is not a single thing, despite Murray’s assertions about it in his first column. I also wondered whether Murray got an A in algebra and calculus. How many posters in this thread got As in algebra and calculus? How about the Journal’s editors and writers; if they didn’t get superior grades in math, perhaps they don’t have sufficiently high IQs to write about economics or any other complex topic.

He also avoids another “truth” suggested by his belief in the primacy of IQ. To follow Murray’s assertions to their logical conclusion, we would have to say that most whites are intellectually inferior to Asians and Jews, and the best colleges, if they were pure meritocracies, would have even more of these students than they currently do. By the way, despite Murray’s claims that high IQ types are over-represented in corporate America, it is odd that Asians don’t have more top corporate jobs if IQ were truly everything.

I found his assertion that “research resources on the Internet will soon make the college library unnecessary.” I know a lot of people seriously believe this, and even public libraries are beginning to have problems attracting patrons and increasing their collections as more people use the net. But the cold hard fact is that the Internet is still woefully inadequate as a research tool which massively skews towards recent and popular information and only encompasses a fraction of the information available in libraries.

Murray claims that if you “…walk into Microsoft or Google with evidence that you are a brilliant hacker, and the job interviewer is not going to fret if you lack a college transcript.” This is absolutely false. In fact, google is heavily over-represented with employees who have PhDs.

Ultimately, Murray’s columns are all about the destiny of the elite, which I suppose must be very flattering to readers of the Wall Street Journal. But his musings don’t offer much for the majority of people trying to find and maintain jobs. Everybody can’t be a master craftsman (and odd that Murray omits the impact of unions in maintaining high wages for many of these types of professions).

By the way, one of Murray’s assertions neatly dovetails with the open-border bias of the Journal. He asserts that “Journeymen craftsmen routinely make incomes in the top half of the income distribution while master craftsmen can make six figures. They have work even in a soft economy. Their jobs cannot be outsourced to India.”

These are the types of jobs that are increasingly “insourced” by illegal aliens, displacing citizens and lowering wages.

Posted by: Alec on January 20, 2007 4:08 PM

Charles Murray is not reliable on matters to do with IQ -- not sure if the issue is that he's not very smart, or a tendency to be deliberately dishonest:

Some of the stuff in those WSJ pieces is common-sensical enough, but the wider social stuff about who we should be educating is evidence-free. There is a free market in education; nobody is being forced to attend a 4-year college. So I have some trust in peoples' free choices in this matter.

Posted by: MQ on January 20, 2007 7:57 PM

Murray is right on the dot as far as IQ goes, Alec. IQ is highly correlated to academic success in college and in the workforce. Liberals just can't believe that there really are racial differences in IQ, which largely explains the so-called "achievement gaps" seen in the classroom and society at large. That would mean that the endless amounts of money burned in the hopes of closing such gaps was indeed wasted, and that left to their own devices without affirmative action, many people from these groups would fail miserably in society.

G is one of the best proved ideas in cognitive measurement. Testing verbal and math scores is just testing g in different areas, just like you might have a strongman do a deadlift and then a bench press. You would find out that physical strength is the same as mental strength. Strong people would generally be stronger in many different lifts than a weaker person. The same is true of mental ability. By the way, I got A's in algebra and calculus, and I can read and write quite well. I have a fairly high IQ, about 135. As long as I apply myself, I can do a lot of things that others can't, no matter how much training you give them. Is that bragging? No, its just a statment of fact. IQ is just a way of sorting mental ability. By no means is it the be-all and end-all of determining success in life, but it does quite well what it is supposed to do--figure out who can do well in academic settings and in the workforce where mentally challenging tasks are required.

As far as asians and jews having a higher average IQ than whites, well, so what? If you believe that, which I do, you would also have to agree to the other research that shows that the distribution of asians is narrower than whites, i.e., that whites will have more people on the tails of the normal distribution, on the smarter and dumber ends. And since its the smart people who do most of the heavy lifting in the intellectual world, whites are will always be well-represented. Also, asians seem to have a deficiency in creative thinking which also shows up on these psychometric tests, which would dovetail well with widepsread beliefs that their abilities are more imitative than original. As fars as Askenazi jews,, numbers go from 105 to 116, and my guess is that the lower number is closer to the true average. But again, so what? Those people are white too, in case you haven't noticed.

As far as MQ's statements go, Murray is far more qualified to speak about such issues than the journalistic hacks who work for the Wall Street Journal. But the real truth is what we see in the real world, with the academic failures of blacks and hispanics, our growing minoirities. Believe that, because it blends in well to what Murray states, which is why he is credible to many.

Posted by: BIOH on January 20, 2007 11:55 PM

To secret asian man: I'm told that book and paper conservation are excellent fields for careful hands with intelligence guiding them. They say it pays well and you can do it quietly at home. Clients tend to be educated people. Sounds very nice.

Unfortunately, in spite of my lovely IQ etc. my manual dexterity is about zilch, so I can't qualify.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 21, 2007 12:11 AM

BIOH – I’m not a liberal, nor did I write anything specifically about what I believed about supposed racial differences in IQ, or anything at all about affirmative action. Do you have some template that you automatically apply on certain topics?

I did attack g, however, and your analogy about bench presses and dead lifts is just off. Are there very many strongmen who can do bench presses and no dead lifts at all? There are obviously many people who are gifted verbally who are hopeless at math, let alone higher math.

Also, I didn’t say that I believed that Asians and Jews have higher IQs; I said that people who make a fetish of IQ have to fess up to the inferiority of whites. Also, that whites supposedly have more representation on the tail end of IQ distribution does not begin to explain how Asians could make up more than 50% of the student population of some UC campuses, and still feel that they have been cheated out of spots.

Hmmm. Asians supposedly deficient in creative thinking? So again, g isn’t everything. And where, exactly, are precise cognitive measurements of creative thinking?

You cannot logically claim that Jews have a cut off of IQ lower than other whites and also claim them as white.

Also, since Murray claims that “half of all children are below average,” it would seem that the problem of low achieving students cuts across racial lines. In fact, Murray seems to be peddling a variation of old ideas of an aristocracy in which a designated elite gets all the goodies, and everyone else is encouraged to be happy with their lesser places.

Posted by: Alec on January 21, 2007 8:15 AM

No, there a lot of people who THINK they are verbally gifted who are hopeless at math. if you knew math, you would understand that math is a language. Its just a language with rules that is used to decribe something logically and consistently. Lots of people can use verbal language, but you will invariably find that many of the same people who can't do math can't think well logically with their verbal ability either.

Nice try, but jews are whites. Use your eyes. I can claim it because its true. I can logically claim it because I saw your logical error and you didn't, so I called you on it and made you look bad. You seem to be afflicted with the phenomenon detailed above. Asians are study drones. I see these kids all the time in the bookstore I frequent, studying together on weeknights. If they can get into colleges along with the teeming multitudes of foreign student visa asians who are flooding the universities of this country, that's fine by me. Its just been my experience that non-creative study drones don't do a very good job in the real world. I also wonder why so many slots at state schools and private colleges which recieve so much federal money in student loans and research grants, along with direct taxpayer subsidy (at state schools), is letting in so many foreign students rather than native born american kids. It might have something to do with the foreigners paying out-of-state tuition rates, which might save the ass of poorly funded, bloated, and mismanaged colleges and universities. But I'm sure that's okay with you as long as white kids are getting screwed over because they live in state and would pay the reduced rate. We should always choose the good of the overpaid faculty and administration over the needs of our kids. I'm also sure it has something to do with asians in the administrative positions blatantly discriminating against white kids, as they do in favor of other minorities, such as blacks and hispanics. You know, its only okay to discriminate legally against whites in our society. Why would that not be operative here? In fact, it would be surprising and anomalous if anti-white discrimination were not going on. Also, the phenomenon of the wider IQ distribution of whites is real and well documented. If asians are so smart, why do so many come here for a college education? Its a puzzler, isn't it? I don't make a fetish of IQ, I just understand it to be real and consequential, and whites are in no way inferior in terms of IQ to other races, if you understand the concepts involved in psychometric testing. If you want a more concrete example, look at all the innovations and inventions by whites in comparison to other groups. That should lay such pejoritive adjectives as "inferior" to rest. You've been taught well how to hate your own group. Congratulations on an inferior education.

Also, in regard to your idea that mental strength is not like physical strength (which is an easy way to understand g), you are again mistaken. It is extremely rare to find a person who is outstanding at only one aspect of physical strength and ridiculously weak in others. Not impossible, but very rare. The same is true of g and mental abililty. G is real. We all know it is too. But sometimes we have to lie a little bit to make others feel better, eh?

The elites have, for the most part, EARNED their "goodies". Life and nature are unfair. Half of all kids are below average. Their prospects in a global, de-industrializing America are not good. Taking shop classes is not the universal answer. I don't want these non-white kids to get AA jobs because they are dumb and can't compete, but instead cry "racism" and ask for a handout. I am well aware that this problem cuts across racial lines, but since blacks and hispanics are easily at the bottom of the distribution, and their numbers in this country are sadly growing, they will blame all their problems on racism and become more and more parasitic and resentful of whites (and asians). This is a recipe for disaster. When the welfare and AA money and opportunities run out, because life here has gotten so competitive that suppport for such programs becomes impossible to finance or just completely shattered, all hell is going to break loose. That day is coming on very fast. Murray is right to worry, and so should the rest of us. Denying reality doesn't make it go away. It would be better to understand it and figure out how to deal with it, even if it is ugly and unfair.

Posted by: BIOH on January 21, 2007 8:50 PM

"No, there a lot of people who THINK they are verbally gifted who are hopeless at math."

This is crap. Almost every good writer I know is awful at math, although there are a few who are good at both. Using myself as an example, I learned to read at 3 and half, always scored very high on verbal tests including the SAT and have been known to write a good story, and yet I'm bad at math. Or maybe by your logic, I just THINK I'm bad at math.

Of course, you could spin your position so that writing is not actually using words in a logical fashion. I suppose there is some truth to that, but then our definitions of verbal acuity would differ.

Also, civilizations rise and decline. In the 1300s, whites were in the Dark Ages while Arabs led the world in technology and the Mayans were doing some interesting work in math and astronomy. Going farther back, Asians, particularly the Chinese, contributed the bulk of scientific innovations, although many of these were not discovered by the West until much later.

For the past 400 years, European culture has been scientifically and culturally dominant. As a white guy, I'm all for that paradigm, but if history is any lesson (and it always is), there is absolutely no guarantee that that will continue indefinitely. And bleating about our inherent superiority is no way to hold on to the pole position.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 22, 2007 1:13 PM


Those "overpaid" professors would make better incomes had they become cabinet makers or plumbers, but then our society puts much more importance on personal creature comforts than education and pays accordingly. When you start reading about university presidents retiring with $250,000,000 packages after six years at the helm and declining results during their tenure ... as happens in the corporate world; when you see $10,000,000 year-end bonuses for high performing professors ... as happens in brokerage companies; THEN I'll reconsider.

As for the idea that "elites have, for the most part, EARNED their "goodies", I wonder how you arrived at THAT odd conclusion. I remember overhearing a conversation between a client of mine (truly among the "elite") and a friend about my client's son. If he didn't find a job soon, maybe he'd be given one of his father's companies to run for a few years. Not starting as a shipping clerk, no, but running the company. When the deck is stacked so dramatically it is sometimes well worth making efforts to level the playing field a bit.

In short, the real issue of "equal opportunity" is far more about class than either race or IQ per se, although both influence class and class mobility.

Posted by: Chris White on January 22, 2007 3:16 PM

Perhaps you are familiar with the site, but if not, might interest you.

Posted by: SamC on January 22, 2007 6:40 PM

Patriarch--I said that there are people who are good at using words, who can't think logically with them. I'm sure there a lots of poets and writers who can't do math. But describing a scene or telling a story is not what I was talking about. Think argument, not poem. Like a lawyer. I will bet you any amount of money they are far better at math as a group than poets. I wasn't talking about fiction writers at all. Or musicians. I was just making a point that generally people who do well at math can also write reasonably well, and the inverse is also true, I've found, at least as it applies non-creative writing skills. If you don't think so, check out any high school AP class. Chock full of kids good at math and writing. IQ tests aren't about creativity, especially creative genius. They hint at it. But they are excellent predictors of academic success and success in the job force at doing challenging mental work. Which is exactly what they are designed for. I don't think you can account for creative genius in the arts by an IQ test. I think MB had a post or two about that. I agree with you and him. But my larger point is that smart people tend to be smart at lots of things. Psychometricians have also noticed that. And they have labelled that smartness g.

I think a number of your assertions about europeans and Dark Ages is debateable ("Dark" as compared to what--the Romans and Greeks!). But the staggering intellectual achievement of european and american whites in the last 5 centuries is just phenomenal. There is absolutely nothing like it ever anywhere. You name it, math, physics, chemistry, agriculture, music, the visual arts, engineering, philosophy, literature, etc. It simply dwarfs other clutures. No wonder everybody's imitating the west. Its lasted 2300 years, from Homer to today. And I do expect it to continue, more in science than the arts. BTW, there were lots of great cathedrals built in those "dark" ages, filled with beautiful stained glass and paintings. Those people were not so backward as they are made out to be!

Chris White--Alec refers to the "cognitive elite", which is Murray's label for the top 10%(?) or so of the population who do challenging work and recieve good compensation. These people tend to do better than others in a number of other areas also. The top 1% or top 0.1% live in a world unto themselves.

SamC--I am very familiar with the site. It blows holes in all the PC nonsense surrounding IQ. I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it.

To me, IQ is a test which accurately measures mental ability to do a broad range of mental work well, both in school and out. It is an excellent predictor of this too. As human beings show much variation in skills and talents, no test can accurately account for all of these, but these tests are by no means useless or inaccurate. They mean something. And when you have larger and larger numbers of kids who do poorly on them, in a de-industrializing country that is mostly creating low-paying service jobs, that's a big concern. Its also a big concern when our institutions of higher learning and research are increasingly a training ground for our competitors kids, and who exclude our own because of racial pandering or the search for the highest (international) bidder, all the while jacking the cost of attendance into the stratosphere. This worries me. Maybe I like to be worried, and worry too much. Better some that none!

Posted by: BIOH on January 22, 2007 10:22 PM

"IQ tests aren't about creativity, especially creative genius."

I wasn't referring to genius, just to people who can use words well. Lawyers are a good example of people who are usually good at both math and verbal tasks, but then engineers usually aren't very good writers and well, writers usually don't do well in math. It's your either/or dichotomy I disagree with.

Same goes for your thoughts on intelligence and race. I could have gone back even farther to when the Egyptians were dominant for a good couple thousand years, and then how about those Sumerians? As I said, for the past 400 years, Europeans have contributed the bulk of advances and yes, they have been unprecedented because the very definition of an innovation is its unprecedented-ness, if I may abuse a word. The pyramids were unprecedented, and so was gunpowder and paper and observatories, etc. Success is built upon countless variables, and almost every culture has, at one time or another, achieved astonishing success, so I don't think you can argue intelligence along racial lines.

I'm not saying "all cultures are equal." I'm no relativist. I just see cultural success as more of an ebb and flow kind of process.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 23, 2007 12:30 PM

BIOH says:

"IQ is highly correlated to academic success in college and in the workforce. Liberals just can't believe that there really are racial differences in IQ, which largely explains the so-called "achievement gaps" seen in the classroom and society at large."

There is a lot of evidence available on this, and your closing statement is flat-out wrong. IQ definitely does not "largely explain" the achievement gaps seen in society. No question that IQ is one significant determinant of adult earnings, but IQ alone does not account for a large fraction of the variance in earnings or labor market success. There are plenty of other environmental determinants of earnings that operate regardless of IQ -- including schooling. Check out Zax and Rees, 2002 if you want actual evidence on this:

Posted by: MQ on January 23, 2007 6:05 PM

No thanks, MQ. If minorities can't pull even with all the affirmative action and other assorted wealth transfer (otherwise known as theft), nothing will help. I don't need two marxist professors to attempt to bamboozle me otherwise. Lower IQ is what I see, what others see, and what ALL the tests say. I do appreciate your attempts to persuade me, but I have too much respect for the truth.

Posted by: BIOH on January 23, 2007 9:21 PM

Well, you're wrong, and provably wrong, and none of the evidence comes close to saying what you are saying. (It does say that blacks have lower mean IQs than whites, and that this is correlated with adult earnings, but the IQ difference accounts for a minority of the earnings differences). But you seem to have a strong emotional need to load all of your racial resentments on IQ, so who am I to interfere with that.

There are very few Marxist economists employed in U.S. universities (many more Republicans), and Zax and Rees are not among them.

Posted by: MQ on January 24, 2007 4:56 PM

My last post on the subject. I'm an engineer and I write fairly well, at least grammatically speaking. It's certainly not for lack of intelligence that engineers don't write well. Engineers don't write well because they don't read voluminously like many liberal arts types, or have jobs which require writing. Many do very little writing at all, just some correspondence or e-mails. I used to read a LOT and had excellent teachers in high school, so I am somewhat of an exception amongst my peers. Sadly, most have demanding jobs and are simply not that interested in the liberal arts. To each their own, but its certainly not lack of ability.

I hate to play this card, but I have a better understanding of technology than do most people who write on this board, and comparing stacking stones to the scientific achievements of the last 2300 years (yes, I include the greeks and romans) of european achievement is absurd. I mean, american white engineers of european origin went from Kitty Hawk to designing Mach 3 supersonic jets and putting a man on the moon and bringing him back safely to earth in just under 70 years! And that's just one major achievement in one field amongst many, many others! Sub-saharan blacks have invented almost nothing, and please be cautious of such black invention myths such as traffic lights and such. When researched, they turn out to be untrue. Fireworks, compared to a moon landing? Please! Ziggurats compared to supercomputers? How does a ziggurat lead to the supercomputer? Not all paths lead to Rome, and all certainly don't begin there!

There are lots of marxist professors at universities. I know some of them. Many economists are pro-free market, but tow the PC line in all other ways. They have to. They face certain condemnation and calls for firing if they don't. So much for left-wing open-mindedness.

The racial differences in IQ are one of the best documented facts of psychometric testing, and are repeated over and over again in many different tests, in many different geographic areas, and with many different groups of test takers. Millions and millions and millions of tests taken by millions and millions and millions of different people for decade after decade, and they all show a consistent 1.1 standard deviation difference between blacks and whites, and about a 0.9-1.0 standard deviation between latinos and whites. These are our two largest minority groups, and the future for these two groups does not look good, given that. And since they will blame all of their shortcomings in relation to white people here (and asians too, by the way) when things don't go as well for them as their white compatriots, well, they'll simply try to pick your pocket and attack you. I just wonder what will happen when the money runs out.

I guess I'm a racist because I notice that there are group differences amongst people. I relate to people as individuals like everybody else, I think. But when you are talking about large groups of people and social policies based on such, group averages matter. They mean something that is not just political or can be hidden by playing nice. I'm always somewhat dismayed that others are willing to deny reality to push some sort of Panglossian pseudo-egalitarianism. We should be equal under the law, but nature is not so fair in her generosity. We all know this. There is variation in any group, but trends do seem to emerge. It is folly to think that populations of people who are isolated enough to develop distinctive physical traits would not also vary in their mental development. Overlap, yes. Equality, no.

It's been interesting. I look forward to tussling again in the near future. Until then...!

Posted by: BIOH on January 25, 2007 2:13 AM

"Ziggurats compared to supercomputers? How does a ziggurat lead to the supercomputer? Not all paths lead to Rome, and all certainly don't begin there!"

I don't mean to get all ad hominem on you, but you're an engineer and you can't see the connection? If you had been born 1000 years ago, you would be working in stone not silicon.

Also, I'd put gunpowder and paper WAY up there on a list of most influential human innovations. And of course there are more from each culture that I didn't list, I'm just picking ones that pop into my head.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 25, 2007 12:43 PM

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