I am sick to death of people who smugly assert that white people are superior because we’re smarter, as measured by standard IQ tests. Specifically, I’m sick of a creep named Jason Richwine who has views on race so radical that even the freakin’ Heritage Foundation finds him too far out there and dismissed him from his gig writing about immigration policy. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the Heritage Foundation is now run by Jim “Waterloo” DeMint, so his dismissal for being too radical for Heritage speaks volumes. Not that they don’t agree with him down the line, but he went and said it out loud and in public, and that simply can’t be abided.
But we can’t get so fortunate as for a creepy fucker like Richwine to slither back under his rock and stay there. Oh no. People like him never stay gone. They’re omnipresent. This morning, while trolling for blog-fodder, I came across an op-ed in Politico from Friday morning, that gave him valuable screen real estate to whine about people like me calling his bullshit, racist, pseudoscience out for what it is…Bullshit. Racist. Pseudoscience.
If that science happens to deal with group differences in average IQ, the journalists’ surprise turns into shock and disdain. Experts who speak publicly about IQ differences end up portrayed as weird contrarians at best, and peddlers of racist pseudoscience at worst.
I’m speaking from experience. My Harvard Ph.D. dissertation contains some scientifically unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. For four years, the dissertation did what almost every other dissertation does — collected dust in the university library. But when it was unearthed in the midst of the immigration debate, I experienced the vilification firsthand.
For people who have studied mental ability, what’s truly frustrating is the déjà vu they feel each time a media firestorm like this one erupts. Attempts by experts in the field to defend the embattled messenger inevitably fall on deaf ears. When the firestorm is over, the media’s mindset always resets to a state of comfortable ignorance, ready to be shocked all over again when the next messenger comes along.
At stake here, incidentally, is not just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but also how science informs public policy. The U.S. education system, for example, is suffused with mental testing, yet few in the political classes understand cognitive ability research. Angry and repeated condemnations of the science will not help.
What scholars of mental ability know, but have never successfully gotten the media to understand, is that a scientific consensus, based on an extensive and consistent literature, has long been reached on many of the questions that still seem controversial to journalists.
For example, virtually all psychologists believe there is a general mental ability factor(referred to colloquially as “intelligence”) that explains much of an individual’s performance on cognitive tests. IQ tests approximately measure this general factor. Psychologists recognize that a person’s IQ score, which is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, usually remains stable upon reaching adolescence. And they know that IQ scores are correlated with educational attainment, income, and many other socioeconomic outcomes.
Let me reiterate…Bullshit. Racist. Pseudoscience.
If his thesis had any credibility, he wouldn’t have to go back nearly 20 years for his most recent source (nothing published more than two years ago is acceptable in any academic setting I’ve ever been in, unless it is cited as the springboard for more recent research that was published within the last two years), and he sure as hell wouldn’t cite the long-ago debunked and roundly-mocked The Bell Curve. In fact, we need a new rule…anyone citing that ridiculous piece of genes-are-destiny-so-racism-is-fine-n-dandy nonsense should immediately be taken to the public square and tied to a pole where MLB players of Hispanic and African-American decent can pelt them with overripe produce.
There has been a lot of research since the 1996 report that is the most recent work he cites, and none of it supports Richwine’s pre-determined conclusions.
The truth of the matter is, language and how the person being tested uses it has more to do with one’s score on a test like the Stanford-Binet or, especially, the WISC-R, because the WISC-R is administered to children who haven’t had experiences outside their small group of family and friends, usually who live in close proximity to them and use language the same way they do.
This point was driven home and well made, to me at least, nearly 30 years ago. I was sitting in Dr. Freeman’s Psychology of the Exceptional Child class at a small, private, insular college where the most redundant question on campus would have been to ask one of the few black students if they were there on a sports scholarship. He had given us the Stanford-Binet in the previous class period and he gave us our scores. Every one of us — white, middle-class, grew up with books and music lessons and good parenting and a proper diet — scored in the far-right side of a normal distribution on a statistical bell curve, and a couple of us were even geniuses according to the test results.
Then he gave us the BITCH-100 test, and we were all retarded. I fell in the “socio-cultural retardation” range, along with a couple of other students who had traveled or lived in more diverse environments, but most of the class fell somewhere in the “moderate retardation” metric and a couple of the kids who had lived more sheltered lives were in the “profoundly retarded” range.
That was an eye-opener that stuck with me through all these years and has never left. I gokked this as a 21-year-old undergrad who still doesn’t have a PhD, let alone one from Harvard. So it begs the question…What the hell is wrong with him and his ilk?
Whenever a clown like Richwine starts yammering away about the superiority of whites over Blacks and Hispanics, and citing Bullshit. Racist. Pseudoscience. as a justification for their bigotry, I want to slap a BITCH-100 test down in front of them and say “You have one hour, starting now. Go.”
I had the this discussion with my then brother-in-law who was worried that we were not paying attention to Shockley’s claims because we didn’t want him to be right. Last year, I discussed Charles Murray’s (remember The Bell Curve?) latest opus, which attempts to apply the same type of analysis on the basis of social class and “cultural traits” rather than race and intelligence, albeit the emphasis on genetic inheritance is the same. She was concerned that we not dismiss his “research” out of hand because we liberals find it unpalatable. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to do so, since serious social scientists (see, for example, Andrew Hacker in The New York Review of Books, MAy 10, 2012) ripped his arguments to pieces.
I’m sick of the myriad ways that racism surfaces over and over again, but I’m equally sick of the accusation that we have to pay attention to this tripe after it has been fully discounted – and no, no-one so far has come up with any new angle on the topic – at the risk of being perceived knee-jerkingly “politically correct.”