Monday, September 28, 2009

"A Nation of Cowards?" Toward an Honest Conversation About Race and the Achievement Gap

In June, I posted a teacher's sobering, indeed stunning account of his experiences teaching in a heavily African-American urban high school. It generated an unprecedented 473 comments.

I have just finished writing an article that includes the most interesting quotes from those comments, spanning the ideological and political spectrum. I conclude the article by proposing what I believe is a bold yet realistic blueprint for reducing the achievement gap.

The article is too long to post here, but if you're interested, here is the link to it.

Feel free to post your comments on that article here.


Galtonian said...

For the racial achievement gap, no doubt the most plausible cause is the racial IQ gap. To avoid this conclusion one might argue that "...yes Blacks do have low IQs, but no problem--they then should just study much harder so that they can equal Whites in terms of academic achievement..." Yeah, well pretty unlikely.

No reputable scholars dispute that Black populations have IQs about 1.0 to 1.3 standard deviation (SD) lower than White populations. This must be the reason for why the measures of academic achievement (grades, achievement test scores, SATs etc) for Blacks are also shifted about one SD lower.

There is though disagreement as to the cause for racial IQ differences, some favor a totally environmental explanation (the politically correct Boasian theory-after Franz Boas) and some favor a largely genetic explanation (the politically incorrect Galtonian theory-after Francis Galton).

The Boasian dogma of racial/ethnic equalitarianism is the state religion of modern western liberals. Most liberals feel that Galtonians are sinful racists, i.e. that they are morally wrong to believe that Blacks are innately less intelligent than average Whites--or similarly that Jews and East Asians are more intelligent than average. So to avoid the accusations of "hate speech" or "racist views" one is required to profess fervent belief in the view that Jews and East Asians are innately just as dumb as the average American, and that Blacks and Hispanics are innately just as smart. Instead we all must piously blame the evil ENVIRONMENT (differing cultures and discrimination) for producing the striking racial/ethnic differences that we see all over our world. Galtonians acknowledge that differences in cultures and patterns of discrimnation do exist--but they see these as partially resulting from racial/ethnic differences in innate mental and physical traits.

Marty Nemko wrote that he is struck by the ubiquity of the Black achievement gap (i.e. that Blacks show lower economic and scholarly achievement throughout the world). Also perhaps he has noticed that Jews (the Ashkenazim) and East Asians (Han-Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese) invariably tend to be more accomplished. Of course this fits perfectly with the predictions of the Galtonian view (peoples carry their genes where ever they go and pass them on from generation to generation despite changes in cultures and patterns of discrimination).

Like others, Marty Nemko has noticed that in the US military, Blacks often function well. This is no surprise because the military only accepts higher-IQ recruits, they use cognitive testing (the Armed Forces Qualifying Test which is essentially an IQ test) to weed out people with IQs below 85. In contrast, in ghetto schools most of the Black students have IQs below 85.

Marty Nemko draws attention to the fact that Blacks tend to be poor and have more single-mother births. Galtonians see this as a result of lower IQ rather than a cause of lower IQ. (See Charles Murray's argument for how lower IQ can be shown to be a cause for lower income and more single-motherhood lifestyle in this pdf of his monograph "Income Inequality and IQ".

There are a number of academics and scholars who are Galtonians (e.g. Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, Phil Rushton, Tom Bouchard, Linda Gottfredson, Charles Murray, Henry Harpending, Satoshi Kanazawa, and James Watson).

Also a few writers/journalists have endorsed the Galtonian view on race/ethnicity and IQ (e.g. Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Nicholas Wade, and William Saletan). I suspect that if Marty Nemko studies all of the evidence, he too will become a "race realist" Galtonian.

Here are some links to papers and arguments by Jensen, Rushton, and Gottfredson:

Mike said...

Marty - no mention of teaching self-control and deferred gratification to narrow the achievement gap?

Might dysfunctional learning together with drug addiction, promiscuous sex, and gratuitous violence all be symptomatic of those lacking impulse control and who instead seek instant gratification?

To be a productive member of civil society, maybe intelligence isn't as important as self-control and delayed gratification.

(Disclosure: a liberal white male originally from the US west coast.)

Marty Nemko said...

Good point, Mike.

While I'm at it, I am disappointed that despite a major effort to try to get this published, no one would bite. (Sigh.) So much for my dream of starting a truly honest national conversation about race.

Anonymous said...


This is a courageous article. From my POV, the best way to start this discussion is to rule out the partial genetic hypothesis. I have outlined that hypothesis here: race, genes, and disparity . A number of researches have outlined how this hypothesis can be definitively tested [ e.g. Reed (1997), Rowe (2005), Hunt and Carlson (2007), and Lee (2010)]. Arriving at a definitive answer would be relatively easy.

Since most people don't consider the genetic hypothesis possible, plausible, or probable, there should be no concern. Ruling it out will go a long way to convincing the minority that do that the "gap" is 100% environmental. As such, I call on all members of academia to call for this study to be done.

After, we can have a truly honest conversation about Race and the achievement gap.