Tag Archives: The Bell Curve

Coming Apart

Coming Apart

I’ve posted extensively on a book by Charles Murray – “The Bell Curve”.

I bought the book and set it i my stack – forgotten for many many months.  Then I heard someone quote “Coming Apart”, bought it and remembered that I had “The Bell Curve”.  I read it without being aware of the controversy.  Then I hit the chapter that created the stir.

I remember thinking then that the book could have stood alone without the work on race; IQ and its impact on life outcomes is fascinating enough without adding the very difficult conversation regarding race.

Anyway, Mr. Murray received such grief for “The Bell Curve” that when he wrote “Coming Apart” he focused only on white analysis.  While I’m not going to do a chapter by chapter breakdown this time, I am going to post insights that I find interesting.

Starting with a 25 question survey.  Mr. Murray included it in the book to provide insight to the likely audience of the book and how far removed they are from “the rest of America”.

I found this neat engine:

Take the test.  And report your scores in the comments.

I scored 56.

I CAN NOT FATHOM a family that would score 2 on that test.  Can not do it.

Teaching Our Teachers – Teacher Prep Programs Fail


An interesting consequence of the workplace opening up to women more and more – those places where women COULD find satisfying careers suffer.

Consider, when women were largely limited to teaching careers, the best and brightest of the women became teachers.  Now, with every corporate door open to women, with women earning degrees at ever increasing rates, the best and brightest of the women are finding that they are able to enjoy the challenges and wealth that comes with careers outside the classroom.

Perhaps that contributes to the problems that were experiencing in educating our future teachers:

Teacher education in the nation’s universities is “an industry of mediocrity,” says a new report that rates hundreds of programs and gives less than 10 percent a favorable grade.

The “Teacher Prep Review” from the National Council on Teacher Quality prompted widespread attention in the education world and scorn from universities who were the target of the ranking. The report looked at data from 1,100 universities and assigned star ratings to 608 of them, concluding that most are failing.

The review gave only four programs in the United States its highest ranking of four stars. Only 20 elementary programs and 84 secondary programs made the report’s “honor roll” of at least three stars.

Is it any surprise that the kids were sending to our schools are struggling?

This is telling:

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.”

Not only are we allowing those who graduate in the lower third of their class into our school, we’re filling our classrooms with those students.  And look, I went through the program to become a licensed teacher in the state of Minnesota – one of the strongest teacher education states in the country – the program is not difficult, it’s not even rigorous.

I’ve read and discussed “The Bell Curve” here and I buy into the fact that intelligence, measured by the imperfect method of IQ, is heritable.  And not just kinda heritable, very Very heritable.  However, I’ve taken the other side and am reading a book called “How Children Succeed”.  A very different take than the “Bell Curve” -though to be fair, the authors of “The Bell Curve” did stipulate that while intelligence is incredibly heritable there is room for policy discussions that speak to the remaining portion of intelligence that doesn’t come from mom and dad – and the book is telling.

For one, the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher can be 1 full academic year.  For example, a strong teacher can go through an entire extra half of an academic year in her classroom while a weak teacher may struggle to make it only half way.

If we want to increase our performance in educating our youth, we have to have real powerful conversation surrounding the quality of our teachers, how to attract more of it, remove the worst performing one and how to reward the best ones.

IQ, Heritage and The Left

Bell Curve

Recently the Heritage Foundation released a report claiming that a currently proposed immigration plan would cost a ton of money.   I haven’t spent much time on the report, though maybe I should, largely because I don’t think that our borders ought to be opened or closed based on the fiscal calculus of the immigrant.

America is a place for anyone in the world to aspire to come to.  And we should make sure that we are accommodating anyone that wants to leave behind an oppressive regime that suppresses economic liberty.  We are, as we are fond of saying, the land of the free.

However, an interesting side story of the Heritage report is the history of one of the authors, Jason Richwine.  It turns out that Mr. Richwine received his PhD at Harvard and his doctoral thesis focused on IQ and immigration.  Last week I mentioned this:

I’ll drift over to our more liberal media sources later to see if this is making waves.

Well, I did and it did.

Everyone is ablush concerning the whole study of Mr. Richwine.

See, it turns out that some people think that intelligence, measured in terms of IQ, is a matter of genetics or, perhaps more accurately, heritability.   The difference being that genetics determines that humans have one nose, two ears and hair.  Heritability determines the size of the nose, the shape of the ear and color of the hair.

At its most basic, the argument that IQ is a matter of “genetics” is the idea that, in general, smart parents, in aggregate, will have smart children, in aggregate.  This is meant to be read in the same way that tall people, in aggregate, will have tall children while short parents will have short children.  Does this imply that all tall parents will only and ever have tall children?  Certainly not.  It’s meant to say that height, ear lobe shape, hair color and even looks are based in some part on the parents.

In short, people with high IQs will trend to have children with high IQs.  Those parents scoring low on IQ tests will, generally, have children who score lower on IQ tests.

I think it’s important to say that  IQ tests may or may not accurately measure intelligence, or G.  In fact many people, most likely correctly, feel that IQ tests are not a strict measure of intelligence but are rather measures of cultural influences and education.  That is, equally intelligent people, having been raised in vastly different homes, may score differently on the same IQ test.

Granted.  Sure, circumstances are going to differ.  Tests measuring intelligence are going to be, to a degree, biased.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that intelligence is a trait.  And people are going to enjoy the benefits or suffer from a deficit of that trait, across a spectrum.  There is no disputing that we have intelligent people and those who lack that intelligence.  Further, we all know that siblings of smart kids are often smart and vice versa.

The science behind the heritability of intelligence is overwhelming.  Intelligence, measured by the albeit flawed IQ, is massively heritable.  Some measures have it at 80% heritable while others, at the low end, have it only at 40%.

When read in this light, the claims made by people who state that some group of people is smarter than some other group of people shouldn’t be surprising.  Or controversial.  Or worthy of all the gnashing of teeth  If, for example, I were to claim that neurosurgeons were, in general, more intelligent than, say, garbage men, I don’t think anyone one would blink an eye.  And if were to take that one step further and say that the children of neurosurgeons were, in general, more intelligent than the children of garbage men, I don’t think that would be surprising either.

So, when Richwine makes a claim that immigrants have a lower IQ, read G, than native born Americans, he’s saying that people that live in America, as a group, are simply more intelligent than the group of people that decide to immigrate to America.  I don’t think he’s saying that the race of people that live in America is inherently and forever going to be more intelligent than that race of people moving to America from foreign countries.

Heck, in one way, it might even make sense.  If people who are less intelligent find that they are on the low end of the economic scale, they might be the very individuals most motivated to immigrate to America in hopes of a better life.  After all, the individuals in a nation who are most economically advanced are going to find the risk/reward calculus to be one that incents them to remain where they are.

And the left goes crazy at this notion.  The idea that some people are simply born smarter smacks them of some .. well, of some “I can’t describe it” impossibility.  We can be born of different heights that fit on a bell curve.  Of weights.  Of heart size and of athletic ability.  Hair color, eye color and freckles all can be described by heritability.  But plain old smarts?


That goes against the whole notion that we’re all equal.  Born equal.  Living equal and should be expected to achieve equally if only we can remove the bias of wealth, power and influence.

Which is bullshit.

So, does the comment offered by Richwine:

No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against. From the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent.

sound offensive and harsh?  I think it does both.  While I don’t like the aspect that speaks to “ever reach IQ parity” I do find myself resonating with the concept that a group of people with low IQs are going to have children with equally low IQs even extending to their children’s children.

And while sensitive to discuss, I don’t think it poses a conceptual reality that we would dismiss if, instead of having differing IQ, immigrants had differing heights.

And ALL of this is not ever saying that the ability of a group of people to increase their collective IQ isn’t possible.

By the way, one of the defenses of Richwine’s statements comes from the left itself:

First, the concept of “race”: There is no “Hispanic race.” It’s a census category, not a biological one. What we call “Hispanics” in the United States includes Indian peasants from Yucat&aaccute;n and doctors from Mexico City (and Madrid).

You cannot be racist if you are describing a group of people that has nothing in common regarding race.  “The Nation” is correct in asserting that Hispanic is not a racial descriptor, rather, it is one of, perhaps arbitrary definition.  The fact that the left dances between outrage and smugness should be no surprise.  Consider, for example, how folks on the right are “racists” when it comes to immigration reform while simultaneously pointing out that George Zimmerman is a “white Hispanic”.

As if.

Finally, like a nail in the coffin, is the logical conclusion of the left’s argument.  Namely that anyone claiming that intelligence is heritable is a racists is based on the idea that racism is a result of low IQ:

The last word in this story goes a study published in 2012 the journal Psychological Science. “In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874),” the researchers wrote, “we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood.”

As I predicted, the left is going nuts regarding Wichwine and anyone who might indicate that one group of people, for whatever reason, might be more intelligent than another group of people.

The Bell Curve


I’ve started another book.  I’m now reading “The Bell Curve” by the boys listed above.

Stats that struck me tonight:

Think of your twelve closest friends or colleagues.  For most readers of this book, a large majority of them will be college graduates.  Does it surprise you to learn that the odds of having even half of them be college graduates are only six in a thousand, if people are randomly paired off?  Many of you will not think it odd half or more of the dozen have advanced degrees.  But the odds against finding such a result among a randomly chosen group of twelve Americans are actually more than a million to one.

I am going to love this book!