Sunday, January 21, 2007

Charles Murray on Intelligence and Education

There were three well thought out (and long) editorials by Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal this past week. I've included links to free versions of them (on OpinionJournal.com) and a few quotes. The last article is most relevant to this blog in talking about the need for gifted education.

Intelligence in the Classroom - Tuesday

Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them.


What's Wrong With Vocational School? - Wednesday

Today I turn to the upper half, people with IQs of 100 or higher. Today's simple truth is that far too many of them are going to four-year colleges.


Aztecs vs. Greeks - Thursday

Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise.

We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.

The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities -- in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today's education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, "I can't do this." Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall, just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them. That level of demand cannot fairly be imposed on a classroom that includes children who do not have the ability to respond. The gifted need to have some classes with each other not to be coddled, but because that is the only setting in which their feet can be held to the fire.

1 comment:

Philip Shropshire said...

You know, you're making me worry about your involvement with school board issues. Murry has long been a proponent that blacks are intellectually to whites. He's also a conservative who probably hates the idea of public education. We should just prepare kids to die directly in out next war of arrogance. Atrios usually picks on this guy. Here's the latest counter to the bell curve:

It's Back

Oh Lordy, I don't have it in me to do a full round of Charles Murray, who bubbles up every now and then and whose name attracts trolls like flies to shit. I'll just reprint Nobel prize winner James Heckman's summary:


The Book fails for five main reasons.

1. The central premise of this book is the empirically incorrect claim that a single factor - g or IQ - that explains linear correlations among test scores is primarily responsible for differences in individual performance in society at large. Below I demonstrate that a single factor can always be constructed that "explains" all correlations in responses to a test or correlations in scores across a battery of tests, but in general this g is not constructed by conventional linear methods. There is much evidence that more than one factor -- as conventionally measured -- is required to explain conventional correlation matrices among test scores. Herrnstein and Murray's measure of IQ is not the same as the g that can be extracted from test scores available in their data set. They do not emphasize how little of the variation in social outcomes is explained by AFQT or g. There is considerable room for factors other than their measure of ability to explain wages and other social outcomes.

2. In their empirical work, the authors assume that AFQT is a measure of immutable native intelligence. In fact, AFQT is an achievement test that can be manipulated by educational interventions. Achievement tests embody environmental influences: AFQT scores rise with age and parental socioeconomic status. A person's AFQT score is not an immutable characteristic beyond environmental manipulation.

3. The authors do not perform the cost-benefit analyses needed to evaluate alternative social policies for raising labor market and social skills. Their implicit assumption of an immutable g that is all-powerful in determining social outcomes leads them to disregard a lot of evidence that a variety of relevant labor market and social skills can be improved, even though efforts to boost IQ substantially are notoriously unsuccessful.

4. The authors present no new evidence on the heritability of IQ or other socially productive characteristics. Instead, they demonstrate that IQ is more predictive of differences in social performance than a crude measure of parental environmental influences. This comparison is misleading. It fails to recognize the crudity of their environmental measures and the environmental component that is built into their measure of IQ, which biases the evidence in favor of their position. Moreover, the comparison as they present it is intrinsically meaningless.


5. Finally, the authors' forecast of social trends is pure speculation that does not flow from the analysis presented in their book. Most of the social policy recommendations have an ad hoc flavor to them and do not depend on the analysis that precedes them. The appeal to Murray's version of communitarianism as a solution to the emerging problem of inequality among persons is a deus ex machina flight of fancy that is not credibly justified.


-Atrios 10:26 AM

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