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  • THE BELL TOLLS?

    Filed at 9:22 pm under by Tim Haas

    You have to hand it to Charles Murray — after all the shellacking he got for The Bell Curve, he’s still not backing down:

    Education is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing and attacking a wide range problems in American life. The No Child Left Behind Act is one prominent example. Another is the recent volley of articles that blame rising income inequality on the increasing economic premium for advanced education. Crime, drugs, extramarital births, unemployment–you name the problem, and I will show you a stack of claims that education is to blame, or at least implicated.

    One word is missing from these discussions: intelligence. Hardly anyone will admit it, but education’s role in causing or solving any problem cannot be evaluated without considering the underlying intellectual ability of the people being educated. Today and over the next two days, I will put the case for three simple truths about the mediating role of intelligence that should bear on the way we think about education and the nation’s future.

    Nor does the second installment let up:

    There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Adjust that percentage to account for high-school dropouts, and more than 40% of all persons in their late teens are trying to go to a four-year college–enough people to absorb everyone down through an IQ of 104.

    I am reserving comment till I’ve had a chance to read all three bits and ruminate, but if anyone has strong reactions immediately, I’d love to hear them.

    10 Responses to “THE BELL TOLLS?”


    Comment by
    Stephanie
    January 18th, 2007
    at 1:45 am

    I haven’t clicked over to read the article yet, but so far, I’m applauding.


    Comment by
    COD
    January 18th, 2007
    at 7:52 am

    I agree with his point that too many people go to college, but I think it’s more cultural than genetic. A 4 year degree today is the equivalent of a high school degree in 1950. It’s the price of admission to corporate America. Far too many kids come out of college having spent $40,000 or more, and all they have to show for it is a degree that will have no bearing on what they do in life.


    Comment by
    Stephanie
    January 18th, 2007
    at 9:46 am

    Yes, it is cultural. And what has this culture gotten us? A dumbed-down college degree. Can we compete internationally with that kind of education? Increasingly, we cannot.

    Where did this cultural attitude come from? It came from the idea that everyone should have the same education, everyone should go to college. These days, no student is “not college material.” You can’t say that. It’s offensive. All students are told they CAN, and that they SHOULD.

    College should not be restricted to certain social classes, races, or financial states, but it should be restricted to students of high intelligence and ability. We’d be better off removing the stigma of not going to college, and keeping the idea of an intellectual elite.


    Comment by
    sam
    January 18th, 2007
    at 11:11 am

    I don’t know that restricting college is a good idea, but I can agree that it isn’t the cure-all that so many think. I also don’t think any of these discussions are really going to be valuable until we can completely rethink the public school system and make it work properly and for everyone.

    I’m mostly bothered by the suggestion that certain people are just smarter by nature, that with IQ tests we can pick out the smart ones young. Perhaps the writer thinks we should get the dumb kids out of school early and start teaching them young how to lift heavy objects with their legs.


    Comment by
    JJ Ross
    January 18th, 2007
    at 12:39 pm

    Even assuming society can identify the best and brightest, his thesis is backward — it’s the intelligent ones we must get OUT of school!


    Comment by
    JJ Ross
    January 18th, 2007
    at 12:51 pm

    I’m with Sam, of course, that the pubic policy answer is to completely rethink and change “school” to fit the actual students we have, however measured, instead of insisting all students must change to fit “school” standards or self-immolate.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    January 18th, 2007
    at 2:54 pm

    I think there’s a fundamental math error in his second column. All of the stats I’ve seen indicate that we’re only graduating approximately half of the kids who enroll in high school. So if 45% of HS grads actually enroll in a 4-year college, only 22.5% (give or take a bit) of the age cohort are enrolling.

    If I did my math correctly, that brings the IQ mimimum of folks who are enrolling (assuming his bogus arguments) up to 112. That is a full 3/4 of 1 standard deviation above the mean.


    Comment by
    NMcV
    January 18th, 2007
    at 6:13 pm

    Bull rot. This assumes that IQ tests are a valid measure of anything other than the ability to do well on IQ tests.

    My husband was told in high school to not bother trying to get into college, and that he should consider becoming an auto mechanic, because he “might be good with his hands.”

    He took a college entrance exam for an engineering school, won a full scholarship on that basis, and has been flown across the country designing and overseeing construction of multi-million dollar fiber optic communication networks for just about all the major telecommunications players.

    So much for his lousy IQ tests.


    Comment by
    Jeanne
    January 18th, 2007
    at 8:33 pm

    And what about people with high IQs that have no work ethic or judgment about steering clear of various distractions? And people with lower IQs but high work ethic, lots of focus and judgment? Back in the old days when I taught college freshmen instead of homeschooling boys, I saw some of the best and brightest flunk out while some of the less-so persevered, learned a lot, kept their acts together, and got a degree.


    Comment by
    Ulrike
    January 19th, 2007
    at 1:58 am

    We discussed IQ tests in one of my psych classes (7 years ago), and IIRC, IQ tests do correlate with academic performance, they just don’t measure actual *intelligence*.