Educational policy analysis archives

Educational policy analysis archives

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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 3, no. 2 (February 03, 1995).
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b Arizona State University ;
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University of South Florida.
c February 03, 1995
Race, intelligence and ideology : a review essay of The bell curve / John C. Culbertson.
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1 of 12 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 3 Number 2February 3, 1995ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass,Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Educ ation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1995, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Race, Intelligence and Ideology: A Review Essay of The Bell Curve John C. Culbertson University of Kansas Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Class Structure and the Future of America. New York: The Free Press. 1994. $30.00 Occasionally a book out of academia will break from scholarly circles and enter into the mainstream market. On even rarer occasions, it will gain considerable notoriety before its initial publication. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray' s The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life is such a book. Currently, it has entered the New York Times bestsellers list and appeared in most academic and main stream periodical book reviews. Direct publicity for the book has also been strong. Althou gh Herrnstein died September 24 of the past year, Murray has appeared on many popular televisio n and radio talk shows. Since so much has already been written and said ab out this book, it would seem redundant to give merely a brief review of the work. Ironical ly, with so much being said about its content and implications, very little depth has been offere d regarding the fundamental presuppositions and implications that the study entails. When examining the findings of Herrnstein and Murr ay, an obvious question arises: What are the scientific merits of their discoveries? Fro m this question, two elements will be analyzed in this essay: (1) the notion of race as a legitima te category; and (2) intelligence as an understandable phenomenon. If the scientific status of these elements is clearly discreditable, another question arises: What is the ideological pu rpose of such a study? As a conclusion, I will offer some final thoughts relevant to the book as a whole. It should be understood that the entire book is no t dedicated to ethnicity and intelligence.


2 of 12The latter half of the book addresses this notion, but the first half outlines the basis of an emerging cognitive elite among white America and ho w that has contributed to the separation of the cognitive classes. The last two chapters (aroun d 20 pages) set the ideology to solving the problems that are recognized in the study. It is also interesting how Herrnstein and Murray r espond to criticism of incoherence and contradictions of their work. On recent radio and t elevision talk shows Murray has stated that it is unimportant if the cause of lower IQ's originates f rom cultural suppression or genetic endowment. This logically tautological stance under mines the fundamental question at hand, but at the same time (unintentionally?) exposes the mai n ideological purposes of the book. It should also be noted that Herrnstein and Murray seem to ac knowledge their particular ideological scheme and state many times in the book that their conjectures (and even scientific evidence) are not written in stone. With 552 pages of text, 110 pages of appendices, 1 68 pages of notes and a 57 page bibliography, The Bell Curve does not make for leisurely reading, as one might have expected from its popularity. But, even with its length, the book is well written and appropriately organized, with one appendix completely dedicated t o those who do not thoroughly understand the sophistication of statistical measurement (enti tled Statistics for People Who Are Sure They Cant Learn Statistics). The grammatical style of th e book also suggests that Herrnstein and Murray had the mainstream market in mind; sentences are short and simple. Race, Intelligence and Ideology The category of racial separation has a peculiar hi story. The ancient Athenians considered anyone who could not speak Greek an inferior barbar ian. Even the advanced civilizations found in Egypt and Persia were thought of as inferior for their lack of Greek ideals, education and culture. Similar conjectures were fabricated by the Romans regarding the Goths, Vandals and Huns. During the 18th and early 19th century, it wa s common for Europeans to refer to racial disunion in relation to geographic locality, (e.g., British race, French race, etc). Over 100 years ago the "Chinaman" was described by Westerners as a n inferior race (Clairmonte, 1970). Arthur de Gobineau published The Inequality of Human Races in 1853, which asserted that the Aryan race is the derivative of civilized man and the pur ity of the race can only be preserved if the blood of Aryans is maintained. Similar notions were expressed by Houston Chamberlain of Germany in the 1913 work, Foundations of the Ninete enth Century. The measurement of intelligence has also had a peculiar history rangin g from the number of bumps on the head to the volume of the cranium (Gould, 1981). Ideas like these are clearly devoid of any scientif ic value, and most people today give them very little consideration. But even with this under standing, the notion of race is still conventionally recognized as a legitimate category. In their hypothesis of differentiating innate structures in intelligence as represented by race, Murray and Herrnstein propose a stance similar to the speculations expressed above, but now such s tatements are supported through the justification of "scientific proof." Given the pole mic nature of such a study and its purported findings, the responses to the work have been mixed Some condemn Murray and Herrnstein for being blatant racists with no regard for the legiti mate canons of scientific method. Others have criticized the conclusions, but support such resear ch in the name of academic freedom. With the prominence that scientific inquiry holds in this ag e, a thorough investigation into the scientific merit of The Bell Curve is in order. A clear place to begin is with the ca tegory of race and the phenomenon of intelligence itself. What has been sc ientifically demonstrated or even plausibly argued in this respect? Herrnstein and Murray do not consistently use the t erm "race." Due to its pejorative connotations they intermittently employ the word "e thnicity." Likewise, the phenomenon of


3 of 12intelligence carries with it "undue affect and poli tical baggage" (p. 22). Subsequently, "we shall employ the more neutral term cognitive ability" (p. 22). With little supporting argument, they declare that the category of ethnicity is legitimat e and valid. It is appropriate, by the fact that, clearly, "There are differences between races, and they [the differences] are the rule, not the exception" (p. 272). Put simply, "Races are by defi nition groups of people who differ in characteristic ways" (p. 272). They also state, tha t "The rule we follow here is to classify people according to the way they classify themselves" (p. 271). Regarding the nature of cognitive ability, "we will be drawing heavily from the classical tradition" (p. 19). The classicists "seek to identi fy the components of intelligence much as physicists seek to identify the structure of the at om" (p. 14). The classicists are for practical purposes unanimou s in accepting that G [general factor of intelligence] sit at the center of the st ructure in a dominating position-not just as an artifact of statistical manipulation but as an expression of a core human mental ability. (p. 14) The notion of G was invented by Charles Spearman, a British Army officer and statistician whose research was conducted during the early part of this century (Spearman, 1904). A fundamental conclusion regarding the classical trad ition claims that, "All standardized tests of academic aptitude or achievement measure this gener al factor to some degree, but IQ tests expressly designed for that purpose measure it more accurately" (p. 22). Questions regarding cognitive ability in relation to ethnic differences are justified because, basically "race is on peoples minds when they think about IQ" (p. 272), r egardless of what the "intellectual elite" purport (pp. 11-13). Intellectual fashion has dictated that all differen ces [in intelligence] must be denied except the absolutely undeniable differences in app earance, but nothing in biology says this should be so. (p. 272) Furthermore, "We are worried that the elite wisdom on this issue, for years almost hysterically in denial about that possibility [the genetic factor], will snap too far in the other direction" (p. 315) It is a fact, Herrnstein and Murray assert, that, IQ is substantially heritable" (p. 105). They claim that it is also certain that "Races differ not just in average IQ scores but in the profile of intellectual capacities, (as represented by the agg regate of many sub-tests)" (p. 299). There are several factors that support this notion even thoug h it is not going to be learned "tomorrow that all the cognitive differences between races are 100 percent genetic in origin" (p. 315). Social problems are thus prevalent among people who have low cognitive abilities. Poverty, school dropout, unemployment, crime, welfa re, illegitimacy, single-parent families, low birthweight babies and deprived home environments are inevitable consequences of a growing lower cognitive class (pp. 369-386 & 523-526). Solu tions to crime and welfare "must be judged by their effectiveness with the people most likely to exhibit the problem: The least intelligent people" (p. 386). From this loosely knit rationale, Herrnstein and Mu rray conclude that members of the "cognitive elite class, who measure in the top perc entiles of cognitive ability, are thus becoming increasingly isolated" and "a deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive ability distribution has occurred over th e better portion of this century" (p. 50). "How should policy deal with the twin realities that peo ple differ in intelligence for reasons that are not their fault, and that intelligence has a powerful b earing on how well people do in life?" (p. 527). Declarations of the kind expressed above fall into two general types. The first deal with what has been discovered concerning the scientific legitimacy of the category of race. The second address the phenomenon of intelligence and the poss ibility of both measuring it validly and of


4 of 12relating it to race. Within both of these types of assertions, the expected social results (i.e., the social ills caused by a growing ethnic group of low cognitive ability) are also addressed, along with an ideology for solutions to these problems. The Category of Race Clearly, statements of the first kind can be judged by scientific evidence or rational arguments. Murray and Herrnstein, however, offer no evidence and only an unclear rationale for employing the category. Without justification they dogmatically adopt the category along with its dubious history outlined above. Furthermore, as it will become clear with more specific illustrations, any attempt to unpack the concept of racial distinction turns into incoherence and equivocation. The specific claim of dividing people up by physica l characteristics is utterly ambiguous. Are Herrnstein and Murray saying that the pigmentat ion of skin and facial structure are clear and distinct demarcations? If this is the case, then th eir "rule" can be rejected on the grounds of pure dogmatism. As geneticists have consistently demonst rated, there are no significant differences between the gene pools of "races" as we currently d efine them. To say that there is one sub-species or group that is more "intelligent" tha n another based merely on the phenotype simply does not make sense in the light of the curr ent theories (Raven and Johnson, 1988). In fact, a greater variation in the genotype occurs be tween individuals of the same race (e.g., Europeans) than between the people of differing rac es (e.g., European "white" and "African black"). There simply are no solid theories, or consistent a rguments regarding the legitimacy of the category of race in connection with intelligence. I t seems absurd to base an entire study on a phenomenon that is empty of theory and argument. Pe rhaps Herrnstein and Murray are suggesting that skin pigmentation and facial struct ure are such obvious characterizations that they cannot be overlooked. If so, then other attributes cannot be overlooked either, such as height and intelligence, eye color and intelligence, weight an d intelligence, and virtually every other trivial way we can classify by physical characteristics. No one would take seriously a study that proposed a causal correlation between eye color and intelligence, but people do take race and intelligence seriously, because we unfortunately li ve in a society that heavily discriminates against race. If the rationales that Herrnstein and Murray offer are scientifically pretentious, they are also disingenuous in their assertion that they are dividing people up as people wish to be divided up. This notion also is devoid of any scientific or argumentative merit. Arguing that a notion is valid because the majority of the people believe it is plainly fallacious. People are divided up the way they are because they are required to fill in a questionnaire that asks for "race" or "ethnicity," and which lists the classifications from which to c hoose. Herrnstein and Murray concede that they focus "on t hree major racial-ethnic groupings--whites, East Asians, and blacks-becaus e they have dominated both the research and contentions regarding intelligence" (p. 275). But f or their argument to have any merit, they must show that there is a scientific basis for the class ification as represented by the authorities in the field. Surely they are not contending that psychome tricians are authorities in genetic biology. Herrnstein and Murray are completely unclear with s tatements like, "race differences are varied and complex, and they make the human species more adaptable and more interesting" (p. 272), and then state that, "Jews--specifically, Ash kenazi Jews of European origins--test higher than any other ethnic group" (p.275). This sounds v ery much like the voice of 18th and 19th century racism, dividing people up according to geo graphic location. Are Herrnstein and Murray claiming that Ashkenazi Jews of European origin are a clear and distinct race, separate from other Jewish people? Specificity of this nature can easily be reduced to nonsense, (e.g., Might not


5 of 12Italians--specifically, Brooklyn Italians of New Yo rk origin--test higher than any other ethnic group?) Surely, with the statements above, Herrnste in and Murray are referring to the varied cultural differences that make the human species mo re interesting, not the fact that one group of people has more or less melanin than the other. But such comments are so vague that it is unclear if their assertions about ethnicity and intelligenc e amount to anything at all. Consider, for example, their admission that "the di fferences [in cognitive ability] among individuals are far greater than the differences be tween groups" (p. 271). This is true whether or not ethnicity is treated as a category. As Herrnste in and Murray point out, in largely homogenous societies, there are still differences in cognitive abilities. Those differences could, with a certain degree of validity, randomly correlate with some ot her arbitrary physical characteristic. Furthermore, the average IQ of people within a cert ain ethnic category is logically unrelated to the contingencies of a particular individual. So th e question remains: Why the category of race? To try and hedge this answer, as Herrnstein and Mur ray do, is unworthy. A distinct element in our empirical understanding of the world involves dividing phenomena into categories. Since different cultures and groups of people see the world differently, and subsequently, divide the world into different categ ories, the question of methodological objectivity arises in relation to the category of r ace or anything else. Many of these divisions and the language employed rest on the engraved conventi ons of the past as is the case with race, and it is unlikely that they will change quickly (this seems to be where Herrnstein and Murray find their justification). The notion seems to be an his torical malady to be overcome in the same way slavery was eliminated. Much has been written on th is topic in feminist epistemology in attempts to understand the bias of one's conceptual scheme w ith respect to objectivity in scientific understanding (Antony, 1993). I won't recount the a rgument here, but the consequences of the notion of race are sadly unjust and closely related to what feminist epistemology is addressing. We are constantly bombarded with applications of th e category of race without justification or rationale, especially in studies o f crime and anti-social behavior (another main theme of The Bell Curve ). Even if one accepts the position presented in th is book (i.e., that certain ethnic groups are not as intelligent as oth ers), Herrnstein and Murray concede that "the increase in crime over the last thirty years (like the increase in illegitimacy and welfare) cannot be attributed to changes in intelligence but rather must be blamed on other factors" (p. 251). In the news we find lead stories like, "Two black y ouths were arrested today..." or "An Hispanic was charged with murder in the slaying of a white youth." Not only are these depictions unfair to the entire group of blacks or Hispanics, who are undeservedly associated with the one individual committing the crime, but they are also unfair to the other ethnic groups. Used in that way, race becomes a way to tell the criminals from the victims. As has been widely reported, many Caucasians feel unsafe in the presence of a bl ack or Hispanic man. Is this caused by some genetic ethnophobia? Surely not, especially since v ery young children often pay no attention at all to race. We live in a culture that presupposes race as a legitimate category producing social consequences that are plainly unfair. This is even more evident when it includes the notion of inferiority. The presuppositions in The Bell Curve remind us that America is a racially separated nation, with the major distinction being drawn betw een European-Americans and African-Americans. Herrnstein and Murray are correc t when they say, "the politics of cognitive inequality get hotter--sometimes too hot to handle-when they are attached to the politics of ethnicity" (p. 271). As many are trying to come to grips with this country's history of oppression, we are constantly reminded that the scientifically empty category of race is still one of the most prominent forces in the country. The Phenomenon of Intelligence


6 of 12 The phenomenon of intelligence, like the category o f race, is an equally obscure amalgam of complex properties, which dissolves into trivial ity and incoherence under examination. The tests used as tools for predictor values fail at mo st levels, except perhaps at measuring the ability to take tests well. Admittedly, Herrnstein and Murr ay state that measuring intelligence is a troublesome task, but one that has produced a great amount of knowledge regarding the phenomenon. "The individual's IQ score all by itsel f is a useful tool but a limited one" (p. 19). As for their claim that the "classicist" psychometr icians are similar to physicists in their approach, this seems greatly to broaden the scope o f what scientific methodology entails. With regards to the radicals and the theory of mult iple intelligences, we share some common ground. Socially significant individual diff erences induce a wide range of human talents that do not fit within the classical conception of intelligence. (p. 20) "When properly administered the tests are not measu rably biased against socioeconomic, ethnic, or racial subgroups. They predict a wide va riety of socially acceptable important outcomes" (p. 15). For Herrnstein and Murray to tak e a socially derived definition of intelligence and make mostly biological statements about behavio r is just as misleading as their approach to ethnicity. Clearly a socially derived concept can b e a universal generality, but not necessarily a product of genetic structure. In some instances, Hernnstein and Murray base their argument not on the weight of evidence in favor of it, but on what they claim is the absence of evidence against it--as though the failure to disprove the existence of unicorns estab lishes their existence. But the current failure to refute radical genetic determinism does not mean th at it is necessarily true. The same holds for their use on the concept of G, general intelligence on which their whole argument rests heavily. In the 845 page book, fewer than 50 pages are dedic ated to G, and of those pages, only a few attempt to establish its existence. "From the class ical traditions that are by now beyond significant technical dispute, there is such a thin g as a general factor of cognitive ability on which human beings differ" (p. 22). The fallacy here is t hat the "experts" used to justify the notion of G are the same scholars who support the classical tra dition. Hernnstein and Murray's reliance on G lacks rational justification and their affinity for it has more to do with legitimizing their conclusions than the conclusions being legitimized by the evidence. "High cognitive ability as of the 1990s means, more than ever before, that the chances of success in life are good and getting better all the time, and these are decreasingly affected by the social environment, which by extension indicates th at they must be increasingly affected by genes" (pp. 109-110). This is a rather simplistic a nalysis, and as mentioned above, to be reductive with the phenomena of intelligence, behavior and it s possible biological implications is simply fallacious. Herrnstein and Murray's initial approach to intelli gence is also odd. Usually, physicists start with an accepted working hypothesis that expl ains some phenomenon. An accepted hypothetical/theoretical base explaining the struct ures of what intelligence is has not been provided. IQ is arbitrarily defined by IQ tests, wh ich were designed by compiling what the test makers think intelligent people are likely to know. Herrnstein and Murray concede this problem and give an excellent example of the built-in bias that IQ tests entail. This particular example was taken from the verbal analogy portion of the SAT (p. 281). RUNNER:MARATHON(A) envoy:embassy(B) martyr:massacre(C) oarsman:regatta(D) referee:tournament


7 of 12(E) horse:stable As Herrnstein and Murray explain, "The answer is oa rsman:regatta--fairly easy if you know what both a marathon and a regatta are, a matt er of guess work otherwise. How would a black youngster from the inner city ever have heard of a regatta?" (p. 281). But the real question is: What do the psychometricians have on their mind when they create such tests and from what conceptual scheme are they deriving their questions ? Herrnstein and Murray go on to say that other more sophisticated tests have eliminated vocabulary bias (e.g., geometrical figures, etc.) a nd now measure reaction time and movement time, which give a more reliable figure to the G fa ctor (p. 281-295). Again, this has been broken down according to ethnicity. Even with the limitati ons of test bias and the amendments to the new testing methods, there is widespread failure to note the unargued assumptions that go into the creation of these revised instruments. Without any solid theoretical framework, there are many inferences that one could make regarding the a mount of time someone spends answering a question and the speed with which the hand moves to answer the question, not one of which would necessarily have anything to do with the phen omenon of intelligence or the category of race. The point applies to all tests including those that utilize geometric figures instead of vocabulary. The conceptual framework from which the tests were created can never be completely purified of the single-minded bias of th e creators. Many have written about this problem; but perhaps the most famous is Stephen Jay Gould. In his The Mismeasure of Man, he states succinctly that "determinist arguments for r anking people according to a single scale of intelligence, no matter how numerically sophisticat ed, have recorded little more than social prejudice (Gould, p. 27-28, 1981). Usually, both laboratory and theoretical physicists are concerned about the consistent predictor value of the implementation of the method ology, but with the methodology employed in The Bell Curve there are no such concerns. When we look for spec ific predictions, we find nothing, only vague conjectures and no obvious conc lusions, which brings us right back where we started: The state of knowledge does not permit a precise es timate, but half a century of work, now amounting to hundreds of empirical and th eoretical studies, permits a broad conclusion that the genetic component of IQ i s unlikely to be smaller than 40 percent or higher than 80 percent. The most unambig uous direct estimates, based on identical twins raised apart produce some of the hi ghest estimates of heritability. For purposes of this discussion, we will adopt a middli ng estimate of 60 percentheritability, which, by extension means that IQ is about 40 percent a matter of environment (p. 105). Imagine an engineer who is building a bridge saying to the contractor, "Well, I can't give you an accurate estimate, but there is between a 40 to 80 percent chance that this bridge will not fall, so I will go with the mean and say 60." Clear ly, the contractor would not be renewing any jobs with that engineer in the near future. As to the actual source of this number and its calc ulation, Herrnstein and Murray are vague, they simply state that "nonspecialists need not concern themselves with the nuts and bolts" (p. 106). They then go on for merely three p ages outlining both the direct and indirect procedures that psychometricians have implemented t o derive it. This weakness in the methodology is acknowledged in their own examples. Suppose that the question at issue regards individu als: "Given two 11 year olds, one with an IQ of 110 and one with an IQ of 90, what ca n you tell us about the


8 of 12differences between those two children?" The answer must be phrased very tentatively. On many important topics, the answer m ust be, We can tell you nothing with any confidence (p. 19). From the execution of the scientific method, physic ists do not discuss "crisis of belief" or "loss of confidence" in relation to their studies, but clearly psychometricians must have these notions to help explain their 40 to 80 percent calc ulation. Even with the imprecise number derived, Herrnstein and Murray go on and say that luck continues to matter in life's outcomes, but now it is more a matter of the IQ handed out in life's lottery than anything else about the circumstances" (p. 109). But this notion is, as sta ted, without clear empirical support and left with no clear meaning or understanding. The overall purpose for applying this methodology t o human phenomena is also vague. In most cases, scientific methodology assumes that the result of some antecedent can be deduced from the testable knowledge of specific causes, and the knowledge of the antecedent can also be deduced from the knowledge of the results. Are Herr nstein and Murray implying that through statistical measurement, specific predictions can b e made as to who people are, what they will do or what they will become? If this is the case, then their claim is easily dismissable. Even the most radical determinist would admit that, although all phenomena may be determined, there may be contingencies in human understanding that are not e xplainable or testable. By limiting the phenomenon of intelligence to the framework of the methodology presented in this study, it is virtually impossible thoroughly to study the releva nt concepts of any human phenomena, much less to outline their structures or to discover any predictor value in them. Even if one grants that the measurements taken in t his study reach acceptable levels of reliability and validity, the correlation coefficie nts are not very high. The higher correlation of .68 with likelihood of having a child is for the hi gh school sample of mothers living in poverty (sample taken from January 1, 1978 through December 31, 1987). The highest correlations are for consistency of test taking ability. The remaini ng correlations are so modest that they hardly establish any relationship whatsoever, much less a causal one. And yet Herrnstein and Murray insist that it is intelligence, and not socio-econo mic status with which it is correlated, that is primarily responsible for the group differences. Ideology and Policy Herrnstein and Murray's proclamations regarding Ame rica's social decline in relation to the cognitive classes fall into the range of borderline suspicion to full-blown paranoia. Much of the aggravation that has ensued from the publication of this study centers on the ideological framework advanced in relation to the social declin e of American culture (approximately 20 pages). When shaky scientific evidence is presented and can not stand on its own merit, the advancement of an ideology usually follows (Chomsky 1972). The difficulty is to separate the validity and scientific status of The Bell Curve from its ideological element. Understandably, both the scientific evidence and the ideology are l egitimate topics (Herrnstein was a professor of psychology at Harvard, and Murray is a professor of Political Science at Harvard), but it doesn't seem fitting for the overall topic and supposed pur pose of this book. For example: Over the next decade, it will become broadly accept ed by the cognitive elite that the people we now refer to as the underclass are in tha t condition through no fault of their own but because of inherent shortcomings abou t which little can be done...It will be agreed that the underclass cannot be truste d to use cash wisely. Therefore policy will consist of greater benefits, but these will be primarily in the form of


9 of 12services rather than cash (p. 523). What this has to do with the "scientific" measureme nt of intelligence is unknown. In a similar passage, they state: Membership in this new class, the cognitive elite, is gained by high IQ. But once in the club, usually by age eighteen, members will beg in to share much else as well. Among other things, they will come to run much of t he country's business. In the private sector, the cognitive elite dominates the r anks of CEO's and the top echelon of corporate executives (p. 510). From these passages, and others similar to it, Herr nstein and Murray justify their findings through a particular ideology and agenda, which pre tentiously defines the specific presuppositions (the category of race and intellige nce) for writing this book. The intensity present in their writing suggests that they are more than m erely dispassionate scientists in search of the truth and the advancement of their field. This is d isturbing, especially when so many people will read the book and possibly hold it in high regard w ithout examining its unsupported assumptions. From this point Herrnstein and Murray refer to the consequences that will bear on the fate of children, the new white underclass and the eventual custodial state, which will emerge from such isolation of the cognitive elite. Another troubling point is that, for Herrnstein and Murray, absolute success--that is wealth and power--is determined by heredity as reflected b y intelligence and social merit. But it is quite possible that wealth and power are attained by thos e who are devious and seek material gain without regard to principles of ethics or conscienc e, instead of by those who are intelligent or socially gifted. It would be interesting to devise tests of honesty and integrity and to administer them to leaders in business and politics. In the same way, Herrnstein and Murray are wrong if they believe that the cognitive elite only define success as the attainnent of wealth, pr estige and power. Many of the world's most intelligent people have chosen challenging and intr insically rewarding professions that offer no hope of wealth, prestige or power. According to a previous article written by Herrnste in, accountants and auditors tend to have higher IQs than bakers, and thus Herrnstein co ncludes that individuals with higher IQs are held in higher esteem due to the material reward gi ven to them from the society in which we live (Herrnstein, 1971). The same argument is presented in The Bell Curve but with the number of white collar crimes presented in their own data, it is difficult to see the legitimacy of the argument. Surely Herrnstein and Murray wouldn't say that a crooked lawyer who makes $200,000 a year is held in higher esteem by society than a social worker who works for little or no money to help rebuild the slums of the inner-cit y. If membership in the cognitive elite rests on being endowed with a high IQ, then the best advice that Herrnstein and Murray could offer to st udents with high IQs would be not to go on to college. They should enter the work force immediate ly after high school to begin maximizing their economic potential. But not all intelligent y oungsters seem ready to choose financial success to the exclusion of an enjoyable, fulfillin g profession. Clearly, there are other factors besides IQ bearing on the success of individuals. I n fact, who could say that any executives exercise their mental aptitude to the extent that w ould be expected as representatives of the "cognitive elite." Many working-class jobs require at least as much applied intelligence as a CEO. Herrnstein and Murray adopt an equally unfortunate stance toward the "cognitively challenged" people engaging in relationships. "It h as become much more difficult for a person of low cognitive ability to figure out why marriage is a good thing, and, once in a marriage, more difficult to figure out why one should stick with i t through bad times" (p. 544). At this point,


10 of 12what is again disturbing about Herrnstein and Murra ys analysis involves the way the study is divided up and what questions are asked. Their prim ary interest in women centers on questions of bearing children out of wedlock, being on welfar e and having poor parenting skills. Men, on the other hand, fall into the other stereotypical c ategory of unemployment and crime. The prediction from their analysis involves a bizar re sort of disinterested fascism on behalf of the majority of the people who would rather stay isolated from the "reservations" where the cognitively challenged will be harbored. "In short, by custodial state, we have in mind a high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian res ervation for some substantial minority of the nation's population, while the rest of America trie s to go about its business" (p. 526). To help combat the chaos of crime that will unfold, there s hould be "a core of common law, combined with the original concept of negligence and liabili ty in tort law, the mechanism for running a society easily understood by all, and a basis for t he straightforward lessons that parents at all levels of cognitive ability above the lowest can te ach their children about how to behave as they grow up" (p. 546). Regarding the practical reasoning required to make decisions, Herrnstein and Murray believe, "The difference between people of low cogn itive ability and the rest of society may be put in terms of a metaphor. Everyone has a moral co mpass, but some of those compasses are more susceptible to magnetic storms than others" (p 543). Instead of a metaphor, I would like to use an analogy. The entire commentary presented abo ve sounds like the macabre propaganda explicated by the "cognitive elite" pigs from Georg e Orwell's Animal Farm: The birds did not understand Snowball's long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to wor k to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD, was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger le tters (Orwell, 1946, p. 41). And of course, fitting for the premise of The Bell Curve we cannot forget, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" (p. 123). Conclusion Clearly, The Bell Curve reflects the frustrations over the current socioec onomic dilemmas that have emerged with the onslaught of the postmod ern age. The promises of technology and science to better our society have not delivered to the general extent that many believed possible. In a similar sense, the depth that the human scienc es assured us in helping to improve the human condition has also been generally disappointing. The most valuable form of inquiry to clarify method ological and theoretical quandaries, epistemology, has been neglected within the discipl ines outside of academic philosophy for the better part of this century. Instead, most discipli nes provide students with rote knowledge of theories and methodologies that are not justified i n reason, but are logged into memory. In this age, it is very easy to be labeled a decons tructionist if one makes any attempt to critique the claims asserted and methodology employ ed in such studies as The Bell Curve ; on the other hand one can easily be labeled a racist by su pporting such claims. Both allegations are extreme and usually unwarranted. The fact is that The Bell Curve consists of no dependable scientific evidence or consistent argument to sugge st that there is a relation between ethnicity and cognitive ability. In fact, the body of data is so immense that, if one were to examine the appendices with no knowledge of the book's premise, a large number of varying inferences could be drawn about both the data and the topic of the b ook. With this notion, the presuppositions of the study ride on a paranoid ideology that has been around for thousands of years.


11 of 12 References Antony, L. (1993). A Mind of One's Own: Feminist Essays of Reason and Objectivity. Boulder: Westview Press.Chomsky, N. (1972). "Psychology and Ideology." Cognition 1, pp. 11-46. Clairmonte, F. (1970). The Race War. Journal of Modern African Studies vol. 8, no. 3. Gould, S. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man New York: Norton. Herrnstein, R. (1971). IQ. Atlantic Monthly (September), 43-64. Orwell, G. (1946). Animal Farm New York: Signet Classics. Rave, P. and Johnson, G. (1988). Understanding Biology St. Louis: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing.Spearman, C. (1904). "General Intelligence" Objecti vely Determined and Measured. American Journal of Psychology 15, 201-209.Copyright 1995 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at (To sub scribe, send an email letter to whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles ar e archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author and the Volume and article number. For e xample, the article by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LI and making the single line in the letter read GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to LIST INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, that is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDEX EPAA F=MAIL. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Policy Analysis Archives are "gophered" at To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to and include the single l ine GET EPAA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by return e-mail. General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, Glass@asu.ed u or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Sta te University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692)Editorial Board John Andrew Coulson


12 of 12Alan Davis Mark E. Thomas F. Alison I. Arlen Gullickson Ernest R. Aimee Craig B. Howley u56e3@wvnvm.bitnet William Richard M. Jaeger Benjamin Thomas Dewayne Mary P. Les Susan Bobbitt Anne L. Hugh G. Richard C. Anthony G. Rud Dennis Jay Robert Robert T.


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