Monday, September 1, 2008

Dead Elephant in the Living Room

"Why did the [US] become the leading economic power of the 20th century? ... Between 1870 and 1950, the average American's level of education rose by 0.8 year per decade. In 1890, the average adult had completed about eight years of schooling. ... But the happy era ended about 1970 when America's educational progress slowed to a crawl. Between 1975 and 1990, educational attainments stagnated completely. Since then, progress has been modest. ... This threatens the country's long-term prospects. It also widens the gap between rich and poor. ... The market is flooded with skilled workers and so their wages rise modestly. In periods, like the current one, when educational progress lags behind technological change, inequality widens. ... The meticulous research of Goldin and Katz is complemented by another report from James Heckman of the University of Chicago. Using his own research, Heckman comcludes that high school graduation rates peaked in the United States in the late 1960s, at about 80 percent. Since then they have declined. ... Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years. ... IQ matters, but Heckman points to equally important traits that start and then build from those early years: Motivation levels, emotional stability, self-control and sociability. ... But the populists are going to have to grapple with the Goldin, Katz and Heckman research, which powerfully buttresses the arguments of those who emphazise human capital policies. It's not globalization or immigration or computers per se that widen inquality. It's the skills gap", my emphasis. David Brooks (DB) at the Houston Chronicle, 16 August 2008.

"The word for it in Japanese is ayamachi, diplomatic argot for a grave mistake, even a sin. Last week none other than Yashuiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, committed a world-class ayamachi when he told a meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party, 'So high is the level of education in our country that Japan's is an intelligent society. Our average score is much higher than those of countries like the U.S. There are many black, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in America. In consequence the average score over there is exceedingly low.' ... 'On the contrary, things are easier in Japan because we are a monoracial society.' ... Declared Japanese-American Congressman Robert Matsui of California: 'Mr. Nakasone's explanation is almost as outrageous ... as his original statement.' ... But as Professor [Kennichi] Shibuya's blast indicated, the Prime Minister still had an earful coming from educators, who rated his remarks simplistic, if not downright wrong. Yet some cool scholarly heads in the U.S. conceded the Prime Minister a point or two, if only for his arithmetic. 'Statistically, he's right,' said Harold Howe, senior lecturer at Harvard's School of Education. Indeed, a report by British Psychologist Richard Lynn published in May 1982 indicated that over the past generation Japan's mean national IQ score has risen 7 points to an average of 111, well above the American norm of 100. Other surveys show that 17 to 22 million, or 7% to 9% of adult Americans are functionally illiterate, vs. less than 1% of Japanese. ... As for ethnic groups' dragging down the overall U.S. performance, again statistics seem to support the Prime Minister. ... Some familiar combatants in the genetics-vs.-environment IQ controversy thought the lag inevitable. William Schockley, retired Stanford professor and Nobel prizewinner in physics, restated his contoversial view: 'I'm inclined to believe the major cause of the American Negro's intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin, and thus not remedial to a major degree by practical improvements in environment. For Latinos in this country, my conclusion is the same and almost as inescapable'. ... Significantly too, .... the dropout rate among high school seniors [in Japan] is 2%, in contrast to 27% in the U.S.", Ezra Bowen at Time, 6 October 1986,,8816,962472,00.html.

"Typically, the two most important factors influencing the long-term success of an organization are the quantity and quality of people involved. ... Yet there has hardly been any discussion in the U.S. prestige press on the implications of the demographic change imposed by immigration. ... Now, the [Census] Bureau has released its first full-blown set of projections in 8.5 years. And they're a doozy. The key figure: 133 million Hispanics by 2050, an increase of almost 100 million in half a century. Is adding 100 million Latinos to the U.S. population a good idea? ... The well-worn responses of Establishment figures to public unease about adding 100 million Hispanics usually start with the words 'All we have to do is ...' All we have to do is fix education. Once we just figure out how to get Hispanics and blacks to stay in school and learn as much as whites, we're all set! ... In reality, we don't know how to solve any of these problems. And we are unlikely to discover and implement workable solutions any time soon. I've been following social science and policy for 36 years now. I've learned that fixes for social problems are rare. ... What we do know is that all of these troubles [schools, jobs, illegitimacy, health care and crime] are exacerbated by mass immigration of people with low human capital. .... One reason is that there are huge constituencies out there who make their livings out of social problems. They won't make the problems go away, of course, because that would make their jobs go away. Instead, more immigration by more people lacking in human capital is their full employment plan. ... Moreover, if current policy continues, we'll be a poorer and more unequal citizenry than we would have to be without so much immigration from south of the border", my emphasis, Steve Sailer (SS) at, 17 August 2008. The link:

"The philosophy being fed to young people is best summed up by the title of the book 'Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow'. No one has warned them of the dangers of student loans. No one is making any profit from warning people of the dangers of student loans. Colleges and lenders have an unholy alliance to get young people into debt. ... The country would be better off with no special protections or guarantees for student loans at all. This would instantly solve the problem of people graduating with boatloads of debt, because they wouldn't have access to any credit. The post-secondary educational system is a negative-sum arms race in which people are required to out-credential their competition in order to get into decent career tracks; there is very little human capital being created", my emphasis, Half Sigma (HS) at Half Sigma, 26 August 2008. The link:

"This is a problem that is pretty much unsolvable as long as our public beliefs are so far from reality. ... Most college majors do not entail learning anything useful but are obtained simply so the degree holder can get an entry level job where he will learn a trade. As a society we could get rid of these useless degrees if we acknowledge that IQ differences were of critical importance. Unfortunately the arrow of causality runs the other way. It's not that we refuse to (publicly) acknowledge IQ for some unknown reason but that academia is the main enforcer of the anti-IQ dogma because the idea is a direct threat to them", Steve Johnson comment to HS's post at Half Sigma.

"College is not all it's cracked up to be. Dumbed-down courses, flaky majors and grade inflation have conspired to make the letters B.A. meaningless. ... Students had to accept that they no longer get hugs for trying hard. If they didn't get the job done, they were flunked with as little ceremony as they would be fired by an employer. ... The demanding professor is close to being extinct. Due dates for papers are commonly extended when the student just can't get it done by then. ... Professors are under pressure to accomodate students even when it comes to right and wrong answers. ... Barrett Seaman, whose book Binge is the indispensable guide to this new college world, found that his alma mater, Hamilton (1,700 students), now has 28 full-time people to manage student issues that in the 1960s were handled by only 3. Hamilton is not exceptional", Charles Murray at Forbes, 1 September 2008.

"'Reading makes a full man, conversation makes a ready man, and writing makes an exact man.' So Francis Bacon told us around 1600. Recently I have been wondering how Bacon's formula might apply to present-day college students. ... They will eagerly participate in discussion, play guitar on request, bend spoons by sleight of hand to demonstrate a point about American credulity. But on exams they rarely get to the heart of questions. ... During private interviews with these students the phrase, 'Well, isn't that what I said?' runs like a refrain down the corridors. To update Bacon, I am beginning to fear that colleges are turning out students who, though they may be wonderfully 'ready,' are also woefully empty and inexact. ... 'How are you?' for instance, is not an inquiry about health, but a statement of identity to the effect, 'I am not a dangerous person. We could be friends.' ... The discontinuity of speech, the interrupted ideas, the emotional swashing around persist. It is a peculiar thing that as the bodies of the young become more familar to each other their minds become ever more remote. ... To be exact is to be be somehow indecent. ... They do not like to be critical. They don't want to judge. But whereas not being critical of others is, in certain circumstances, a saintlike quality, being uncritical of life eliminates the capacity of choice. ... In a memorable essay on the decay of language George Orwell observed that when we begin to prefer the vague to the exact we reduce the range of our consciousness. ... Returning to school after seven years as a computer programming director, a student of mine told me tales of college graduates with master's degrees becoming gravely despondent in front of computers that would not respond to their misspelled command, 'Insirt'," my emphasis, William Aiken (WA) at the WSJ, 4 May 1982.

"Meanwhile Professor Richard Vedder of Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, says that there are already too many people going to college. My own experience in academia leads me to agree with Professor Vedder. ... Among the reasons for wanting to be in college is that it is a social scene with large concentrations of people of the same age and the opposite sex. It is also a place where immaturity is not the handicap that it can be in other places, ranging from home to the workplace. In college immaturity is the norm, accepted not only by peers but even to a large extent by those in charge. An academic campus can be a refuge from the realities of the world, not only for students but even for members of the faculty. Max Weber referred to some of his fellow academics as 'big children in university chairs". ... Most of my academic career was spent in places like Cornell and UCLA. ... Even so, there were still quite a few students, especially at UCLA, whose interest in the life of the mind was, to put it charitably, limited", Thomas Sowell at, 28 November 2007.

"U.S. News Best Careers guide concludes that 'college grads might want to consider blue-collar careers' because bachelor's degree holders 'are having trouble finding jobs that require college-graduate skills.' Incredibly, U.S. News is telling college graduates to look for jobs that do not require a college diploma. ... Ten years ago, we were told we really didn't need manufacturing because it can be done more cheaply elsewhere, that auto workers and others should move to information age jobs. But now the information jobs are moving offshore, too, as well as marketing research, and even many varieties of innovation. The flight overseas includes professional as well as low-wage jobs, with engineering jobs offshored to India and China. Thousands of bright Asian engineers are willing to work for a fraction of U.S. wages. ... But it doesn't make sense for parents to mortgage their homes, or for students to saddle themselves with long-term debt, in order to pay overpriced college tuition to prepare for jobs that no longer exist. ... U.S. News offers this advice for the nerds who still spend five to six years earning an engineering degree despite increasingly grim prospects of a well-paid engineering career: 'Look for government work.' ... A Duke University spokesman said that 40 percent of Duke's engineering graduates cannot get engineering jobs", Phyllis Schlafly at, 31 December 2007.

Compare this with a Charles Murray article I excerpted in my 23 August 2008 post. I disagree with the "human capital" policy wonks. It's: nature, not nurture! Philippe Rushton (PR) asks in Race, Evolution and Behavior, 2000, why certain groups of people have poor environments. PR reverses today's dogma, concluding they have poor environments because they have low IQs, i.e., poor environment is a result of low IQ not a cause. Let's consider other opinions. In 1955 Arthur Bestor (AB), then a University of Illinois History Professor estimated one needed at least 90 IQ to graduate from high school. Some AB writings: "Anti-Intellectualism In the Schools", New Republic, Vol. 128, No. 3, 19 January 1953, page 11; "The Fundamentals of Education", Vital Speeches, Vol. 20, No. 21, 15 August 1954, page 658; "Educating the Gifted Child", New Republic, Vol. 139 No. 9, 4 March 1957, page 12 and "What Went Wrong With U.S. Schools", US News & World Report, Vol. 44 No. 4, 24 January 1958, page 68. The 1960 census showed the US was 88.5% white, 9% Negro and 2.5% other. With an average caucasian IQ of 100, 90 is -.67 standard deviations (SD), with a 15 SD. Assuming the 11.5% non-caucasians average IQ was 85, SD 13, 90 was +.38 SD. Using AB's estimate, 75% of American caucasians and 35% of others could graduate from high school, total = .885 x .75 + .115 x .35 = .704. We exceeded AB's estimate in the 1960s! Now US schools ethnic composition is: 56% caucasian, 15% Negro (African-American), 22% Hispanic, 7% other, primarily Asian. Let's run the numbers again, 37% of school kids are +.38 SD; 56%, -.67 SD and 7% -1.00 SD. Therefore 60.8% (.56 x .75 + .37 x .35 + .7 x .84) of today's American school children can graduate from high school. Was the 80% late 1960s high school graduation rate a fluke? We don't think so. Is it a coincidence that the: Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and the Immigration Reform Act in 1965? We don't think so. Suggested reading: IQ and the Wealth of Nations, 2002 and IQ and Global Inequality, 2006, both by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. For extra credit, read The Bell Curve, 1994, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Does anyone remember the Bell Curve flap? DB, you don't know what you're talking about. You too, James Heckman, Nobel Prize or no. Double extra credit: read La Griffe du Lion's posts,

"How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement", Harvard Education Review, 39, 1-123 (1969), by Arthur Jensen reopened the nature-nurture "can of worms". This article gave rise to the noun, "jensenism". The short version: not very much. In 1966 A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) representatives visited my school and lectured us about their "Freedom Budget for all Americans". APRI wanted the US to give Negroes, as they were then known, $185 billion over ten years when they will have achieved "parity" with caucasians and never ask for anything more. Since 1966, the US has not only spent the $1.4 trillion in 2008 dollars the APRI asked for on its Quixotic War on Poverty, but I estimate over $6 trillion. And it ain't over and has no prospect of ending soon.

On 18 January 1961, President Eisenhower warned us to beware of the "Military-Industrial Complex". I remember when Ike gave the speech, not understanding what he was talking about. Today we have other, equally self-interested complexes: The School-School Teacher Complex and the Prosecutor-Prison Guard-Policeman-Prison Building Complex. We incarcerate more people than Communist China with four times our population. It's big business. Here's a link, "The Prison-Industrial Complex", Atlantic, December 1998: Texas is our most "advanced" state in this regard: 153,000 prisoners, 73,000 in country jails, 103,000 on parole and 450,000 in local supervision, 776,000 with an adult population of 15 million or about 5%! This is almost as big an increase from the ratios since 1946 as the US has seen in college graduates! What's going on here?

I agree with HS. It's time to end the educational credentials race. Let the 1950s "ban the bombers" set their sights on the college establishment.

I agree with SS, identifying the "social workers' full-employment" plan in 1965, 43 years ago! A couple on my block went from grant-to-grant studying "social problems". Looking at their work made me realize without "problems" they had nothing to do and they couldn't fix anything. But they could study things; to death. Disagreeing with SS, La Griffe solved the "education" problem in January 2004 at In 1965 I anticipated La Griffe's "Swiftian" solution, like the 1729 Modest Proposal, when studying my neighbors' work! Educational fads are old news, read "Flapdoodle", Time, 19 September 1949,,9171,800701,00.html.

When WA wrote that, 26 years ago, he was an associate professor of English at the Unversity of Lowell in Massachusetts. Aiken died in 2006. Thanks, wherever you are for this article.

Too many kids go to college? Sacrilege. Not possible.

College a bad investment of time. Can't be.

2% dropout rate in Japan in 1986, vs. 27% in the US. Coincidence? We don't think so.

Dumbed-down courses, say it ain't so.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why engineering grads have trouble finding jobs. Are jobs not available, or are they not adequately trained, or do they just expect too much compensation compared to their foreign counterparts?

PrintFaster said...

This is in response to Anonymous:"I wonder why engineering grads have trouble finding jobs."

I will tell you why: The dollar has been maladjusted since it went off the gold standard. Basically what has happened is the the buck is supported by increasing US debt and not by gold assets. This debt has ballooned, keeping the dollar up in the face of increasing trade deficits.

US consumers have been reaping goods at the expense of more debt, not from more industry and productivity.

So engineers, mechanics and technicians are priced out of the world market by a dollar that is inflated by debt. All the capital has gone to Wall Street, being stolen from Main Street.

Once we balance our trade, there will be plenty of engineering jobs at better pay than lawyers, accountants and investment bankers.

Soapsoane said...

I'm posting from England and found your blog through looking for blogs critical of blogs!

In England there's a blog called Bent Society which was started by a group of criminologists in Nottingham using alter egos of Robin Hood and the Merrie Men (and a Wench!)

Some of the points about intelligence and environment are regularly discussed here:

Have a look and let me know what you think!

Kind regards


Junior said...

As always, right on, Pop.

I graduated high school in 1998. It would have been 1999 had I not skipped a grade.

As a child of the 80s, I can tell you that we are all stupid. God forbid someone be a "bad parent" and criticize us; instead we were told how amazing we were, how wonderful we were, how brilliant we were. I come from a generation of morally bankrupt, borderline mentally defective, socially inept morons.

Again, it is not a subject of ethnicity but one of overall lowering of the bar.

But statistics play a part. The Hispanic side of my family? Sign-painters and criminals. The Caucasian side of my family? Engineers, educators, and finance professionals.

But where was the Caucasian side of my family three generations ago (where the Hispanic side of my family is now, as "new" Americans only one generation native)? My great-great-great grandfather is the only one who accomplished anything (mayor of the capitol city of Slovenia), the rest slaved away in shit jobs. My mother's generation is the first to have accomplished college and well-paid jobs.

Allow Hispanic minorities some time; Latinos are working their way into accounting, finance, engineering, education, etc. But this sort of progress takes more than 1 generation; many Hispanic individuals are 1st generation with Spanish-speaking parents (many of these, sadly, also have a financial responsibility to aging parents who don't even speak English).

Give them time. The system will still discourage their mental, financial, and social growth but we are resilient.


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