Study Reveals: Kids Are Stupid

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Charles Murray's three-part exegesis on American education wrapped up yesterday: The three sections are here, here, and here. I'll spoil the thrilling conclusion:

Accept that some children will be left behind other children because of intellectual limitations, and think about what kind of education will give them the greatest chance for a fulfilling life nonetheless. Stop telling children that they need to go to college to be successful, and take advantage of the other, often better ways in which people can develop their talents. Acknowledge the existence and importance of high intellectual ability, and think about how best to nurture the children who possess it.

What Murray is suggesting is 1) to tamp down the hopes for average or below-average children, finding roles for them and not wasting their time with college and the promise that they can succeed in anything they choose and 2) develop a high-level education for above-average children, "to prepare an elite to do its duty." This is framed to avoid the pitfalls that Murray's theories plunged into a decade ago; that is, he doesn't use the word "race."

This is obviously politically untenable, but I wonder how much the market corrects for the relative intelligence of young people right now. Below-average people can go to college, but their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs. They are courted by different industries; the army, for example, spends more time spelunking for recruits from State University than they do from Yale.

Question: If some millionaire, Oprahlike, set up a high-tech grammar school for average and below-average children—with the understanding it would prepare those kids not to become part of the elite, but to become skilled in some vocations—would parents really flock to send the kids there?

Title explanation here.

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  1. College is a racket, and I teach in it.

  2. This system already exists. It’s called public education.

  3. “Below-average people can go to college, but their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs. They are courted by different industries; the army, for example, spends more time spelunking for recruits from State University than they do from Yale.”

    Oh my God Dave, you are such an asshole; just unbelievable asshole. Where to even begin.

    First, I guess only below average intelligent people ever go to state colleges. No smart person ever goes there, just the below average.

    As far as the military go, we have all been through this a million times. Some jackass like Weigel makes some statement like this and people a million anecdotes about various brilliant people in the military and the various statistics showing that no it is not the below average who join the volunteer military.

    Seriously Weigel, I would love to see you survive ten minutes as a company commander, a platoon leader, or even a staff officer in garrison, let alone some third world shithole with people shooting at you.

  4. I’ve noticed that there are far more military recruiting ads on the Spanish language stations than on English stations. They get more responses that way. The market at work, I guess.

    I did alternately excellent and terrible in school growing up. It wasn’t until I was college-aged that I was able to find a niche in education that worked for me. As Matt Groening pointed out years ago. The first thing American kids do when they get to college is do High School over again but for real.

    I’m afraid that my experience is quite common among kids. The notion of a “one-size-fits-all” lowest common denominator educational system simply doesn’t work for large numbers of students. Many European countries do discriminate between kids. In Germany your career trajectory is decided when you are still Elementary school age.

  5. In Germany your career trajectory is decided when you are still Elementary school age.

    But you can alter the arc as you get older – realschule’s not for everyone.

  6. This is obviously politically untenable

    Being, what’s the term? Oh yeah, reality-based.

  7. The first thing American kids do when they get to college is do High School over again but for real.

    Yep. Even people with good scores on AP tests are known to do poorly in freshman college classes. Not all of them, of course, maybe not even a majority, but enough that a lot of colleges don’t necessarily accept AP scores. As a freshman in the 1990’s, a lot of my classmates were whining that their AP scores weren’t accepted and it was so unfair that they’d have to take these freshman classes. Yet they were struggling in these classes.

  8. True, and thank Gott for that. Still, the system is very different.

  9. There is stronger and stronger scientific evidence for their being different kinds of intelligence. Anecdotally, it seems pretty obvious. Some smug asshole like Weigel can think his auto mechanic or electrician is “below average” all he wants, but of course Weigel couldn’t do any of the things those guys do. The approach should be that we figure out what people are good at and provide the kind of education that suits their intelligence and interests rather than trying to shove a classical liberal education down everyone’s throats.

  10. So, let me see if I understand. When Murray said this stuff in “The Bell Curve” it was all the result of faulty reasoning, flawed science, and bigotry. Now he is saying it, but omitting the data that shows a correlation between race and IQ, and it is good science.

    This makes it seem that science is a political game sometimes, but that is madness.

  11. John,
    I think you are projecting or maybe sublimating; One of those big words anyway.

    You’ll have to excuse me. I’m graduated from a university that markets itself through pop-up ads.

  12. I tend to agree with the idea that college is not necessary to have a meaningful, fulfilling life. Nor is it an indicator of intelligence. I know a lot of folks who are very, very smart, and quite fulfilled, yet are not college graduates.
    There are professional programs that are not university-level, but are still very intellectually demanding. The course work for a paramedic certification is one.
    Somehow, the Zietguist holds that everyone should go to college. The effect that this will have on those who do have degrees is somehow ignored. Apparently, they don’t teach supply and demand in college these days.
    I did go to college, and enjoyed it immensely. I studied Political Science and Philosophy. I left with a solid classical education, but one that has nothing to do with any sort of job skill (although logic is useful for deconstructing the bullshit I’m fed by PR types and politicians).

  13. John – Who’s being smug? I’m using shorthand for what Murray is saying. If you have a better way of talking about a kid with an 80 IQ, a kid with a 100 IQ, an a kid with a 140 IQ, tip me off to it.

  14. Humorous insults notwithstanding, I’ve often wondered that the shortage of deisel mechanics and machinists combined with the over-abundance of marginally to un-qualified management professionals is because of the push over the past 40 years to send everybody to college.

    I’m not advocating denying people opportunity. But pushing people toward unrealistic acheivements has a cost and downside also.

    As for the market correcting, let’s say we encouraged limited-talent-types to go for lower hanging fruit career wise. Isn’t there a market correction in the opposite direction for people of average-to-lower-brain-power but great ambition and drive?

  15. John,

    It seems you don’t care much for Mr. Weigel. Is it something he said here?

  16. It seems you don’t care much for Mr. Weigel.

    John doesn’t seem to much care for anyone who’s not in the Bush administration.

  17. “John – Who’s being smug? I’m using shorthand for what Murray is saying. If you have a better way of talking about a kid with an 80 IQ, a kid with a 100 IQ, an a kid with a 140 IQ, tip me off to it.”

    Dave,

    I just cut and pasted what you said and it seems pretty nasty. The crack about the State schools is pretty damned uncalled for. And the Army crack was just ridiculous. Yeah, the Army wants the below average, no need for any intelligence in doing any of the things they do.

    Yes, some people are below average. Some people are down right stupid. The question is what you mean by stupid. The guy who can fix your car may only get a 100 on an IQ test, but I wouldn’t call that guy stupid, especially considering my lack of success in working on cars. All of these studies are based on one set of cognitive skills. Considering that there are a lot of people who do poorly on such tests but also are capable of doing very complex and productive jobs, isn’t it probably more likely that we are all blessed with a pretty narrow range of intelligence, it is just that some of us are lucky enough to have the type of intelligence that does well on IQ tests?

  18. It wasn’t until I was college-aged that I was able to find a niche in education that worked for me.

    That was my experience as well. I think that one of the problems is that public educations teachers are not allowed (or unwilling) to talk about controversial subjects and can’t (or won’t) challenge students opinions.

    Fortunately, when I went to college my views were challenged all of the time by profs and students (in casual conversations and in the classroom). I have to say this stimulated my interest in learning, not only in engineering (my major) but in religion, economics, politics, ethics, etc.

  19. Yeah, the Army wants the below average, no need for any intelligence in doing any of the things they do.

    I don’t think that’s what Dave meant, John. But maybe you missed the recent decisions to bring in lower ASVAB scoring recruits.

  20. I think John just needs a hug.

  21. John- The Army will tend to recruit from state schools because the kids going to Yale already have $100,000 jobs lined up when they leave. State-College kids may not.

    While it’s certainly true that the top end at a state school and the top end at Yale will be roughtly equivalent, it’s also true that the bottom end at a state school will be lower. That’s just a fact. The admissions policies at state schools (not all of them) tend to be lower.

    I’m not sure there’s any connection, but both points are valid. As for officers: I knew (and do know) some utterly brilliant, scary-smart, why-the-hell-hasn’t-NASA-or-the-CIA-kidnapped-you-yet officers. The the median officer fits into a category I referred to as “history majors with C averages.” That doesn’t mean these men weren’t superb officers; it means that they weren’t intellectual giants.

  22. “Below-average people can go to college, but their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs. They are courted by different industries; the army, for example, spends more time spelunking for recruits from State University than they do from Yale.”

    What else does that mean? “Below average people can go to college”. What is the subject “Below Average people”. “Their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs” in other words the below average people we are talking about don’t go to AEI or NASA, obviously Dave hasn’t read much about the management failures that contributed to the shuttle disasters or he wouldn’t have put NASA on the list. “They are courted by different industries” Where do these below average people that go to college end up? Dave has an answer; “the army, for example, spends more time spelunking for recruits from State University than they do from Yale” in other words, the below average go to the Army and not only that, they do so after going to “state colleges” and the Army recruits them because the Army wants the “below average”.

    That is just unmitigated horseshit and I am going to call him on it.

  23. Weigel: “I wonder how much the market corrects for the relative intelligence of young people right now.”

    If it all comes out in the shuffle anyway: then college wastes the time, pollutes the minds, and distorts the apparent achievements of most HS graduates in the 18-22 year range. Isn’t that rather close to Murray’s point?

  24. “The the median officer fits into a category I referred to as “history majors with C averages.”

    That is true but the median person at most large corporations fits that description to. My father worked in corporate America in management for years and some people were scary smart, others were mediocrities who go where they were by kissing ass or having the right connections or through dumb luck. That is just the nature of any large organization.

  25. I’m inclined to think that IQ scores are meaningless except as an indicator of a person’s ability to solve word puzzles.

  26. “The the median officer fits into a category I referred to as “history majors with C averages.” That is true but the median person at most large corporations fits that description to.

    True.

  27. John,
    If you believe the average IQ in the military is on par with the general population, you’ve swallowed the kool-aid. Sure there are some jobs that require higher reasoning powers, but most new recruits are people that failed at everything else (now more than ever). Don’t confuse all that high tech gear for high IQ requirements. As someone who’s both maintained and designed equipment for the military I can tell you that making it soldier proof is always one of the biggest challenges in developing new systems. They need to have two button operation (start and stop) and they need to keep working no matter what buttons are pushed in any order.

  28. I was struck by the fact that while I was in high school, the baseball coach had no problem almost laughing me off the field when I tried out for the JV team and wasn’t good enough.

    Can you imagine doing that to somebody’s kid when they failed at academia?

    I can’t understand why we recognize physical limitations in people, but not mental ones?

  29. I think that calling a program which labels half the population’s children as stupid a “political non-starter” is about as laughable a euphemism I’ve heard in my life. I read the articles, and when I finished I was ready to lead a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants after Mr. Murray. Once I calmed down, I read the articles again, albeit with my defective state-university-educated brains, and noticed a few things he never addresses.

    1. Humans are status-oriented creatures, and generally don’t treat those perceived as lower status very well. Mr. Murray sets up a system in which children are assigned careers as mechanics or techs because they’re stupid. So, how much prestige does he thing we’re going to accord jobs that stupid people do? Won’t those elites who get to study Shakespeare also imbibe the idea that lower IQ’s are disposable dimwits? Even his plan to inculcate “humility” is basically flawed, since the only people who get to study humility are those who also get extraordinary privileges. Somehow, I doubt how effective his “look at me, see, I’m so nice and humble” classes are going to be.

    2. He acknowledges that the Flynn effect is real. (The Flynn Effect is the increase in average IQ score over the last 50 years, probably due to better nutrition and education for us in the lower orders.) Consequently, average intelligence in 2007 is higher than it was in 1950, but he never explains whether his trade schools would take that into account. I got the impression from his articles that he wouldn’t bother teaching Shakespeare or history to average kids without ever showing any data that says average kids can’t understand such things. We have never tried to figure out what sorts of things an average mind can learn and how we could teach such things. Until he answers that question, I will continue with my opinion that Mr. Murray is a sourpuss aristocrat, still made that icky girls and dark skinned and poor people refuse to stay in our God-ordained places.

  30. I mean really, just look at the tone of the comments (and their responses) that merely suggest some jobs (such as a grunt in the army) don’t require quite the IQ of others (let’s say in the medical field).

    Why take it so personally?

  31. warren,

    To be fair, I make software for clinicians and I have to “idiot-proof” it as well.

    greg,
    that’s a good point.

  32. “If you believe the average IQ in the military is on par with the general population, you’ve swallowed the kool-aid. Sure there are some jobs that require higher reasoning powers, but most new recruits are people that failed at everything else (now more than ever). Don’t confuse all that high tech gear for high IQ requirements. As someone who’s both maintained and designed equipment for the military I can tell you that making it soldier proof is always one of the biggest challenges in developing new systems. They need to have two button operation (start and stop) and they need to keep working no matter what buttons are pushed in any order.”

    Warren you are just wrong. I have about eight years of experience to know that you are. A lot of them are 18 to 22 year olds who do the same dumb stuff that 28 to 22 year olds do. But, they are not stupid. They are lots of things not all of them positive, but stupid is not one of them. Beyond the fact that the statistics just prove you wrong, the reality on the ground proves you wrong every day.

  33. “warren,

    To be fair, I make software for clinicians and I have to “idiot-proof” it as well.”

    You have to idiot proof anything that large numbers of people are going to use. Now imagine making something that is dangerous to use to begin with and will be used by large numbers of people who are often exhausted, under tremendous stress and living a dirty and dangerous environment. Nope, no need to idiot proof that. According Warren you only need to idiot proof things when stupid people are using them.

  34. “that merely suggest some jobs (such as a grunt in the army)”

    Interesting you mention grunt in the Army. My experience has always been that the infantry soldiers are better diciplined, more efficient and more reliable than support soldiers who generally have a higher ASVAB score.

  35. I think I should’ve become a mechanic. The shops around here have banker’s hours, and the labor rates make me, the future lawyer, envious. There’s something to be said for prestige, but there’s also something to be said for 40 hours a week with great pay.

  36. As far as the military recruiting, one thing I always thought was weird was: I took the ASVAB ( hope I got that right) in high school with 2 friends. Mostly because I like taking tests ( highest SAT in my class, took the LSAT as 8th year sophomore and scored in the 97th,etc) and I got to miss some class for it.

    My total score was in the 99th Percentile. I think I only scored in the 70s in some mechanical section. One friend was in the 70s and other in the 30s. I never got a call from any military recruiters ( until I sent in for a free t-shirt 8 years later). My friend with the low scores got a lot of calls.

    In retrospect I don’t even remember if taking that test opened us up to recruiters, if the scores were shared with someone, or however that works,etc. So maybe that had nothing to do with it. I just thought it was interesting.

    However all these years I had an assumption that the military didn’t want to recruit elite* people.

    * elite in my case meaning I ace all standardized tests but I am basically a late 20s unemployed/unemployable college dropout who spends all day playing on the computer.

  37. Warren-I think you’d find the same thing true if you were designing equipment for the general civilian population. Or perhaps you’ve never noticed how many VCR clocks constantly flash 12:00?

  38. “The world needs ditchdiggers, too.”

  39. John,

    I agree that Weigel underranked the intelligence of the military. 18th century warfare may have been filled with underintelligent and semi-morons, but warfare today requires a significant technical understanding and sophistication, something that people with IQ’s under 100 are really not qaulified for for the most part. Sure, there are still some grunts, but mostly the army is made of reasonably intelligent top half high and college graduates. I think Weigel has watched “Full Metal Jacket” one too many times.

  40. I agree that the market probably already sorts this out. There are colleges and there are colleges. Plus, college grading (notwithstanding inflation) is less subject to the don’t-let-anyone-fall-behind philosophy of high school and elementary school.

    Also, I wonder if Murray’s way — not encouraging people to be all they can be and the some — would cause productivity to drop. The American ethic of “I can do better for myself” pushes a lot people to strive continually to reach their highest and best use, so to speak.

  41. Number 6,

    I can proudly say that my VCR does not blink 12:00, as it has no digital display and it is not a VCR, its a DVD player, having left the cartridge technology long behind. 🙂

    That said, I think most VCR’s blink 12:00 because no one cares about setting them. Who looks at their VCR when they want to know the time?

  42. You know, I’ll be the first to agree that college isn’t for everybody (and I say that not as somebody who wants to keep it elite, but rather as somebody who participates in the system and is hence keenly aware of its limitations).

    However, I don’t see the need for a “system” of any sort (public, private, whatever) that steers kids into different paths. About a year ago (give or take) the Economist had a long feature about higher education, and observed that America’s system of higher education (i.e. anything after high school) is the best in the world because there is no “system.” We have schools of every type imaginable, from small technical colleges offering very career-oriented courses, to large universities with Ph.D. programs. In almost every niche we have multitudes of public and private institutions, including an increasing number of private for-profit institutions.

    You can start at a community college and then transfer to a different type of school, you can do all of your training in schools of the same type, you can go from a traditional academic institution to a more career-oriented place, whatever you want.

    And schools of every type are attracting foreigners. I used to teach optics at a for-profit career-oriented school, and I saw a substantial population of international students. My friend’s wife is taking ESL classes at a community college, with the goal of transferring to a master’s program (she has a BA from a foreign institution already). An unskilled immigrant can take night classes at the local community college or technical school, with the goal of advancement. The top graduates from the best foreign schools can enter our Ph.D. programs. And everybody in between can find a niche too.

    The last thing I want is the development of tracks that kids get slotted into. I don’t claim to know the best way to teach young kids, but PLEASE don’t slot them into tracks that will limit their academic options as adults. Say what you will about the problems of American academia, but the variety of programs offered, and the flexibility to transfer between programs, is one of America’s greatest strengths. It’s probably even part of the reason that we’re so successful at assimilating immigrants, since it’s flexible enough to accomodate anyone from an unskilled laborer seeking technical skills to a foreign college graduate seeking an advanced degree.

  43. John C Jackson,

    I can’t explain military recruiters. But, I do know that there are some pretty damn smart people in the military. Some who I am sure do well on tests but a lot of others who I know would not do well on tests but are incredibly practical. Certainly, there are dumb people in the military, but there are dumb people in civilian life. There are dumb people everywhere and worse yet, smart people who should know better who do really stupid things.

    BTW, I do well on standardized tests to and all it has ever got me was being incredibly bored at nearly every job I have ever had. I really think I would have been better off if I were mechanical and were living a satisfied life making $30 an hour working on cars.

  44. highest SAT in my class, took the LSAT as 8th year sophomore and scored in the 97th,etc

    Oh goody, another thread about whose intellectual dick is the biggest.

  45. A lot of very successful people are not very bright.

    And many high IQ people are losers. I resemble this.

    So I like the “American ethic” of non-“elites” maximizing their potential and not just saying ” Well, gee my parents aren’t aristocrats, and my IQ isn’t 180. Maybe I should think about bagging groceries as a career.”

  46. You are exactly right Thoreau. I do think, however, there ought to be a more efficient way of doing things. Right now people waste thousands of dollars and years of their life to get degrees that they never use but need in order to have the stamp of approval known as a degree. I wouldn’t throw out the system, but it would be nice if we could tweek it to provide more useful skills.

  47. What is so wildcat-fucking controversial about the propositions that (a) some people will not have the same intellectual potential of others and (b) college isn’t for everyone, regardless of an indivdiual’s intellectual potential?

  48. I would like to point out that George W. Bush is a Harvard graduate… twice!

    Make of it what you will.

  49. John,

    I spent my college career working on cars after I got fired from my co-op. It was infinitely more fun and ,though much less money. However, my back did hurt alot from having to lean over engine bays, so there’s something to be said for working in an office in an ergonomically correct chair.

  50. BTW, the last thing we should do is emulate European higher education, at least in the more “traditional” academic disciplines that train their professors. It’s loosening up now, but (1) in many places it’s still far more nepotistic than any US school and (2) in some European countries you need to do something almost equivalent to a “second Ph.D.” to become a professor.

    In the US, a person can finish his Ph.D. and in some cases become a professor right away, in other cases work as an adjunct or postdoctoral fellow before entering a tenure-track position, or even take non-traditional paths in the private or public sector before returning to academia. The result is a faculty with a wider range of experiences and professional backgrounds.

    American higher education has no “system”, and that’s for the best. Say what you will about academia, but I’ll take disorganized academia over a “system” any day.

  51. I think I can summarize my original comment: Murray thinks that trying something beyond one’s ability and failing is worse that sitting on one’s ass. I think that’s despicable.

  52. The problem is Thoreau is the American system gives you profs who, while they may be briliant in their field can’t teach a lick. I saw this in law school. You would get some guy who went to Yale, worked as a clerk for a federal appellate judge and then went straight classroom. While he may have been a brilliant scholar, he wouldn’t last five minutes at a law firm and has no idea how law is actually practiced or any idea how to communicate that even if he knew it. As anything but the most advanced student, I would rather have the PHD who did so so on his dissertation but loves to teach and can really explain the basics of the field than the Nobel Prize winner who can’t explain anything. It would be nice if Profs were judged on their teaching ability more.

  53. Mr. Dumbass,

    The point of me using my REAL test scores was a way of saying test scores don’t really mean all that much. Notice my “as an 8th year sophomore” remark. That was a slight exaggeration ( I had gone to 4 colleges over several years, taken several LOAs, dropped out, been kicked, barely done anything and took a test for the hell of it).

    I have no need to inflate my “intellectual dick.” I don’t think it’s anything remarkable that I was #1 in my class in 8th grade and scored the highest on some tests many years ago.

    If I really needed to inflate my intellectual ego, I wouldn’t admit that here I am years later a depressed loser who can’t really function in society. If I wanted something made-up to brag about, I would rather be talking about graduating from a top Law School or my great accomplishments in life- Not the fact I was considered “very smart” in my younger years and didn’t do anything with it.

    Whatever “intellect” I may have is not functional as it exists only in my small world.

    I too, sometimes wish I were more mechanical or at least a bullshit artist or something else that society values.

    My point about the ASVAB was that 10 years ago I thought that way, but I was just making assumptions. I am sure there are some very bright people in the military. Thinking about it now gives me different perspective.

  54. Notice the unspoken assumption that the only people who become auto mechanics, or pursue a trade, are the ones who aren’t bright enough for academic work. Is it inconceivable that someone with a 165 IQ enjoys working on cars or in a trade of one sort or another?
    A good friend of mine has a scary-high IQ. He’s a firefighter. He does that job because he enjoys it, even if it does require wearing the dreaded blue collar.

  55. Below-average people can go to college, but their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs. They are courted by different industries; the army, for example, spends more time spelunking for recruits from State University than they do from Yale.

    John – Who’s being smug? I’m using shorthand for what Murray is saying. If you have a better way of talking about a kid with an 80 IQ, a kid with a 100 IQ, an a kid with a 140 IQ, tip me off to it.

    Perhaps supercilious would be better than smug. Spelunking? Yes, that’s it, the Army (capitalization of “army” is the preferred usage here, I believe, Mr. Weigel) searches academic caves for its recruits, whereas the average Yalie has an I.Q. nearly three standard deviations above the norm?

    I rather doubt either is the case, based at least on the Yalies I’ve known over the years or, for that matter, that NASA or AEI (AEI, fergawdsakes?!?) eschew major state research universities opting exclusively for, oh, let’s say, places like Northwestern.

    Of course, military recruiters might spend more time at the likes of Yale if the schools, themselves, were not overtly hostile to them.

    Perhaps a follow-up story, “Study Reveals: Journalists Ill Informed”?

  56. Number 6,

    Some people just are not mortals and can do anything. I have an older brother who is like that. He can read and write anything and is smart as hell, but likes putting things together and is a high end welder.

  57. “Some smug asshole like Weigel can think his auto mechanic or electrician is “below average” all he wants, but of course Weigel couldn’t do any of the things those guys do.”

    Amen, John.
    Why do so many assume that IQ is easily and accurately measured?
    Why have the military and the trades become so firmly 2nd class in the US?

    I understand why Murray is being criticized, but I think his overall message is dead on.

  58. I’ve agreed with Murray in the past, but the last few years saw, among other things, my former employer run into the ground by a Harvard MBA now widely regarded as one of the stupidest, most incompetent senior execs ever inflicted on our industry. An interesting note – stupidity notwithstanding, the guy had an essentially photographic memory.

    It left me wondering if the tests we use for intelligence bias toward that particular skill, or otherwise undervalue the ability to apply knowledge(or fail to detect the inability to do so)?

    I spent the beginning of my career in that apparently reviled (here anyway) institution, the military, teaching students to fly very high performance aircraft. I saw a number of people I considered extremely sharp, and who came from very selective schools, fail the program because they simply couldn’t think in three dimensions or make a decision without a committee, while students with lesser “credentials” breezed through the program. Many commenters have discussed the C+, state school manager at work. Is there any evidence – any at all – that somebody with a graduate degree from some Ivy League school is, or is even likely to be, better at the job than that guy? Because there’s evidence that, at least at the top of the company, the opposite is true: http://www.forbes.com/2002/04/25/0425ceoschools.html

  59. JohnC makes a very good point. Intellect alone does not equate to success. I think plain old hardwork and determination are about 90% of success, luck is about 9%, and talent is the rest.

    Unless you are George W. Bush that is, or ALbert Gore. Then family connections, and a likeable personality (sorry Al) will take you very far indeed.

  60. The problem is Thoreau is the American system gives you profs who, while they may be briliant in their field can’t teach a lick.

    Oh, I agree completely. That situation is starting to change, thank God, at least in the sciences (a bit). But, yeah, it’s a problem. No doubt.

    One other point: I’d rather have a society where people get college degrees that they turn out not to “need” than a society where people are put into more rigid tracks (e.g. Germany). Neither is ideal, but we don’t get to choose among ideal situations in the real world.

  61. John,

    I have no problem with professors that can’t teach, as long as they don’t need to. There are plenty of brilliant researchers at colleges that couldn’t teach their own kid to use the bathroom, but they can solve theoretical physics models. If a teacher is contributing to the school, let him do what he does best. The problem is schools that try and make researchers into teachers. Theres room enough for both if they stop being so damn cheap.

  62. John-That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Just because someone has the capacity to be a professor of mathematics, a brain surgeon, or whatever, doesn’t mean that he or she will enjoy doing that work.

    I’m in sort of the same boat. I have a degree from a good school, a functional cerebrum, and a job as a writer. But I also became a volunteer firefighter a few years ago. I’ve realized that I get more satisfaction from that than from any other job I’ve had. I may change careers, not because I lack the brainpower to go back to school and get a PhD, or to pursue any number of options available to me, but because I’ve found something I enjoy. Yet there are a number of people who would then mentally consign me to the ranks of the “just not that bright.”

  63. “ed | January 19, 2007, 10:21am | #
    I think John just needs a hug.”

    No. A steak and a handjob.

    One thing, Herr Weigel:

    You are awesome at getting discussion! Kudos! You hereby win the “Mr. Steven Crane” award for good discussion primer!

    (these are also fun threads because everybody comes up with anecdotal evidence to support their views. boo yah!)

    Cheers, Sir!

    respectfully,
    VM

    GO BEARS.

  64. “I have no problem with professors that can’t teach, as long as they don’t need to. There are plenty of brilliant researchers at colleges that couldn’t teach their own kid to use the bathroom, but they can solve theoretical physics models. If a teacher is contributing to the school, let him do what he does best. The problem is schools that try and make researchers into teachers. Theres room enough for both if they stop being so damn cheap.”

    Absolutely there is. Once more, the last thing many of the people who are brilliant researchers want to do is teach. Yet, colleges force them to do something they hate and are often are not any good at. It is the same way in the private sector where engineers and scientists who just want to design stuff or work in the lab are forced to become managers.

  65. I think Murray wouldn’t care if the “Eddie Willers” of the world want to try to become “Howard Roarks.” However, reading between the lines of his essays, he doesn’t think the taxpayers are well-served by shelling out for Eddie’s fantasies when “we” need many more Eddies in various vocations.

  66. Number 6,

    Screw them, go be a firefighter. What a great job.

  67. VM,

    The proper combination is a steak and a blowjob. Obviously you are not a Clinton democratic, or you would have known that.

    There is nothing like pointing out the deficiencies in people to create a bunch of pissed off State U grads though… troll, troll, troll…

  68. John-That’s the direction I’m leaning. I already pulled a similar move when I took my shiny new honors degree and joined the Marines as an artilleryman. As it turned out, that wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but the experience of 4.5 years doing that was invaluable.

  69. Why would anyone care about what racist, shoddy-statistics, Katrina victims = “animals let out of their cages” Charles Murray has to say?

    He cheats on his numbers to make the racist, elitist arguments he decided to make before he even begis he research.

  70. woohoo. Joe, let’s-call-them-names-to-refute-their-science is here to enlighten us.

  71. “I’ve realized that I get more satisfaction from that than from any other job I’ve had. I may change careers, not because I lack the brainpower to go back to school and get a PhD, or to pursue any number of options available to me, but because I’ve found something I enjoy.”

    That, Sir, is why you’ll be a success. It is why you’re a success.

    (the 101 IQ geniuses who would classify you in a “lower brain power” category can go sod off.)

    cheers,
    VM

    GO BEARS.

  72. Yeah number 6, the problem with 20 years in the combat arms is that it destroys your body. Also, after you are a company commander you end up being a staff puke like me. Most of the combat arms guys I know are miserable stuck doing power point presentations and writing memos and FRAGOS. I can definitely see why some people don’t ever want to be officers and spend their lives as enlisted.

    I think I am going to do my 20 years and 15 minutes and then go do something completely off the wall but is fun.

  73. I have an expensive liberal arts degree from a pretty prestigious private college. That degree has never put food on my table, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was raised to be curious about the world, and to enjoy learning.

    It’s too bad the degreed educators who currently have control of our education system and our public schools can’t concentrate on finding ways to make the learning experience enjoyable for the students (rather than making life easier for the teachers) and teach them how to learn rather than tell them what to think.

    And I agree with Thoreau and anybody else that a rigid tracking system is a terrible idea, especially if those track designations are assigned using standardized test scores.

  74. I manage some family owned property and I can tell you I wish I had gone to plumber’s school instead of college. Those guys make more than most doctors. They totally rape you.

  75. “I manage some family owned property and I can tell you I wish I had gone to plumber’s school instead of college. Those guys make more than most doctors. They totally rape you.”

    A good friend of mine worked for a luxary car dealship in college. One of those that only sells Jags, Range Rovers, Benzes and the like. He said he figured he would be dealing with a client base of doctors and lawyers and Indian Chiefs and the like. Nope. The most common customer; plumbers. Yeah, those guys rape you.

  76. I read Murray’s piece and just finished reading most of the posts here. I was immediately struck by the thought that even the dimmist can learn to type out drivel and post it to a blog.

  77. “I was immediately struck by the thought that even the dimmist can learn to type out drivel and post it to a blog.”

    Is there a word for making a statement while at the same time providing an example of said statement?

  78. Joe,

    Thanks for the sources supporting your assertions!

  79. “Is there a word for making a statement while at the same time providing an example of said statement?”

    onomatobloga

  80. “onomatobloga”

    actaully, onomatocrapa is even better.

  81. Lead balloon alert!

    The problem is Thoreau is the American system gives you profs who, while they may be briliant in their field can’t teach a lick.

    Maybe, just possily, the lack of learning skills outweighs the lack of teaching skills.

  82. “Maybe, just possily, the lack of learning skills outweighs the lack of teaching skills.”

    Perhaps, but I defy anyone who spent more than a year in college to truthfully say they never had a professor who was brilliant but a terrible teacher.

  83. Wayne, awesome! A little college help you out with that one? My six years and two degrees with honors didn’t get me squat.I found a highshool level job,learned the business and after a few years I’m doing it for myself. College is a waste for anything but a technical degree, even for smart people. Although society maybe should have forced me to use my brain to master fusion or cure cancer, I think the value I provide while selfishly seeking profits is an overall good.

  84. Don’t get me wrong, I am not denigrating teaching skills. If the teacher/instructor knows his/her subject, a curious, knowledge seeking individual, wikll be able to mine the tedium for useful information.

    Note that I presume that a teacher/instructor knows his/her subject.

  85. “Don’t get me wrong, I am not denigrating teaching skills. If the teacher/instructor knows his/her subject, a curious, knowledge seeking individual, wikll be able to mine the tedium for useful information.”

    True. You can always (gasp) read the damn book or go to other sources or figure out a way to talk to the guy on the side. But, aren’t you learning in spite of the teacher rather than becuase of the teacher at that point?

  86. I think I can summarize my original comment: Murray thinks that trying something beyond one’s ability and failing is worse that sitting on one’s ass. I think that’s despicable.

    That is not what I read, and I think that is a false dichotomy. I think he is saying that trying for an education/career in which a high IQ is strongly correlated to probability of success, when one’s IQ would predict a high likelihood of failure (approaching 100% for the left tail of the Bell Curve) is a worse choice than trying for something less intellectually aggressive where one has a high chance for success.

  87. “That is not what I read, and I think that is a false dichotomy. I think he is saying that trying for an education/career in which a high IQ is strongly correlated to probability of success, when one’s IQ would predict a high likelihood of failure (approaching 100% for the left tail of the Bell Curve) is a worse choice than trying for something less intellectually aggressive where one has a high chance for success.”

    The problem is that IQ tests don’t predict perfectly and having that atitude will cause at least some people not to pursue careers at which they would have been great. For example, Richard Feynman’s IQ was in the mid 120s. Not bad for sure, but not high enough for someone like Murray to think that he would have much chance at entering the Physics priesthood. Of course Murray would have been drasticly wrong about Feynman.

    Look, there is always going to be the Michael Jordan who gets cut from the JV basketball team. I would rather pay the price of people trying and failing to be basketball players because they don’t really have the aptitude, then loose the occasional Michael Jordan.

  88. But what did all the “smart people” do before blogs?

  89. Yeah, those guys rape you.

    That reminds me of a dialog on plumbers I heard on a tv show once:

    guy #1: “Isn’t that a lot of money for just knowing that water runs downhill?”

    guy #2: “Yes, but the thing is, it’s not all water”

    I can’t remember what show that was.

  90. john, you started down an interesting path, then backed off. and that’s the basic fallacy of the murray position, the idea of a “universal” intelligence. there are indeed different sorts of intelligence, and reducing it to a scalar is ludicrous. the sort of mind it takes to wrap around the schroedinger equation is not necessarily the same sort of mind that can fix a car, run a business, make a spouse happy, fly a fighter plane, rush for 220 yards in a game, sculpt something that can reduce a viewer to tears, or remember to close his/her fly.

    see if you can find an interview with thelonious monk. amazing. the guy was a flat-out creative genius, but i’ll bet his iq score was no better than 60.

  91. l’esprit d’escalier: this is not to disagree with murray’s conclusion, that different sorts of minds are best served by different sorts of education.

  92. Another lead balloon alert

    On the topic of different kinds of intelligence, this post by Tyler Cowen makes interesting reading:

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2003/09/an_even_shorter.html

  93. the overlap between those considered as everyday folks, intellectuals, and elites (whatever that means) is so great as to make classifications of individuals completely meaningless.

    anecdotally, most teachers i know are well aware that most of their students aren’t a good fit for college and wish there were other opportunities for them. however, just try to mention such a possibility and watch a delusional parent go NUTS!

    “First, I guess only below average intelligent people ever go to state colleges. No smart person ever goes there, just the below average.”

    but only below average people go to BC Law, right? 😉

  94. Hearing all these stories of how much money plumbers and contractors and whatnot make, I have a new theory for why kids are encouraged to go to college rather than pursue a trade: The plumbers and contractors and electricians are secretly orchestrating this, so that they’ll have less competition.

    Secret designers of the secret bathrooms and all that.

    🙂

  95. The problem is that IQ tests don’t predict perfectly and having that atitude will cause at least some people not to pursue careers at which they would have been great.

    there are indeed different sorts of intelligence, and reducing it to a scalar is ludicrous.

    Murray dances back and forth but he seems to mean g even when he is saying IQ. Nobody expects perfect correlation, but I think adults do children a gross disservice by telling them they can be anything. That is as bad as telling them to always try and come in 10th (with apologies to Dr. Johnny Fever’s dad).

  96. Secret designers of the secret bathrooms and all that.

    The Jews and Masons have something to say about that.

  97. One advantage that not-all-that-high IQ people like Feynman and myself have, is that we can help make the most complicated shit easier. This isn’t just good for us yokels, but it also helps cut down the time for all those borderline-Asbergers’ nerds who do the real, cutting-edge shit.

    Sometimes it helps to have a guy like Tom Hanks in “Big” to stand up and say, “I don’t get it”.

  98. “but I think adults do children a gross disservice by telling them they can be anything. That is as bad as telling them to always try and come in 10th (with apologies to Dr. Johnny Fever’s dad).”

    I think that goes back to the Jordan Feynman issue. You could just as easily say that adults do middle class Jewish kids in New York with 120 IQs a great disservice by telling them they can some day be physicists or telling skinny kids from North Carolina who get cut from their JV basketball teams that they can ever be NBA players. The fact is some people really are Feynman or Jordan and you can’t always tell who those people are when they are kids. I would rather do the diservice of cultivating unfulfilled dreams rather than risking loosing the people who really could be great.

  99. Nobody expects perfect correlation, but I think adults do children a gross disservice by telling them they can be anything.

    false dichotomy and straw man, all wrapped up in one!

  100. If people were disabused of their unrealistic dreams we’d never see those hilarious auditions for reality shows!

    I’ve never seen a full episode of American Idol, but I love the commercials with the deluded wannabes.

  101. “I’ve never seen a full episode of American Idol, but I love the commercials with the deluded wannabes.”

    My wife watches the early auditions every year. Frankly, I find them pretty damn funny but feel guilty afterwards. Like slowing down to see a car wreck.

  102. John, my sentiments exactly. When I protest to my wife that we’re entertaining ourselves at the expense of people with serious problems she just says get over it.

  103. It’s altogether possible that Feynman ‘s IQ test score was erroneous or, at the very least, at the bottom of the margin of error for such tests. Actually, an IQ of around 125 – 130 is about average for the typical MD or PhD recipient while someone with an accurately measured IQ of 80 is almost certainly never going to be able to learn, say, calculus. An unusually high IQ is not sufficient for success in life, academic or otherwise; but as a measure of the capability to master abstract and complicated topics, IQ tracks fairly consistently.

  104. James,

    The contestents seem to be more militant this year. It is just a matter of time before one of them goes over the desk at Simon. What is funny is that the worse a person is the more angy they are at being rejected. The ones that are just okay, not good enough to win but can at least carry a tune, seem to take rejection with some dignity. The ones who are absolutely awful, seem to get really angy and scream a lot of obcenities after being rejected.

  105. If you believe the average IQ in the military is on par with the general population, you’ve swallowed the kool-aid. Sure there are some jobs that require higher reasoning powers, but most new recruits are people that failed at everything else (now more than ever). Don’t confuse all that high tech gear for high IQ requirements. As someone who’s both maintained and designed equipment for the military I can tell you that making it soldier proof is always one of the biggest challenges in developing new systems. They need to have two button operation (start and stop) and they need to keep working no matter what buttons are pushed in any order.

    JohnCJackson
    Since you are SO MUCH smarter then this career enlisted man (and his peers) please explain to to me why knowledge of electronic countermeasures (ECM), and electonic counter countermeasures(ECCM) is neccesary to a stupid enlisted man. I’m sure you’ve engineered all of that into an ON/OFF switch.

    Go ahead and denigrate the people who do difficult job if it it makes you feel superior. Don’t think it will go unchallenged.

  106. I think the really bad ones are in on the gag. It is the mediocre, delusional ones that make me the saddest.

  107. “I think the really bad ones are in on the gag. It is the mediocre, delusional ones that make me the saddest.”

    You mean the ones who leave the room crying hysterically because they didn’t make it? Those people really need help. God have mercy on me for laughing so hard at them.

  108. If Feynman scored 120 on an IQ test it was designed by someone with an IQ of 70. He was once high scorer on the Putnam Exam. He had a LOT of g.

  109. Bob,

    That is the story, but there are a million myths surrounding Feynman, this might be one of them.

  110. Murray seems solid on psychometrics but weak on sociology and economics. He focuses on college as a training facility and transmitter of knowledge and ignores its role as a social institution. Does he really think that people don’t know that a large number of college graduates get very little new knowledge from the experience? People send their average kids for the socialization and think their money well spent. What other similar social institution does the American middle class have? Church? Union? Military? Bowling league? He says it’s not very “efficient,” and I agree. But his “solution” (separate vocational training) would exacerbate the phenomenon he claimed to be worried about in The Bell Curve. He wants to segregate society by IQ as soon as possible. Bad idea.

  111. “He wants to segregate society by IQ as soon as possible.”

    With IQ used as a proxy for what, I wonder?

  112. Regarding the bad teacher bit. It seems to me that if you need to ‘be taught’ you are likely that unfortunate portion of the student body that shouldn’t otherwise be there. College is more of a motivational aid. Sure, all of the information is usually compiled in a easily accessible way, but more importantly the whole business is about structured deadlines and goals. It really is about you learning and less about someone demonstrating some bit of knowledge for your instruction. That’s what the three hours of study time for one hour of lecture is about.

  113. “People send their average kids for the socialization and think their money well spent.”

    I think you are a little hard on college. First, outside of learning Attic Greek or some really high end mathematics, there are very few subjects that are so difficult the average person can’t master with some diligence. You act like any college subject is above most people and most students studying there are wasting their time. That is overstating the case a bit. The fact is that the world is more complex than it used to be. You can’t spend your life turning a wrench on an assembly line anymore or from learning a craft from you parents. As Thoreau correctly pointed out way above here, the American college system does a lot of good and provides useful skills to a lot of people. It is a hell of a lot more than a socialization mechanism.

  114. Hi, Japan already has this system.

  115. Well, in fact I take him at his word that he is concerned about the segregation of society by IQ. So I probably should have said that “the result of his suggestions would be to segregate…” rather than “he wants to segregate…” But my problem with the Bell Curve was that he had done a very unconvincing job of analyzing the social dynamics and this series of articles emphasizes the weak area of his analysis spot. I think he knows a lot about the nature of intelligence, how to measure it, and how it affects education. But his predictions about how this interacts with society are almost always off base. Dry studies of human intelligence don’t get you published in the WSJ, but it’s what he should stick to.

  116. Hearing all these stories of how much money plumbers and contractors and whatnot make, I have a new theory for why kids are encouraged to go to college rather than pursue a trade: The plumbers and contractors and electricians are secretly orchestrating this, so that they’ll have less competition.

    That is exactly right. Every single niece and nephew I have gets told the same thing “You don’t want to go into Computer Science.” Just like my dad told me “You don’t want to go into nuclear physics.”

  117. Three hours of study for every one hour of lecture? If that was somehow enforced, and kids knew it, our universities would look like Loving County, Tx (pop. 79).

  118. Warren,
    “If you believe the average IQ in the military is on par with the general population, you’ve swallowed the kool-aid.”
    According to these stats from Dod, you are wrong http://www.dod.gov/prhome/poprep2002/chapter2/c2_afqt.htm.
    The average IQ of the military is actually quite a bit higher than the general population. About 70% score at or above the 50th percentile.

  119. “Below-average people can go to college, but their records are not passed on to NASA or AEI fellowship programs…”

    No offense, but only a hardcore libertarian would consider anything AEI says remotely intelligent, most people see it for what it is. Not that NASA itself has been wildly successful or innovative these last few years.

  120. That’s what the three hours of study time for one hour of lecture is about.

    Holy cow!! I thought my math professor and former Naval Officer father was tough with his “two hours of study time for one hour of lecture” policy.

    But you’re absolutely right about the “…if you need to ‘be taught’ you are likely that unfortunate portion of the student body that shouldn’t otherwise be there.” Most students are there for the vocational training and the fact is that universities should exist for a much more general learning experience.

    As such they are elitist institutions for primarily the rich which should not be subsidized with the taxes of “regular people”. There are plenty of other ways that we could train engineers and otherwise provide vocational training for the “producing class” without huge subsidies to the hobbies of the rich.

  121. “With IQ used as a proxy for what, I wonder?”

    General success in life. The Bell Curve pretty exhaustively documents that bad things happen to stupid people. They get sick, they get injured, they make little money, they are unhappy, …

    Actually, John Wayne summarized the Bell Curve years before it was written when he said, “life is hard son, and it is harder when you are stupid”.

  122. People send their average kids for the socialization and think their money well spent.”

    Then they are fools. College is a highly artifical environment where, if you learn any social habits at all, they are likely to be useless (or worse) out in the real world.

    And I say that as someone who enjoyed the hell out of college.

  123. i would have to disagree, rc, at least to some degree. but i also spent a lot of time working and doing other volunteer stuff (student newspaper, planned parenthood, gods love we deliver, etc) so i met a very wide range of people and had to practice different modes of interaction more or less constantly.

    i also never slept, which helps.

    in terms of life being a 25 hour frat party, however, i would agree. and maybe a lot more people get stuck in that mode than i’d care to think.

  124. The ridiculous cost of a college education has surely put US society very near a tipping point.
    Is the first evidence on-line universities?
    Soon it won’t be cool to be hosed for a sheepskin.
    More evidence is that the future is not with hierarchical business models, rather with leaderless companies such as Google, and the like.
    Every young person should set out to be his or her own boss first, only falling back on some asshole employer as a last resort.
    Leave Harvard in its ivory tower.

  125. Some things require a lot of learning but hardly any intelligence, like languages. Many kinds of animals can recognize lots of words. And languages aren’t best taught in schools either. Any way you look at it, college is still a racket.

  126. “three hours of study time for one hour of lecture”

    Yeah, when I was college student, I was told that three hours of study/homework for each hour in class was the expected norm.

    BWA HA HA HA HA! That was my response after I did the math.

    I usually took five classes per semester. That was normal for a full-time student. Typically, three one-hour classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and two 90-minute classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s 15 classroom hours per week. Not too heavy. Multiply by three hours of study = 45 hours per week.

    I had a part-time job accounting for 16 (occasionally 20) hours per week. Not a particularly heavy work schedule either.

    I lived at home, about 45 minutes from campus, so I commuted back and forth = 7.5 hours a week. Allow 30 minutes each day of the week to get up, shower, shave, brush teeth, poo, get dressed = 3.5 hours a week. (And frankly, usually I’m not that fast-moving in the morning.) Allow two hours each day for meals = 14 hours a week. Allow a target of 8 hours each night to sleep — ha ha! — = 56 hours a week.

    Allow 1 hour a week to go to church (can’t skip when you live at home). And maybe an average of a measly 2 hours a week to do family chores around the house like cut the lawn, rake leaves, shovel snow, help Dad maintain the family cars, gather and take out the trash, etc.

    Now we’re up to 160 hours a week. And how many hours in a 7-day week? 168.

    That leaves the student 8 hours a week, or a bit more than an hour a day, to talk to other human beings (outside of work, class, at meals or sharing a ride to/from school), get the occasional haircut or buy new clothes, get some form of physical exercise, watch TV, read the newspaper, go on a date, engage in extracurricular activities like the student newspaper, etc. No wonder I looked and felt like shit most of the time I was in college.

  127. And, I repeat, my academic and job loads were relatively light. I knew people who went to school full-time and also worked 40+ hours a week.

  128. I took a slightly heavier load. Studying or teaching, I avg. about 2 hours per classroom hour.

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