Re: the bell curve

Michael Lorrey (
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 11:05:04 -0500

Spike Jones wrote:

> > > > > Michael Lorrey wrote: ...that year my state had the highest average SAT scores
> > > > in the nation (while having one of the highest levels of participation as well).
> > > > GET THIS: That same year our state ranked at the bottom of all states in per
> > > > capita spending on education.
> spike wrote: are you familiar with herrnstein and murray?
> > I'm from New Hampshire. Not familiar with their work. Do you have any links to
> > anything on the web?
> mike, herrnstein and murray produced a very inflammatory book 1994 called
> "the bell curve" about intelligence and class structure. i am not endorsing the
> book, but i did find some remarkable conjectures therein, making it worth
> my time to read. havent checked the web.

Ah, ok. I heard of it. I think I may have even read a bit of it. I did read some reviews in the major media on the book, and it seemed to me that the people who spoke out against it were of the pro-whole language, pro-ebonics, pro-'outcome oriented learning', anti-merit, anti-teacher testing, anti-Clarence Thomas, anti-welfare reform bunch. They obviously cherry picked the book for quotes that would be inflammatory when taken out of context.

> they site your apparent inverse relationship between spending per student
> and sat scores, but explain it differently. their notion is that
> 1. people segregate themselves by iq, and that
> 2. iq can be inherited.

I think that there is something they missed. I think that people segregate themselves by their respect for the value of education. Whenever I talk to intelligent people who are shopping for a new home, one of the most important things they check on is 'how good are the schools?'. I don't hear this from people who are far less successful or don't have kids or aren't planning on raising kids. Those people usually care more about a) how close to work is it? and b) how close is it to places I want to go and things I want to do? I think that this one qualification is what explains it all. The fact that people who want to give their kids good educations tend to have higher IQs is merely symptomatic, not direct causation.

> immediately one can see why the book is potentially dynamite. herrnstein and
> murray became famous in the 70s by predicting a school's sat scores
> based on a formula that accounted only for that school's racial mix,
> ignoring altogether parameters such as spending per student, availability of
> tutoring etc. the sat is a very thinly disguised iq test. wouldnt you agree?

Considering how difficult it was for minorities to move into better neighborhoods up until the 80's, I think their predictions were only useful in indicating whether a school was in a ghetto community or not.

> with the existence of this thread, it was only a matter of time before some
> yahoo mentioned the bell curve... spike

I'm a redneck, not a yahoo, thank you very much.

Mike Lorrey