Read a 123-page article about race and IQ by...

IN 1969 I

November 03, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

IN 1969 I read a 123-page article about race and IQ by Arthur Jensen, a Ph.D. psychologist, in the Harvard Educational Review.

It was full of jargon and graphs and formulas. It gave me a headache, and I vowed not to read such stuff again for the next 25 years.

My gosh! Is it 1994 already? Yep, and as I began reading about "The Bell Curve" in newspapers and magazines, I feared I was going to have to do my duty once again.

This time it looked as if it would be even worse. Reviews and columns about this hot new book on IQ, class, race, ethnicity and success said that "The Bell Curve" is 845 pages long and its authors are a Ph.D. psychologist (Richard J. Herrnstein) and a Ph.D. political scientist (Charles Murray). Not only that, but Dr. Murray has become a sociologist, and Dr. Herrnstein is dead!

I foresaw tough reading ahead.

Imagine my relief to find that the authors thoughtfully made the book "accessible" to newspaper folk. "We have designed 'The Bell Curve' to be read at several levels [they explain in A Note to the Reader].

"At the simplest level, it is only about thirty pages long. Each chapter except the Introduction and the final two chapters opens with a precis of the main findings and conclusions minus any evidence for them, written in an informal style free of technical terms."

To which I as a journalist say, "Duhhhhhh, tank yuh, tank yuh veruh much." I mean it. I don't understand this stuff. I always thought "regression analysis" was like trying to figure out why you started smoking again. I thought "standard deviation" meant "slightly dirty."

Anyway, after reading the precises, I can now confidently summarize the book for you, Reader:

America has become stratified by IQ. Brainy people are well paid and dumb people aren't. People mate by IQ. IQ is partly inheritable. IQ predicts job productivity. Low IQ causes poverty. And dropping out of school. And chronic unemployment. And illegitimacy. And welfare dependency. And poor parenting. And crime. Dirty fingernails, chewing gum.

East Asians have higher IQs than white Americans. White Americans have higher IQs than black Americans. America's overall IQ is going down. It's hard to raise IQ by much. Head Start doesn't work. But vouchers might. And affirmative action as we know it must end.

Now, of course, I can't tell you about the Introduction and the final two chapters, since they were not summarized, but one line leapt out at me as I flipped those pages:

"A person should not be judged as a member of a group but as an individual." A truism long ignored. Many of America's social problems will disappear when we all act on that. I say that as a white guy who has not been demoralized by the fact that Asians as a group are smarter than we are, nor blinded to the fact that most of the black men and women I've known in journalism and politics over a long career are smarter than I am.

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