Re: [xmca] In case you missed it

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Sun Jan 21 2007 - 11:08:16 PST

Well, Murray's articles in the WSJ seem to make a
great case that whatever your IQ test score and
level of education, you can still hold stupid
opinions if your class biases favor them! You can
even be impermeable to decades of intellectual
progress around notions of IQ, intelligences, and
learning. This may be different from retardation,
but mainly in lacking a clear biological deficit to explain it.

If you make up a test on which everyone gets the
same score, no one will pay any attention to your
test or consider it useful. The whole point of
"testing" is to rank people from superior to
inferior, and thereby justify the claims of the
former to privilege. Of course in the beginning
IQ-like testing was just meant to identify those
with biological learning handicaps which were
mild enough that the learners could be helped by
known methods. That is "diagnostic" testing, and
while not wonderfully reliable, it's morally and politically justifiable.

It is also possible to make up a test which will
identify anyone or any group you wish as being
the superior one. What naturalizes IQ tests as
not being "arbitrary" in this sense is their
class-based ideology. Indeed class-based
ideologies to which most of us have a hard time not subscribing. Though we try.

So let's give our devil his due, as well. Are
there people going into liberal arts education
programs, or science programs, in colleges, which
are designed (or have evolved by tradition) so as
to work best for middle-class and upper-middle
class students (in terms of their learning
styles, language using styles, and general
dispositions toward high academic culture), and
for whom we can reasonably predict (by one test
or another, or even in an interview) that
academic success is unlikely? yes, I think so.

Should we therefore save society's money by
keeping them out? or can we expect that their
presence will push fossilized institutions like
universities to find different ways to educate
people? or can we reasonably hope that if they
are assisted over 2-3 years, they will get the
hang of our modes of teaching, and manage to get
degrees and maybe some degree of education as well?

I think we are wasting social resources if we
continue to factory-process young people through
superficial educational programs. This applies to
those more likely to get degrees as well as those
less likely to. And I don't think universities
are going to change without a major crisis, or
even then. As educational systems, they are as
outmoded and dysfunctional as schools, and for
most of the same reasons. In fact, in many
universities, students discover that you can get
a degree without getting a very good education,
or alternatively you can aim for the education
and if lucky still manage to get the degree. Most
seem to choose the first path, and while I don't
have data on this (and I'd like to see some), my
own experience is that working-class students are
at least as likely to seek real education and
understanding in college as are students from
privileged backgrounds, and possibly more so.

IQ is not a test of wisdom, thoughtfulness,
critical awareness, multiplicity of viewpoints,
openness to new perspectives, or ability to learn
with and through interactions with others ...
which I would say are pretty good hallmarks,
along with intellectual humility and a sense of
humor ... of what I would call "genuine
intelligence". Universities are not places that
institutionally care about serious education
(except in this or that special program or
course), or by and large know how to provide it
to a very wide range of diverse students.

If higher education mainly exists to provide the
docile, competent workforce of capitalist
fantasies, then Murray is certainly right that it
could be managed a lot more "efficiently".
(Though not with IQ tests.) If it exists to offer
people the opportunity to learn how to re-think
and re-work the society we live in, then it's not
doing a very good job and isn't really structured
to succeed at that. If it's also a social tool to
help those with few other assets (as valued by
dominant interests) to gain enough leverage that
they might (might!) become agents for change and
social justice, then it's a creaky, treacherous
one. But it is one, and that's reason enough for
some to want to eliminate even this small risk to
the perpetuation of their class privileges.


At 11:33 AM 1/17/2007, you wrote:
>Thanks, David.
>I take it Sternberg's letter has not yet been
>published. Do we know if it will be?
> Meanwhile, here's Murray's second piece in today's paper:
>Too many Americans are going to college
>On Wed, 17 Jan 2007, David Preiss wrote:
>>Dear colleagues,
>>Please see below a letter sent by Robert
>>Sternberg to WSJ as an answer to Murray's piece.
>>Charles Murray's "Intelligence in the
>>Classroom" is an article by a non-scientist
>>filled with serious distortions and
>>misunderstandings of the current state of
>>scientific theory and research on intelligence.
>>First, Murray is roughly correct in the
>>assertion that "Half of all children are below
>>average in intelligence." This is true in the
>>same sense that half of today's children are
>>below the median (not average) in height, or
>>below the median age of the population. But
>>median heights have risen greatly over the past
>>several generations, as have median age
>>spans. Indeed, research by James Flynn shows
>>conclusively that median IQs have risen as well
>>since 1900. Contrary to the tone of Murray's
>>comments, most of the increase is due to the
>>so-called general factor, not to other factors.
>>So Murray's comments regarding possibilities
>>for educational achievement make no sense. A
>>child of today with an IQ of 100 would have
>>been scored as having a substantially higher IQ
>>100 years ago. Given that the increase in IQs
>>has been about 9 points per generation, that
>>person would have had an IQ in excess of 127 at
>>that time, which would have led to educational
>>predictions very different from Murray's
>>doom-and-gloom predictions. Similarly, a
>>6-footer today is not much above average and
>>would not be considered particularly tall,
>>whereas 100 years ago, he or she would have
>>been looked at as exceptionally tall.
>>Second, IQ is NOT a "ceiling," and I don't know
>>of any responsible psychologist who believes it
>>is. IQ gives rough prediction of a child's
>>school performance, as does socioeconomic
>>status, motivation, and any other number of
>>variables. But none of these variables sets a
>>ceiling on children's performance. First, they
>>are all highly imperfect predictors--success is
>>multi-factorial. Second, they are subject to error of
>>measurement. Third, they are not etched in
>>stone. Research by Stephen Ceci and others has
>>shown that IQ increases as a function of
>>schooling, and that it is the schooling that is
>>responsible for the increase, not the other way around.
>>Third, the temporary effects of interventions
>>to increase intelligence are in large part
>>because the interventions themselves are
>>temporary and usually extremely
>>short-lived. If you have a child living in
>>extreme poverty, in a challenging and possibly
>>dangerous environment, and with parents who are
>>not in a position to provide the best possible education for
>>their children, it is not surprising that short
>>interventions--the kinds most easily funded by
>>grants--are difficult to maintain. Consider an
>>oft-made analogy to exercise. You can exercise
>>to improve your muscles. But if you stop
>>exercising, your muscles revert to what they
>>were before. The same is true of your
>>intelligence, and research by Carmi Schooler and others shows precisely that.
>>Fourth, it is fallacious to believe that brain
>>development is etched in stone. Research by
>>William Greenough, Marian Diamond, and others
>>has shown that learning changes the
>>brain--permanently. Experience matters for
>>brain development. Charles Murray had the good
>>fortune to be exposed to experiences that
>>children in many parts of the United States and
>>elsewhere never will have. Indeed, children
>>growing up in war zones often need to devote
>>all their resources just to staying
>>alive. They cannot have the kind of schooling
>>that optimizes their scores on the tests of which Mr. Murray is so fond.
>>Fifth, our own peer-reviewed, published
>>research has shown that broader measures of
>>abilities--based on the "multiple
>>intelligences" that Murray disdains--can
>>substantially improve prediction of academic
>>success at the college level at the same time
>>that they reduce ethnic-group differences.
>>These assessments do not replace traditional
>>measures--they supplement them. They are not
>>"refutations" of the existence of the
>>analytical skills measured by tests of general
>>ability, but rather, demonstrations that such
>>measures are relatively narrow and incomplete
>>in their measurements of abilities. These
>>conventional tests measure important skills,
>>but not the only skills that matter for
>>academic and other forms of success. Indeed,
>>teaching to a broader range of abilities, our
>>research shows, also can significantly improve school
>>achievement over teaching that is more narrowly focused.
>>In sum, Murray's column gives a false and
>>misleading view of the state of research on
>>intelligence. I blieve responsible scientists
>>will not take it seriously. Unfortunately, many
>>laypeople will not be in a position to
>>realize that the statements are seriously
>>misleading and paint a picture of research on
>>intelligence that does not correspond to reality.
>>Robert J. Sternberg
>>(Robert J. Sternberg is Dean of the School of
>>Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology
>>at Tufts University. Previously, he was IBM
>>Professor of Psychology and Education and
>>Professor of Management at Yale University and
>>President of the American Psychological Association.)
>>On Jan 16, 2007, at 5:51 PM, J. Mark Jackson wrote:
>>>This article ran in today's WSJ. The link
>>>below takes you directly to the full article without registration.
>>>Scary, very scary!
>>>xmca mailing list
>>David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>>Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>Escuela de Psicología
>>Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>Macul, Santiago
>>Fono: 3544605
>>Fax: 3544844
>>web personal:
>>web institucional:
>>xmca mailing list
>Tony Whitson
>UD School of Education
>NEWARK DE 19716
>"those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
>xmca mailing list

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
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