I’m wondering if “Protesters Disrupt Speech by ‘Bell Curve’ Author at Vermont College” (nytimes) inadvertently proves Charles Murray correct. Here’s the summary of The Bell Curve from the best minds of American journalism circa 2017:
Hundreds of students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down a controversial speaker on Thursday night, disrupting a program and confronting the speaker in an encounter that turned violent and left a faculty member injured.
Laurie L. Patton, the president of the college, issued an apology on Friday to all who attended the event and to the speaker, Charles Murray, 74, whose book “The Bell Curve,” published in 1994, was an explosive treatise arguing that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites because of their genetic makeup.
I listened to an abridged version of the book about 13 years ago and noted in a posting that the book was not in fact about race. The Wikipedia page on the Charles Murray contains the following summary:
The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994) is a controversial bestseller that Charles Murray wrote with the Harvard professor Richard J. Herrnstein. Its central point is that intelligence is a better predictor of many factors including financial income, job performance, unwed pregnancy, and crime than one’s parents’ socio-economic status or education level. Also, the book argued that those with high intelligence (the “cognitive elite”) are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence, and that this was a dangerous social trend. Murray expanded on this theme in his 2012 book Coming Apart.
Much of the controversy erupted from Chapters 13 and 14, where the authors write about the enduring differences in race and intelligence and discuss implications of that difference. While the authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic, they write in the introduction to Chapter 13 that “The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved,” and “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.”
In other words, you have to get through 12 chapters of a 22-chapter book before coming to the two chapters that the New York Times says the book is about! (And, in any case, the Bell Curve authors were mostly citing research on the Heritability of IQ, not conducting it.) Certainly the New York Times focus on “blacks were intellectually inferior to whites” says more about the New York Times than about Charles Murray. The chapters in question could just as easily have been summarized with “whites were intellectually inferior to Asians.” Somehow the paper that styles itself the Great Friend of the Colored Races can’t resist running story after story about how Americans with darker skin do poorly in school (see New York Times to employers: Toss resumes from applicants who went to school in poor neighborhoods).
What the book is actually about seems consistent with our Age of Rage (concerning inequality). As Wikipedia notes:
those with high intelligence (the “cognitive elite”) are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence, and that this was a dangerous social trend.
If you like to fret about inequality, the sidelining of less-than-brilliant workers in favor of robots, etc., why wouldn’t you love Charles Murray? I’m wondering if the incident at Middlebury College shows that America’s brightest millennials are unable to read a book before showing up to protest. Then of course we have the fact that their counterparts in Asia spent those hours studying. In my own 2004 posting I said that the silver lining of the otherwise depressing book was that old people like me might still be able to find work because “if the book is right most [future young Americans] will be dumb as bricks.”
- Book Review: The Redistribution Recession (using tax dollars to encourage low-skill/low-education Americans to work fewer hours and have more kids)
- The Son Also Rises: economics history with everyday applications (potential genetic factors behind “success” (not just IQ))
- “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage” (the U.S. system, built starting in 1990, of using court orders for private cashflow to encourage Americans to have kids for profit; see this chapter for the aggregate effect on our economy)
- unemployed = 21st century draft horse?