Murray/Sailer on Powerline Podcast

This is more of a comment than a fully-developed article, but I though I’d try to be timely. It refers to part one of Steve Hayward’s conversation with Charles Murray and Steve Sailer for the Power Line podcast.

It was as great (as expected), but Charles Murray had one response that I don’t think Steve Hayward followed up on enough, and it’s important. At one point, Murray says, accurately, that conservatives don’t like to talk about race and cognitive ability. It makes them uncomfortable. He then added that the cognitive ability aspects of education totally mess with the permanent libertarian zeitgeist that says hard work is everything.

As it happens, I’ve written about this a lot. My favorite piece about a conservative who is made uncomfortable by a frank reference to race and education was written in response to a podcast as well: Making Rob Long Uncomfortable in which Heather MacDonald goes off on a rant about black underperformance. Rob’s response is a textbook case of discomfort. He was fine talking about bad schools and lazy teachers, but when MacDonald goes there you can, as I said, practically hear Rob’s toes shrieking across the bathroom tiles. It’s hilarious. I then do some verb conjugation on the hypocrisy of the right on this point. (“They’re reactionary fascists, you’re unreasonably censorious, I’m judicious in setting limits.”) Not, I hasten to add, that the left isn’t in hideous shape on this point.

I also mention the fact that few conservatives, in their review of the craziest of the libertarian batshits, Bryan Caplan, mentioned the obvious racial implications in his book The Case Against Education. Hard to tell whether I was more infuriated by Caplan, who combines “let’s kill public education” with “let’s open the borders”, or the dozens of conservative media reviews that never mentioned the obvious racial implications of his policies. I wrote a whole series on Caplan’s book, as I found it exceptionally dishonest when it wasn’t just being facile: How Did We Get Here?,  Pre-Employment Testing, Toe Fungus Prevention,How Well Are Americans Educated? and the one in which I go through the ramifications of Caplan’s policies on black Americans,  Average Was Always Over.

What Murray didn’t mention, and I was surprised Steve Sailer didn’t, is that there’s a perfectly good political reason why conservatives don’t acknowledge the racial dimensions of cognitive ability. Conservatives and libertarians all want to destroy public schools. And by “conservatives”, I generally mean it’s an openly expressed Republican policy, one that actually isn’t shared by the conservative think tanks that focus in on education in any responsible way. Rick Hess, Robert Pondiscio, and Nat Malkus aren’t thrilled with public schools and they support charters and vouchers (at least I believe they do), but they don’t call for the wholesale elimination of public schools. More importantly, Republican voters don’t share this disdain (check out the EdNext poll–barely 50% of Republicans support charters, for example, and that’s one of the higher numbers.) But among Republican and conservative politicians and media it is entirely normal to hold that public schools are sewers of inadequacy and incompetence. Current buzzwords: “let the funding follow the student not the building”, and all that.

Or there’s this recent example by Governor Ducey of Arizona announcing summer school for low-performing kids:

That’s why the plan is to hire teachers who work in schools currently graded A, B or C, though there may be some outreach to teachers in lower-rated schools who have a proven record of performance.

“We’re going to find a way to take people that are skilled in the profession, allow them to make additional funds, and bring our kids up to grade level,” the governor said.

I could write a whole article on the gefukt thinking behind this comment. Teachers in A, B, or C schools aren’t generally any better; they just have smarter students.  They will be far less able to deal with low-performing students. And oh, by the way, summer school won’t bring kids up to grade level. Behind it all is the assumption that low-performing kids are the result of low-performing teachers.

Needless I totally disagree with this position, and think most of the people espousing an all choice system in which parents spend government dollars on private schools haven’t….quite thought through all the ramifications. Or cost. But leave that aside.

You can’t call schools failing and useless and horrible and all that and then talk about different racial group cognitive abilities.  You can’t rail at teachers for failing to close the achievement gap and then say   yeah, well, some of that gap might be cognitive. Kills the moment.

So politically, in order to keep at playing Charlie Brown to the teachers’ union’s Lucy, the whole conservative political and elite class have to ignore any possibility that schools are, actually, doing a pretty good job once you control for IQ.

Second point: towards the end of the podcast, Steve Hayward asks about the possibility of Asian and Hispanics shifting more towards the GOP, “now that Trump is gone”–which is weird, because Trump did better with Hispanics and blacks than any GOP president since Bush at least, so one would think they’d say “build on Trump’s success”, but ok. The particulars of the Asian vote change revolved around the open discrimination they face in elite school admissions.

I keep meaning to write more about this, but I think Steve Sailer will understand what I mean: Republicans should think carefully about openly courting Asian voters, at least using the rhetoric I keep hearing. As Steve used to say, Republicans could go for increasing the Hispanic vote or increasing their white vote. SImilarly, chasing the Asian vote by pushing for admissions-based testing without fixing the many problems with it might just hurt the GOP percentage of the white vote around the edges.

A while back I almost wrote a piece called Everybody’s Second Favorite, that was going to include this passage:

But a school that’s 50% Asian or black  and the other half majority white will in a few years be 80% Asian or black.  Whites don’t hang around for blacks or Asians, in my experience. (emphasis mine this time round.)

Next, whites do tolerate genuine racial diversity well, probably because there are fewer cultural distortions that arise with both Asians and African Americans.  I can think of a number of 30-30-30-10 schools that hold on to those numbers for a decade or more.

“White flight” from Asians has been around for 20 years or more, long enough for the Wall Street Journal to notice it back in 2005. I wrote recently about the decline in white applications to the eight NYC specialized high schools. Whites and Asians are both about 15% of the NYC public school population, have roughly the same admission rate to the specialized high schools, but Asians apply at twice the rate that whites do. Whites just don’t want to go. Bloomberg’s choice programs allowed people who found the Asian culture at these schools unpleasant to set up their own “soft” choice programs. I found a second dataset for another test-based admissions high school, and will be publishing pretty soon, I hope. (I have a day job, so take “soon” with some salt.) Asian test prep that goes on for years and years, not a few weeks, sets up what I believe are false positives but we can argue that point later.

By all means, Republicans should actively pursue growing their Asian vote, but I don’t advise doing it by giving Asian immigrants what they want in public schools, because what they want generally turns off all American parents, particularly white ones. And one rule of public education that also works with politics is don’t piss off the white folks. There are plenty of ways to improve public education and university admissions without discriminating against Asians or rewarding several years of test prep. Talk about those.

Oh, and by the way, don’t talk to Asians or Hispanics about how stupid the Democrats were to cave to teachers unions to close the schools, since all categories of non-whites were (and probably are) far more supportive of remote education than whites, but that’s another article I’m working on.

Finally, Steve Hayward said they would be talking about college next week. Really? I hope not.

Again, great discussion. Looking forward to next week even if it’s about college.

Hey, got this done in under 24 hours. I should rewrite this but I’m tired, so it will have to do.


About educationrealist

15 responses to “Murray/Sailer on Powerline Podcast

  • César

    “ … schools are, actually, doing a pretty good job once you control for IQ.”
    Students are not developing their full potential. They could do a lot better in schools with strict discipline. Even considering their cognitive limitations.

    • educationrealist

      Only if you kicked out lots of students. You can have access or rigor. Not both.

      • Calvin Hobbes

        I’ve read many accounts of how there’s a war on school discipline for black students, with the rationale being that disciplining black students amounts to a “school-to-prison pipeline”.

        To the extent that that’s true, it seems to me that a lot of black students would be helped if disruptive students were not allowed to sabotage the education of the ones willing to work and behave themselves. Even a lot of the ones acting up might start behaving themselves if it were made clear to them that they’re expected to not be disruptive. For the incorrigibles, why not isolate them with other incorrigibles?

        I went to school in a town with one (extended) black family and one Mexican family, and I never had any of their kids in my classes. In my classes, some of the guys would make low-grade trouble if they could get away with it, and they would behave themselves if it was obvious that they couldn’t get away with it.

        Anyway, that’s my diagnosis as an outsider. As an insider, what say you?

      • educationrealist

        There’s no question that black students are most penalized by other disruptive black students. However, in majority black schools, the problem is not “we’re suspending too many black kids” because that is something that only diverse or majority nonblack schools are held to. The problem with kicking out kids in majority black schools is that there’s just too many in some cases, and it would lead to increased failure and kids would drop out and screw with their grad rate.

  • TH

    “There are plenty of ways to improve public education and university admissions without discriminating against Asians or rewarding several years of test prep.”
    I wish you would write that blog post.

  • Calvin Hobbes

    What do you think about this book by Charles Murray?

    Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality

    Click to access Charles-Murray-Real-Education.pdf

    I did a search on your blog and did not find any mention of the book. I’m guessing you’d agree with most of it.

    And here’s a related 8-minute Murray YouTube video on “college”:

    The B.A. is the work of the Devil!

    Commie Freddie DeBoer wrote a 2020 book

    in which he argued that people differ in cognitive ability (who knew?) and that our educational system does not accommodate that variability.
    All of the remotely sensible things in DeBoer’s book were in Murray’s book (with DeBoer not mentioning that), but Murray’s book has sensible proposals, while DeBoer’s book has bat-shit crazy proposals.

    Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to your comments on Murray-Sailer Part 2.

  • Calvin Hobbes

    The disruptive students don’t have to be kicked out. Put them in separate classes, maybe just hand them their diplomas after they’ve served their 12 years of school incarceration, and let the kids willing to work and behave themselves learn to the best of their abilities.

  • philip gahtan

    The conservative version of
    Institutional systematic racism equity is
    Bad teachers Bad Schools
    Choice is there moral go to option
    They have no desire to be Watsoned
    The woke culture would cancel them
    For saying we are not all college material
    As a defender of the left side of the bell curve
    Equality under the law
    Equality under God
    Respecting the Rights
    Of each of us
    Making the moral case in todays America
    Is where murray and sailer
    Have failed
    Deweyed eye morality always trumps
    Reason and logic

  • John Smith

    My impression is that a lot of the rhetoric around defunding public schooling and ‘funding students not schools’ is not as focused on underperformance as it used to be – the real click magnet is CRT, teachers discussing their orientations and identities with their pre-adolescent students, forcing white kids to line up and apologize to black kids, etc. Do you think that’s a sideshow and the main event will always be performance?

  • Yancey Ward

    I have long believed the best solution is to simply abolish all the truancy laws. Penalize neither the children nor the parents for non-attendance. A kid that is 1 or more years behind his peers in achievement will simply leave the system, and, really- what is the downside? You have the experience of teaching- do such children ever catch up or at least stop falling further behind? The children we need to worry about are the ones who want to be in school, and have parents who want them to be in school. The rest can’t be saved in this regard.

    • educationrealist

      I don’t disagree, but there are two issues. First, crime would undoubtedly increase. Second, schools are held responsible for grad rates. Well, three issues. The kids who would do this would first and foremost be recent immigrants, whose parents often think school is bullshit compared to their kid as wage earner. That would get attention. The other kids doing this would have the same racial imbalance that causes problems everywhere.

      But I wonder if we could do: you can drop out of school if you can pass an 8th grade reading and language test and proved you can hold down a job for a year.

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