Tag Archives: cognitive ability

Getting Smarter, or Getting Better at Using Smarts?

Influence of young adult cognitive ability and additional education on later-life cognition

Or, as Stuart Richie says:

Cool new PNAS paper about potential educational effects on IQ.

Previous work: control for age-11 IQ, still find edu-IQ correlation later in life.

This paper: control for age-20 IQ, correlation is gone. Suggests education has limited influence after age 20.

IQ measurement doesn’t interest me much, but IQ development or change over time does, for ego-driven reasons. As long-time readers know, I have a very high IQ (I qualified and participated in a research study for 3SD+), but my spatial abilities are very weak and I was stymied in advanced math (past algebra 1)  until, in my early 40s, I learned how to compensate using logic. I also was late to learn how I learned; my brain won’t acquire new information unless it’s tagged with all sorts of meta-data. Learning new concepts was so laborious that in my teens, I simply assumed I was incapable of learning; not until I was faced with job-related challenges  did I learn how I learned. My verbal skills are extraordinarily high, although it’s hard for me to compare to others because my particular combination of smarts would have required a more thorough classical education, which I don’t have.  I read 1000 wpm and can acquire extraordinary amounts of information through inference, which of course can sometimes lead me astray.

So. In 2001, I took the GRE and got 790V, 640Q, 690A. It was the last time the Analytical section was included. 640 quant was the 65th percentile that year, 690 analytical was in the 85th percentile–some logic games are brutally spatial. Anything over 700 Verbal is in the 99th percentile. I was very proud of that quant score.

In 2008, I took the GRE and got 780V, 800Q. (I’m still annoyed by the 780; if I’d focused in more, I might have gotten a double 800.) 800 Q is just the top 4% in any given year, but it’s probably more accurate to call it a top 10% score.

According to this GRE IQ estimator, my original GRE V+Q of 1340 is 99.452nd percentile, and my second GRE V+Q of 1580 is 99.993. But (forgive me IQ estimators), any IQ based on combining V+Q makes no sense, because an 800V-640Q  is considerably more difficult to achieve than an 640V-800Q, so how can they be identical, IQ wise? Plus, the decimal point specificity is just goofy.

Looking at my quant score alone, in seven years from the age of 39 to 46, I jumped from just above average in math to pretty close to 2SD.

Did I get smarter, or did I simply learn how to use my existing intelligence?

The quant section of the old GRE was extremely g-loaded. I used to tutor for the test and ran into dozens of people who’d majored in college in math, knew more calculus and all that nonsense about vectors and matrix determinants and ordered ring fields than I’ll ever know, yet scored in the high 600s. Which is not to say that it wasn’t relatively easy, just that lots of smart people would occasionally miss questions because they were more about g than math competency. The new GRE combines both. I can’t find an online GRE practice test, but I did the problems on the ETS site, and I think I’d still get in the top 10%.

The GRE Math Subject test is what used to be called an “achievement” test. God, testing lingo has changed so dramatically in so little time. g is involved in the sense that a certain level of intelligence is required to learn the material. But a 120 IQ who’s taken calculus and number theory would outscore a 145+ IQ  who has not.

I got 13 right out of 56. A 390. I wonder how many people get an 800 on the GRE General Quant and a 390 on the GRE Math? That’s a terrific illustration, really, of the difference between achievement and aptitude.  I knew none of the number theory, only some of the stats, none of the integral questions, but all of the limit and derivative questions, and random other stuff.

Every single one of the questions I answered correctly was using math I’ve learned in the past fifteen years.  Had I taken the test in 2005, I would have gotten zero correct. I took AP Calculus as a senior, remember none of it.  All the math I know today is from my tutoring days or my time in teaching.

Did I get smarter, or did I simply learn how to use my existing intelligence? Here, it seems clearer than in the first case. The GRE Quant (old form) is definitely an aptitude test, which makes my big score jump odd. But acquiring new knowledge isn’t the same as having a higher IQ. Right? (asking seriously). I could do much better on this test if I studied up on integrals and 3-dimensional systems. Hold that thought.

To contrast, I took the GRE English Literature Subject Test, all 230 questions. For me, this test is diametrically opposite the GRE Math Subject test. The latter requires actual math knowledge. But the English Lit test is about 70% interpretation, 10% terminology (literary terms) and 20% content knowledge (knowing the plot of Ben Jonson’s plays, or familiarity with Matthew Arnold’s poems). I missed 56 questions, scoring a 650, in the 86th percentile (although I’ve always distrusted the scoring on English lit tests). Two of the misses were analysis and both were careless errors I’d never make in a real test. All the other missed problems were content knowledge–not anything I’d forgotten, but things I’d never learned. My English degree wasn’t terribly rigorous, but what I learned thirty five years ago, I remembered. I recognized Shakespeare’s writing in a sonnet I’d never read before–ditto Donne and Milton. I even guessed my way through Derrida and Foucault. But Wiliam Caxton, Nikki Giovanni–eh. Never heard of them. I read a lot of Faulkner short stories, but avoided his novels. And so on.

Most of the high difficulty questions (less than 30% answered correctly) were literary analysis, and I nailed them. The only hard questions I missed were three content knowledge (obscure authors) and  one grammar question. The rest were in the 45-65% range, which is typical when the test is covering a broad range of material and no one knows everything. I think I could probably learn my way to a 700, but higher than that would require more interest in literature than I have.

So the GRE Math subject test requires specific knowledge, while the GRE Literature subject test allows people with high aptitude to do very well, even if their specific literature content knowledge is weak.

There aren’t many forty-something folks taking GRE Subject tests, but doesn’t it seem likely that it’s more common for someone to develop math content knowledge later in life than it is to suddenly develop excellent reading skills? Which suggests that reading comprehension, verbal ability, is more hard-wired to cognitive ability than math is. That might explain why math test scores have improved more than reading scores, generally. For all the wailing about math achievement, we do better at teaching students to improve their math abilities than we do at making them better readers.

From the study abstract: “Education does improve cognitive ability”

It does? That seems backwards to me. Cognitive ability improves educability.  If all we had to do was educate people to make them smarter, I wouldn’t have this blog.

Does education actually make people smarter, or does it just teach them how to use their existing intelligence?

I have no answers, so I’ll stop here.


Noahpinion on IQ–or maybe just no knowledge.

Well, turns out that Noah Smith has made my last post for October an easy choice.

It all began when he and Miles Kimball declared that there’s only one difference between kids who excel in math and kids who don’t—the first group work hard, the second group doesn’t.

Robert VerBruggen did some neat research showing a strong correlation between ASVAB scores and algebra grades and even with my normal caveats about grades, that’s strong support for the notion that “smart” has something to do with “good at math”.

Then Steve Sailer chimed in with a great bit of snark on restriction of range, having picked up on a gem of a quote that I’d missed:

On the first few tests, the well-prepared kids get perfect scores, while the unprepared kids get only what they could figure out by winging it—maybe 80 or 85%, a solid B.

Hahahaha. Oh. Okay.

But then, Noah Smith pops in and doubles down in the comments section:

Even students at the 20th percentile of IQ can do high school math pretty well. I’ve taught them to do it many times. Dumb as a box of rocks, but a box of rocks can do algebra.

I instantly asked for a cite. Then I saw he’d made a similar claim at his own blog:


But you don’t need to be a math whiz to do algebra. Someone with an IQ of 70 can handle that, I bet. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

Um, what?

So I tweeted it and he responded—well, I have no idea how to link twitter conversations, but here’s some of it. Smith then went on to snark at me for not proving my claim, somehow forgetting that he’d made two claims that I was asking him to support. Hal Pashler of the Learning Attention and Perception Lab agreed that documentation of algebra proficiency in low IQ students is important.

The tone of Smith’s response makes me wonder if he understands what he has said—and what it means in the world of education. Similar claims include:

“All my clients lose 50-100 pounds and keep it off. Permanently.” said the nutritionist.

“Our little country town lives in perfect harmony with the Palestinians.” said the Israeli farmer.

“Well, I get 60% of black voter support,” said the Texas Republican.

“Oh, I just logged onto Healthcare.gov and signed up for a cheaper policy for my family,” said the Florida plumber.

“Yeah, I just dip lead into this little tincture I cooked up and shazam! gold.” said the alchemist.

I mentioned that I had taught two students with documented low ability. Smith misunderstood, I think: Is your only quantitative evidence the fact that you personally were unable to teach two kids algebra?

That’s not what I said, of course. I was emphasizing that I could document an experience of teaching low IQ kids, and it’s actually quite unusual for teachers to have that info. Because I write about cognitive ability as I experience it in the classroom, I have mentioned time and again that I work with students on the lower third to the middle of the cognitive ability spectrum. But perhaps I should make clear that I’m talking about the ability spectrum you see in high school, which weeds out the bottom. Math teachers don’t run into all that many genuinely special ed kids, as opposed to those with mild learning disabilities.

I believe most states have two broad categories of special education. The kids are either educated as part of the general school population or they aren’t. The kids with mild disabilities–executive function, attention deficit, dyslexia—are educated with the others. These are kids who have the same academic requirements as anyone else, except they have a legal document defining their accommodations: extra time on tests, sit up front, use of a calculator, whatever.

The kids with severe disabilities–emotional, mental, physical—who can’t be educated with the rest, have their own classes. In most schools I’ve worked in, there’s more than one class. There’s the class for kids with mild IQ deficits and emotional difficulties, the class for the severely autistic or severely retarded, and so on. At the high school level, we don’t really call it “mainstreaming”—that’s much more of an issue in elementary school, as I understand it. Some of the kids in “special day classes” are capable of attending general ed classes in their strong subject (remember that not all disabilities are cognitive), sometimes in math. But high school teachers aren’t ever dealing with severely disabled children unless they teach special ed.

So who goes into special day classes, and who goes to general ed? Specifying a particular IQ as a cutoff is like standing up and saying “YO! Sue Me!”. But an IQ of 80 is generally considered the cutoff between “normal low” and “borderline retarded”. So I’ve always assumed that somewhere between 75 and 85, kids are deemed better off in their own classes.

Then in the general population, in math, you know that the basement of your class will usually rise slightly with each step, so the lowest IQ in your math support or pre-algebra class is usually going to be lower than the lowest in your algebra class, which is probably lower than geometry class, and so on. Using what I knew about special ed unofficial placement, and what I know about my schools (usually 5 or 6 on the Great Schools scale), I have used 90 as a rough bottom of the range of IQs I teach in public schools.

But I never had any hard knowledge of that until last year, when through a complete coincidence I learned the IQs of two of my students.

Tre, who was in a math support class of mine last year, had phenomenal retention of any concrete fact he learned. Total inability to grasp abstract concepts. Couldn’t estimate. Couldn’t isolate x. Couldn’t figure out what the slope of a line was. I’d ask him things like “if you rolled a ball down this line, which one would go faster?” and he’d struggle for minutes just to figure out what I meant. If it wasn’t real, it didn’t exist. He got pretty good at percentages without actually understanding them—but 20% was divide by 5, 25% was divide by 4, 10% was divide by 10. He was motivated. Great kid, fantastic athlete, failing algebra for the fourth time kept him off the his strongest sports team his senior year and broke his heart. But he took up a second sport and made the state finals. He seemed a bit slow in conversation, but nothing that would mark him as really low intellect. He held a job, worked hard, was a popular kid. There was no way he would be passing the test, and when I communicated this to the AVP, she said, “He was not classified correctly, for various reasons”—one of the reasons probably being that Tre is black. She mentioned his tested IQ that his parents included in his file, and it was well south of 90, but still much higher than 70.

Mohammed was in another of my math classes last year. Unlike Tre, does not communicate his mental disability immediately. He talks quickly, cracks decent jokes, likes people around, while Tre was happier off in a corner listening to music. It took me a while to realize that Mohammed, who is neither black nor Hispanic, wasn’t retaining any information at all. Once I did realize this, I looked more closely at his IEP and saw he was a special day students with an IQ in the mid-80s. Also an excellent athlete, but very different from Tre. No fact grasp at all. He couldn’t remember what you told him five minutes ago, much less yesterday. But he could solve a simple algebraic equation with a calculator. He’d have to relearn it almost every day, but he had the ability to abstract that Tre lacks. He very badly wanted to move on to the next math class in the sequence, against the recommendation of his special ed adviser, and nagged me constantly to support him in this quest. I was willing to help him try, but his sport kept him out of the classroom a couple days a week for nearly a month, and everything I’d managed to do to keep him not rolling backwards was undone. So I passed him and talked him into an easier course.

The point is this: Tre and Mohammed, while not obviously or actually “dumb as a box of rocks”, as Smith indelicately put it, were noticeably less able than almost all my other students in five years, despite considerable motivation on their part and a huge amount of support on mine. I have probably had a couple other students with as low intelligence, but couldn’t be sure because they were never around or made class miserable by misbehaving. This suggests to me that my rough approximation of my students’ cognitive ability is correct. I haven’t taught many kids with IQs south of 90, and most of them my lowest IQ kids were in my Algebra I classes.

And the bottom of my particular class distribution is not capable of algebra mastery. Algebra survival, sure. Ability to solve a simple equation with advice on how to turn it concrete, yeah. Remember with lots of reminders that 3-5 is a negative number, yes. Remember with lots of coaching that y=mx + b is a way to describe a line, okay. But not anything approaching knowledge, and you’ll have to cover it all again in the next year.

Since I began this, Robert VerBruggen did additional ASVAB crunching and found that kids who scored low on the ASVAB (2%) got mostly Ds and Fs, but some As in Algebra II. But he also pointed out “Not really clear that all of them both (A) genuinely have IQs that low and (B) genuinely learned algebra.” And here I’ve already linked in my post on fraudulent grades. As we teach algebra today, a kid with an IQ of 90 can’t get an A in algebra I, much less algebra II, unless his teacher is lying.

I’d be surprised if many 70 IQs got around to taking the ASVAB, but the caveat is this: 70 IQs would not be uncommon in a predominantly black population. My current school is 10% black and that’s the highest African American population in any school I’ve taught at. My sample size for blacks, total, is maybe 100—tutoring, teaching, everything–in 11 years. And most blacks in this area are high functioning. It would not surprise me at all if I only ran into blacks whose IQs were 80 or higher. I have many excellent black students who are top performers.

I do not believe that a 70 IQ of any race can master Algebra I, much less Algebra II. But I want data. I have been asking nearly as long as I’ve had this blog if anyone can show evidence of successful mastery of algebra by IQs less than 100. I don’t believe it exists, at least not since 1975, when we began ignoring IQ. And I’m absolutely shocked that anyone, even a liberal, even someone who sneers at IQ, would openly brag that it was no big deal to teach advanced math, much less algebra, to kids with IQs below 90.

Maybe Noah Smith is already trying to walk this back. I can’t find the original tweet to me in which he said math tutors are having great success with kids of 70 IQ. Here’s my response to it, but I can’t find the original tweet. Apologies if it’s there and I missed it, but most of the rest is there. He’s now saying to Robert VB (don’t make me type it out again!) “some” kids could pass but of course, this all began because he said an IQ of 70 could handle algebra and that he routinely teaches algebra to kids in the bottom fifth.

As I tweeted, if Noah Smith were right, we’d never need special education. We’d be teaching kids with 70 IQs algebra, a little geometry, maybe writing analytical essays on Of Mice and Men. But Jim, one of my commenters, had a much better analogy: the Supreme Court has made it functionally impossible to execute murderers with an IQ below 70. So someone with an IQ of 70 knows—barely—that it’s not a good idea to kill people, but can handle the quadratic formula and rational expressions, no sweat? Really?

It’s really quite simple: Noah Smith is almost certainly talking out of his posterior. But boy howdy, would I love to be wrong. Show me these IQ 70 kids learning algebra. Please.

******

I was bound and determined to get this in before my WordPress account thought October was over. Apologies for typos, I’m cleaning it up.

Second note: Tre and Mohammed are both pseudoynms, and I changed details about each. I went back in and changed even more info, just to be certain.


The Reverse Drinking Game

Well, school’s about to start and I’m two thirds of a way through a piece that I probably won’t finish for a while, and I’ve decided I need something longer than Twitter but shorter than the usual me to send out when people are being annoying.

So let’s call this the reverse drinking game post. Every time someone doesn’t mention cognitive ability while discussing student outcomes, go grab a beer.

So for example, Michael Petrilli writes about the problem of proficiency:

Proficiency rates are terrible measures of school effectiveness. As any graduate student will tell you, those rates mostly reflect a school’s demographics.

Grab a beer.

When Checker Finn rebuts Petrilli, saying:

One more point: Mike began his argument with the assumption that many schools have scads of entering pupils who are already far below “proficiency” when they arrive. He had in mind middle and high schools—and there is no doubt that many such schools do indeed face a large remediation challenge with incoming eleven- through fourteen-year-olds who have already been gypped educationally in the early grades.

Crack one open.

When Richard Venning writes:

The inconvenient truth I describe below is that when we benchmark academic growth rates, the best velocity is often not adequate to catch kids up to college and career readiness within a reasonable time.

and

However, far too many schools also have students in poverty making low-growth rates, where they progress more slowly than their advantaged peers and that is not acceptable.

Grab two beers. Three, if you spot: “Among students that score in the bottom performance level in Colorado, the percent making adequate growth is in the single digits. The statewide goal is 100 percent. Schools with top statewide velocity for low-income students are not moving kids to proficiency within three years—and Colorado is not alone.”

When Rick Hess, Rishawn Biddle, Michael Brickman talk about lowered AP scores, the importance of entrance standards vs. the importance of high expectations, go grab a whole sixpack. Or maybe some single malt scotch.

When Jason Bedrick, Michael Petrilli, or Andrew Rotherham sneer at the public schools “failing children”, it’s time to bend an elbow.

When the primary ed school credentialing organization proudly announces that it is raising the bar on “teacher quality”, when everyone goes all atwitter about Jason Richwine‘s work on teacher cognitive ability (before he broke the rules on Hispanic cognitive ability), ask yourself why so many people are willing to discuss the impact of teacher cognitive ability on academic achievement (you mostly have to squint to find any ) but never mention student cognitive ability. But do it before you get a beer, because I find, at least, that I often start banging my head in annoyance and it’s best to do that unarmed.

When people say that income matters more than race to academic achievement, tell them they are lying or misinformed on your way to the fridge.

Tweet or email whenever you spot an opportunity to play.

Hey. Under 500 words! A new record.


Jason Richwine and Goring the Media’s Ox

I first ran into Jason Richwine’s name while writing part one and part two of Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, and I know this because I had to keep referring to the study to get the names right. Was it Weinrich and Biggs? Bigwine and Rich? Bigrich and Wein? Very confusing.

My two-parter was dedicated to the argument that Richwine’s study was complete crap. Richwine and Biggs ignored the well-documented difference between secondary content teachers and elementary school teachers. Then they confused “teachers” with “ed school majors”, when fewer than half of undergraduate education majors become teachers. Finally, the study largely ignored credential data, which would have allowed them to focus on actual teachers—a group with a much higher SAT scores than education majors. And all those objections leave aside the fact that teaching success is, believe it or not, at best marginally linked to teacher intelligence.

So I was familiar with Richwine, and once you’ve memorized the name, it’s hard to miss. I distinctly remember reading his Room for Debate piece, arguing that teachers are getting paid more than their cognitive skills warrant. He wrote much the same thing in the Washington Post, where he got a whole live chat segment (“Many organizations use IQ tests, most notably the U.S. military, to make employment decisions.”) He and his co-authors chastised Arne Duncan in The Huffington Post (and also Education Week) for not understanding that “the wage penalty disappears when teachers and non-teachers are compared using objective measures of cognitive ability”. Then he was arguing in The Atlantic against a teacher bar exam and extensive teacher training because “Smart students on the fence about whether they want to become teachers will likely choose the math and science courses (which have broad labor market value) rather than wasting time on education courses (which have value only if they pursue teaching).”–but then concedes that IQ doesn’t seem to be all that linked to teaching.

And in all this time, no journalist ever wondered “Gee, I wonder if one of the authors of this study focusing on teacher cognitive ability, which we’re giving an avalanche of unquestioning coverage to, has any ideas on IQ we might find really offensive.”

But of course, Richwine’s dissertation was a complete secret. Oh, wait. No, it wasn’t. He wrote an article summarizing his dissertation, “Dealing with Diversity the Smart Way”:

I intend to focus on one such important characteristic—how smart the immigrants are…. IQ, a construct that psychologists use to estimate general intelligence, has been separately linked to elements of social capital…It is time to bring the IQ-social capital link out of the academic journals and into the policy debate. Doing so could help us deal realistically with the problems Putnam has identified.

He wrote this article for AEI, where it was completely ignored. Oh, wait. No, it wasn’t. The NY Times wrote approvingly of the article in its “Idea of the Day” blog:

Now, exploring Putnam’s work in The American, Jason Richwine, who encountered the professor while a student at Harvard, has a suggestion for managing the immigration driving so much diversity: screen to admit smarter immigrants, since evidence suggests higher-I.Q. people are more inclined to “sophisticated ethical thinking, altruism, planning for the future, political awareness, adherence to informal community standards of behavior, and cooperation for the greater good.”

Of course, the Heritage Foundation had no idea that Jason Richwine was interested in IQ. Well, hang on. Richwine wrote a piece for its magazine opposing the diversity lottery visa, clearly referencing his earlier work. It even gets a footnote.

Maybe this was just the first time Richwine came out against Hispanic immigrant success in the mainstream media. Nope, here he is in the Dallas Morning News, “Latino immigrants are not on path to economic parity”:

Though we want to believe Hispanics are on the old European path to economic assimilation, the evidence does not support our desires. This fact becomes more undeniable with each new data set collected and each new analysis performed, but prominent commentators are still seduced by wishful thinking.

Finally, Richwine wrote a much-discussed takedown of Richard Nisbett’s book Intelligence and How to Get It (which I used in my preschool and Philip Dick essay.)

So Jason Richwine’s interest in Hispanics, immigration, and cognitive ability has all been well-documented in major publications since his dissertation, although only Dave Weigel (see below) and Garance Franke-Ruta have pointed this out. Nonetheless, Richwine’s dissertation appears to come as a complete shock to most journalists and policy wonks. (Apparently, the Internet’s memory is a black box they don’t know how to crack.)

But even more strangely, his dissertation seems to have shocked and dumbfounded his dissertation panel. George Borjas has been telling everyone who asks and some who didn’t that he’s got no truck with this IQ nonsense:

“I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don’t really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration, etc….So I just think that, on the whole, the focus on IQ is a bit misguided.”

Richard Zeckhauser, also on the dissertation committee, told Dave Weigel in the same article:

“In my estimation, our School gives too much emphasis on moving from findings to policy implications in scholarly work…In many cases, merely presenting the facts would be a preferable way to go. That makes it much harder for one’s opponents to dismiss what you say, or to accuse you of manipulating facts to reach policy conclusions…. If one complements one’s empirical assessments with values issues, those assessments get questioned, particularly if one addresses a controversial realm of policy, as Richwine surely did in his dissertation.”

Christopher Jencks, the third man, asked if he had any comment on his approval: The Nation: “Nope. But thanks for asking.”

Okay, I’ve never been to Harvard, nor have I ever gotten a PhD. But surely the dissertation committee actually reads the dissertation?

Weigel doesn’t ask either Borjas or Zeckhauser the obvious followup questions. In fact, he obediently quotes Zeckhauser’s disdain about Richwine’s subsequent work without asking Zeckhauser what problems he had, if any, with the dissertation he signed off on. Nor does he ask Borjas why, if he had no interest in nor understanding of IQ, he was on Richwine’s dissertation committee. But then, Weigel’s weird article has all sorts of oddities for a supposedly reported piece. Richwine’s “friends and advisers saw this coming”, but the advisers make no mention of their prescience in the article and Weigel doesn’t mention a single friend, on or off the record. ?

Speaking of odd, Dylan Matthews, the Wonkblogger credited with the kill, never apparently googled Richwine, because he mentions none of the information above. Presumably someone just sent him the dissertation, although it’s even funnier to think of Matthews “working” his sources at Harvard to dig up information a simple search would have provided, including an article that would have discredited Heritage’s hasty disavowal.

But the more interesting question is why Matthews only now noticed Richwine’s heresy. After all, Matthews has blogged quite a bit about teacher quality, so you’d think he’d have run across Richwine before, and been eager to discredit a racist who obsessed about IQs. But then, Matthews has been notoriously unsympathetic to teacher unions, declaring during the CTU strikes that teacher strikes hurt student achievement, celebrating TFA’s apparently superior performance over traditionally educated teachers, and writing in favor of teacher merit pay. He’s also a big fan of Raj Chetty’s work, which I’ve discussed (and dismissed) here (the Chetty paper seems to create a clear divide between the Wows and the So What’s—here’s Kevin Drum, also on the So What? side).

Meanwhile, Dylan Matthews has been in favor of immigration and amnesty a long time (he was apparently a pre-pubescent blogger), and despite being against open borders as a teenager, he’s all for it, now. He wrote this article boosting Hispanic assimilation, without apparently ever coming across Richwine’s arguments to the contrary.

Hey, if Dave Weigel can make unsupported assertions, I can, too, although I will qualify: it seems that Dylan Matthews went out looking for opposition ammunition to bring down Jason Richwine because his own favorite ox was being gored. Given the gift of the dissertation, he did no further research to find Richwine’s well-documented articles in this area, which is why he allowed Heritage to skate by with a denial that’s close to an outright lie. Matthews paid no attention to Jason Richwine’s open discussion of IQ when it involved teacher quality and merit pay, causes Matthews openly advocates for.

And once he brings up the dissertation, all the other journalists and immigration advocates (these are not, sadly, distinct groups) jump on the news and repeat it avidly, pointing and sputtering, as Steve Sailer says, without doing the tiniest bit of reporting (with the aforementioned exceptions), obediently repeating the canard that Richwine “asserts” that Hispanics have, on average, a lower IQ than whites when it’s a well-established fact, not something he dreamed up as part of his research. Nor has anyone in the media seriously pursued the cognitive dissonance found in the story of “Richwine the racist” writing his “Harvard PHd dissertation on Hispanic inferiority”. I think only a Daily Kos blogger has pursued the obvious point for anyone genuinely outraged about Richwine’s IQ research: If this research is so obviously beyond the pale, if Richwine is “asserting” (rather than repeating established science) that Hispanic IQs are lower on average than white IQs, why on earth is Harvard and its trio of distinguished advisers giving this dissertation writer its approval and a PhD?

So if I were to interpret this pattern of behavior, I’d say that the mainstream media has no interest in pursuing that point. Presumably, the media isn’t interested in bringing down Harvard–hell, these days, most opinion-makers are alumni. They aren’t interested in stopping IQ research. They just want the issue to bring down opposition to immigration reform. Then they’ll go back to “hands off” on IQ, ignoring it completely until they need to bring it up to bring someone down. In this way the Word is maintained, and all those who challenge it can be brought down when the time is ripe.

So Richwine can talk about IQ and mostly white teachers and it’s fine, because many prominent journalists these days are elitists who secretly think our schools would be better off with a more intellectual teaching pool. He can be forgiven for assuming that the media had gotten a lot cooler with cognitive ability, when in fact he wasn’t in any real danger until he took the wrong side of a cause it cared about.

And that lesson resonates tremendously. I just wrote with some pride that more than a few reporters follow my writing. I do not for a moment imagine they agree with me on everything, or even anything, but I’m not important enough to follow for the news value, so surely they must see something worthwhile in my writing? I think? So Jason Richwine’s saga makes me very, very nervous. I maintain at best a loose anonymity; anyone who wants to find out who I am can do so. I am not good at worrying; no matter how many times I say I worry about being outed and fired, I really don’t act like it. But after this, I can all too easily envision being noticed, through some fluke of attention, by the national media, and having someone with too much time and a big, ungainly ox whining over a wound deciding to out me. And then follow headlines like “Ed Real has been writing about race and IQ for a year or more”, probably written, with wholly dispassionate disapproval, by the same reporters who follow me. Worse, maybe, by reporters who don’t follow me but who are tipped off by those who do (“Hey, I can’t use this but here’s some good stuff!”).

If I am cynical, it’s adequate to the occasion. Not enough to stop me writing, though, because I’ve had a genuinely fantastic year as both a writer and a teacher, and that’s too much fun to give up. So take all my professions of concern with some salt.

But there’s one other point worth mentioning, and it’s this: we simply don’t talk enough about the impact of immigration on our schools. Hundreds of schools throughout the nation are 70% or more Hispanic; the majority of the students children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, a substantial number of which are illegal. Dozens of schools throughout the nation are 80% or more Asian, hundreds more top 40%, even though the Asian population nationwide is just 4.8%.

For all the reform and progressive bleats about our failing schools, Asians, Africans, and even Latin Americans see the American education system as a big draw. So they come here in huge numbers, and the communities that absorb them are forced to spend far more on education than they otherwise would. Immigrants often utterly transform a school district; cultural values and language problems are just two of the onslaught of issues that schools are forced to deal with, certain of little support and lots of blame. And while the administrators and teachers let loose to talk about the issues are usually full of happy talk, the original community as a whole is rarely pleased—and if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll always find teachers who are dismayed by the changes.

I don’t have to link these stories in; everyone knows what I’m talking about. The concern and unhappiness is always presented as racist, the immigrants as adorable, hardworking, and confused by societal requirements imposed by a country they mostly came to for money, and the folks who have a job building up services (at taxpayer expense, of course) are the admirable heros, working against the evil prejudices of community to help the newcomers. All the feel-good stories courtesy of the same media that ignored Richwine’s IQ research while it trumpeted his research attacking teacher intelligence, yet turned on him to tear him apart when he argued for limiting Hispanic immigration.

So here we are again, discussing amnesty and still more immigration, and no one’s asking what it will do to our schools. No one is wondering if perhaps we should charge non-citizens, legal or illegal, for a service they so clearly consider valuable, what with the Hispanic obsession about the Dream Act, the Chinese birth tourists and the Korean wild geese. No one is concerned that abysmal teen employment numbers, even more atrocious in areas with high levels of low-skilled immigrants. But everyone will be blaming the schools for failing to educate all students to the same standard, whether it’s possible or not, and for any problems that fall out of the cultural clashes that the policy wonks don’t think of when they talk about the economic benefits of generous immigration policies. (For all Jason Richwine’s concern about low IQ immigrants, he doesn’t seem interested in their impact on American education, and still seems ready to blame teachers for the outcomes. Since I’m on the topic of cognitive dissonance.)

I want to stress this to any of my students, past, present, or future, many of whom are recent immigrants, who might stumble across this blog (along with WHY ARE YOU READING THIS WHEN YOU NEVER DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!) that I don’t see any of them individually as harmful, that I wish the country had resources enough to welcome everyone who wants to come. I don’t blame any immigrants for responding to America’s open door policy. But it’s time to close the door. It’s certainly not time to open the door any wider. And Americans can’t rely on the media to represent their interests, because the media’s already picked the other side.