Sunday, February 11, 2018

We Like Science--Unless It Hurts Feelings Or Goes Against Our Prejudices

Let's not pretend that a high school science project that relies on an internet IQ quiz is rigorous science, but neither is a lot of what you see at a high school science fair.  What's the real reason this project was pulled?  The answer is pretty clear:
A science fair project at a California high school faced criticism earlier this week after it compared race and IQ levels in connection to participation in an elite program at the school, The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.

The project, titled “Race and IQ,” was put together by a C.K. McClatchy High School student who is part of the school’s elite Humanities and International Studies Program. It was displayed in the fair on Monday, the outlet said.

In comparing intelligence levels, the project reportedly questioned whether particular races were smart enough for the school’s magnet program and whether a racial disparity was justified.

“If the average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and Hispanics are lower than the average IQs of non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians, then the racial disproportionality in (HISP) is justified,” the hypothesis said, according to the outlet...

The project’s final conclusion reportedly found that “the lower average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and nonwhite Hispanics means that they are not as likely as non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians to be accepted into a more academically rigorous program such as HISP,” the report said. “Therefore the racial disproportionality of HISP is justified.”
The clutching of pearls demonstrated in the linked article shows that some people aren't very smart, that's for sure.

Why not let the project stand or fall on its merits? This is what I identify as the important part of the story:
In a Thursday email to parents, the school’s principal Peter Lambert said they were taking the “incident very seriously” and noted that the school strived to “promote and embrace an inclusive environment and way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination.”
No discussion of data, no discussion of the scientific method, no possibility that there might be some evidence to support the student's thesis.  We must have "an inclusive...way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination."

Doctor Orwell, please call your office.  Doctor Orwell....

3 comments:

cthulhu said...

Ignorance is strength, after all.

I read through some of the comments though, and was at least modestly pleased that there were plenty of people decrying the school's actions.

Helen said...

I highly doubt that any race is genetically prone to higher IQs. However, hasn't it been well-proven that IQ can be heavily influenced by environmental factors? Blacks, hispanics, and southeast asians have much higher rates of poverty, and growing up in poverty lowers your IQ. Poverty leads to much higher rates of abuse, neglect, and drug/alcohol use, which also decreases your IQ. In this country, certain races have much higher rates of poverty. So, it makes perfect sense to me that certain races would - on average - have lower IQs.
In addition, most accelerated academic programs use standardized tests to determine who is admitted, and there are even more factors that can influence how you perform on standardized tests, regardless of your IQ. If you haven't attended good schools, your family doesn't value education, or English isn't your first language, you are much more likely to score lower on standardized tests.
This is exactly the problem I have with affirmative action - people assume that if people of one race perform lower than another, it is due to racism. The best argument I have to that statement is this - the average household income for blacks is about $35,000, while the average household income for whites is about $59,000. However, the average household income for Nigerian-Americans is about $62,000. Do people ask if a black person is Nigerian before deciding to discriminate against them? Of course not! No, Nigerian immigrants earn much more than blacks as a whole because they value hard work and education, achieve higher levels of education, and are much more likely to be married.

Darren said...

I've read that black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa outperform native-born black Americans--for the reasons you stated.

I've also read that the highest average household income in the US, when broken down by ethnic groups, is Filipino-Americans.

I don't have any data on this next point, but I'm going to guess that people who make "good" life decisions will make more money, on average, than people who make "bad" life decisions. Choose well.