Thursday, January 18, 2007

Murray on education and intelligence   posted by the @ 1/18/2007 02:31:00 PM

Charles Murray has a three-piece series of op-eds in the WSJ. They describe education policy recommendations for three levels of the IQ distribution:
  1. Intelligence in the Classroom: Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them.
  2. What's Wrong With Vocational School? Too many Americans are going to college. 
  3. Aztecs vs. Greeks: Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise. 

The only criticism I can offer is the lack of citations/footnotes to support the many empirical claims made, especially in the first article, but I understand the venue does not permit it.

You can find plenty of criticisms on the web. At the Corner, Jonah Golderg criticizes Murray for being "dismissive of alternative or competing definitions of intelligence". Golberg's criticism is somewhat missing the mark by his framing in terms of "competing definitions of intelligence", but the IQ's corner blog offers a critique (and follow up) that appears to capture the spirit of Jonah's remark in more precise language. Jonah also confuses intelligence with wisdom -- a mistake worth pointing out. Hopefully Murray will find time to address his critics and publish a response in a venue where the underlying data can be examined more fully.

Another aspect of this worth pointing out: it is generally agreed that it is distinctly impolite to discuss differences in intelligence in public. However, this doesn't stop intelligence from being discussed in private, and is an unfortunate hamper to an important debate. In the comment threads of several recent posts we've discussed the issue of public discussion of non-PC topics. I would suggest that the intersection of intelligence and education falls into the class where the benefits of open debate far out weight the costs. As for getting over our discomfort with intelligence differences, I note that pharmaceutical companies have made major strides by getting commercials for embarrassing medical conditions onto prime time TV.