Gray Matter in a Brown Package
June 16, 2014
I spent three decades covering the military and have never seen a more insightful piece than this, in the New York Times of alll places, by Bradley Manning, on how the Pentagon controls the press. Well worth a read.
Latinos are now seventeen percent of the population, and the president is doing everything he can to increase that proportion. Will they assimiliate successfully? There are many reasons for suspecting that they will not, and others for suspecting that they will. A crucial sub-question is whether they are as intelligent as whites. Many quietly think not. Asking about racial intelligence is forbidden, which raises the quite reasonable thought, "Uh-huh, and we know why it is forbidden, don’t we?" You only forbid a question if you think you won't like the answer.
What is the evidence?
Those who suspect (or in many cases, hope) that Latinos are irremediably stupid point usually to two data sets. The first is the scores of Latinos on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP. These show Latinos to be ahead of blacks in reading and arithmetic, but below whites and, more damningly, that the gap does not decrease in the second and third generation. The second data set is the assertion that Mexicans have a mean IQ of 87, barely two points above blacks and close to the figure, 85, that was once regarded as indicating borderline retardation.
These are legitimate data, in the sense that they were derived by intelligent people trying to determine the facts. The thoughtful will not dismiss them. On the other hand, if data contradict each other, or are inconsistent with observation, one may wonder about them. Are they wonderable?
Before going further, a word on the question of IQ. On one hand, you have the politically correct, who simply repeat unendingly that intelligence doesn’t exist, and any way can’t be measured, and can’t be defined, and is biased, and anyway is a social construct, and so on. This is argument by unanimous unrelenting assertion. On the other hand, you have the vociferous Race Realists, as they call themselves. These began as (and still are) people with the intellectual honesty to look at racial issues—crime, education, illegitimacy, intelligence—that one must never talk about. Unfortunately, their position under the pressure of ideological warfare hardened and they ceased to be able to see the many inconsistencies and contradictions in their beliefs. That is another column. My point here is that their position is not nearly a clear as they make it seem.
My best take on the question: I live in central Mexico, just below Guadalajara. I cannot see that people here are any less intelligent that white Americans. But this raises the question: How great must a gap be to be noticeable? Is the alleged thirteen-point deficit too small to be visible? I tend to doubt it, but I don’t know.
Another tack: I reasoned that while I couldn’t judge the country as a whole, half of which is of the middle class (much of it, Americans would say, lower middle-class) and the other a peasantry, I could compare people in professions with which I am familiar: journalism, medicine, general administration (bank clerks, realtors, and such), dentistry, pilots, and computer techs.
I can’t see a difference. Newspaper columnists write in grammatical, complex, insightful Spanish, equal to writing in, say, the Washington Post. The radio station of the Universidad de Guadalajara is at least as sophisticated culturally as that of American University, which I listened to for years. Professionals in general seem no less bright than American.
IQists will reply that these are the few smart Mexicans in a country of 115 million. Well, maybe. Note, though, that America has a very effective system for finding the bright (SATs, etc.) in all social strata of the country. Mexico does not. If you have an IQ of 150 in a remote village, that is where you will keep on having it.
Well, I thought next, how many bright Mexicans do I know? For purposes of this column, let us assume that an IQ of 130 or better, which qualifies you for Mensa, is bright. This is the upper two percent of the general white population. I have known a lot of Mensans and their equivalents, and have a pretty good eye for the qualified.
Now, the IQist response to any examples I may give predictably will be threefold. First, “Well, Fred, you are reasonably bright, and bright people hang out with other bright people. So your sample is highly skewed.” True. On the other hand, VI and I are not sociable, and have encountered such brights as we know among a small sample.
Second, “But Fred, you are obviously hanging out with successful professionals who have been genetically selected for intelligence.” None of those shown below have college-educated parents. We do not know any Mexicans with money.
Three, “Fred, all the bright people are of the ten percent of whites in the population.” See below and do your own photometry.
Jasmín, 17, daughter of Rolfe, behind her, and Marisól, Mexicana. Clearly a Norwegian. When not in high school, she writes for a local newspaper and sometimes tends bar at Cheers, a bar/restaurant recently founded by her parents. I put her at Mensa level. ("Mensa” in Spanish means “fool.” I refer to the social club.) Photo: FOE staff.
Natalia, stepdaughter, currently in university. This kid is way bright, even by my snotty and elitist standards. At 22, she could certainly hold her own on any of the sites that publish FOE, though in Spanish. At age twelve she would run through three adult books on a slow weekend. Note low albedo. Photo: FOE Staff
Tona, ghastly cellplhone photo. Another white European. Decidedly not from a wealthy family. They don’t have a computer so their kids come to our house to do online homework. Vi noticed that he was something of a flash and since, like all sensible small boys, he is interested in octopuses and squids, we bought him a rougly sixth-grade book on marine biology and, on a why-not basis, a 900-page biology text. He would grow into it, we figured. Tona didn't figure this. He simply began reading it. Slowly, we presume without evidence, but reading it. Tona is 9.
Violeta, grad in lit of the University of Guadalajara. She teaches Spanish to gringos, most of whom are woefully unprepared to learn a language, having no grasp of the grammar of their own language. Typically they regard her as an unlettered campesiana, which is to say that they have invented the art of condescending upward. This puts them in a category with the Wright brothers. She multitasks, as I write being in the middle of Robert Graves’ two-volume thing on mythology, the Old Testament as grist for Graves, Proust on her cell phone, just finished Justine, tying them all in with the Greeks, Eur, Aris, Soph, and Aesch, which she has liked since doing Lysistrata in university theater. 'Bout what the average gringa reads, I reckon.
Violeta’s bookshelves. Illiterate by definition, she can’t read them, but is attracted to shiny covers and bright colors. You know, like beads. Lit, linguistics,, philosophy.
What does the foregoing prove? Nothing. It could be coincidence. Most assuredly, the examples are exceptions (but so would they be in the US). So are the several kids I know who have learned good English in central Mexico. How many American kids do you kow who have learned any language at all, anywhere?
Proves nothing. Certinly anecdotal. Might lead one to suspect, though.