IQ and Education Resources

View 853 Tuesday, December 02, 2014

I have never said that human society ought to be aristocratic, but a great deal more than that. What I have said, and still believe with ever-increasing conviction, is that human society is always, whether it will or no, aristocratic by its very essence, to the extreme that it is a society in the measure that it is aristocratic, and ceases to be such when it ceases to be aristocratic. Of course I am speaking now of society and not of the State.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


I have a number of letters from people who try to account for differences in means IQ among races – a phenomenon found and confirmed so often that it must be assumed to be true – by various factors, the most common of which is culture. A number of competent differential psychologists who would have wished to find that all those differences can be truly accounted for by cultural (and thus changeable) factors have devoted a great deal of effort to trying to prove that, and to eliminate all cultural factors from IQ tests, but they have not been able to do so.

From my view it doesn’t matter. I have my theories of what IQ tests measure, but the utility of the tests doesn’t depend on what they measure. As far as I am concerned, IQ can be defined as what IQ tests measure. Maybe it doesn’t measure intelligence, whatever that is. It measures “g”, but that is itself defined from the results of tests. What is important is that something like IQ can be measured by a number of tests. The “IQ” assigned to a given individual by a number of these tests will correlate highly from one test to another, as will the test-retest reliability. The tests are constructed to produce this result by people highly skilled in mathematics, statistics, and semantics, and every item in each commonly used test is there because it contributes to the overall result.

IQ is useful even if we do not know what it “really” is, because it is the best single measure we have for predicting academic success. Actually, IQ is about the best single predictor of success for almost any complex human activity, but the one we are interested in is academic success because teaching and education is the largest cost item in every State budget, and the schools consume a lot of government activity – and taxes.

IQ tests are the best predictors we have for academic success. If we are going to invest public money, collected by armed tax collectors, we are entitled to ask that the money be well spent: which is to say that if we are going to invest in an expensive public education, the money ought to go to someone who will learn something from that expensive experience. By law we cannot use race in selecting the individuals in whom we will invest. We really shouldn’t even know what their race is.

And therein lies the problem. There is no single item in any IQ test that identifies the race of the person taking that test. Any such item, if there ever were any, has long since been eliminated. You may look at IQ tests until you are blue in the face and you won’t find the “racial code” items, because they are not there. A lot of very smart people have worked hard to see to that.

But IQ tests do predict academic success. And the University of Washington developed a Grade Prediction Program that did much more. I worked on it as a graduate student. The experiment was paid for by Navy Research.

Basically, for all incoming freshmen, we took measures of almost anything you can think of that might affect academic grades, and recorded the grades those students achieved in four years of instruction at the University of Washington. We recorded high school class rank, and grades in high school subject areas. We gave batteries of tests to the incoming freshmen. We took ratings and estimates from counselors (which were not easy to get because counselors are not accustomed to making numerical estimates, and sure enough, they weren’t much use in the final predictions). We even threw in height and weight. We did not record race, religion, national origin, or socio-economic status.

All this stuff went into a huge matrix, one line of a couple of dozen predictors for each student. Then over time we built another matrix, one line of grade results for each person. This whole thing then went into a huge program to find the correlation of each item in the predictors with each item in the results. This would be a number from 0 to 0.99; actually I think the highest predictor item was about 0.8, which was IQ. Many of the predictors were near enough to zero that it could reasonably be concluded that they could be eliminated. There were one or two predictors that correlated highly with some fields of study and not at all with others; the formula was adjusted for that so these predictors were only used in prediction of relevant academic areas.

And lo! After a few years of taking results and honing the prediction equations, every incoming freshman was given a grade prediction for a number of academic area. Be a math major and you will be an A student, but you will flunk out of biology. Actually, of course, that would be a rare result: people who were predicted to be A students in any area were likely to have higher predictions for other areas. An A prediction in engineering would very likely to be accompanied by an A prediction as an education major. Of course an prediction of an A average in Education was not necessarily accompanied by the prediction of an A in anything else.

The program was successful, but it is no longer used, because the average grades predicted for Black and Hispanic students was lower than the average grades predicted for White students. There was no single item in any test that identified the race of the student, but those who set out to prove this thesis managed to find that out.


And that, I put it to you, is the reason that the mean differences in IQ test scores among the races is important.

If you want to invest your education resources in those who will learn the most – and therefore, presumably, earn enough to keep the economy growing, thus justifying the investment of tax resources in education, you must use tests that include IQ tests to select who will go into engineering, who into education, who into sociology, and who ought to go to junior college and learn some salable skills. But if you do this, then you will find that the numbers of those predicted to have high success will include more Ashkenazi Jews. North Asian, and American Whites, than their average presence in the population, and fewer Hispanics and Blacks; while the numbers of those advised to get out of the university and go to junior college or into apprenticeship will include fewer Whites, Asians and Jews, and more Hispanics and Blacks. That is an inevitable result. There is no way to “correct for it. The IQ factor is always important in any prediction of academic success.


It seems to me that the answer to this is to fix the schools: rather than blame the tests, and force universities to allocate their resources in lower than optimum ways, try sending them better qualified students. If people have lower IQ because of some cultural bias, and IQ is a good predictor of academic success, then raise the IQ in primary school, or grade school, or middle school, by countering the cultural effects. Of course that’s what Head Start rather expensively attempts to do, but it hasn’t succeeded.

Another way would be to forget race and allocate academic resources to those who will most benefit from them, Black, Hispanic, White, Asian or Jew.


Ben Stein speculates at

Phil gave me a tablet device for me to use on trips. I was worried about it, but I took it to my local Beverly Hills Verizon store. It was supposedly a Verizon-oriented machine.

Ooops. The young man there had no idea ­ and I mean NONE ­ of how to set up this device. Okay. I tried to buy a battery from him for my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Notes 2 phone. Ooops, again.

Incredibly, Verizon stores do not sell Verizon phone batteries. Can that be true?

Meanwhile, four other customers came into the store and the clerk could not help them with anything.

There is a bit of a lesson here: we economists are worried about productivity that is rising much more slowly than it used to rise. No one seems to know why. But I have an idea. Because our workers are so poorly educated relative to the tasks they are called on to perform that they are a dead weight on the economy.

Maybe the collapse of education is actually finally taking its toll. It was bound to and now it is.

Best regards,

–Harry M.

When you sow the wind, you may predict the crop. We have known since 1983 that the education system is indistinguishable from an act of war on the people of the United States. Apparently we like it that way.


Black police officer

Dr. Pournelle,

Much is made of the use of white police officers in neighborhoods that are heavily black. Another commentator made the point that assigning black officers to these areas would be discrimination against the black officers in that they would be assigned the most dangerous neighborhoods because of the color of their skin. What has so far been missed is the reason there are so few black police officers.

As I write this I am a former auto-mechanic, sometime lumber mill worker, and at full-time prosecutor. I went to law school late in life and I am at present a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in the Criminal Law Division and assigned to the trial team. The observations I make here are my own and they are informed by my experience as a Deputy District Attorney and Deputy Attorney General in California.

So far, I have not seen anyone talk about what is required in order to become a police officer. The requirements are daunting. I have participated in background investigations and I have been the subject of background investigations. I suspect the background investigation for a peace officer position in a large department is as exhaustive or perhaps more exhaustive than that required for a top secret clearance.

In the personal history questionnaire the applicant will be required to disclose every embarrassing or negative fact about their lives from the time they were born. I know an applicant for the California Highway Patrol who was failed on their background because they attended a party where other people were smoking marijuana. The personal history covers arrests, detentions, charges, convictions, credit history, contact information for wives and ex-wives and so on. It is exhaustive. Depending on the agency traffic tickets or a poor credit score can disqualify the applicant.

The statistic for the number of black men and women who are convicted by "the system" is quoted because it is very much greater than the percentage of white men and women. Yet those are things that disqualify a person from a career in law enforcement. If blacks are 13% of the population and disqualified at a higher rate because of their conduct from a job in law enforcement, it is not surprising they are under-represented. This is not a problem that is readily amenable to solution. Consider, that black men and women who would otherwise qualify for law enforcement careers are lower than the percentage than that of other applicants and they are readily employable in any field they might choose.

The solution, if one exists, must include bringing black people into the mainstream; there must be shared values and shared expectations. The perception of discrimination based on skin color must be erased. When there are other reasons for discrimination, that can be explained as discrimination based on skin color exist, the perception that the discrimination is based on skin color is validated, at least in the minds of some people.

Finally, I have to wonder what our president meant when he encouraged protest. The legal process worked; the grand jury determined there was not enough credible evidence to indict. The evidence needed to indict is far short of what is needed to convict. The officer is not criminally culpable. It is important that we have a process and the officer was subject to indictment and prosecution. So, what is there to protest?

There is a great deal we need to do, but none of it was accomplished by the protests.






Dr. Pournelle,

I don’t have any background or education in aviation. My viewpoint is that of an enlisted Marine Fire Direction Control Computer back in the days when "sticks" were faster and much more reliable than the Texas Instruments or Freddie FADAC options.

While the logistics of keeping the Warthog flying is beyond my ken, I am confident in saying that Marines on the ground would love Marine pilots in A-10s shaping the battlefield. Adaptation to being carrier-based is probably out of the question and maybe the FA-18 can do the job. Still, we have the plane, we have ground units which could exploit the plane’s capabilities and we will probably be faced with an enemy who is susceptible to the weapons system for the foreseeable future.

There are probably difficulties beyond my imagination in bringing the A-10 into the USMC inventory, but it seems to me that the A-10 and the Marine Corps grunts is a marriage made in Heaven for a job made in Hell.


A.S. Clifton

I’m sure. But the Army needs them too. It’s good to have a flying tank. And of course they are only useful if you have air supremacy where they are to be used.



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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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