Thursday, June 24, 2010

Apologies to Hilaire Belloc!

When I am dead, I hope it may be said,
"His sins were black, but his blog was read."

Can you imagine the great stuff that Belloc and Chesterton would be writing, with the tools we have available now?

The Bell Curve 8 - Another Side Note

"The widening of income in equality is caused mainly by technological changes leading to closer ties between education and employment. The crash happened because the attempt to turn America into an ownership society failed. Americans will own a house and in turn use the house as collateral to borrow money to invest."
[Emphasis mine]

This is from

which I saw just a few minutes ago. To my mind it ties in perfectly with what Herrnstein and Murray said about the emergence of a cognitive elite. In a low-tech society, one didn't need a lot of education (except perhaps as an apprentice in a medieval guild) to get and hold a job. It's very different here and now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Bell Curve 7 - side note

I mentioned in the last post about having recently read a piece that asserts what Herrnstein and Murray predicted has come true. You can find it at:

Its title is:
America's Death by Professor By Stuart Schwartz, and it was published May 20. The article also mentions Allan Bloom's Book The Closing of the American Mind, which I read when it first came out, and liked very much.

The Bell Curve 6 - More on cognitive stratification

The authors talked (in my last post) about cognitive stratification. They provided a couple of graphs to show the differences between, say, my parents' coming-of-age era, and that of their grandchildren. Here is one from 1930. Note that the mean IQ of the non-college persons is about 0.1 standard deviation (SD) less than the overall mean; the mean IQ of college graduates is about 0.7 SD above the overall mean; and the mean IQ of the grads from the prestigious colleges is about 1.3 SD above the overall mean.

Since the areas under the three curves are proportional to the relative size of the populations, it means if the three populations are combined, and taking their sizes into account, the combined mean will be the same as the mean of the whole population. It's the same as if you had a teeter-totter with a very large kid sitting one foot to the left of the pivot point, a small kid sitting about seven feet to the right, and a baby sitting about thirteen feet to the right.

Now here is a graph from 1990. Note that the mean IQs of the three populations have shifted: the non-college mean has dropped to about -0.25 SD below the overall mean IQ; the college grad mean has gone up to about +0.85 SD above the overall mean IQ, and the mean IQ of the grads of the prestigious colleges has taken a big jump to about +2.8 SD above the overall mean IQ. Quite a change in sixty years. As the authors predicted when they wrote the book in the mid-90s, this shift has profound social consequences.
At least one other author I read recently has confirmed, in a way, that what Herrnstein and Murray predicted has happened.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Bell Curve 5 - What they're talking about

(It has been quite a while, so you might want to go back and read my first four essays - Jan.9, Feb. 1, Feb. 2, and Feb. 6)

To quote the authors' preface: "This book is about differences in intellectual capacity among people and groups and what those differences mean for America's future."

In Part I, "The Emergence of a Cognitive Elite," the authors argue that in past ages and cultures, most notably western Europe, social class was determined largely by lineage and money rather than by intelligence. Therefore one would probably find a pretty normal distribution of intelligence at all class levels: that is, one could find smart peasants and stupid aristocrats.

". . . a large majority of the smart people in Cheop's (sic) Egypt, dynastic China, Elizabethan England, and Teddy Roosevelt's America were engaged in ordinary pursuits, mingling, working, and living with everyone else. Many were housewives. Most of the rest were farmers, smiths, millers, bakers, carpenters, and shopkeepers. Social and economic stratification was extreme, but cognitive stratification was minor." (p. 27)

One of the major premises of the book is that what they call cognitive stratification is a product of a high-tech society. Before the 20th century, ". . . the number of very bright people was so much greater than the number of specialized jobs for which high intelligence was indispensable." (ibid.) But during that century, assert the authors, a class structure based on intelligence emerged.

Chapter 1, "Cognitive Class and Education, 1900-1990," gives some information that I find highly interesting. The authors point out that from 1900-1990 there was a fifteen-fold increase in the proportion of people getting college degrees, and that students wishing to enter college were being more effectively selected for high IQ. They also mention that "Starting in the 1950s, a handful of institutions became magnets for the very brightest of each year's new class. In these schools, the cognitive level of the students rose far above the rest of the college population." (p. 29) They show with graphs (which one needs the smattering of statistics to interpret for oneself) that:

1, during the 20th century, the "prevalence" of the college degree went from about 2% to about 33% of the population;
2, starting about 1950, more of the top (high-school) students went to college;
3, between the 1920s and the 1960s, college attendance became more closely correlated to IQ, and
4, the cognitive sorting continued throughout one's college career.

"By the early 1960s," say the authors, "the entire top echelon of American universities had been transformed. The screens filtering their students from the masses had not been lowered but transformed. Instead of the old screen -- woven of class, religion, region, and old school ties -- the new screen was cognitive ability, and its mesh was already exceeding fine." (p. 42)

(I recall mentioning elsewhere that both my parents graduated from high school in 1931, and though they were both very bright people, for them college was out of the question. They went immediately to work, and mentioned many times they were lucky to find it. They pushed education at us six kids, with the result that all six went to college, we have five BA's and an AA, and four Master's degrees; more than that, two of my nieces have doctorates. I find it interesting that I would consider the girls part of the "cognitive elite"; my siblings and I, for the most part, definitely are not.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ghosts, Shades, Shadows

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, 'These wounds I had on Crispin's Day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day.

King Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I was fourteen weeks old that day --

-- and my dad missed, by a hair, being in the assault force. So he stayed stateside, came home to Mom and my older brother a year after the war was over, and then the rest of us came along. It's something to think my other five siblings might not have existed.

My most heartfelt thanks to Pop, my uncle George (gunner on a "baby flattop" in the south Pacific), their friends, and all who served, and who serve now. Those men and women then were all that stood between us and two aggressive enemies, and the women and men now are all that stand between us and another of the same.
God bless them all!