Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beware - you may find this offensive

I certainly did. And, if he has been quoted correctly, it is an obscenity.

Working class people have lower IQs than those from wealthy backgrounds and should not expect to win places at top universities, an academic has claimed.

Great, he has just trashed all my working experience and the research of many others working in University Lifelong Learning. So, talent is distributed according to wealth is it? He has written off a whole class, teeming with wasted ability, as inferior. But then you don't have to look at your own prejudices and practices if you believe that do you? Very convenient.

Hat tip Will

George Szirtes joins the fray


Graeme said...

Time to string the whole lot of these fuckers up.

Will said...

See report here as well Peter.

Note that there is another piece of vermin currently employed in a top university with a position of some importance who spouts the same victorian drivel -- a certain Richard Lynn, professor emeritus at the University of Ulster. Wot a fucking twat.

These people make me want to resort to physical intimidation of them because of my low IQ and that. Perhaps those who are my betters and clever people and that could see to it that he be sacked for advocating class eugenics? Make the fucker suffer please.

Evolutionary *psychology,* as opposed to the bullshit pseudo-science that the prick is engaged in actually attempts to make use of the *modern* Darwinian conception of evolution to explain the natural bases that underlie complex forms of social behaviour - i.e. human behaviour - not mental processes (or mental illness) - cognitive psychology is another matter, studying as it does mental processes. It does not attempt, however, to erase the insights of psychology and reduce, in a crude manner, all thought processes to simple biological signals.

If you are interested, the prick in question from Newcastle University has a bullshit vanity website here. Rather neatly he has a contact email address on the site. I may be sending him something shortly.

DorsetDipper said...

IQ is a tool of class oppression. It is a measure that says the rich are rich because they are clever, and the poor are poor because they are thick. It has nothing to do with any important qualities.

Whenever IQ appears in an argument attack!! attack!!

Nomenklatura said...

Having lived in both the UK and the US, one of the main reasons I think the US is a better place to live and bring up kids is because there are so many ways to re-enter the education system and do well at any age. So, regardless of what you may think about the US, I'm deeply sympathetic on the underlying point about the value of adult education opportunities.

There's just no point though, and it undercuts any rational argument, to deny the obvious.

University entrance everywhere sorts for intelligence, and does so now on a larger scale than it used to (a substantial proportion of the population in the US has attended college now for several generations; the UK has come to resemble the US more recently). Since a university education facilitates exit from the working class, it is therefore simply impossible for working class people in general not to have lower IQs than the rest of society. Further, to the extent that IQ is (partially) inherited, working class children will in general inevitably have lower IQs.

Sure, this is having a dramatic impact on the shape of our society, perhaps in many respects a damaging one, but there is no point in pretending it isn't happening.

There is certainly a case for identifying and directing help to those children in the working class who can benefit from access to higher education. Nothing is gained though by asserting that the proportion of working class kids who can benefit from either higher or adult education is as big in the working classes as in others. Nor is the argument for helping those kids weakened in any way by the fact that there aren't as many of them in the working class.

As for those people inclined to deny that intelligence exists, I've noticed that the very same people are usually happy to assert that conservatives are stupid.

The Plump said...

Wow. So much I disagree with Nomenklatura.

First, I do agree that there is such a thing as intelligence. I have seen far too many examples of a lack of it in Education - mainly in management :-) A flippant comment maybe, but with some honourable exceptions, all too true.

However, what I would argue against is the ability of IQ tests to measure intelligence, in all its dimensions. And thus a reliance on IQ scores as determining the intellectual abilities of a whole class of people is just plain wrong. At best IQ scores measure a narrow range of abilities and can never be without cultural bias. IQ and intelligence are not synonymous

Second, that phrase "the ability to benefit'. I come from it at a different angle in that I think that nearly everybody has an ability to benefit, though not necessarily at the same things. I can assure you that I have no ability to benefit from a course in Physics - not my scene. Yet I could flourish in History and Politics. We should not confuse aptitude and interest with intelligence.

That phrase underpins an assumption that education is some sort of process of which only an elite are capable. I refute this, I think that it is a natural human activity, and I take it personally. When I was at school, I asked about Higher Education and was told "some people have it and some people don't - and you're one of the people that don't". Ten years later I returned to study and ended up working in a University as a Dr Plump. It is a dangerous assumption and one that makes people pass damaging and wrong judgements on others.

I could write a vast paper on the structural barriers that working class people face in participation. However, let's just take one of these, which I encounter in my day-to-day work, language. The language of academia is not the vernacular (hence large numbers of people in my local pub who would not use the word 'vernacular'). The starting point for our work is often teaching students to speak and write in a new language. It is a huge mistake to confuse these linguistic skills with intelligence and it is one frequently made.

Finally, there is the issue of class. It is difficult for anyone other than the native born Brit to get the full extent and the pervasiveness of class in this country. It hugely impacts on perceptions of intelligence and processes of exclusion and inclusion. I will give just one example, a study by the late Maggie Woodrow. This found that not only did fewer working class people apply to university, but of those that did, the acceptance rate was significantly lower, independent of qualifications. This indicated the presence of an institutionalised class bias.

I co-authored my university's first widening participation strategy. I also wrote a spoof for the amusement of friends satirising some of the antediluvian attitudes that could be found. It started "Frankly old boy, the lower orders just aren't up to it". And this is what this report seems to me to be about, the use of IQ data to support prejudice rather than deal with the real barriers to education that are put in the place of working class participation. It is not that they cannot do it, it is that they are prevented from doing so. The age of Jude the Obscure has not yet passed.

DorsetDipper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DorsetDipper said...

I used to recruit top mathematicians to work in banks. Top as in several year's post-doc maths research in General Relativity. Quite a lot of them were fanatastic at IQ-type tests, and quite a lot were dreadful. In the end we stopped using these tests as it was a poor predictor of deep mathematical ability which appears to take different forms in different people.

So if logic tests are no good for measuring the ability of mathematicians, what are they good for?

Will said...

Sunny Hundal - proof that there is such a thing as lack of intelligence - nothing to do with class or fucking IQ though.

Nomenklatura said...

Dr. Plump,

First, thanks for the civil response. After seeing what some other commenters had to say I hadn't been sure what to expect.

I'm no stranger to the British class system. I was raised in England by a factory working single mother. None of my parents or grandparents was ever educated past the age of 15 or 16. Even though I won a council-funded scholarship to a private school and went on to Oxford University, which gave me direct access to the UK upper middle class, my reaction to the class system was to reject it entirely and emigrate to the US. Eventually I went on to graduate school at Harvard (no longer subsidised by anyone).

I'm not sure I see that we have that much of a disagreement. We agree that there are people in the working class who can benefit from higher education, with ourselves as examples, and I don't see you claiming that everyone can.

We agree that IQ exists and does measure ability. Neither of us thinks it measures all aspects of ability. I tend to see it as a useful tool in helping to identify people in the working class with the potential to do well on the way to and at the highest levels of the education system, and that's how it worked for me (my IQ came back as off the top of the scale, i.e. at that time >178). I don't claim that we can use IQ to identify all such potential, but just because the test doesn't do certain things and we don't have good supplements doesn't seem to be a reason to revile it. It helped me, and doubtless others like me (I know three others personally).

As far as the 'cultural bias' goes, it's pretty hard to see what cultural assets I had going in my favour. Maybe there is a bias, but in my case and those of my three friends, none of whom were socially above the lower middle class, the testing seemed to cut through it quite effectively.

You say "we should not confuse aptitude and interest with intelligence". True enough, but even if we don't we can concede the point that each generation those with any combination of the three (and they are correlated) will tend to find their way out of the working class. Most of my British relatives and most of the people they know are entirely happily wrapped up for life in the TV, the pub and their families. Their kids are not going to Oxford or Cambridge under any scenario, for a start because they have no interest in doing so, and to pretend that much of the working class is not like them would be quixotic. Frankly, I'm not detecting a lot of wasted ability there. There will be others like me and others not like me in that they have other sorts of outstanding abilities, but let's face it not that many.

As to the Maggie Woodrow study you mentioned, I agree that is the sort of evidence which ought to be developed, and does suggest that something is not right. My own experience though is that IQ is a tool which has been used effectively to partially correct precisely that sort of abuse. Hacking away at it just because it is an imperfect tool and can't do the whole job by itself seems unhelpfully counter-productive.