Some light morning reading for anyone who works/commutes/lives with someone made dumber by pseudoscientific racists like Charles Murray.
First, a long and thorough study knocking down the ‘hard IQ’ argument, which holds that IQ measures something fixed and heritable. This matters because people have a hard time linking race and intelligence if ‘IQ’ has no genetic basis. It turns out that cultural context explains the data better than where a person is ‘from’*.
Some support for a significant rural/urban factor behind IQ scores may be seen in the curiously inverted pattern of apparent ethnic success between Europe and America. In the recent past the highest European IQ scores were generally found in northern countries such as Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, while the lowest ones occurred in Ireland, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Southern Italy, and during the early 20th century this pattern was replicated among those same immigrant ethnic groups in America. Yet strangely enough, if we stratify the recent American GSS results by primary European ethnic origin, we find nearly the opposite result for Wordsum-IQ, years of education, and family income. Among the higher performing white American groups are the Irish, the Greeks, the Yugoslavs, and the Italians, while Americans of Dutch extraction are near the bottom for whites, as are oldstock Americans who no longer identify with any European country but are presumably British in main ancestry. Meanwhile, German-Americans are generally at or slightly below the white American average.
This pattern of apparently inverted white ethnic achievement in Europe and America becomes less mysterious when we discover it tracks quite well with the rural vs. urban divide. Two of the most heavily rural, least urbanized groups are the Dutch-Americans and Old Stock whites, which perform the worst, while the high-performing Italians, Greeks, and Yugoslavs are among the most heavily urbanized. German-Americans are slightly less urbanized than the average white and also tend to perform slightly below average. In fact, across all non-Hispanic American whites, the Wordsum-IQ gap between those who grew up on farms and those who grew up in cities or suburbs is nearly as large as the gap separating American blacks and whites, and even larger with regard to total years of education.
Second, a study from last year in the journal Science which shows that disadvantaged students have a hard time memorizing abstact lists of crap (the basic skill that most schools test for) but that the gap gets much smaller when you put that knowledge to work in real applications.
We show that a highly structured course design, based on daily and weekly practice with problem-solving, data analysis, and other higher-order cognitive skills, improved the performance of all students in a college-level introductory biology class and reduced the achievement gap between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students—without increased expenditures. These results support the Carnegie Hall hypothesis: Intensive practice, via active-learning exercises, has a disproportionate benefit for capable but poorly prepared students.
The take-home: if you teach then keep track of where you fall on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Spend less time on basic knowledge (who is buried in Grant’s tomb?) and more on application, synthesis and evaluation, and disadvantaged students will do much better. However, one warning: although you probably already know this, it bears repeating that people hate to think. My 9th grade science teacher dropped us in Bloom’s deep end with zero warning. This inspired me in the best possible way, but most students hated him with the heat of a thousand suns. Thinking for yourself takes a bit of practice.
(*) One has to wonder about an average day at The American Conservative. On the one hand you have a staff of thoughtful writers who routinely put out some of the more readable stuff on the internet. On the other you have Pat Buchanan, an angry troll who I doubt entirely agrees with the point of the above piece. To put it mildly. I imagine staff meetings being something like the Algonquin Round Table plus Gilbert Gottfried reading from Fifty Shades of Grey.