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Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

WHY TEACHERS QUIT....Ken Futernick of the Center for Teacher Quality at Cal State Sacramento recently conducted a study of why teachers drop out of teaching. The study itself seems so poorly designed as to be worthless, but his conclusion still has the ring of plausibility:

"When teaching and learning conditions are poor, we discovered that many teachers see their compensation as inadequate. When these teaching and learning conditions are good, not only do teachers tend to stay, they actually view their compensation as a reason for staying."

The findings suggest that when teachers unions advocate primarily for salary, they have it somewhat wrong. On the other hand, Futernick said, administrators are clearly misguided when they focus single-mindedly on getting rid of "bad teachers."

....At high-minority and high-poverty schools, teacher turnover typically runs at 10% annually. "If this churning is going on, you can be sure you have a dysfunctional school," Futernick said. "As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.

That sounds about right. But complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools. So that's what we do.

Kevin Drum 11:52 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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The study itself seems so poorly designed as to be worthless, but his conclusion still has the ring of plausibility

We can bookend this post with your comments on the Iraqi casualty study published in Lancet, which had a solid methodology but whose conclusions you had a gut feeling wasn't right. Sheesh.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

How about coming to the realization that parents play the biggest role in the success or failure of the students?

Posted by: 1SG on April 27, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.
That sounds about right. But complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools.

I think you're right here, and that's why many of us support school choice which would allow black and Latino peers to go to the same schools as the white and Asian students which would result in a much better education for them.

Posted by: Al on April 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

1SG: makes sense to me

One can rate a school by how many parents show up to Back-to-School Night. Low attendance equals low student success.

Posted by: Percy on April 27, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I blame television.

And Bush, of course.

Posted by: craigie on April 27, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

No comment about the attempted terrorist attack, Kevin? ;)

Posted by: Charlie on April 27, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's right. If we want to improve education, we need to improve the atmosphere in schools. This concept is obvious to people like me who spend their days inside schools.

The push cannot come primarily from Unions, who represent the people who survive rather than the ones who quit after a year or two. The push needs to come from the community. One problem is that dysfunctional schools are generally found in dysfunctional communities or communities with a low percentage of parents.

The government needs to evaluate schools based on visits to the schools to assess the atmosphere rather than on standardized tests. Additional, the federal government needs to fully fund Title One and IDEA so that school districts, including districts in poor areas, have money.

Posted by: reino on April 27, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I like Calpundit, or I wouldn't have been coming back for so long. But Kevin, please put more phrases in your cookie jar... "Sounds about right" happens in every other post, and today it's 20% of your total number of contributed sentences.

You're risking major satire, baby.

"Heh, indeed."

Posted by: anonymous on April 27, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

"That sounds about right. But complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools. So that's what we do."

It is intractable, because -- sit down for this --race correlates strongly with IQ. Say it five times before breakfast: Avg white IQ is 100, East Asian is 105, black American in 85, Hispanic is about 90 (depending on racial admixture).

Sorry, kids, the Blank Slate is dead.

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

So people require more money to work in a bad environment? Who could have guessed?

Posted by: Rob on April 27, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

People who point to television or parents are missing the point--schools should serve all students as well as schools can. Let's not write off all students who have bad parents or parents holding down more than one job.

I used to teach in the inner city at a small school for dropouts who wanted a second chance. Most students who entered the school tested about 4-5 years below their age level, and for every year at the school their scores went up 2-3 grade levels. They still had the same parents, but they were now in a school that wasn't completely out of control.

Posted by: reino on April 27, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

If IQ correlates strongly with race, then my guess is that Grenzen's parents are both rocks.

Posted by: reino on April 27, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood the teachers' unions saying low salaries are the cause of bad schools and higher salaries would make them better.

It can mean one of only two things: Either the current teachers aren't teaching as well as they could, because they aren't motivated by their salaries, or low salaries attract incompetent teachers, and if we paid better, we would get better teachers than the ones currently in our union.

That may be true, but it's still an odd argument for a union to be making that their current members either just aren't good enough to do the job or are slackers motivated only by money.

Posted by: anandine on April 27, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Why teachers quit:
Teacher’s health benefits stink; pay is low; job security low: pretty much all new teachers are pink-slipped at the end of the year; weeks of District and text book and State and Federal standardized tests (including the last 3 weeks for STAR testing, a test that evaluates the year long learning of our students and effects school funding, a test given with 9 weeks of school remaining, a test that the kids know they can bubble in a zig-zags because they are on no way held accountable…

Posted by: Percy on April 27, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

My wife is a second-year teacher at a low-income, high-minority, inner city school. From what I hear from her, your analysis is mostly correct. She'll be changing schools this year (to a mostly working-class, mixed race school), but she loves her students. In fact this school showed her that she actually likes teaching.

She's leaving because of a poor administration with low communication skills. In the end, they didn't make her feel appreciated, didn't treat her like her input was worth anything, and cut half of her classes (a problem facing many schools in this county due to structural factors) without notice.

High-minority and low-income schools have enough problems brought in from the outside by the students, who can only be products of their home and community environments. If that school is given a weak administration, then the kids are really let down on all fronts, as the good (and young) teachers will go where their skills are better compensated, or else will leave the teaching pool entirely.

Grenzen: your argument is absurd on its face. If you want to make a persuasive case about IQ, then find a study that controls for the literacy of the parents, the number of books in the household, and the stability of the child's home life. Additionally, it would have to check kids at a very young age (5-6 years old) since they will have relatively little influence or experience with education. IQ measures the potential to learn. Once the child has spent many years in school, their score is corrupted by their pre-existing knowledge.

Posted by: Chris on April 27, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Reino: let's stipulate that my parents had hot rock sex and that's how I was born.

And yet it remains, hot rock sex notwithstanding, that IQ correlates strongly with race, and that this is the basic truth of "bad schools" -- it's not the schools that are underperforming, not the teachers or the books or the chalkboards or the textbooks, but the students.

Franz Boas was wrong, Charles Darwin was right. Yes, it's a shitty world in that way, but we still must see it through clear lenses.

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I would highly recommend that anyone commenting on what schools need walk into a school in a poor urban neighborhood. Even on a Saturday. Look around at the classrooms and the condition of the physical plant. Then ask yourself, "would I want to work in a place like this?" You'll understand why people leave.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it looks like Steve Sailer is posting here after all...

Posted by: boatshoes on April 27, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK
"When teaching and learning conditions are poor, we discovered that many teachers see their compensation as inadequate. When these teaching and learning conditions are good, not only do teachers tend to stay, they actually view their compensation as a reason for staying."

Oh, wow, so, in other words, "people are less likely to see the pay for a job as being adequate if the working conditions are worse, all other things being equal."

Really, this is some kind of stunning result?

The findings suggest that when teachers unions advocate primarily for salary, they have it somewhat wrong.

IME, teachers unions don't advocate "primarily for salary", though that's what gets the most attention. Particularly, its the demand of teachers unions that those opposing them prefer to focus attention on, since they are the easiest to portray as selfish.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"who can only be products of their home and community environments"

What about biology? It's 0% of intelligence, Chris? Try 40%-80%.

Why do you think white people (usually left-leaning) go around the world to adopt Chinese babies instead of picking up an African-American child a subway ride away? Why did Jodie Foster choose a sperm donor with an IQ of 160 to have her kid with?

Hint: it ain't because children "can only be products of their home and community environments."

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Grenzen, get your ass out of The Bell Curve and read Guns, Germs, And Steel. Your idea about race and IQ are totally wrong and have been thoroughly disproved and discredited.

Posted by: WTF on April 27, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"The study itself seems so poorly designed as to be worthless, but his conclusion still has the ring of plausibility"

As a fan of this blog, and this is intended as 100% supportive and constructive: It doesn't really help your argument or crediblity in general to quote a survey you know to be flawed just because it supports your preconceived ideas.

Lately I've seen a growing trend in the progressive blogosphere toward using questionable sources to support positions and using quotes in questionable context to embarrass conservatives. Maybe that's how the wingnutosphere operates, but it's a lesson best left unlearned.

Look at the polls....progressives are winning the debate on one issue after another, as America realizes the deceit at the core of the modern "conservative" movement. The best gift we could give the wingnuts right now is ammunition to claim our arguments are as flawed as their own.

Posted by: MattT on April 27, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

IQ strongly correlates with socio-economic status (SES). SES accounts for about 67% of the variance in student performance. And, of course, student performance and school performance are entirely different, much as we'd like to pretend otherwise.

Posted by: MaxGowan on April 27, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

WTF,

I've read GG&S several times. There's some good stuff in there, but its single unifying theory falls apart in the past couple hundred centuries.

Namely: useful plants and mammals are now spread worldwide, so the advantage Eurasians had in that are gone. So why is it that some countries (South Korea, Japan, China on its way) have adapted quickly to modern technologies Europeans invented, while others have lagged? Diamond doesn't explain it.

Can you?

Tatu Vanhanen and Richard Lynn can. If I may send a book recommendation your way now, try "IQ & the Wealth of Nations." Its thesis is that national mean IQ is the dominant (though not the only) factor in determining whether a country is rich or poor.

I've read it three times and tried to poke substantial holes in it, but I can't. Diamond I poked holes in much of the way through, especially the point above. But I await counterarguments.

Here's the wikipedia page for IQ&tWoN:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"IQ strongly correlates with socio-economic status (SES). SES accounts for about 67% of the variance in student performance."

But Max, parents pass both genes and environment to their kids. That's why they do adoption studies. So maybe you can explain why Korean kids adopted by white Belgian couples outscore white Belgian kids in math ability by the same extent that Chinese-born kids from China do.

Must be stereotype threat. Or something.

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, salary gets a lot of attention because on the average, a teacher with a master's degree (which my state requires) makes $25K a year less than she would in any other field. Let's say that again...$25K less a year. Over 30 years of teaching, that's 3 quarters of a million dollars less. Yes, there are tradeoffs, but it's still a reality.

As a 4th year urban teacher (and one who's planning on leaving urban schools or at least getting paid as much as I possibly can for putting up the the B.S. of urban education), I have to say that the most sensible comment put forth was by 1SG.

Parents are more than half of the equation. I can spend six hours a day 180 days a year trying to convince kids that books are interesting, and that learning is important, but if their parents buy them video games and refuse to buy them a book (which has happened more than once to a student of mine, depressingly) it undoes all the good I've tried to do. If no one at home is stressing that school, grades, and education are important, it becomes that much harder to break through to a student.

Socioeconomics plays a huge part in how successful a child is in school. The other is how seriously the parents take it.

My husband is South Asian. His parents treat education like a religion, and his dad was teaching him squares and cubes as a game before he was in first grade. When you start school with that (as opposed to many of the 5 year olds at my school who start without being able to count to 100, or sometimes even without knowing the alphabet) it's really not surprising that he was successful long term. I'm white, and although I come from a low socioeconomic background, my mother began reading to me when I was a baby and although I had tv and cable, I always had books and was told over and over that I was going to make something of myself. So I did.

Schools are, in the end, a product of the students, the families, the administration, and the teachers. The best teachers can't fix a broken administration, and the best students can't fix a broken teacher. The problem is that no one wants to admit what the biggest problems (poverty, parent involvement) are because there's no logical way to solve them. You can't force a parent who doesn't speak English to read to their child in English. You can't solve poverty. So we attack the "fixable" problem of teachers.

There are days when I wish I'd gone to law school instead.

Posted by: crystal on April 27, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

My son-in-law and daughter both left tenured teaching positions in a middle-class high school in San Mateo, CA. Although they weren't paid that well, the main factor was job dissatisfaction. My impression is that the lack of enthusiasm among the students was a key factor in their decisions.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 27, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK
Namely: useful plants and mammals are now spread worldwide, so the advantage Eurasians had in that are gone. So why is it that some countries (South Korea, Japan, China on its way) have adapted quickly to modern technologies Europeans invented, while others have lagged?

The inertia of comparative advantage, combined with colonization: much of the rest of the world that has done less well was previously colonized by the European powers, during which period of colonization the local economy was actively structured by the colonial powers to focus on extraction and/or cash-crop agriculture. The countries you name were never generally colonized in a way that imposed extractive industry as the center of the economy, and actively resisted, for quite some time, free, open, high-volume trade with the West, even though Western ideas and technology crept in and were adopted.

As a result, much of the world (but not the countries you point to) entered the age of the dominance of liberal international trade as the norm with economies that were built, not by natural accident but through deliberate construction by Western colonial powers, to center on extractive industries, and comparative advantage often being self-reinforcing, are largely stuck there.

The countries you point to were not, and, when they largely entered the liberal international trade regime, did so in better positions.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

This piece was spot on: it's WORKING CONDITIONS, people. You could pay Nobel laureates $250,000 a year to teach in our schools, and they'd still leave in a few months because who wants to be in a job anywhere, regardless of how much you're making, where the people you work with (i.e. teach) can tell you to "go fuck yourself" to your face when you ask for assignments to be turned in, or simply sit in the back of the room snoozing with their IPods. And while there are some angels out there among principals and administrators, for the most part, they care only about test scores and PR (as measured by whether or not THEIR superiors at the D.O. are happy with their compliance with bureaucratic procedures), not whether their schools are actually functioning educational institutions. If we wanted a more reliable indicator of effective schools, we'd ditch NCLB and create an evaluation that produces a rating for a school based on level of attendance at parent-teacher confernces correlated with an assessment of teacher satisfaction with the administration. That would tell you more than anything else whether or not the kids coming out of that school will do well in the future.

Posted by: jonas on April 27, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

"complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools."
Possibly just careless, from-the-hip journalistic writing here. But how do you get from the research cited to "dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools" as a more salient problem. (Do I read this correctly?)
Martin

Posted by: Martin on April 27, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Well, Japan wasn't colonized by the West, but it was completely destroyed by the West in the 1940s, and 30 years later we preferred the automobiles they made.

In the 1950s, South Korea was as poor as African nations, and the general view among economists was that countries like Nigeria and the Philippines would outperform South Korea over coming decades because they were richer in natural resources.

But it didn't happen. Why?

The thing that really convinced me about the importance of IQ is this: let's say Lynn and Vanhanen are right, that there are significant differences in mean IQ between races, and it roughly breaks down like this: East Asians 105, whites 100, most groups in a wide band from the Philippines to India to Morocco across to native Americans are around 85, and sub-Saharan Africans are about 70. Glossing over a lot of subtleties here, like India's caste system producing stratified layers of high-IQ people along with legions of low-IQ people, but still.

Now: if this is essentially true, how would the world look different than it does now? You'd expect New Zealand to flourish and Haiti to fail, and you'd be right. You'd expect Africa to suffer and Europe to boom, and you'd be right. You'd expect Chinese students to do better in the U.S. than black or Hispanic (read: partially native American) students, and you'd be right. You'd expect those same Chinese students to do better than white students in the U.S., and you'd be right.

There's not much in our world that's not explained by this simple list. Some anomalies exist, but Lynn and Vanhanen found a correlation of .82 between per capita GNP and IQ. That's a strikingly high correlation.

So I ask: what do you see in our world that isn't explained pretty cleanly by Lynn and Vanhanen's thesis? The question is asked sincerely. I'll be here all afternoon (lucky you!).

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I teach three sections of honors biology and two sections of regular biology. And the difference between the two types of classes is huge. And I'd say 90% of the difference is parenting. The parents that emphasize education and good behavior and provide a nourishing environment, have kids that mirror those values, and the parents that don't teach those values, or are single parents working long hours to make ends meet, just don't have the resouces. As we increasingly become a society of have's and have-nots, it will get worse.
Combine that will teacher credentialing programs that aren't very effective at teaching teachers how to actually run a classroom, and a lack of incentive on teachers' parts to spend time and energy on extra programs and opportunites for student involvement, and you get disinterested students. It's noteworthy that a study commisioned by the state of CA found that for schools to increase in performance, somewhere between $10 and $50 billion extra would need to be spent in coming years. I don't see the political will to make it happen.

Posted by: Captain on April 27, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Communities are dysfunctional only because of the presence of social conservatives.

Republicans will always try to say that selfishness and bullying are the central principals of human life and since these things destroy social cohesion the Republican will then say that social cohesion is someone else's responsibility, say the Church.

In real life schools and medical care are the central elements of social cohesion, which is why Republicans work hard to limit or destroy them.

Posted by: cld on April 27, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

grenzen, o maybe you can explain why Korean kids adopted by white Belgian couples outscore white Belgian kids in math ability by the same extent that Chinese-born kids from China do.


Because parents capable of international travel for the purposes of adoption and who are so interested in raising children to go to that length are necessarily better parents than most.

Posted by: cld on April 27, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Grenzen,

I find your argument flawed on a number of levels. You argue for a geographic basis of IQ distribution, but isn't that essentially what Diamond proposed in GGS? Sub-Saharan africans weren't located on that magical latitude on Earth that domesticated plants and animals could thrive. Secondly, you mention Asians as being at the highest end of the IQ spectrum, and you seem to cite urbanization and technology as the indicator. That doesn't explain countries like Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, and Vietnam very well. And isn't it possible, indeed likely, that its the cultural norms of many Asian societies to emphasize education, or at least affluence, to which educations is merely a means to an end? Why did the Chinese force their women to bind up their feet into grotesque shapes, breaking the bones of the feet to produce those "lovely" 3-inch feet? That was the result of a cultural standard, the way emphasis on education is. Perhaps it is cultural that is at the root of all of this. If whites are simply more affluence-driven as a culture, that might explain the drive to develop greater guns, germs, and steel with which to take affluence from others. Your insistence on IQ differences leaves out too many other factors to be considered scientific. Finally, as to your question of "why do stars like Angelina Jolie adopt Asian babies, not black ones." I don't know, why do I like Coke more than Pepsi? We do live in a racist society that still hasn't gotten over its slave heritage. Long way from it. That could have something to do with it...

Posted by: Captain on April 27, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a substitute teacher is a Southern California school district that has both very rich and very poor residents.

I've been in dozens of classrooms across all grades and campuses over the last 5 years and as much as I hate it to say it, I'm afraid my observations tend to agree what Grenzen has to say.

My hats off too all teachers. It can be a extremely difficult job.

Posted by: Uncle Bunny on April 27, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

There was an article a couple of months ago about how the difference between the IQ scores of African-American students and caucasoid students has narrowed dramatically in recent years.

Posted by: cld on April 27, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Because parents capable of international travel for the purposes of adoption and who are so interested in raising children to go to that length are necessarily better parents than most."

If that's the case, you'd expect Belgian-born babies adopted from the former Zaire to score as high as the Korean-born adoptees, since they'd have the same driven parents you claim the adoptees of Korean-born kids have.

Believe me, if Zairian-Belgian kids scored higher on math than white Belgian kids, the media would've told us by now.

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I did some substitute teaching in 1995 in some lower income school districts. What I found most distressing was that many children had lost hope of receiving an education. My impression was they learned very early in their experience that school did not have the resources to provide for their educational needs. First and second graders still had the wonder children have, but by the time they were in Fourth grade they had realized school was a warehouse filled with peer pressure and not a place that served their desire for education. I do not know if it was a lack of resources, class overcrowding, too many disruptive children, teacher indifference or family indifference, but cynicism in children of that age was depressing.

The Seventh and Eighth grade students could at least be engaged. I used the "you deserve a good education" gambit to make them agree they should be good students. I would give them college like lectures and make them copy my blackboard outlines on to their notes. That is when I had the most respect and control of a classroom. When I would use teacher's plans and put them in groups to work on 'projects,' that is when all hell would break loose and I would lose class discipline.

I remember my Eighth grade school giving students too much latitude to self-study. We spent most of our time on the basketball court before that was shut down.

Like any managers, teachers need to set expectations and provide the necessary resources for their students to set them up for success. For the lower income students I taught, their expectations were set so low that they quit on education. I do not know if it was the open class policies of the Sixties that caused this or not, but I do know students responded to the teacher student relationship of lecture and note taking.

I think that identifies one part of the California teachers' reasons for leaving: lack of control or input into the curriculum and standards. As a sub I had no school administration pressure to teach the way they wanted or to ensure my kids passed standards tests, but if I did, I bet it would have made the experience less rewarding.

Posted by: Brojo on April 27, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

"When teaching and learning conditions are poor, we discovered that many teachers see their compensation as inadequate. When these teaching and learning conditions are good, not only do teachers tend to stay, they actually view their compensation as a reason for staying."

"Psychic income is an implicit revenue that refers to nonmonetary satisfaction gained from an activity."
http://www.unc.edu/depts/econ/byrns_web/Economicae/Essays/Actg_V_Econ.htm

People always tend to overestimate character and underestimate the environment when it comes to evaluating others. Hence the big magnification about "bad teachers". What needs to be done primarily is to improve the *environments* for these teachers. Easier said than done, but hey aren't there people out there who study this in academia that can be consulted?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

As a multiyear substitute teacher in southern california, the thing that makes me not want to teach at a particular school ususally comes down to class and school size. If I have to teach in the tougher schools, it helps tremendously when the class size is small and the entire atmosphere (especially 6th grade and older) is smaller and more intimate. Much less us-against-them attitude from both teachers and students.

Posted by: Terri on April 27, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"You argue for a geographic basis of IQ distribution, but isn't that essentially what Diamond proposed in GGS?"

No, it certainly is not. That is what Lynn & Vanhanen propose in IQ&tWoN to explain the disparity in wealth between nations (or, more precisely, between regions of the world). In GG&S, Diamond proposed that the difference is explained by various geographic advantages certain nations/regions had, but he pointedly does not make the leap that the different environments humans evolved in over the 50K+ years since we first left Africa made any significant changes in cognitive ability.

"Secondly, you mention Asians as being at the highest end of the IQ spectrum, and you seem to cite urbanization and technology as the indicator."

East Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese) and Southeast Asians (Vietnamese, Filipinos, Laotians, etc.) are very different groups on the IQ scale. East Asians average 105 IQ, SE Asians average in the 80s. This is the reason Chinese businessmen dominate commerce all over the region (see Amy Chua's "World on Fire," where she documents that Chinese make up 1% of the pop of the Philippines but control ~60% of the private industry). Same way whites were able to dominate five 1/2 continents.

The reason Europeans and East Asians developed higher IQs than other groups is a boring Darwinian reason: because they were subject to more intense selection pressures, and what was being selected for was that most important of human traits: intelligence.

Link below, may cause heart palpitations for hard core blank slaters:

http://www.geocities.com/race_articles/lynn_race_evol.html


Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Believe me, if Zairian-Belgian kids scored higher on math than white Belgian kids, the media would've told us by now.


First prove they even exist. Zaire is the last place Belgians want to think about.

It's striking that of all the places in Africa you could have named you named the one with the most racist experience of Belgians.

Posted by: cld on April 27, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Grenzen: What about biology? It's 0% of intelligence, Chris? Try 40%-80%.

WTF: read Guns, Germs, And Steel. Your idea about race and IQ are totally wrong and have been thoroughly disproved and discredited.

I did read it. Fine book. There is a difference between saying biology is 40%-80% of intelligence and saying (as it is usually phrased) that it is some percentage heritable.

IQ is generally thought to be about 50% heritable on average, which means that about 50% of the difference between two groups of people is likely to be caused by genetics and 50% by other causes, such as income, education of parents, quality of teachers, etc. Genetics establish a maximum, and environment subtracts from it.

This varies by income level. Among rich people, IQ is more than 50% heritable, because the parts of the environment that affect IQ are pretty much equalized: they all go to good schools with good teachers and lots of supplies, and their parents are more involved, and all that, so whatever IQ difference is left is likely to be genetic. Even if biology turns out to be, oh, say, 10% of intelligence, in Grenzen's way of putting it, that 10% might account for 95% of the difference between IQs of rich kids.

Among poor people, IQ is less than 50% heritable, because the environmental influences that improve IQ are variable and more likely to be missing. Environmental subtractions are greater among poor people than among rich people.

Right thinking liberals would want IQ to be 100% heritable, because that would mean that everyone had an environment equally conducive to reaching one's full potential IQ.

I recommend IQ and Human Intelligence, by N. J. Mackintosh.

Posted by: anandine on April 27, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Grenzen: "The reason Europeans and East Asians developed higher IQs than other groups is a boring Darwinian reason: because they were subject to more intense selection pressures, and what was being selected for was that most important of human traits: intelligence."

This makes perfect sense. You can certainly see what the US has selected these days by the $$ value placed. Pro athletes and entertainers making mega millions while.. wait for it.... TEACHERS struggle to make ends meet.

Posted by: A Suburban Mom on April 27, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

cld,

I picked ex-Zaire because I figured it'd be a country Belgians would adopt kids from b/c of that history. I'm sure there are some, and if they outscored white kids from Belgium by ~5 IQ points in math I assure you we'd have heard about it.

The specific countries don't matter: for your point above to hold, we could pick white British couples adopting Nigerian babies or French couples adopting Ivoirien babies. The point would be the same: these adoptees do not outscore white British / French / whatever kids on math tests, which is what you'd expect if your claim in the past at 2:30 pm upthread were true.

But Korean kids in Belgium *did*. Why?

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

crystal at 1:26

It's never too late. I walked out of teaching high school band after my 3rd year (and with a Masters), not because of the kids but because of the grownups I had to deal with, and went to law school. I graduated with honors and am now partner in a smalltown firm. A fellow band director graduated first in his class (2 years ahead of me) and is pulling down 6 figures, while a special education teacher in my class is now a local assistant D.A. You'd be surprised how well teaching experience prepares you for success in law school.

Posted by: Alan on April 27, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Suburban Mom: read the Lynn paper. Racially, we're talking evolution over the past 20-50K years, not something more recent (although in the case of Ashkenazic Jews the selection pressures were more interesting and more recent, see the Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending paper that got so much press a couple of years ago.)

Posted by: Grenzen on April 27, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I would suggest that East Asian children have a great many models of success they can access and that are actively accessed by their interested adoptive parents as East Asia is a focus of considerable current interest, especially among the better educated, while Africa is not, but is rather an object of pity and is largely to be thought of as so unfortunate let's just not pay a lot of attention to it, even among those who have adopted African children, who, though perhaps well-meaning, can hardly be giving those children a good impression, while the opposite attitude gives Asian children a lot to think about.

There is simply a lot more upside over the next few decades for someone who looks Asian but can get around in the west, while for African-adoptees the prospect is, at best, even.

Posted by: cld on April 27, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK
Well, Japan wasn't colonized by the West, but it was completely destroyed by the West in the 1940s, and 30 years later we preferred the automobiles they made.

It wasn't completely destroyed. Economic comparative advantage isn't just infrastructure, its concentration of knowledge and skills for particular work, too. And even cultural practices which reflect the value placed on certain activities which have been aligned to a particular kind of economy. while devastating infrastructure can, especially if it isn't restored in short order, dramatically realign economic comparative advantage, it doesn't need to in the long-term if the infrastructure is restored in a reasonable time, because knowledge, skills, and the relevant components of culture don't evaporate overnight.

In the 1950s, South Korea was as poor as African nations, and the general view among economists was that countries like Nigeria and the Philippines would outperform South Korea over coming decades because they were richer in natural resources.

Perhaps so; that reliance on extractive industries in a liberal international regime is a recipe for permanent poverty unless you have an incredible supply of a very narrowly held, unsubstitutable resource, and even then its not particularly a good engine for a developed economy may not have been clear to economists of the 1950s, but its been pretty well established since then.

But Korea didn't focus on reinforcing and playing to its short term comparative advantage the way that IMF/World Bank "development" policies have often encourage extraction-dependent developing countries to do, but instead took the bounty of US aid which came without those kind of strings and focussed on longer-term development in areas where it didn't presently have anything close to comparative advantage, but where if it could develop it there would be great rewards.

That's not a matter of Koreans being smarter. Its a matter of Korea having access to external resources without a mandate to use them in a short-sighted way.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Grenzen is right! We should stop trying to educate Hispanics and African Americans. We should put them to work from the age of 4! The males can shine our shoes when they are not busy shooting up, and the females can do our laundry when they are not giving birth or performing their duty as nappy-headed hos. Thank you for enlightening us!

Will you please go away now? Pretty please? Pretty please with sugar on top? Climb back into Satan's mouth with your buddies.

Posted by: reino on April 27, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

There is a significant amount of well-done research documenting the fact that the working conditions in a school have a profound impact on teachers' decisions to stay or leave. "Working conditions" include many factors (e.g., quality of administration, available resources, student behavior, collegial relationships), only one of which is salary. Improving the working conditions in a school requires work on multiple fronts, and is a complex endeavor.

As for the discussion concerning IQ and race, anandine describes a line of research that directly contradicts Grenzen's argument. The relationship between race and SES is highly complex, because environmental factors strongly influence the development of the types of skills assessed by IQ tests. In brief (and this is nothing more than a reiteration of anandine's point), low SES mutes observed IQ differences because the factors associated with low SES overwhelm students' genetic gifts. It's like putting 100 lb. backpacks on the backs of the five basketball players on team A, and then saying that the players on team B are genetically superior because they beat team A every time. We can't get a true measure of the genetic abilities of team A players until we figure out a way to lighten the debilitating extra weight that they're carrying around.

Posted by: Parry on April 27, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I teach at the local community college and at a large technical school that has been in business for over 140 years, (Wink) and the difference in the caliber of student and their level of preparation is staggering. The technical school focuses primarily on the technical aspect of the education with the attitude that poor grammar can be completely “fixed” in 18 months. The community college focuses on students who are planning to attend four-year colleges or universities, with many continuing on to graduate school.

The technical school’s ads, which run day and night (radio, television, busses), promise a convenient store mentality of, “Get ‘n an’ Get out!” The ads are made for the GED students or for those afraid of the two, two and a half year commitment of a community college, or they tried community college and got lost in the shuffle. The students do receive an associate’s degree, but in today’s world where advanced degrees being sold by the gross, what does a two-year degree truly offer in an ocean of the outsourced unemployed?

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on April 27, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I taught in a high-poverty school and have many friends who still teach in such environments. A few observations about working in a high-poverty based on firsthand experience:
1) The quality of a school's administration plays a huge role in teacher retention and academic improvement. Without good leadership, there is no continuity or structure.
2) Yes, home life often is a significant factor in achievement, but it is not deterministic. Mostly, people who don't give a shit about the kids use parents as an excuse to not try to give them the help they need.
3) Teaching in a high-needs environment is some of the most grueling work there is, so it's REALLY hard to blame teachers for moving to greener pastures for a better work environment AND higher pay.

Posted by: Danwich on April 27, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

We used to have a captive audience to act as teachers (i.e., intelligent women) so were able to pay them awful salaries and get away with it.

Now the present mess hasn't been made any better by the fact that a sizeable percentage of Americans don't value education or intellectual pursuits. (And most of them don't come from the inner-city.)

Sometimes I think we should bring back child labor for kids who act up in school or who don't exert themselves....a few weeks of back-breaking work on the farm, 12 hrs a day as an alternative--I bet they'd be very happy to sit quietly in a classroom and study hard.

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 27, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Alan, at 3:34 pm. Now I am feeling completely desolate, and not because I didn't go to law school. Is there anything anyone could have done to keep you and your colleagues in education, or should I just yank my (music-loving and sped -needing) two kids right now?

Posted by: scribo on April 27, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

"The Wire" is rerunning the school arc--six kids and their year in public school. Those of us who know will see our lives as teachers and the lives of our kids; the rest of you will learn a lot more than you will reading some crap sociological tome.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 27, 2007 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

My friend Richard used to teach in an inner city school. That is, until one day, a large student came and picked him up and slammed him against the wall. Richard is not a big guy. The student was.

We have a situation in which students are out of control, with no consequences. Perhaps we need to paddle them?

Posted by: POed Lib on April 27, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Paddle them for throwing a teacher against a wall? No--you expel them and press charges.

Posted by: reino on April 27, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

As a teacher in a dysfunctional urban school I have to say that I deeply resent the casual assumption that the reason that these schools are failing is because they come from dysfunctional communities. Yes, there are significant problems in West Philadelphia, where I teach, but that is not why my school is falling apart. My school is falling apart because there is an institutional bias in the design of the American educational system that makes it nearly impossible to succeed. There are plenty of kids who have a terrible home life and face tremendous challenges b ut who would still succeed in school if school was a place that made any sense to them at all. But instead, we don't have any books, and the ones that we do have are about kids who take school buses to nice, clean, multi-ethnic schools. If we as a nation took seriously the responsibility to create urban schools that were thoughtfully planned to satisfy the unique needs of low-income minority communities, and most importantly capitlized on their strengths schools could serve as the vehicles of social mobility they should be. But as long as my fellow teachers are calling kids burger-flippers the schools will remain dysfunctional, and we can keep on saying we don't have to do anything about the schools because it's the parents fault.

Posted by: annoyed on April 28, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

We can bookend this post with your comments on the Iraqi casualty study published in Lancet, which had a solid methodology but whose conclusions you had a gut feeling wasn't right. Sheesh.
Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:05 PM

Gregory, why in the world should we trust your "gut feelings" about civilain casualties in Iraq? I don't know how accurate that JHU/Lancet study was, but if you really want to know what's going on there, and quit relying on your "gut feelings", then why don't you sign up, go there to fight for your great cause, and see what sort of gut feelings you have then...

Posted by: Neil B. on April 28, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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