According to data compiled by the Council of Great City Schools and reported in the New York Times, poor white kids do better on standardized tests (the National Assessment for Educational Progress) than black kids not living in poverty, from the Times article:
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.
Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.
This will cause shock and dismay in the crowd that thinks money is the source of all educational problems. Which is, of course, the same crowd that would benefit if more money were thrown education’s way, but that’s a matter for another day.
What is resolutely considered as blaspheme, thus preventing any discussion about it whatsoever, is the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, the reason white kids–even poor white kids–perform better than blacks–even non-poor blacks–is that white kids have, on average, innately greater intellectual capability than do black kids. There, I said it.
Intelligence is closely tied to the speed with which the brain processes information. Is it so outlandish to consider that perhaps there are real differences amongst the various races in the speed of neural processes? Does it condemn all blacks to intellectual inferiority because the average black processes information more slowly than does the average white? Of course not.
Even a casual glance around at the world yields the inescapable conclusion, racist though it may seem to some, that the various races excel at different endeavors. Jews of Northern European descent represent less than two percent of the population of the United States, but are far greater than two percent of the population of lawyers, doctors, hedge fund managers, etc. Can their success at these endeavors be strictly attributed to nurture, i.e., their environment? What is substantially different about the environment of a Jewish immigrant from Northern Europe living in Brooklyn, and that of a black child growing up a few blocks away in Harlem? Blacks comprise about twelve percent of the population, yet represent well over half of the starters on professional football and basketball teams. Are we to pretend this is this solely the result of nurture? What about a black’s upbringing is so substantially different that he learns to run faster, jump higher, throw and shoot more accurately and hit harder than his white counterpart with whom he played sports in his youth?
If we accept that certain races may, on average, have certain genetic advantages that predispose them to excel in certain areas–e.g., blacks in sports and entertainment and Jews in medicine and law–then why do we refuse to acknowledge that those same genes may be driving different outcomes in the classroom?
Just because a white kid can’t run as fast as a black kid, doesn’t mean he can’t run. Just because a black kid can’t compute derivatives as fast as an Asian kid doesn’t mean he can’t compute derivatives. It’s not a death-knell for black intellectual achievement if it is acknowledged that blacks, on average, aren’t as quick in the classroom as their white and Asian and Jewish counterparts, just as it does not condemn all white men to mediocrity on the basketball court if we acknowledge that blacks, on average, are quicker to the boards than are whites.
In classroom tests–just as in athletic contests–speed is the difference, and to a certain extent, speed can’t be learned. It can be practiced such that the fastest speed attainable by a particular configuration of genes is obtained, and individual configurations of genes are as variable as are individuals. But when we look at averages between races, such as studies like this do, the overall genetic propensities show up. I bet if you took the same group of white kids and timed them in a forty yard dash against the same group of black kids, the average time for the black kids would be lower than it is for the white kids. That’s not to say any individual white is slower than any individual black, but when grouped as races, genetic proclivities reveal themselves.
Biologists like to promise that genetics, the source of all the attributes humans possess, may one day provide cures to all sorts of diseases and conditions, yet at the same time they like to claim there are no practical genetic differences across the races. It can’t be both ways. Either genes matter or they don’t. If genes matter, at hardly much more than a glance, I’m quite sure I share fewer genes with Michael Jordan than I do with somebody else that doesn’t look like or play basketball like Michael Jordan (I’m struggling to think of an example of a blue-eyed redhead of average height and weight that’s famous–I gots nothing). If genes don’t matter, then how come I never made it to the NBA? I played and played and played basketball in my driveway growing up–practically every day after school when it wasn’t football season. Why didn’t I get any better than I did? Probably the same reason I will never fully understand Einstein’s relativity theory, although my chances of understanding Einstein are far better than I would ever have had of making the NBA. From years of testing and experience, I know that I am far above-average intellectually, yet near or slightly below average athletically. My lack of athletic ability owes nothing to a lack of nurturing. When I was a kid, I would gladly have traded a bunch of IQ points for the ability to slam-dunk a basketball.
It is patently absurd to ignore the reality that race matters when compiling overall performance statistics for racial groups. Barring the consideration of intellectual differences across the races in a study that specifically accounts for intellectual abilities according to race (else we wouldn’t have the statistics) is tantamount to ruling out a lack of gas being the reason the lawnmower won’t crank without even allowing the tank be checked for gas. Differences in intellectual ability would explain all of the results of the study, yet can’t even be investigated. We are forced to assume that the tank is not dry, as we keep tinkering with the motor and pulling the lanyard to no avail.