2010 August 18 Wednesday
New York City Fails To Close Racial Test Gap

Previous claims of great progress were totally bogus. Remember that the next time you hear claims of some school system or single school doing what's never been done.

When results from the 2010 tests, which state officials said presented a more accurate portrayal of students’ abilities, were released last month, they came as a blow to the legacy of the mayor and the chancellor, as passing rates dropped by more than 25 percentage points on most tests. But the most painful part might well have been the evaporation of one of their signature accomplishments: the closing of the racial achievement gap.

Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians.

I've been expecting a big drive to fire teachers since the number of untried alternatives is getting pretty short. So it no surprise that some academic education researchers advocate firing 80% of new teachers after 2 years. (really). This speaks to the desperateness of liberals trying to hang on to their mythology. How else to stop the slide down of whole states? One might wonder just what goes on in schools with really low performing students. Or one might turn away and dream new dreams.

Once large scaling firing of teachers doesn't do the trick what's going to be the next imagined silver bullet? I'm thinking boarding schools. Totally take over the waking hours of kids. Total immersion. That won't work either of course. But it is something politicos in the education racket haven't tried and they need new hopes to trumpet.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 August 18 10:36 PM  Education

ASPIRANT said at August 18, 2010 11:15 PM:

Do you expect the average person to be able to come close to processing this?

I'm sure this is OK for you; you've lived your life valuing the veracity of information more than how that information makes you feel. You stare unflinchingly into the abyss at every opportunity. You make a hobby of it. But this isn't how most people operate.

Friends of mine would seriously consider suicide if they thought about things like this as often as you, If they let down their shield of pretty lies. Their value systems are incom-fucking-patible with fact. Luckily for them, they have defense mechanisms in place... they'd likely call any source for this information racist, and they would rebound off of that to further call that source retarded. There are no intelligent racists, after all. I agree they should be demonized, but for being morally empty and lacking empathy, rather than for the facts that they embrace.

As for me... I'm hoping to find a solution. Short of singularity, I haven't found one that doesn't lead to another fiasco or a holocaust. People smarter than me have been examining this stuff for ages. I'd say I should just become a mongoloid and be happy, but my hope is that there exists a solution that hasn't come to light yet, and only by being well-versed in how the world really works will I be able to recognize it when they finally bring it out.

I know it'll involve the average person becoming aware of these things, and of course the only way to make such a thing swallowable is to offer a path to a desirable future for everyone. But until then, things will fester.

What do YOU hope comes of all this? Do you hope for a eugenic future, where only the smartest humans are able to reproduce, leading to the narrowing of the gaps between us (and fewer blacks)? I know there's no way, unless you're truly empty, that you can think about this so much and not have some sort of hope for how things turn out... at least, at the end of the day, a preferred outcome.

A.Prole said at August 19, 2010 12:39 AM:

Perhaps it's a sign of their utter desperation - and of the paramount obsession with 'race', that the hard-left is able to ruthlessly turn on its own #Teachers' Unions#, in fact to make proposals ie sacking 80% of teachers every 2 years, that would make the hardest bastard most right-wing businessman even flinch.Not even the most ruthless, money grabbing predatory businessman would treat his workers that badly, and yet this is seriously being proposed by the 'lovey-dovey' state sector to be enacted on 'professional' employees and not even hourly-paid workers!
Where are the howls of protest!

Mthson said at August 19, 2010 2:06 AM:


Genetic engineering should be able to do great things for the racial gap. At the end of the day, neither white liberals or NAMs are anti-high-intelligence.

Once genetic engineering becomes standard, if even 33% of each generation of NAM children are conceived with genetic engineering help, NAMs as a whole will soon have high intelligence genes like everybody else. Even if they bias their genetic choices toward athletic ability, it's not a problem to give kids both athletic and high intelligence genes.

Anybody with a conscience needs to be an advocate of genetic engineering.

B.R. said at August 19, 2010 8:50 AM:

In today's climate, 33% of NAM children is very high. Take blacks. 70% of blacks born today are bastards, putting an absolute ceiling of 30% on the frequency of genetic engineering, ceteris paribus. Of course, not all else is equal.

If genetic engineering becomes legalized, I'd expect the gap to grow dramatically at first. Take a relatively conservative eugenic technology, like preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which Richard Lynn says can raise IQ from parent average by about 15 points. We'll be extremely optimistic, and say that among whites and blacks born to married couples, PGD is used about the same rate. If 33% of children born to married couples were conceived using PGD, among both blacks and whites, there would be a 1.5 point rise in average black IQ, and a ~3.75 IQ point rise for whites, on average.

Randall Parker said at August 19, 2010 9:41 PM:


When genetic testing enables embryo selection when doing IVF I expect the smartest people to embrace the technology first and fastest. I see a few reasons for this:

- Smart people have a better appreciation of the value of higher intelligence.
- Smart people mostly secretly understand that genes cause intelligence differences.
- Smart people have fewer religious qualms about IVF.
- Smart people can afford the IVF and genetic tests.
- Fewer babies of smart people are born accidentally. IVF works better with those who plan.

Therefore embryo selection for higher IQ will widen the gap between groups.

Mthson said at August 19, 2010 11:17 PM:


Thanks for the good points.

-African Americans are outliers even among NAMs. Latino Americans will certainly do much better, and will be around twice the size or more of the African American population. Regionally speaking, advancement among Latino Americans would fix the main problem of states like California, New Mexico, and Arizona, and would leave the South, with its high African American population, as the main region having a problem. Perhaps all the energy traditionally devoted to make-believe educational reforms will instead be channeled to getting African Americans to the reprogenetic clinic... making progress each generation.

-A 15 point IQ gain from PGD would have a revolutionary effect on society, but even that will be followed by more powerful genetic engineering less limited by the existing neurogenomes of the parents.

In said at August 20, 2010 7:06 AM:

There are a couple of "silver bullets" that might actually work.

1.) Improve the diet. I've heard of a few schools that tried this and there were significant improvements in grades and behavior. I can't find the references but I've seen at least two news program (60 minutes, dateline) pieces on this topic.

2.) Traditional religion. It is well known that when a social group embraces a religious ethic it produces better behavior which would no doubt translate to better grades.

The number 1 is politically possible, number 2 I'm afraid not.

ASPIRANT said at August 20, 2010 2:03 PM:

>>1.) Improve the diet. I've heard of a few schools that tried this and there were significant improvements in grades and behavior. I can't find the references but I've seen at least two news program (60 minutes, dateline) pieces on this topic.
Oh my god... I can't even get these people to remember their phone number. How do you expect us to get the parents to stop and think "Should I really feed my kids a mess of twinkies and ho-hos for dinner?" Especially when the crappy food is so packed full of addictive chemicals, with bright packaging and friendly looking cartoon characters on it? These people are probably barely aware of their surroundings.

>>2.) Traditional religion. It is well known that when a social group embraces a religious ethic it produces better behavior which would no doubt translate to better grades. // I'm afraid not.

Never say never.

In said at August 20, 2010 4:00 PM:

In the news pieces I believe the schools were feeding breakfast and lunch to the children. Also its not just about helping the dumbest. Most Americans would benefit cognitively from a better diet. So we could do other things like ending farm subsidies that
that drive down the price of HFCS, corn oil, soybean oil and other modern poisons. Businesses and individuals (yes even dumb ones) would respond to price signals, although I'm not sure how much of an effect that would have.

Randall Parker said at August 20, 2010 6:05 PM:


To answer your original question: I know I do not write for the average person. No, the average person can not grasp the truth.

Obviously even a substantial fraction of the smart population wants to engage in massive delusion about human nature.

Tis true:

You stare unflinchingly into the abyss at every opportunity.

I started doing this somewhere around 13 years old. There was a moment when I was reading about death and dying (e.g. I was reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) when I decided that if learning about something makes me upset or uncomfortable then I've got to learn more about it. I've pretty much stuck with that attitude ever since and applied it to many subjects.


There's no silver bullet.

In said at August 21, 2010 7:45 AM:

I didn't mean a silver bullet to "close the achievement gap" per se. That may not be possible if you are treating each group even evenhandedly, but so much of this blog is concerned with the decline of human capital in the US.

Like so many pathologies, said decline is almost certainly multifactorial. My contention is that the adulterated American food supply makes us stupider, in many cases significantly so. Do you disagree with me on this?


Randall Parker said at August 21, 2010 10:18 AM:


I do not know what the net effect is of the American food supply on brain development. It might be a more complicated story than it appears at first glance. For example, might insulin produced in response to a higher sugar diet cause more neuronal growth? Insulin might be responsible for seeing problems by causing uneven eye development. Maybe it also stimulates brain growth.

As for doing anything about it: The lower classes are pretty resistant to advice, dietary or otherwise. So any measures to improve their diets would have to not depend on their cooperation.

In said at August 21, 2010 1:39 PM:

I'd have a hard time believing on balance the effect on society is anything but negative, but you are right, this is not something studied much so we don't really know. I've had various pet speculations on this topic. For example, perhaps the introverted, sensitive, nerdy person with improved analytical skills is nature's way of compensating for a rough developmental environment like poor diet. Also according to Stephen Pinker, violence has been declining through out history and continues in modern times. I've often wondered if part of that is due to modern food's affect on lowering testosterone and energy levels. I even get really out there with the speculations sometimes wondering if the world is trying to produce more sensitive spiritual types through modern foods. Of course, none of this can easily be verified.

As for doing anything about it: schools could feed breakfast and lunch to kids (thats a little less than half the meals a week) and we could end farm subsidies. No advice taking required. Just send the kids to school and respond to price signals.

Randall Parker said at August 22, 2010 11:16 AM:


The rise of the nation-start created a near monopoly on violence. We still have individual acts of violence. But violence doesn't offer the returns on investment that it used to offer in terms of reproductive advantage.

However, some of the reduction in the rate of violence in recent decades has been due to:

- Aging population. Old people do not pound on each other so much. Less able. Less testosterone.
- High incarceration rate.
- Lots of technological protections such as cell phones that enable police to respond more rapidly to a witnessed crime.
- Video games as an outlet for aggressive urges.

But I do not expect the decline in violence to be sustained in the US unless we want to ratchet up the incarceration rate. Other factors are going to weigh in to push up a resurgence of violence.

In said at August 26, 2010 6:47 PM:


Not sure if you watched the video, but Pinker speculates about the reasons for the decline and your first reason is the same as his. I found a transcript (below). I suspect there are a lot of subtle, unknown, hard to pin down factors that are shaping this, like change in diet.

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources. The resulting fear of attack will tempt the neighbors to strike first in preemptive self-defense, which will in turn tempt the first group to strike against them preemptively, and so on. This danger can be defused by a policy of deterrence—don't strike first, retaliate if struck—but, to guarantee its credibility, parties must avenge all insults and settle all scores, leading to cycles of bloody vendetta. These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation. Indeed, Eisner and Elias attribute the decline in European homicide to the transition from knightly warrior societies to the centralized governments of early modernity. And, today, violence continues to fester in zones of anarchy, such as frontier regions, failed states, collapsed empires, and territories contested by mafias, gangs, and other dealers of contraband.

Payne suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one's own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms. As people acquire know-how that they can share cheaply with others and develop technologies that allow them to spread their goods and ideas over larger territories at lower cost, their incentive to cooperate steadily increases, because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

Then there is the scenario sketched by philosopher Peter Singer. Evolution, he suggests, bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, à la Wright, but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable—the feeling that "there but for fortune go I".

Randall Parker said at August 26, 2010 8:19 PM:


I think I've previously read Pinker on incarceration. Maybe he discussed it in Blank Slate. I read it 8 years ago and can't remember. I do not his ideas here novel or new.

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have a much higher rate of criminality than almost all (or all?) European countries. In spite of America's incarceration rate lots of areas in America have far higher crime rates than I'd want to be anywhere near.

Expanding kernels of empathy: I think that trend is going to reverse. Multi-ethnic nations have less of that and lots of Western nations are becoming more heterogeneous.

In said at August 29, 2010 8:18 AM:


What I'd be curious to know is if violent temperaments are getting selected for or against. I suspect the gangster types are more likely to die young, but OTOH they may also be more likely to impregnate females. It seems like the former would be a stronger feature than the latter but I don't know. It should be relatively easy to compare the fertility rates of violent criminals vs. the population at large.

Randall Parker said at August 29, 2010 11:33 AM:


I've wondered about the efficiency of the criminal justice system versus the impulsiveness of criminals and their girlfriends. Do they knock up their girlfriends before getting put away for a long time? Do they do most of their impregnating in their teens, 20s, or 30s?

Dummies are out-reproducing smarties. Criminals are dumber than the average. So that weighs in favor of the idea that criminals are being selected for. But I do not have enough insight into who among the dummies makes babies.

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