Saturday, December 11, 2010

Other People's Children Left Behind

Charles Blow, in this morning's Times, reminds us that children are being hurt, right now, by what we aren't doing to help them:

Parents play a large role in this inequality, but so do policies. As the report wisely asks, “Is there a point beyond which falling behind is not inevitable but policy susceptible, not unavoidable but unacceptable, not inequality but inequity?”

I say absolutely.

I would hope that we could move to improve this situation. But at the very least, we mustn’t make it worse.

I wrote Mr Blow to thank him. When I was in college in the late 1960s, Arthur Jensen's scientific racism was in flower. I interviewed the magisterial, brilliant Doxey Wilkerson, a professor of sociology, on the subject. He began by pointing out that, even were Jensen's work assumed valid, any given black child might be further to the intelligent side of the Bell Curve than any given white child, and, therefore, Jensen's work could not be used to make policy that would deny black populations any of the educational opportunities available to white children. Prof. Wilkerson--a black man, as it happens--then went on to demolish Jensen's methodology. Today, it seems that such as Jensen, and the later Murray and Herrnstein work, are unacknowledged cornerstones in the world views of too many, in fact but not in name, and the need to solve problems rejected in cynical dismissal of even the possibility. And, to add insult to injury, they oft label those who disagree as 'political correct', or even racist, their most visible spokesmen employing appalling, ugly rhetoric to do so. At a time when they cite a potted macroeconomics to justify, again, an evasion of personal responsibility for any but themselves, Blow's work is especially valuable.


Caroline A. Phillips said...

I love these sorts of visual aids. They really cut through the rhetoric.

I am only a bit confused that Unicef did not include African nations in this chart. Or did they? Perhaps they were edited out in the name of political correctness.

Anyway, this chart ought to be reprinted again and again on a grand scale for all to see. Mr. Blow has really seized the moment by relating budget cuts/austerity measures to the plight of the children.

If only more of our elected officials would remember to shout this from the highest hills, early and often.

Who ever would have thought that our children would give their eye teeth to emigrate to------
the Czech Republic.

ProfWombat said...

Yup. Gotta be careful about 'em, but Blow's is perfect. Beck uses his blackboard, too...

Lots of economic models use graphs and functions of really poorly defined units that look great and mean nothing in the real world.

And what a shame that we, as a society, think that what we're doing is good enough, and, if it isn't, it's somebody else's fault...

Brightshadow said...

I once copy edited a book of Jensen's -- I think it was Jensen -- anyway someone of that school (is it a school?) who felt very ill-used by the media. He was setting out his beliefs by listing the most important figures in various scientific and artistic disciplines, and making it statistically valid by using the appearance of these names in a huge assortment of journals and encyclopedias in order to prove that the white race (and males) produced more worthwhile &c.

Of course it wasn't my place as an underling to challenge his premises, but I did point out that he'd listed both Arthur Sullivan and William Gilbert among the 100 most important musical figures of the last 500 (was it?) years, and that Gilbert was famously tone deaf and even boasted of the fact.

But I doubt I caused him to rethink his premises. Much less his prejudices.