Thursday, April 14, 2011

Edited Telegraph Article

Consider this hypothetical article (NOT genuine: Woodhead has never said the following).

WHITE CHILDREN HAVE BETTER GENES, SAYS CHRIS WOODHEAD.

Children from white families do well at school because they have "better genes", according to Chris Woodhead, the former head of Ofsted.

...

He said ministers should accept that some children were born "not very bright" and stop convincing themselves otherwise.

In an interview, he called for more segregation by ability to prevent average pupils dragging down more intelligent classmates.

The comments are likely to renew controversy over academic selection in the state education system.

A study last week by the Sutton Trust charity found thousands of bright children were being failed in struggling comprehensives.

Research suggested many pupils ranked among the best in the country at the age of 11 dropped back by 16 after being placed in "deprived" secondary schools.

It blamed the "peer effect", saying that top-performing pupils benefited from being educated with other bright teenagers.

Speaking on Tuesday, Prof Woodhead, chief inspector of schools between 1994 and 2000, said many black children background did exceptionally well at school.

But he insisted that some "not very bright" pupils should be taken out of the classroom and given practical training.

"I've taught, and I can still remember trying to interest, children who had no interest whatsoever in English," he said. "They didn't want to be in the classroom. If I'm honest, I didn't want them to be there either because they were disruptive to [other] children.

"What was the point? If we had had a system whereby those young people were able to follow practical educational courses that gave them a sense of worth, a sense that they weren't dull and less intelligent than others, it would have been much better for them."


What do you think about this article? Before you read on, ask yourself, what sort of response does it draw from you? What do you think of the arguments it contains, or implies?

So here's the thing. This article is a real article in which "working class" and "middle class", have been removed and replaced by "black" and "white". Here's the original.

Woodhead's attitude, if expressed about race, would be hugely shocking to almost everyone outside the BNP. We'd certainly be right to be rather skeptical about it. We'd be asking on what evidence these claims about genetic inferiority were being made. However, because Woodhead made the claims about class, an awful lot of Telegraph readers will just shrug and say, "Yes, well obviously. Glad he's got the courage to say it."

This country absolutely reeks of class bigotry. Many people have bought into the genetic inferiority line, at least implicitly, without having actually thought about it very much. There are some good questions worth asking about genetics and class and exactly how they are related. But Chris Woodhead has already made up his mind.

To my mind, Woodhead is just as odious a bigot as if had expressed those racist views.

57 comments:

Geoff said...

It's hard to know on the basis of this short article exactly what leads Woodhead to make these claims. But if we take him at his word, he infers from pupils not wanting to study e.g. English to the claim that they are not very bright. I think this absurd inference tells us more about Woodhead than it does about his pupils.

What other evidence does Woodhead offer for his claims about poorer families having poorer genes? None, in this article at least.

Stephen, I suggest that, in addition to publicly challenging Woodhead, you privately take pity on him and send him a copy of "Believing Bullshit".

Anonymous said...

What exactly, Stephen, is it that you're so sceptical about? The idea that intelligence is partly hereditary? The idea that intelligent people are more likely to get high-paying, high-status jobs? The first is, I think, pretty well-established amongst psychological circles; the second seems fairly uncontroversial, too.

"But Chris Woodhead has already made up his mind."

No offence, but it sounds like you have, too.

Stephen Law said...

I am skeptical about various claims, most obviously that the reason that working class kids show up so rarely in boardrooms, law firms, etc is primarily down to the fact that working class children are genetically less able.

I am also skeptical about the claim that we already have something like a meritocracy in this country (if not a perfect one), and that private schooling, internships, nepotism, inherited wealth, peer group effects don't make it significantly unmeritocratic.

I am skeptical in the sense that while I acknowledge the possibility of the claim being true, I don't think this has been anywhere near established.

Stephen Law said...

"No offence, but it sounds like you have, too."

Explain yourself. What have I made up my mind about?

Anonymous said...

"Woodhead's attitude, if expressed about race, would be hugely shocking to almost everyone outside the BNP."

Translation: if Woodhead had expressed a different opinion, people would have different reactions to it.

Anyway, Woodhead's comment aren't about race, and the two positions aren't the same. For one thing, the idea that smart people are more likely to both get high-paying jobs and have smart children has significanly more face validity than the idea that black people are inherently less intelligent than white people. Yes, some people might seize on Woodhead's comment to justify snobbery; but if you reject a theory because it can be abused like that, you'd end up having to reject pretty much every theory that's been invented. This whole article just reads like an attempt to smear Woodhead using guilt by association, which if I may say so is a pretty low debating tactic. I really expected better of you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's claiming that we have a perfect meritocracy, but the idea that successful, intelligent people are more likely to have intelligent children doesn't seem hugely unlikely to me. The fact that there are other factors which might hold working-class people back doesn't mean that this isn't also a factor.

"Explain yourself. What have I made up my mind about?"

Well the fact that you tried to link your opponents' position to racism makes it look like you have at some level already decided that it's wrong.

Stephen Law said...

“This whole article just reads like an attempt to smear Woodhead using guilt by association, which if I may say so is a pretty low debating tactic. I really expected better of you.”

That’s you attempting to smear me, in fact! Nice try.

What I am actually doing is looking for inconsistency in people’s positions (as I have already explained in comment on previous post).

Race is just the most obvious example to choose to bring out that inconsistency, if it exists (I am very obviously NOT accusing Woodhead of racism e.g. "by association").

John said...

Stephen,

This country absolutely reeks of class bigotry.

Yes it does. I see it in blog posts constantly.

Stephen Law said...

Anonymous

Woodhead identifies one social class as producing the "problem" kids, and puts this down to working class kids being genetically inferior on average.

Why so? Because he apparently thinks that intelligence is in large part inherited (that bit is certainly true), so people in intelligent jobs will tend to have kids that are more intelligent then the rest, on average.

However, Woodhead certainly has not shown that middle class kids will tend to be innately more intelligent, certainly not significantly more innately intelligent, then working class kids. The "better genes" claim is very suspect.

There all sorts of reasons why. Here are just three: (i) what additional intelligence is required for these jobs may be almost entirely bestowed upon those holding them by non-genetic advantages (private schools, private tutors, pre- and post natal diet, peer group, etc. etc.), (ii) those handing out the jobs may be heavily biased in favour of intelligent middle class kids over intelligent working class kids, and (iii) it may not even occur to intelligent working class kids to apply for such jobs ("not for the likes of us").

We know that, through such factors working in tandem, white people can entirely corner the market in “intelligent” jobs generation after generation, even if black people are just as intelligent, genetically speaking.

Now, Woodhead notes the working classes fail to show up much in the "intelligent" jobs: lawyers, etc.. But of course the same is true of black people. Moreover, it may be true that working class parents tend to produce a higher percentage of the “problem” kids, but then that’s probably also true of black parents, isn’t it?

So why then does Woodhead suppose there's a genetic basis for lower intelligence in class but not in race?

In fact, neither conclusion is yet warranted by the facts Woodhead notes in the article. In so far as those conclusions are based on the facts noted there, both conclusions are equally suspect. Anyone jumping from those facts to the conclusion that the working classes are genetically inferior is, I’d suggest, either a twit or a bigot.

P.S. Just to be clear, let me acknowledge, yet again, that there may indeed be differences in intelligence between classes and races in part due to genetics. I would not want to deny that possibility.

In fact I think it quite plausible that there’s *some* genetic difference in intelligence correlated with class. Perhaps that’s also true with respect to race.

But I do have significant doubts about whether such differences largely accounts for the relative lack of social mobility so far as working class (and indeed black people) is concerned.

My expressing such doubts has obviously irritated some people! But they still seem very reasonable doubts to me.

Stephen Law said...

Anonymous, you suggested I tried to smear Woodhead, using "guilt by association", and now you add:

"Well the fact that you tried to link your opponents' position to racism makes it look like you have at some level already decided that it's wrong."

Here's what I am doing. It is a standard technique in philosophy to argue for the moral wrongness of doing x by pointing out the obvious wrongness of doing y, and then raising the challenge "what is the morally relevant difference between X and Y that makes one OK, but not the other?"

That's what I am doing here. I am trying to show the wrongness of the judgements Woodhead et al are making by drawing a parallel with racism. It's a perfectly fair form of argument. Yes I do think Woodhead is wrong, but that's what the argument is trying to show! So I am not actually begging any questions. The argument does not *presuppose* Woodhead is wrong, which is what you are intimating.

What I am doing is not at all the same as trying to establish "guilt by association". That's a fallacious form of argument which runs e.g. "You believe P, but Hitler believed P, therefore P must be false!"

I am obviously not committing any such fallacy.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, neither conclusion is yet warranted by the facts Woodhead notes in the article."

I'd just like to point out here that Woodhead doesn't really note any facts in the article, since the article's a second-hand report by the Telegraph's education editor on comments Woodhead made in an interview. It probably leaves out a fair bit of what Woodhead originally said, so we don't really know enough to condemn his reasoning. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that you're taking insufficient evidence and jumping to conclusions which support your own pre-conceived ideas, just as you accuse Woodhead of doing.

Also, saying that he describes working-class kids as "innately" less intelligent than middle-class ones is a bit misleading, as it implies he thinks that all middle-class kids are better than all working-class ones. As a matter of fact, he notes (as reported by the article) that "many children from working class background [sic] did exceptionally well at school".

"(i) what additional intelligence is required for these jobs may be almost entirely bestowed upon those holding them by non-genetic advantages (private schools, private tutors, pre- and post natal diet, peer group, etc. etc.), (ii) those handing out the jobs may be heavily biased in favour of intelligent middle class kids over intelligent working class kids, and (iii) it may not even occur to intelligent working class kids to apply for such jobs ("not for the likes of us")."

That undoubtedly has some effect on people's life chances; however, we know from twin studies that intelligence is also heritable to a large degree, so we'd probably expect to find middle-class children doing better on average even if everybody was given an exactly equal start in life. Genetics isn't the only factor; but to assume that anyone who raises it as a possible factor is an "odious bigot" isn't very helpful.

"Here's what I am doing. It is a standard technique in philosophy to argue for the moral wrongness of doing x by pointing out the obvious wrongness of doing y, and then raising the challenge "what is the morally relevant difference between X and Y that makes one OK, but not the other?""

For a start, most racists think that black people are innately inferior to white people, and as such must be kept in their place. Woodhead, as mentioned above, doesn't, and acknowledges that there are lots of bright working-class children who do well at school. Even if there are differences in the two classes' average intelligence, that still can't be used to justify discrimination like racial theories can (at least not if it's used properly; obviously this theory, like pretty much any theory, can be misused to "prove" something it wasn't meant to), as there'd still be exceptions, so you'd have to treat people on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a group.

"I am obviously not committing any such fallacy."

"The BNP believe that some groups of people are innately more intelligent than others. Chris Woodhead believes that some groups of people are innately more intelligent than others. Therefore, Chris Woodhead is just as big a bigot as the BNP."

John said...

Stephen,

I've read the telegraph article, but I missed Woodhead's comment about middle class kids having 'better genes'. Are you sure that isn't a headline inserted by a sub editor?

As you rightly point out there are all sorts of contributing factors to intelligence, many of which might be associated with a middle class upbringing rather than genetics. I'm not sure that private school can be a huge factor: of course it no doubt confers advantage to those that go, but they are a minority. IIRC Empirical studies in the U.S. Show a far higher correlation between parental book ownership and success at school than any other factor: Dubner and Levitt discuss the research in Freakonomics, and I think they attribute it to the value that is placed upon the written word and the example of parents who read.

Stephen Law said...

John

"Children from white families do well at school because they have "better genes", according to Chris Woodhead, the former head of Ofsted."

Yes of course the reporter could have made this up.

And yes, anon, Woodhead might have some great argument to support the contention, an argument we don't hear about in the article. If there was one. Which, currently, there isn't.

But my real target is not so much Woodhead, as those Telegraph readers who will read this article, think "Oh yes, well of course we have better genes" and turn to the crossword without another thought. They are, it seems to me, bigots.

Stephen Law said...

Anon you are completely missing the point that the analogy is with those who justify the status quo re black people by saying "well white people have better genes (on average)".

Nor do I suggest that anyone who raises genetics "as a possible factor is an "odious bigot". I raised it myself.

Anonymous said...

"And yes, anon, Woodhead might have some great argument to support the contention, an argument we don't hear about in the article. If there was one. Which, currently, there isn't."

This is a second-hand summary of an interview he once gave by a member of a profession which doesn't generally distinguish itself as a bastion of integrity. It seems to be a summary of his interview, and therefore leaves out some of what he says. It also doesn't say what the format of the interview is, whether he was given enough time to make the sort of full argument you expect, etc. I'm not sure why you think that this is enough evidence to condemn him and a large swathe of the population as "odious bigots".
"Anon you are completely missing the point that the analogy is with those who justify the status quo re black people by saying "well white people have better genes (on average)"."

I thought it eas "innately", rather than "on average"? Anyway, you asked what the difference between the positions was, and I suggested that (a) the idea that middle-class kids are smarter on average seems more likely at first glance than the idea that white kids are smarter, and (b) that Woodhead's (alleged) views are less useful for justifying discrimination than real-life racist views. How is that missing the point?

Stephen Law said...

"I thought it was "innately", rather than "on average"?"

Innate does not mean without exception, or in every case. An attribute can be innate for humans even if not every human has it. e.g. five fingers.

You are also now missing the point about my comment about missing the point. I imagine that if I now explain further, you'll miss the point there too, so you'll excuse me if I stop.

Stephen Law said...

Anon you say that " the idea that middle-class kids are smarter on average seems more likely at first glance than the idea that white kids are smarter"

That it seems that way to you is precisely what I am worried about, if you can't support it. If this is just something you assume, then you are, indeed, a class bigot.

That this sort of class bigotry is widespread is actually my main point. You seem to be proving the point for me.

Hugo said...

Stephen, you're using a fallacious tactic which no one else has pointed out yet.

"Woodhead certainly has not shown"
"an argument we don't hear about in the article."
"if you can't support it"

You're implying that no evidence exists. The fact that one person (Woodhead) in one article does not produce evidence for a claim does not show that no evidence exists.

This tactic is often used in discussions about genes and race. In the case of race, plenty of evidence exists.

In the case of genes/IQ and class, I am unaware of research into the subject. However, the null-hypothesis should be that genes do have an effect. Woodhead does suggest reasons for this, so the burden of proof is on "your side" to show that they have no effect, or that it is negligible. Listing other possibilities doesn't refute Woodhead, or even indicate that he's probably wrong -- it simply shows that we need research to quantify it.




In fact, Stephen, you seem to be on our side. You seem to be admitting that the working classes are genetically inferior, slightly, and all we need is research to quantify how much of their class is due to their genes and how much due to the other factors you list.

Good. Welcome to the club.

Hugo said...

Notice that Woodhead's prescriptions are all thoroughly sensible and independent of whether ability is innate -- more selection by ability and "segregated" teaching, and practical rather than academic training for people who don't get anything out of academic.

Refocusing the discussion on genes is a perfect way for those who hate selection to distract attention from it, and to backfoot their opponents.

wombat said...

Surely to assume that one hypothesis is "at first glance more likely" than another one is not to assume that either one of them is true. This sounds very much like an "Are you still beating your wife? Answer yes or no." type of thing, but cast in the form "Which is more likely to influence IQ? Race or class?"

John said...

Stephen,

The part you quote is not in the original article. I'm not accusing the journalist of making it up, I'm saying it was probably a paraphrasing inserted by a sub editor, although the use of quote marks implies it was a direct quote.

But if we are worried about class bigotry, the casual and repeated assertion that 'telegraph readers' will make certain assumptions and are therefore bigots seems problematic.



John

Anonymous said...

"That it seems that way to you is precisely what I am worried about, if you can't support it."

More intelligent people are more likely to have high-paid jobs than less intelligent people. Intelligence is partly inherited, so we should probably expect that more intelligent people will have children who are more intelligent than average. If one accepts both of these premises, as you seem to do, I fail to see how one can avoid the conclusion that children of better-off people will be, on average, more intelligent. If I "assume" this conclusion, it's because it seems to follow on naturally from the two premises. What more do you want me to do to support it? Find a load of studies to back up the premises? But you said yourself that genetics might be a contributing factor, so it looks like you agree with premise 2, and since you've raised no objections to it I assume you agree with premise 1 as well. So why do you react so strongly when someone draws the obvious conclusion from them? Because middle-class Telegraph readers might use it to justify their own prejudices? Well so what? In the early twentieth century people used the theory of evolution to justify their prejudices, but that doesn't make evolutionists odious bigots like the BNP.

Stephen Law said...

Hi all

So it's obvious to many of you that that middle class kids have greater native intelligence than working class kids is rather more likely than that white kids have greater intelligence than black?

Why, because middle class jobs require more intelligent and intelligence is partly inherited, you say.

But note that does not establish the former.

If it did, then the fact that black faces are also heavily underepresented in those jobs could lead you, with equal justification, to conclude that it's also likely that whites have on average more native intelligence than blacks. A conclusion you do not draw.

This difference in what's "obvious" to you says a lot, I think.

In fact in neither case is at all obvious that there will be significant differences in innate intelligence, because of a whole range of other factors some of which I have already mentioned. Certainly, it would be idiotic to conclude this is probably what accounts for the lack of social mobility.

Now if someone were to say white people have more native intelligence than black in a magazine article, they might be right and they might have data to prove it. But if they didn't bother supplying that data, we would rightly be suspicious. And in fact the fact they didn't think it worth bothering providing the data cos the claim is just "obvious" given the things they do say (middle class jobs require more intelligence and intelligence is hereditable) would lead me to conclude they are simple a bigot.

In Woodhead's case, there is no such data (unless it's being kept top secret by rightwingers like him?) Hence it's very hard to avoid the conclusion he is indeed a bigot (or a twit). There is an argument in article and it is, indeed, just anonymous's argument. That's to say, it's a crap argument. Woodhead is drawing conclusions based on crap a crap argument, conclusions which, if drawn with respect to race, would rightly lead people to conclude that he is a bigot (or a twit).

But of course I grant you the Telegraph might have stitched him up.

My point here, just to remind you, is to alert you to the fact that you may be harbouring class-bigoted attitudes. Like the South African whites who point to lack of black faces in "intelligent" jobs and conclude it's just "obvious" whites are innately more intelligent, anonymous points to the lack of working class people in "intelligent" jobs and draws the conclusion middle class people are innately more intelligent. If the former are guilty of bigotry, it's hard to see why anon isn't.

Stephen Law said...

Actually there is more charitable explanation for anon's attitude, I suppose, which is that he just assumes that all innately high intelligence people are equally likely to end up in the "intelligent" jobs - social class will have no significant effect on the probability of their ending up in such jobs.

In the same way, someone who just assumes race will have no such effect might then conclude, without being particularly racist, that the absence of black faces in "intelligent" jobs is indeed evidence that black people have innately less intelligence.

Anonymous said...

"If it did, then the fact that black faces are also heavily underepresented in those jobs could lead you, with equal justification, to conclude that it's also likely that whites have on average more native intelligence than blacks. A conclusion you do not draw."

Woodhead's argument requires that we accept two premises:

(1) People with higher intelligence are more likely to work in well-paid jobs.

(2) Intelligence is partly inherited.

Your analogous argument would require that we accept another premise:

(3) White people are on average more intelligent than black people.

Accepting (1) and (2) doesn't require the acceptance of (3); it is, therefore, perfectly possible to believe that children of the well-off are on average more intelligent without also believing that white people are smarter than black people.

" Now if someone were to say white people have more native intelligence than black in a magazine article, they might be right and they might have data to prove it. But if they didn't bother supplying that data, we would rightly be suspicious. And in fact the fact they didn't think it worth bothering providing the data cos the claim is just "obvious" given the things they do say (middle class jobs require more intelligence and intelligence is hereditable) would lead me to conclude they are simple a bigot."

And if somebody were to condemn this person on the basis of a second-hand summary of what he'd said in an interview, which didn't give us much context (did he tell us what his reasoning was? Was he even given the opportunity to?), then I'd conclude that the condemner was pre-disposed against the speaker/the speaker's views, and was just seeking to validate his pre-existing opinions rather than uncover the truth of the matter.

"In Woodhead's case, there is no such data (unless it's being kept top secret by rightwingers like him?)"

There are studies suggesting that intelligence is at least partly inherited, and studies suggesting that people in higher-paid jobs tend to have higher IQs than average. I could try and find some if you really want.

"There is an argument in article and it is, indeed, just anonymous's argument. That's to say, it's a crap argument."

You say that, but you haven't really given me any reason to agree with you. You've said that there are other factors (which nobody outside of your imagination has denied), and that it superficially resembles racism (although as I said above, it's not really the same; and anyway, an argument has to stand or fall on its own merits, not on the basis of other, similar, arguments). You haven't tried to disprove the premises -- indeed, you've actually said that you accept them -- and nor have you shown that the conclusion doesn't follow on from the premises.

"But of course I grant you the Telegraph might have stitched him up."

You pay lip-service to the idea, then proceed to condemn him as if that's obviously not the case.

"Like the South African whites who point to lack of black faces in "intelligent" jobs and conclude it's just "obvious" whites are innately more intelligent, anonymous points to the lack of working class people in "intelligent" jobs and draws the conclusion middle class people are innately more intelligent."

No I don't. I took premises (1) and (2), outlined above, and drew the obvious conclusion from them. If you can't tell the difference between the two thought processes, that says more about you than it does about me.

Anonymous said...

"Actually there is more charitable explanation for anon's attitude, I suppose, which is that he just assumes that all innately high intelligence people are equally likely to end up in the "intelligent" jobs - social class will have no significant effect on the probability of their ending up in such jobs."

*sigh*

Once again, Stephen, nobody apart from the little straw man in your head is arguing that genetics is the only factor behind middle-class kids tending to do better in school/work. But, unless you are aware of some obscure rule of sociology that social phenomena cannot have above a certain number of causes, the fact that there are other factors does not mean that genetics isn't also a factor.

Paul P. Mealing said...

I don't live in England, so obviously wasn't educated there. When I went to school in the 60s we had streaming, but it was based on academic performance not on what one's parents did for a living. I was always placed in the highest stream so I never complained.

These days, in Australia, there is a differentiation in education based on wealth that wasn't so apparent when I was a kid, though I'm sure it existed. There's a belief that private schools give a better education but it's more expensive so only the people with highly paid jobs send their kids there. Inherent in this scheme is the belief that highly paid parents produce highly intelligent children but that's not necessarily the case.

In my generation there were scholarships available for low income families who had 'bright' kids based on an external exam. That no longer applies. University education is worse where kids have to pay off hex fees over a decade or more, but, of course, the kids with rich parents have it paid by their parents instead.

We're following the American model where education is becoming increasingly available to the wealthy. Governments should see education as an investment in the youth of a country and not as a vote winner for those who can afford to pay for it, because that's the way they play it by promising funding to private schools over public schools.

The word verification for this post was 'smell' which seems totally appropriate.

Regards, Paul.

Anonymous said...

"an awful lot of Telegraph readers will just shrug and say, "Yes, well obviously. Glad he's got the courage to say it.""

Yeah, you say that, but I haven't seen any evidence that Telegraph readers (or, as per your source, right-wingers in general) actually think that. Or are such things just too obvious to need backing up?

wombat said...

"...If the former are guilty of bigotry, it's hard to see why anon isn't."

Again I fail to see why. Anonymous has simply claimed that the hypothesis is on the face of it plausible, (for the reasons he or she has set out) not that the conclusion is inevitably true.

One might also throw in that it is rendered more likely than the racist line simply because there appears to have been a raft of evidence disproving that idea and so pretty much anything else is more likely.

"Obviously more likely" is not the same as "obviously true" is it?

Who is more likely to be the next chairmain of the International Monetary Fund? Robert Peston or Elvis Presley?
Given that Elvis is dead, and even the IMF doesn't employ dead people, most of us would say "obviously Peston is more likely" even though he hasn't got a cat in hells chance in practical terms. I hope no-one here is going to then claim that Peston is "obviously" going to be the next holder of that office.

Indeed the most likely explanation of the lot is a media stitch up isn't it? Or are we being "journalist-bigots" since we have quoted no research on the matter?

One thing Woodhead is reported as saying that does certainly need to be challenged as it does seem to be expressed in an insensitive (and yes possibly bigoted) way is "better genes". Different they may be, leading to a higher IQ possibly, even "predisposing towards being a better lawyer" but "better" on its own is largely meaningless in biological terms without more context. The net effect of the genetic package these people inherit may not be that great overall. Certainly the idea that being better with respect to a measure of a particular characteristic confers or implies some sort of universal superiority or worth is one we need to get away from. Remember cockroaches and scorpions have "better" genes than any human with respect to surviving in harsh environments.

wombat said...

A further musing on bigotry:

Lets assume I am a"journalism-bigot" for claiming likely bias by selective quoting in the article without being able to quote research on the topic. i.e. assuming the worst of journalists as a group. If facts later come to light (which I was not aware of at the time) proving my assertion correct am I still a bigot? Was I a bigot then and not now?

Stephen Law said...

Are working class children genetically less intelligent?

Hugo: "Well *of course* they are!" Why, because intelligence is say 50% hereditable, and intelligence follows the money.

Anon thinks the children of better-off people will be, on average, more intelligent. He uses the same argument.

Woodhead also appears to use it.

People are surprised I am rather sceptical about these conclusions. I explain why using the following analogy.

Very few black faces show up among the wealthy/those holding intelligent jobs. Whites are very disproportionately over represented. As intelligence is say 50% hereditable, can we now reasonably conclude that black people are genetically less intelligent than white?

No, and (I assume) neither Hugo nor anon would draw that conclusion.

Why not, because it's obvious that various other factors come into play that may well partly or wholly account for the marked lack of black faces. These include the three I mentioned:

(i) what additional intelligence is required for these jobs may be almost entirely bestowed upon those holding them by non-genetic advantages (schools, tutors, pre- and post natal diet, peer group, etc. etc.), (ii) those handing out the jobs may be biased in favour of intelligent white kids over intelligent black kids, and (iii) it may not even occur to intelligent black kids to apply for such jobs ("not for the likes of us").

Precisely the same sort of factors apply with respect to class too. So why can we reasonably draw the conclusion that middle class kids have smarter genes that working class kids, but not that white kids have smarter genes than black kids?

Someone who drew that conclusion about black kids (and many in e.g. South Africa or Southern US would) would rightly be considered racist - as harbouring racially bigoted attitudes.

So why isn't someone drawing the same conclusion about working class kids guilty of holding class bigoted attitudes?

What I am trying to do is to bring out the fact, it seems to me, that many of us (some of you) hold class-bigoted attitudes without realizing it. It's just part of the middle class zeitgeist to think in this way. It comes out in what we find "obvious".

If I am right, you need not feel too bad if you find yourself guilty of harbouring such attitudes. Good people can find themselves guilty of holding bigoted attitudes. But good people change their attitudes when that is revealed to them.

Bigots just plough on regardless, inventing all sorts of rationalizations for doing little or nothing about the mechanisms by which certain classes or races are held back and disadvantaged, and their own group is significantly advantaged. And in some cases congratulating themselves on their genetic superiority to the lower orders.

None of this is to deny there may be genetically-based differences in intelligence between classes or races, of course.

Stephen Law said...

Wombat - if you assume journalists are more likely to be liars on the basis of no evidence, then yes you are biased against them. Bigoted would be an odd word to use though unless, say, journalists as a community were being significantly socially and economically disadvantaged by such bias.

Stephen Law said...

Wombat you say: "One might also throw in that it is rendered more likely than the racist line simply because there appears to have been a raft of evidence disproving that idea and so pretty much anything else is more likely."

What evidence? You mean, that black people are discriminated against, have low expectations, and suffer all sorts of other disadvantages that might largely or wholly account for their failure to show up in the "intelligent" jobs?

Obviously there's no such evidence that working class people are disadvantaged in such ways, is there?

So let's draw the conclusion that they are genetically inferior intelligence wise. Nothing unreasonable about that!

Stephen Law said...

Just so you are clear where I am coming from, I am constantly amazed at middle class ignorance of how many working class people are disadvantaged and discriminated against - how the game is fixed against them.

When I then see middle class people congratulating themselves on their genetic superiority because they get the "intelligent" jobs, it fucking pisses me off.

wombat said...

"What evidence? You mean, that black people are discriminated against,.."

No. What that the hypothesis that "White people have a higher IQ by virtue of their being white", has been contradicted by studies and has zero plausibility. Hence any other idea set against this, provided that it has not been also already disconfirmed by observation or logical reason and is even minimally plausible will be more plausible than the white IQ idea. Not "obviously correct", "likely to be correct, "very plausible" or even "more plausible than it would have been on its own" simple more plausible than something which is totally implausible.

wombat said...

"When I then see middle class people congratulating themselves.."

Well you really don't want to read this version in the Mail then.

The Beeb on the other hand has dug a
little deeper.
and seem to conclude that Woodhead may in fact be right. They cite this study.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the links Wombat. Yes the Mail predictably presses all my buttons. The other article doesn't seem to support particularly Woodhead though, does it? The author certainly doesn't want to draw such conclusion.

I am aware early years intelligence is lower for lower socio-economic groups. Including ethnic ones, I imagine.

Stephen Law said...

Ano says:

"*sigh*

Once again, Stephen, nobody apart from the little straw man in your head is arguing that genetics is the only factor behind middle-class kids tending to do better in school/work."

Really? What a fool I've been!

Point is you have claimed it is a factor. So why not conclude it's also a factor in the racial case?

Stephen Law said...

Wombat you said:

""What evidence? You mean, that black people are discriminated against,.."

No. What that the hypothesis that "White people have a higher IQ by virtue of their being white", has been contradicted by studies and has zero plausibility. Hence any other idea set against this, provided that it has not been also already disconfirmed by observation or logical reason and is even minimally plausible will be more plausible than the white IQ idea. Not "obviously correct", "likely to be correct, "very plausible" or even "more plausible than it would have been on its own" simple more plausible than something which is totally implausible."

I am not sure that evidence exists. Surely it is controversial whether their are genetic differences in intelliegence due to rac?

But anyhow this is beside the point. My point is given the evidence to which I alluded (not this other dubious evidence that you mention), one cannot reasonably draw the conclusion, on the basis that (i) there are few black faces in "intelligent" jobs and (ii) intelligence is say 50% hereditary, that black people are genetically less intelligent.

But there's much the same evidence relating to class, too. So again, the inference made by Hugo and Anon - that working class people are genetically less intelligent - is highly suspect.

Yet Hugo finds that one is conclusion "obviously true" (on the basis of the above inference) while backing away rapidly from the other.

By the way, that Mail article you give the link to is spectacularly iffy. Who know what the quoted "expert" actually thinks, but if he draws the conclusion he does because intelligence is largely inherited (which is the Mail's take on his view), he's a moron.

Stephen Law said...

Just read the BBC report to which wombat linked. I am it is at least largely true. It doesn't say working class kids are genetically less intelligent, which is good, because the evidence cited certainly doesn't allow us to draw that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

" one cannot reasonably draw the conclusion, on the basis that (i) there are few black faces in "intelligent" jobs and"

That's just the thing, though. Nobody's claiming that working-class people are less intelligent on the basis that there are fewer working-class people in "intelligent" jobs. Instead, the bases are:

(1) There are more "intelligent" people in higher-paid jobs.

(2) Intelligence is partly due to genetics.

Note that neither of these premises state anything about working-class representation in well-paid jobs. It is possible to make Woodhead's argument whilst being completely ignorant of the social break-down of various jobs. Your supposedly analogous argument about race, however, cannot be made if you don't know already that black people are under-respresented in "intellegent" jobs, because it looks at this fact (There are fewer blacks in "intelligent" jobs) and then seeks to explain it (So black people must be less intelligent!). Woodhead's argument, on the other hand, looks at two different premises (Intelligent people are more likely to have "intelligent" jobs; Intelligence is partly inherited) and then draws its conclusion from these (So we'd expect people in "intelligent" jobs to have more intelligent children). It essentially ends where your argument starts. The two are, therefore, fundamentally different.

If you want to disprove Woodhead's theory, you could try attacking the premises (Intelligence has no real bearing on what job you have; Genetics is a negligable factor in intelligence) or showing that the conclusion doesn't follow on from them. The BBC article, for example, seems to suggest that genetics is an unimportant factor after age six or seven, and is therefore a good counter-argument. Your racism analogy, on the other hand, is a red hearing which bears little resemblance to the arguments Woodhead et al. are making. It isn't helpful in trying to prove Woodhead wrong.

Stephen Law said...

Anon you say: "If you want to disprove Woodhead's theory".

I am not trying to disprove it. I even acknowledge the conclusion might be true. My point is that his/your argument doesn't establish it.

You argument is:

(1) There are more "intelligent" people in higher-paid jobs.

(2) Intelligence is partly due to genetics.

The conclusion he draws is:

The middle classes are genetically more intelligent than the working classes (on average, presumably).

And you are suggesting that conclusion is well supported by those premises?

More so than white people being more intelligent than black?

And this is because the latter conclusion requires the further premise that black people are under represented in those higher paid jobs.

Oh, so given that premise, you do draw that conclusion then?! Excellent!

But in any case, how similarly, do you get the conclusion that the working classes are less intelligent without the premise that the working classes are underrepresented in those higher paid jobs?

I guess you are trying to exploit the fact that, as you see it, higher paid jobs are *by definition* middle class, but not white-dominated?

wombat said...

Glad you enjoyed the Mail article. I submit the variance between the Mail Telegraph and Guardian articles as my defence against "journalist-bigotry".

The dubious evidence you alluded to was summarized in the APA's finding that although there was an IQ difference amongst white and black Americans "Several culturally based explanations of the Black/ White IQ differential have been proposed; some are plausible, but so far none has been conclusively supported. There is even less empirical support for a genetic interpretation.
("Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns". Neisser et al , American Psychologist 1996)

Stephen Law said...

Here's the thing anon. If from the premises:

(1) There are more "intelligent" people in higher-paid jobs.

(2) Intelligence is partly due to genetics.

PLUS the premise that

(3) black people are under represented in those higher paid jobs.

You think it reasonable to draw the conclusion that white people are genetically smarter than black, you are either a fool or a bigot or both.

Ditto if you draw that conclusion that middle class people are genetically smarter than working class people, whether or not you deem:

(3) working class people are underrepresented in higher paid jobs

trivially true or not (which seems to be your unclear and seemingly completely irrelevant point).

Anonymous said...

The race argument doesn't address the question of why black people might be less intelligent than white people, whereas the class argument doesn't have this problem; it is, therefore, more comprehensive, and hence more satisfying as an explanation.

Also, I was under the impression that most psychologists consider racial differences to be negligible regarding everything but physical appearance. Somebody who concluded that black people were less intelligent would, therefore, be going against the evidence we have. Evidence for class differences being negligible, if there is any, isn't as widely known, so somebody concluding that there might be genetic differences in social class wouldn't be going against the evidence so much.

Stephen Law said...

My impression is that the issue of race and intelligence is still being argued about. Some claim East Asians are innately a bit smarter than whites, who are in turn a bit smarter than those of African extraction. Other disagree. I am no expert on this. But in any case, it's irrelevant.

I am more of an expert on bad arguments however, and yours is one.

Your last comment is irrelevant. Whether the class version of premise 3 is trivial or not is irrelevant to the point that, in each case, premise 3 (re race or class) is required, and indeed is true, so why do you draw draw the conclusion re class but not race?

You have, it seems, no satisfactory answer to this question.

Your baffling claim that a genetic basis in class is the "more comprehensive explanation" is (i) opaque - what does this even mean? (ii) irrelevant, since your logic commits you to giving the same verdict given premise 3 is in each case true, yet you give differing verdicts. Which is my point.

Anonymous said...

"My impression is that the issue of race and intelligence is still being argued about. Some claim East Asians are innately a bit smarter than whites, who are in turn a bit smarter than those of African extraction. Other disagree."

So if there's evidence to suggest that race does have an effect on intelligence, why would you assume that anyone coming to that conclusion is a bigot?

"Whether the class version of premise 3 is trivial or not is irrelevant to the point that, in each case, premise 3 (re race or class) is required,"

If premise 3 is that people of category X are unrepresented in the "intelligent" professions, it's not required in my argument:

Premise 1: Intelligent people are more likely to get high-paid jobs.
Premise 2: Intelligence is partially due to genetics.
Conclusion: Therefore, we should expect that people in high-paid jobs should have children who are, on average, more intelligent than those of people in low-paid jobs.

So where exactly is premise 3 required in this argument?

"Your baffling claim that a genetic basis in class is the "more comprehensive explanation" is (i) opaque - what does this even mean?"

The race theory leaves open the question of why different races have different average IQs. The class theory does not, as far as I can see, have such a problem. Therefore, the class theory leaves fewer factors unexplained.

"(ii) irrelevant,"

I suggested that the class theory seemed, at first glance, more plausible than the race theory. You disagreed. I gave the fact that the race theory leaves unexplained variables whereas the class theory doesn't as a reason for the class theory being more likely at first glance than the race theory.

Stephen Law said...

Anon you said "So if there's evidence to suggest that race does have an effect on intelligence, why would you assume that anyone coming to that conclusion is a bigot?"

I don't say anyone coming to that conclusion is a bigot. I said anyone coming to that conclusion using your/Woodhead's type argument is a bigot (or a fool). Do pay attention please!

Stephen Law said...

Anon

Is this your argument?:

Premise 1: Intelligent people are more likely to get high-paid jobs.
Premise 2: Intelligence is partially due to genetics.
Conclusion: People in high-paid jobs will have children who are, on average, more intelligent than those of people in low-paid jobs.

Is the conclusion supposed to be logically entailed, deductively, or merely inductively supported by the premises?

I note the above argument has no explicit reference to class in it.

However, the reference is now supposed to be implicit, I think, as you seem to want to actually define middle class as in a higher paid profession and working class as not in a higher-paid job. Is that right?

And this is what allows you to conclude that the children of the middle classes will be more intelligent then those of the working classes on average? That is actually your conclusion, is it? Or are you not drawing that conclusion re class - I’m not sure)

Just to clarify, if Jocasta, daughter of a very rich lawyer, is nice but dim, has great inherited wealth, and goes into low paid work in publishing or charity, is she working class? Is a financially successful footballer, drug dealer or plumber by definition middle-class?

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry. I'd assumed that you would consider such a person to be bigoted/foolish because they were holding onto their theory in spite of evidence that race has no significant effect on intelligence. What, pray tell, is the real reason you'd consider them bigoted?

Anonymous said...

"However, the reference is now supposed to be implicit, I think, as you seem to want to actually define middle class as in a higher paid profession and working class as not in a higher-paid job. Is that right?"

Class is, in part, determined by what job one does. Many well-paid jobs are traditionally considered "middle class" (like doctor, lawyer, etc.), and although that's not the sole factor of class, I think it would be fair to say that most people in well-paid jobs would be considered middle-class.

wombat said...

Stephen - do you believe that anon has fallen into a common statistical or logical fallacy? I suspect so. Would it help the debate if you could name this fallacy?

I see our posts are crossing so I shall turn in after this one.

As far as I know socio economic status is measured by a range of means either economic or by some sort of social esteem measure. So it depends somewhat on the researchers methodology.

Of course the very name you chose in your last example is one that we recognize as being either a middle or upper class name. If she had been Jokastah or something similar we would have known otherwise and her life chances would have diminished considerably. (see "Freakonomics" Levitt & Dubner 2005).

Stephen Law said...

Anon - I have responded in a new post as thread is getting too long.

Stephen Law said...

Anon you said: "Oh, sorry. I'd assumed that you would consider such a person to be bigoted/foolish because they were holding onto their theory in spite of evidence that race has no significant effect on intelligence. What, pray tell, is the real reason you'd consider them bigoted?"

Because they conclude black people's kids are innately less intelligent using your argument, even while knowing all sorts of fact about black people that would to a significant extent explain why they fail to show up in higher paying or "intelligent" jobs.

That makes them bigoted or foolish irrespective of what they know about research into genes, race and intelligence.

Hopefully you have got it now?

Perdition Magazine said...

I'll write more later in response to what people have written here, as I'm quite busy now. I think an obvious fact that people will have overlooked, when we're on the subject of genetic predisposition. Middle-class people, or higher income bracket earners have a wider choice of sex partner, to put it bluntly, and can raise their children with the idea of university and working in higher income jobs. Growing up in a working-class environment you're almost taught that it's not for you, it's very hard to see past what's in front of you. And if like me, you do work your way up to the same level of prestige, sometime you can often feel alienated surrounded by people that you fail to identify with, or even have anything in common. I'm lucky that I've not been left completely cynical having had good experiences with people from middle and upper class backgrounds. At the very root of the matter, education for children in my view should not be a 'one size fits all' way of working, there are lots of pupils that haven't had the chance to shine and realize the gifts they do have, because it's the equivalent of putting a square peg in a round hole so to speak. I can to a certain degree understand how they are describing the role that genetics play in the intelligence of children and aptitude, but like Stephen has mentioned, and I agree, with what he said regarding if he had said what he said, but with race instead of class, as it can so well apply, it's the same kind of bigotry at the essence of what this woodhead is saying. But we should really be asking what is intelligence? school scores? economic performance? social intelligence? can it really be wholly measured? school systems are outdated in some ways today. But I do really feel that the education system as it is today is failing a lot of working-class kids with potential, especially the unique and artistic ones, that don't conform to the standards of "intelligence" imposed by society.

wiljaxon said...

Woodhead himself was not intelligent enough to refrain from sexual relations with a pupil, thus destroying his career, reputation and probably health.

wiljaxon said...

Woodhead himself was not intelligent enough to refrain from sexual relations with a pupil, thus destroying his career, reputation and probably health.