Saturday, October 31, 2009

Losing Ground: Hispanic children fall behind their peers quickly, a study finds

All the studies show that Hispanic illegals and their offspring have markedly lower average IQ scores than the white average. My orientation in psychometric research has however always been great caution about the validity of any tests used and I initially felt that the remarkable success of ancient Central Americans in building rather advanced civilizations despite being cut off from the major source of human progress (the Eurasian continent) implied a higher IQ for their descendants than the tests showed.

That is however a fairly arguable proposition and the findings reported below have changed my mind. I think that the findings below confirm what the IQ tests say. The results below show what I very "incorrectly" call the "chimpanzee effect". A month old chimpanzee is much smarter and more capable than a human infant of the same age but the human does of course far surpass the chimp eventually. In other words, low IQ is less evident in the early years and most evident in adulthood. We find a similar effect in blacks. Average black IQ is closer to average white IQ in childhood than in adulthood. Beyond the early teens, black IQ stops rising but white IQ does not. White IQ peaks at about age 16.

And what is reported below is precisely another example of the chimpanzee effect: Intellectual achievement gap smallest in early childhood but rapidly increasing with age. I must stress that I am NOT saying that either blacks or Hispanics are similar to chimpanzees. ALL human beings of any race are much smarter than chimps. I am just using chimps as a vivid demonstration of what seems a general truth: That real gaps in intellectual ability become evident later rather than sooner -- and the Hispanic developmental pattern is exactly what we expect of an average IQ that is indeed lower
A forthcoming study on Hispanic children’s cognitive skills underlines the challenges the country faces in aspiring to close the achievement gap between these children and their white and Asian counterparts. Hispanic “children fall behind their peers in mental development by the time they reach grade school, and the gap tends to widen as they get older,” reports the New York Times. “The drop-off in the cognitive scores of Hispanic toddlers, especially those from Mexican backgrounds, was steeper than for other [low-income] groups and could not be explained by economic status alone. . . . From 24 to 36 months, the Hispanic children fell about six months behind their white peers on measures like word comprehension, more complex speech and working with their mothers on simple tasks.”

This new study, from the University of California–Berkeley, may be unusually blunt in its assessment of Hispanic cognitive development, but it is hardly unprecedented. A 2004 study by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office found a similar decline in Hispanic students’ ability to keep up with their peers in learning English. Children from Mandarin- and Spanish-speaking households begin kindergarten with similar levels of English proficiency, but their paths quickly diverge. The Mandarin-speaking students make continuing progress in mastering English, while the Hispanic students’ advance stalls out in the second and third grades as the demands of California’s English-proficiency test grow more difficult. Mandarin kindergartners establish oral skills in English in one year, the legislative analyst found, and by the beginning of second grade, they have begun developing a mastery of reading and writing, unlike Hispanics. The widening English-proficiency gap between Asian and Hispanic students may reflect parental willingness to expose children to English at home, but the gap occurs in math as well.

This summer in Southern California, I observed Hispanic students who had been taught in English throughout their school careers, yet who possessed very weak formal language ability. An in-class reading assignment at Locke High School in Watts asked students to answer the question: “Why is it important to use all your skills during your teen years?” A ninth-grader wrote in response: “To make it better.” Another question, “What sudden insight came to the engineer?” elicited the answer: “How to put the little mirrors.” While diagnosing the student-written sentence, “The pigs squealed loudly because the’re [sic] bored at the barn,” a high-school English teacher in Santa Ana asked his class: “Why does the dependent clause need to be in the past tense?” A student answered: “Because you’re talking about a lot of people.”

The Berkeley researchers speculate that the early decline in Hispanic students’ language and reasoning skills may reflect inadequate maternal stimulation in the home. And indeed, a Santa Ana elementary-school principal recounted to me her largely unsuccessful efforts to get parents to teach their children such basic kindergarten-survival tools as cutting with scissors and the words for colors. “Kids come in not knowing the alphabet in Spanish or the sounds of Spanish,” she said. “They use three-word sentences; they come in without oral-language ability.”

The Berkeley study will inevitably be used to buttress the Obama administration’s plans to pour billions of federal taxpayer dollars into early-education programs. As a matter of education policy, such efforts represent wishful thinking. Head Start has been repeatedly shown to have no lasting effect on students’ academic performance. Even the most successful and lavishly-funded of such early-intervention programs — the iconic Perry Preschool Project from the early 1960s in Ypsilanti, Mich. — explained only 3 percent of the earnings of its participants at age 40, and about 4 percent of their educational-attainment levels, wrote John J. Miller in NR in 2007. Replicating the Perry Project’s services on a national scale for Hispanic children would be extraordinarily expensive and produce only modest results. Many children who receive early intervention provide inferior intellectual stimulation for their own children, whether for innate cognitive or for cultural reasons.

But the more interesting implications of the study and others like it are for immigration policy. Our de facto immigration policy is currently weighted to a population that appears to require massive additional government education spending — even before formal schooling begins — to be made academically competitive. This choice would not seem to be economically rational, at least so long as we aspire to universal college-going. If the country remains committed to sending a far greater number of students to college, as even many conservatives continue to be, we better get ourselves a different mix of immigrants if we don’t want to bankrupt our education budgets. Alternatively, if the open-borders lobby prevails and Latin American migration continues to dominate our immigration flows, it’s time to acknowledge that many students never will be college material, nor do they need to be to lead productive, fulfilling lives.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simplistic thinking in politics and the ad hominem fallacy

Sad to say, in politics logical thinking seems to come a poor second to emotional appeals -- and we see a pernicious example of that below.

Historical revisionism is found among both Leftists and nationalists, though it is far and away most prevalent on the Left. Some surveys have shown, for instance, that a majority of U.S. Democrat voters are "truthers": People who believe that it was George Bush who blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. And the chronic Leftist denial of the horrors of Communism is legendary.

Compared to that, the skepticism about the Holocaust seen among some nationalists is small beer but the Left-dominated media seek out such views like sniffer dogs and make a huge deal about any of it that they find. So one skeptical word about the holocaust serves to stigmatize someone for life, even if it was a passing phase or an incidental element in the evolution of that person's thinking.

The prime example of that at the moment is of course Nick Griffin of the anti-immigration British National Party. And the fact that he is a staunch friend of Israel is not allowed to excuse him. So the Jewish writer below is right to say that support for Israel from nationalists is an embarrassment. But it is only an embarrassment because of the simplistic thinking of Leftists in the media and politics -- who with kneejerk predictability resort to the ad hominem fallacy (The fallacy that a statement is wrong because of who said it). So if Griffin supports Israel, support for Israel must be wrong: Quite incredible stupidity but staple fare for the Left.
In politics Over the past few weeks, the Jewish state has been publicly endorsed by two particularly controversial members of the far right.

Firstly, Nick Griffin, leader of the racist British National Party, which currently accepts only white people as members, declared that his was the only party to support Israel in its "war against terrorists" during Operation Cast Lead.

While Griffin, who was elected in June to the European Parliament, is not usually paid much attention, this time was different. He was speaking on Britain's most prestigious political television program, BBC's Question Time. The decision to invite him had proven so controversial that 8 million viewers tuned in, compared with the program's usual 2 to 3 million. The entire country was hanging on his every word.

Just three weeks earlier, the Conservative Party — now widely expected to win the next election — was embroiled in a national row over its alliance with another European member of parliament, Poland's Michal Kaminski.

Kaminski, who leads an important rightist bloc, has been disliked in Jewish circles since he declared in 2001 that the Poles should not apologise for the massacre of Jews by Polish residents of Jedwabne in 1941, unless "the whole Jewish nation [apologises] for what some Jewish Communists did in eastern Poland". There were also concerns that he had worn the Chrobry Sword, a symbol of the Catholic ultra-right in Poland and that he still maintained these unsavory connections.

So when, in early October, he appeared at the Conservative Party's annual conference, the main Jewish representative body – the archaically named Board of Deputies – wrote to Conservative leader David Cameron asking for reassurances. Labour's foreign minister, David Miliband, went on the attack and the ensuing media row, which is still ongoing – the Conservatives were forced to recently reassure Hillary Clinton on the subject — tarnished what should have been Cameron's moment of triumph.

But it did not go unnoticed that Kaminski was in Britain as the special guest of the Conservative Friends of Israel — who had also taken him, this summer, to Israel, where he was pictured smiling by the Western Wall and was welcomed by deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. Kaminski, it emerged, was considered a staunch friend of Israel in Brussels, where he regularly spoke up for its right to self-defence...

But for Israel, this is a disaster. From now on, anyone in Britain supporting Israel publicly can be expected to be told they are holding a position only the racist BNP, or the likes of Kaminski, holds. It will many years to shake off these associations.



Perhaps I should add a few words about the Mieczyk Chrobrego or Chobry Sword, and point out that it too has become the target of an ad hominem slur. Some history: Boleslaw I Chrobry became the first King of Poland in 1025. He was a brilliant man and very successful militarily. He greatly enlarged Poland by conquest of neighbouring areas. He was able to turn Poland into one of the largest and most powerful monarchies in Europe. In the summer of 1018, in one of his most famous expeditions, Boleslaw captured Kiev (now in the Ukraine), where, according to legend, he notched his sword when hitting Kiev's Golden Gate. Later, a sword known as szczerbiec, meaning notched sword or "The dented one", would become the ceremonial sword used in the coronation ceremony of Polish kings. It is now kept at Wawel Cathedral, a church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, which is Poland's national sanctuary. The cathedral has a 1,000-year history and was the traditional coronation site of Polish monarchs.

So it is easy to see why a representation of the Chobry sword would be chosen as their symbol by a minor 20th century Polish nationalist political party. That it was a patriotic icon long before the 20th century, however, is the main point. That 20th century nationalist political parties have used it does NOT mean that it is solely a 20th century nationalist political party symbol. It is simply a Polish patriotic symbol generally and any Pole could wear a representation of it with pride.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leftism rots the brain (again)

There is a program being shown shortly on British TV about the connection between race and IQ. So Britain's most widely circulated "quality" newspaper has published an anticipatory article on the subject by a Professor of Genetics at a prestigious British university: University College, London. From the personal particulars he mentions, one gathers that he is also a long-time Leftist activist.

Quite unsurprisingly, he pooh-poohs the idea of any connection between race and IQ. But in the article he makes not one single reference to any scientific fact (despite over 100 years of academic research on the subject) and his only criticism of those who say that there is a connection between race and IQ seems to be that they are all elderly (which is not true and even if it were, so what?). Can academic standards get any lower than that? To read such schoolboyish amateurism from an eminent professor of genetics is about the clearest demonstration one could ask of the fact that the "all men are equal" crowd have lost the intellectual argument. All they have to fall back on is crude political polemics.

Insofar as one can detect any argument at all in his article, he seems to be saying that the unfailingly low standard of average black educational achievement is due to poor education -- quite ignoring the fact that American educators are at their wits' end in trying to find anything that will budge the black/white "gap" in attainment. If our twitchingly Leftist professor of genetics can find ANYTHING that will get blacks achieving at anywhere near white levels he will get a Nobel prize (not that that means much these days).

Our sad professor explains high Asian academic achievement by the "push" that they get from their families. And there is a similar article here which proclaims that low black educational attainment is due to "absent" black fathers. There is a small grain of truth in that. Parental pressure can indeed raise educational achievement to some degree. But since our unscientific professor's article consists mainly of anecdotes, perhaps I can offer a counter-anecdote. Let me in fact offer two anecdotes to show that parental pressure is only a minor factor in intellectual attainment:

My son had zero pressure on him during his schooling and I was an "absent father" throughout. His mother and I split up in the same year that he began school. But he was always a couple of years ahead of his class in reading age and now has a first class honours degree in Mathematics from a distinguished university and is well set for an academic career. How come? I am a high-achieving academic and he has academic genes. He didn't need pushing. He mainly just coasted but the work was easy for him so he still did well.

And I myself grew up in a working class family, which, like most such families, had no expectations of high achievements among its children, and I was in fact discouraged from continuing my education beyond junior school. But my parents were both great readers of books and both had siblings who did exceptionally well at school. So I obviously got good genes from them which enabled me also to cruise and still do well academically.

Explanations for low black achievement in terms of black family patterns do have one virtue: Black families are not going to change any time soon so if that is the problem, we have to conclude that the attainment "gap" is immovable. And it is immovable, though not for that reason.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Why are webhosts so ill-mannered?

The internet and books have opposite vices and virtues. Books are highly permanent (we have some copies from a couple of thousand years ago) but are not readily accessible. You generally have to take a trip to a library if you want to access one. The net on the other hand is instantly and very conveniently accessible but it is also evanescent. A file of writings or a picture on the net can disappear in an instant and maybe never be found again. And the vanishing act is often the fault of the webhost rather than anything that the writer or photographer concerned has done. Many newspaper sites, for instance, seem to have a policy of deleting their own articles after quite short periods of time.

But I like to keep all the files of my writings publicly available regardless of what any individual webhoster or bloghoster might do. So I try to address the big weakness of the net by following the systems theory axiom that redundancy is the path to systems reliability. In other words, I keep multiple copies of my files up -- so that if one copy disappears, there will be others to be found. As a result, I have had a lot of dealings with the various webhosts where I place copies of my files/writings. And it is truly amazing how many webhosts I have gone through over time. Whether "free" or paid, there are at least a dozen (maybe 20) locations where my files were once found which no longer host my files. Some webhosts have simply gone bust and disappeared altogether and others have decided that my files are "incorrect" in some way and have deleted or blocked them.

And I am not complaining about that. It is precisely because I expect such impermanence that I keep multiple copies of my files online. What I DO object to, however, is that NOT ONCE have the webhosts concerned had the manners to email me in advance and warn me or consult me about what is going to happen. It is always a case of "shoot first; ask questions later".

It is actually a rather common event for webhosts to be "down" for various periods -- sometimes for a week or more. One would think that on such occasions, they would email their users and say something like: "We are having problems. Don't go away. We expect to be back up in a couple of days". But that never happens. The site eventually comes back online with no explanation or apology. Even sites that boast that they talk to their users are the same. And some sites of course NEVER come back up and you are left to figure that situation out. Even if you email them to ask if the cessation of service is temporary or permanent, you never get a reply.

And the Blogspot subsidiary of Google (which hosts this blog) is as bad as any of them. You would think that a big company like Google would be conscious of PR but it is not so. They too act first and ask questions later. I have lost track of how many times my blog sites have been blocked by them -- and never after any advance warning. Usually, I can fill out a form, the form gets acted on, and the site is unblocked but NEVER have I received an explanation as to why the block was put on. And sometimes the block lasts for over a week: At which point I tend to move to another bloghost, which is part of the reason why I now have two blogs hosted on Wordpress and two on That comes at some cost as I lose my old page ranking, so if anyone reading this has a site of their own it would help if they put up a link to my new POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH site.

And sometimes filling out the Google/Blogspot form does you no good at all. The obstruction is permanent and repeated requests for review of the block are ignored -- again without explanation. No manners or anything else much there.

I have become VERY wary about such shenanigans over the years, however. I don't blame anybody for thinking that I have gone overboard but at the moment I have my files spread over ELEVEN different webhosts. None have all my files but between them all there are usually three copies of any file available. I realize that I must sound slightly mad but I think that if you had had my experiences with webhosts you might be nearly as bad or mad. The way I have it set up, if one host goes down, I have to reload only a subset of my files, not the whole lot. Even that can be pretty pesky, though. And I have various pages -- including this one -- which have sufficent links to lead you to ALL my files (writings), regardless of where they are hosted.

So what is the answer to the question I ask in the heading above? I can only see the answer as lying with the general lack of civility these days. Under the influence of the prevailing Leftist gospel that "There is no such thing as right and wrong", people who can hide behind anonymity see no reason for civility. Maybe there is a Christian webhost somewhere who has higher standards than that but I have yet to find one.