Magazine article The American Conservative

The Geek Shall Inherit

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Geek Shall Inherit

Article excerpt

The United States remains the world's technological leader--for now. Various factors probably contribute, from the entrepreneurial spirit to a certain maverick attitude: "Who says I can't do that? Watch me." The crucial element, however, has to be trained brains. People of almost unimaginable intelligence invent science, the merely brilliant turn it into useful things, and the rest of us buy it. Where do our phenomenally smart people come from?

Harvard is perhaps the country's preeminent university. The best figures I can find are that the average IQ at Harvard is 130, which is the entry level for Mensa, the high-IQ society; 17 percent of the students are said to be National Merit Finalists. That's bright.

There is a brutally difficult math course at Harvard, Math 55, regarded as the hardest at the school and probably in the country. A recent article in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, noted, "The final course drop forms are dutifully submitted. The class roster: 45 percent Jewish, 18 percent Asian, 100 percent male."

That Jews are bright is perhaps not breaking news. "Asian" is vague, being a geographical rather than an ethnic or genetic category. Still, if you take Jews as 2 percent of the population, and Asians as 6, you have 8 percent of the population producing 63 percent of the class. Since they were all male, the 8 percent becomes 4 percent. It being unlikely that Harvard has some secret means of discriminating against utility whites, Christians, or females, it follows that the students are there on their merits.

If the foregoing were a fluke, we might ignore it. But it isn't. A friend, writing a book about Harvard, puts the studentry at roughly a quarter Jewish and a quarter Asian--half the school from 8 percent of the population. At the University of California at Berkeley, the flagship of California's state universities, so many Asians gained entry that whites wanted a protective quota.

In my guise as technology writer for the Washington Times, I have often read the staff lists at high-end research facilities, for example Bell Labs. The numbers vary. Sometimes Asians predominate. More women appear in the life sciences. Schools of lower rank look more like America. At the top, it's Math 55.

Now, if 1 percent of the population--Jewish males--produce 45 percent of Math 55, one might reasonably conclude that ability is not evenly distributed through the population and that certain groups carry much more than their weight in maintaining the country's competitive position. …

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