Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth

By Jefferson M. Fish | Go to book overview

When we measure ability on the job we similarly have to assume that objective measurement of job performance is not marred by interpersonal or cultural differences in style of work, presentation of self, or interpersonal interactions. We tend to ignore this problem. Yet Rabin (1997), describing the famous nanny trial (the trial of a British au pair in the United States charged with the murder of a child in her care) from the point of view of an Englishman long resident in the United States provided a humorous but very graphic account of how body language was interpreted very differently, providing very different emotional reactions, by members of two cultures as similar as American and British. Imagine then, how easy it is for members of the majority and the minority to misunderstand (and fear) one another and how much that is likely to affect both the reality and the evaluation of minority performance.


CONCLUSION

The use of IQ tests to measure the innate, genetically determined ability or intelligence of individuals, particularly individuals from different social classes, ethnic groups, or races, involves a long string of assumptions, each of which can be shown to be highly improbable if not completely spurious. To continue to classify individuals in this way, and to use such tests to provide an “unbiased” way to measure ability for college entrance or for jobs not only perpetuates a scientific fiction; it imposes an enormous, unwarranted burden on individuals who, as a result of prior exclusion, do not participate fully in the mainstream culture. (Crouse & Tusheim, 1988 in Hirsch 1997; Hartigan & Wigdor, 1989, cited in Hirsch, 1997). In fact it provides very dramatic “affirmative action” for upper middle class white individuals. To use these tests without compensating for this enormous advantage, as the United States now appears intent on doing, is unconscionable, making a mockery of our protests of equal opportunity.


REFERENCES

Anastasi, A. (1988). Psychological testing (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bader, W., Burt, D., & Steinberg, E. (1991). MAT. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Boyd, R., & Silk, J. (1997). How humans evolved. New York: Norton.

Brody, N. (1994). Cognitive abilities. Psychological Science, 5, 63–68.

Brown, C. (1965). Manchild in the promised land. New York: Macmillan.

Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human cognitive abilities: A survey of factor-analytic studies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. L., Menozzi, P, & Piazza, A. (1994). The history and geography of human genes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Chorney, M. J., Chorney, K., Seese, N., Owen, M. J., Daniels, J., McGuffin, P., Thompson, A., Detterman, D. K., Benbow, C., Lubinski, D., Eley, T., & Plomin, R. (1998) A quantitative trait locus associated with cognitive ability in children. Psychological Sciences, 9(3), 159–166.

Cohen, M. N. (1998). Culture of intolerance. New Haven: Yale University.

Cole, M., Gray, J., Glick, J. A., & Sharp, D. W. (1971). The cultural basis of learning and thinking. New York: Basic.

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