Is Firing The Derb Enough?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 17 2012 @ 11:00am

In the aftermath of NRO's "purge," Pareene questions whether conservatives will ever be able to get a handle on racists so long as they're willing to leave "race and IQ" an open question:

If conservatives seriously want to understand why the "cudgel of racism" is still wielded against them, they may want to try to picture how actual black people interpret their fascination with "proofs" (or even just "interesting arguments") that blacks are genetically inferior.

NRO's Robert VerBruggen defends his publication:

I consider myself an agnostic on many questions relating to race and genetics. I do strongly believe, like numerous scientists including at least one New York Times contributor, that race is not just a "social construct"… Pareene says that these beliefs don’t make me a "racist," though apparently they warrant 300-plus words in an article about the "racists" of "the Right." I, for one, think it’s important that we come up with a definition of racism that focuses on ill will rather than sincere beliefs about facts. There is no reason to force people to choose between being called "racist" — or at least being lumped in with racists — and being wrong.

I should leave this subject alone for my own good, except to say that one always needs to distinguish between valid data and invalid inferences from valid data. But it may be worth sharing a personal bias that has definitely affected me on this question.

IQ was once a proud issue for the left. In Britain after the Second World War, the Labour government established an IQ test for all eleven year-olds, called the Eleven Plus, and then separated the generations into more academic "grammar schools" and more vocational "secondary moderns". This was my first encounter with IQ, and it gave me a chance to get an education I otherwise would not have had a hope of. It also liberated millions of young meritocrats from Britain's class system, filling Oxford and Cambridge with the brainy working and lower middle classes, unleashing potential more broadly.

In the 1970s, the left shifted and regarded any notion of intellectual ability as suspiciously elitist, ended grammar schools and the IQ test. Since then, the proportion of Oxbridge students who come from modest backgrounds has shrunk in favor of the established aristocracy.

I guess some will always see IQ as a way to put some people down. That's deplorable and stupid. But I also associate it, given my own biography, with helping some people make their way up. That's worth putting on the table.