Two Good Articles

Two good articles came out in the last week. Ross Douthat exposes the anti-egalitarian heart of our top universities in the New York Times, and Dalliard defends g at Human Varieties.

Nothing Douthat said came as a surprise to me, but I have been following this train of thought for over ten years. However, I think Douthat's article is well done and worth a read.

SUSAN PATTON, the Princeton alumna who became famous for her letter urging Ivy League women to use their college years to find a mate, has been denounced as a traitor to feminism, to coeducation, to the university ideal. But really she’s something much more interesting: a traitor to her class.

Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve Sailer wrote on this same subject, using the Hoxby-Avery study as evidence that elite colleges don't bother to cast a very wide net when they recruit students. I wrote an email to Steve about my own choice to go to Northern Arizona University, instead of something more prestigious, which would be almost anywhere. In retrospect, I think my life turned out as well or better with a college education from little-known NAU as it would have with a name-brand university on my diploma. But things are different in the technical world, where you are judged more [not solely!] on talent than education. STEM is healthier than the rest of higher education in this way, although there are still some of the same mechanisms at work. In the physics world, a lot of talented physicists have left academia for quantitative finance in Wall Street, with correspondingly exorbitant salaries. This has slowed down some with the economic downturn, but quant recruitment depends heavily on degrees and connections.

Different but related, is Dalliard's defense of Spearman's g against Shalizi's attack.

As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi’s essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g.

In this post, I will show that Shalizi’s case against g appears strong only because he misstates several key facts and because he omits all the best evidence that the other side has offered in support of g. His case hinges on three clearly erroneous arguments on which I will concentrate.

Shalizi's essay is a more numerate version of Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. Gould was completely off base too, but his book was far more widely read than the many rebuttals it received from psychometricians.