Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Re: Genetic Racial Differences


Robert VerBruggen and Carol Iannone make excellent points. VerBruggen observes that the racial essentialism embraced by Jeremiah Wright’s gallery of academic quacks is at odds with the “race as social construct” conceit that dominates the politicized university. Hey, I never said that academia was consistent when it comes to the revered trinity of race, class, and gender.

Even as admissions officers calibrate the SAT scores of fanatically achieving Asian and white applicants to a degree of difference that only an electron microscope could pick up, the admissions bureaucracy announces that SATs are worthless — when it comes to evaluating blacks and Hispanics. Even as rape bureaucrats accuse male students of committing sexual assault on a scale that would render Rwanda a picnic, the sex bureaucrats are handing out advice on sex toys and S&M. Even as academics rail against alleged inequites of the free market, college tuitions surge higher at rates many times that of inflation, deans and professors graciously accept their six-figure salaries, and the college fund-raising machine furiously seeks donations from alumni on the ground that multi-million-dollar (or even billion-dollar) endowments leave the college penurious.

So, yes, in general, the evidence for racial genetic differences is wholly taboo on campuses, even in scientific laboratories — where any research into the matter must be done very quietly, if at all. But that doesn’t mean that if a black education professor comes up with a bogus neurological theory to justify black academic problems, she won’t be given a pass. As Carol Iannone points out, condescension toward black extremism is the rule of the day among white campus liberals.

That same condescension is at work in the press coverage of Wright’s diatribes. While the media couldn’t dodge Wright’s 9/11 and AIDS fulminations, they have remained mum about his education apologetics and other loony ideas about genetically based black and white differences — including preferences regarding syncopation. The New York Times’s carefully buried blurb on Wright’s Detroit speech this Monday, before the pile of manure finally combusted, merely noted tactfully that Mr. Wright had argued that “black people speak differently, learn differently and like different types of music than whites do … but similar differences exist within races as well.”

Wright may have phrased Afrocentric education theories with bracing directness, but they are on a continuum with the pedagogical practices that education schools promote today. These include the idea that teachers should not transmit knowledge to their students; that students should not be expected to sit quietly in class and listen; that students should not learn mathematics through abstract concepts, but rather through “concrete” objects; and that education must be driven above all by multicultural sensitivities. Many of these ideas were developed to further rationalize the test-score gap.

My guess is, the education content of Wright’s speeches will continue to be off limits, as the press allows Obama’s patent lies about his knowledge of Wright’s standard ravings to go unchallenged. It’s more than a shame. Any enterprising reporter would seize on this opening to ask Obama about his own educational philosophy. Here’s a question just for starters: In light of your former pastor’s views on the essential intellectual differences between blacks and whites, do you therefore conclude that affirmative action remains necessary in tax-payer-funded education? Or, consistent with your claim to be a “post-racial” uniter, do you support Ward Connerly’s initiatives to end racial preferences in education?


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