November 19, 2009

NY Times publishes Gladwell's letter and Pinker's response

In the New York Times here.

You've already seen Malcolm Gladwell's letter, with his ad hominem attack on me as a crimethinker. I'd half-assumed that the NYT would cut that part out in the interests of saving space, but they left it in.

From the NYT:

Steven Pinker replies:

What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.

Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. They noted, among other things, that Berri and Simmons weakened their “weak correlation” (Gladwell described it in the New Yorker essay reprinted in “What the Dog Saw” as “no connection”) by omitting the lower-drafted quarterbacks who, unsurprisingly, turned out not to merit many plays. In any case, the relevance to teacher selection (the focus of the essay) remains tenuous.

As a commenter pointed out, this debate over NFL quarterbacks is really a stalking horse for the debate over IQ and race, which, in turn, influences practically every other concept about how the world works. (See Gladwell's 2008 bestseller Outliers for examples.) Political correctness is essentially anti-knowledge.

For example, if NFL experts can't predict better than random which college quarterback will outperform which in the NFL, then why should we believe that, say, the SAT is any good at predicting who will benefit most from college? Why not therefore let the races in equally?

The correlations between draft position and NFL success (0.33 to 0.52) are quite similar to the correlations between, say, SAT score and freshman year in college GPA. Both sets of correlations would be much, much higher if it weren't for restriction of range -- e.g., pro quarterbacks are chosen only from college quarterbacks, and Harvard students are people who got into Harvard.

IQ-denialism is the "rotten core" (to use Stephen Jay Gould's phrase in a more accurate context) of the modern conventional wisdom. He who says A must say B, as Lenin liked to say. And Malcolm is naive enough to illustrate that. Gould, for example, wasn't dumb enough to follow his logic in Mismeasure of Man to its conclusions (e.g., he taught at Harvard, which uses IQ-like tests to select Gould's students), but Malcolm, in contrast, is a true believer.

Gladwell's basic problem is that he doesn't understand normal probability distributions.

The NFL quarterback problem is, roughly, this. There are about two million males who turn 22 each year. At, say, four standard deviations above the mean in current quarterbacking ability, there are 63 individuals, which is about the number of starting quarterbacks who run out of eligibility each year from Division I or the better lower division colleges. It's not a perfect depiction of the task, but you could approximate it as that NFL teams are looking for the one individual who will turn out to be five standard deviations above the mean -- the best NFL quarterback of his age cohort.

That gives us a simple way to calculate how good a job NFL teams do of picking quarterbacks: is the first quarterback chosen in a year's draft turn out to have the best career?

I have a database of the NFL career statistics of the 278 college quarterbacks drafted in the 1980s and 1990s (which gives us enough time to see how they turn out. Notice how a month ago Vince Young, the 2006 #3 overall pick, looked like an epic bust, but now maybe he'll turn out okay?)

Using one single-number measure -- Pro-Fooball.Reference.com's Career Approximate Value number -- for all the quarterbacks drafted from 1980 through 1999, we see that the first quarterback chosen proved to have the highest Career Approximate Value out of his draft class nine times out of 20. (And the "mistakes" include picking John Elway over Dan Marino; three times the first quarterback chosen proved to have the second best career of his draft cohort.) On average, almost 14 quarterbacks were chosen each year, so being right 45% of the time is a lot better than random.

Moreover, the second quarterback drafted turned out to be the best quarterback of his year five out of 20 times.

To some extent, Career Approximate Value is biased by higher draft picks being handed more playing time. If we use a higher measure of excellence to weed out the plodding mediocrities, number of Pro Bowl selections in a career, then the first quarterback picked wound up with more Pro Bowl honors than anybody else in seven of the 20 drafts, and tied for the most twice (Elway and Marino from 1983 with 9 each, and in 1980 none of the 17 quarterbacks drafted ever went to a Pro Bowl).

Also, the absence from the draft database of quarterbacks who are undrafted would bias this correlation upward somewhat. To estimate the impact, I checked the careers of four undrafted QBs who are inspiring NFL underedog success stories -- Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, Jake Delhomme, and Jon Kitna -- and their inclusion wouldn't change these results much even if they had been drafted, since they all went undrafted in years in which the first quarterback drafted wasn't the best.

Gladwell's innumeracy shouldn't be such a fatal problem for the articles published under the lucrative Malcolm Gladwell brand name. Many successful authors have research assistants who help the face of the organization concentrate on doing what he does best. For example, I once met the research assistant to the octogenarian crime novelist Elmore Leonard. The assistant's job was to put in the shoe leather work scouting locations, studying old newspapers, interviewing people who have jobs that will feature in the book and so forth, so that Leonard's novels can have very realistic, very detailed senses of time and place.

Similarly, Malcolm could well afford to hire a young research assistant who understands quantitative analysis.

Why doesn't he?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

84 comments:

dearieme said...

"Gladwell's basic problem is that he doesn't understand normal probability distributions." Then he's essentially uneducated.

Ewok said...

"statistics-savvy amateurs"

That's probably the kindest description of you by a public intellectual/figure of Pinker's stature that you'll ever receive in public, unfortunately.

Enjoy it while you can.

CP said...

Steve,

When you do something like "omit the lower-drafted quarterbacks" from your correlation study, that is called "restriction of range."

Whenever a sample has a restricted range of scores, the correlation will be reduced.

So that is the problem with the study Gladwell mentions, and of course he has never heard of restriction of range.

Baloo said...

Steve, you continue to inspire me. "Crimethinker" products HERE.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere here there's some irony when you have a man who's certainly spent 10,000 hrs crafting his trade, who continues to make such glaring errors, who has to be corrected by some naturally brilliant guys -- Sailer, Pinker, Hsu -- who while at the very same time denies natural ability (IQ) is an important factor.

RKU said...

Well, I *still* say that a long series of public debates between Gladwell and Sarah Palin would be absolutely fascinating...

Xenophon Hendrix said...

When you get mentioned in the NYT as a crimethinker, do you see an increase in readers? In other words, do you find it true that no publicity is bad publicity?

liberalbiorealism said...

What's particularly unfortunate about Gladwell's idiocy on the point of the significance of high draft status is that he really doesn't need his stupid and ignorant explanation to tell an inspiring story.

Yes, high draft status correlates pretty well with success in the NFL; SAT scores correlate well with success of other kinds.

But neither of those mean that a Tom Brady, drafted 199, can't be a great success in the NFL. And neither does an unremarkable SAT imply one can't do something quite stupendous in many fields, from business to politics to music to art to comedy.

Gladwell might have told a true and inspiring story of underdogs beating the odds. Instead he insisted on telling a lie that there are equal odds for all, and no underdogs.

The lie might pump up an easier and cheaper high. But as a lie, it brings in its train its own sudden crash.

Shawn said...

" I'd half-assumed that the NYT would cut that part out in the interests of saving space, but they left it in."

Even though it's bad publicity (any publicity is good publicity!?!)it will cause people to google your name, which will bring them to your site. Here, they will hear your side and discover the truth. :)

John Seiler said...

1. Are we seeing a "Tipping Point" against Malcolm Gladwell?

2. When Elmore Leonard was young, he put in the shoe leather himself, getting his trademark dialogue from listening to cops, crooks, lawyers, doctors, etc. in his (and my) native Detroit -- all while working a regular job until his writing took off in his 50s. So he paid his dues and deserves to coast in his 80s. Malcolm still is young and should do his own research.

George Gilder wrote "Visible Man" after doing copious research in a ghetto, and "Microcosm" after going to Silicon Valley and actually learning the physics so he could understand what his sources were saying. (OK, so he was wrong about the dot-com boom/bust; he should have stuck to reporting.)

Anonymous said...

"Somewhere here there's some irony when you have a man who's certainly spent 10,000 hrs crafting his trade, who continues to make such glaring errors, who has to be corrected by some naturally brilliant guys -- Sailer, Pinker, Hsu -- who while at the very same time denies natural ability (IQ) is an important factor."

Gladwell is probably worth tens of millions. Steve has to beg money from his readers.

Anonymous said...

I just want to know whether FeministX is really Half Sigma.

John Seiler said...

25 years ago Bill James howed out how closely, with mathematical precision, minor league batting averages correlate with major league batting averages. It's not 100%, but it's highly predictive.

So why wouldn't the same thing apply to college quarterbacks going pro?

And the same thing is true of great high school quarterbacks going to college.

In sum, is anyone surprised that a 29-year-old quarterback who wins the Super Bowl or goes to the Pro Bowl won a league championship when he was 17?

Any Joe Sixpack sports fan knows far more than Malcolm.

Anonymous said...

But wasn't Gladwell's article really about teachers. Education school is far less like teaching than college football is like pro football. Wasn't the article an argument for trying teachers out and making it easier to fire them if they fail to deliver?

RKU said...

Gladwell is probably worth tens of millions. Steve has to beg money from his readers.

Well, yes. And Mike Tyson was enormously wealthier than Richard Feynman. So presumably he would have done even better in physics if he'd chosen such a career.

Steve Sailer said...

One thing Bill James did show was that baseball teams were routinely wasting high draft picks on high school pitchers. He showed that college pitchers were a much more reliable use of high draft picks, and, over time, most baseball teams came around to this line of thought.

I'm completely open to the idea that teams tend to behave in an economically suboptimal fashion regarding drafting NFL quarterbacks, but that isn't what Malcolm said in the New Yorker. He said there was "no connection" between draft level and NFL performance, which isn't true.

flenser said...

But wasn't Gladwell's article really about teachers. Education school is far less like teaching than college football is like pro football. Wasn't the article an argument for trying teachers out and making it easier to fire them if they fail to deliver?



Yup. Whatever the merits of high IQ in other occupations, I'd expect it to be much less of an important factor in identifying good teachers. At least at the pre-college level.

flenser said...

Gladwell is probably worth tens of millions.


That seems rather unlikely, if his wiki profile can be believed.

WorkScience said...

The sad thing is that this type of thing is constantly going on in employment discrimination law. An outsider with little background in the subject area (Gladwell/EEOC) decides that he knows better than the people running a company (NFL team/McDonalds) about what makes a good employee and attempts to force it to disregard its selection process. In high profile cases, firefighers, NFL quarterbacks,etc., there is some blowback because people either recognize it as important or are so familiar with it that they know it to be wrong. But everyday, the EEOC is telling some company how it can and can't hire, and nobody gives a damn because they don't understand the value of the hiring criteria or they think the business isn't important enough to get to select the best candidates.

Garrett said...

Any comment on this?

The Wrong Turn
By L. JON WERTHEIM
June 15, 2009

Onetime Detroit Lions quarterback JEFF KOMLO was a success in sports, business and love. So why did he die alone, on the run, thousands of miles from home?

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156473/1/index.htm

Richard Hoste said...

Why doesn't he?

Because thinking too hard would tell him blacks have lower IQs than whites and he doesn't want to believe that?

Anonymous said...

Trying to predict QB's future performance by draft pick isn't the same as predicting someone's future as an engineer by SAT because the QB relies so much more on others. You need a good team with a good coach to produce a good QB. Bill Walsh and Bilichek are good examples. These systems produced many good QBs. Look at Cassell at New England. They put him in when Brady goes down and he has a great year because he is plugged into an already great system.Same thing happend to Brady when Bledsoe got hurt.

Anonymous said...

"wasn't Gladwell's article really about teachers"

No, his "article" was a snotty, whiny letter about Stephen Pinker's mildly critical review of his book.

Anonymous said...

"Well, yes. And Mike Tyson was enormously wealthier than Richard Feynman. So presumably he would have done even better in physics if he'd chosen such a career."

Absolutely horrible comparison. Tyson and Feynman were not in the same field. Sailer and Gladwell are. It was not possible for Feynman to have been professionally jealous of Tyson, but it's so easy for Sailer to envy Gladwell. Here's what the person I responded said:

"Somewhere here there's some irony when you have a man who's certainly spent 10,000 hrs crafting his trade, who continues to make such glaring errors, who has to be corrected by some naturally brilliant guys -- Sailer, Pinker, Hsu -- who while at the very same time denies natural ability (IQ) is an important factor."

This is absurd considering that Gladwell is way, way more successful than Sailer. If Gladwell's 10,000 hours were ill-spent then surely he wouldn't be so well recognized.

Also, Gladwell's dad is a mathematician. Gladwell probably has a higher IQ than Sailer.

Bob said...

The SAT-GPA correlation while high, is also biased downward not only by the range issue Steve points to, but also by the fact that the 2nd most important factor in college admission is HS performance, which is also correlated with college grades and is a proxy of both IQ and diligence.

So at a given school, those with the highest SAT scores will tend to have the weakest HS performance and vice versa. (If someone was well above average in both, they'd go to a better school).

The SAT is a superb test, which makes sense, because it is essentially an IQ test.

Tom Regan said...

Why doesn't MG employ a fact-checker?
The answer was provided by Col. Nathan Jessup:
"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

Anonymous said...

But wasn't Gladwell's article really about teachers. Education school is far less like teaching than college football is like pro football. Wasn't the article an argument for trying teachers out and making it easier to fire them if they fail to deliver?

Yup. Whatever the merits of high IQ in other occupations, I'd expect it to be much less of an important factor in identifying good teachers. At least at the pre-college level.


Gladwell dismisses the NFL draft to then say teachers colleges can't be predictive either of future performance. He is attempting to overturn the general idea that future performance can be predicted by past performance or by objective metrics. If you know Gladwell and have read his other works, you know they are often infused with such PC non-sense.

Gladwell misses an important, logical but un-PC observation in attempting to parallel unpredictability of teaching college performance and the NFL draft ranking to future performance. The two selection filters are nothing alike.

NFL draft ranking is based upon objective factors such as college performance and combine numbers that are somewhat predictive. Teacher colleges are Marxist re-education camps that have zero or negative correlation with intellectual curiosity, honesty and motivation to see real world results. High IQ people could game the system, but many would also simply opt out of the career. Unlike the NFL draft, there is no clear reason why performance in teacher college would be predictive of anything.

To the other poster, all things being equal, I can't imagine why high-IQ teachers wouldn't be superior even for pre-college students. A high IQ would at least drastically reduce the common sad sight of elem teachers who can't use proper English, are afraid of math or can't logically think/expressing concisely. IQ may not be the most important criteria for a preschool teacher, but it's not random noise.

It's harder to find high-IQ teachers, but I'd always prefer my kids have the brightest mentors as possible (again, all things being equal). This is increasingly important beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and especially important for gifted kids.

Anonymous said...

Trying to predict QB's future performance by draft pick isn't the same as predicting someone's future as an engineer by SAT because the QB relies so much more on others. You need a good team with a good coach to produce a good QB. Bill Walsh and Bilichek are good examples. These systems produced many good QBs. Look at Cassell at New England. They put him in when Brady goes down and he has a great year because he is plugged into an already great system.Same thing happend to Brady when Bledsoe got hurt.
-----


Same with Mike Leach, practically every quaterback he slates in there looks like a superstar...

Anonymous said...

This is absurd considering that Gladwell is way, way more successful than Sailer. If Gladwell's 10,000 hours were ill-spent then surely he wouldn't be so well recognized.

Gladwell's recognition and financial success is due to the fact that we're living in PC dark ages and he appeals to the pseudo-intellectual mass market with enthusiastic elite endorsement. Your fallacy is in appealing to a intellectually bankrupt authority.

By your logic, Socrates, Copernicus, Galeleo and many other luminaries were far inferior to their unknown contemporaries because they were unpopular or others made more money.

Also, Gladwell's dad is a mathematician. Gladwell probably has a higher IQ than Sailer.

This explains a lot about Gladwell: his reverence for academia, failure to pursue it, and his brittle ego. With a father like that, I'm sure Gladwell has a deep-seated and very real sense of his own intelletual inadequacy based upon a father whose mind he could never really comprehend or connect with.

Anonymous said...

all things being equal, I can't imagine why high-IQ teachers wouldn't be superior even for pre-college students.




That old "all things being equal" will get you every time. It's the "all things" which make people good teachers. An IQ over 120 has no utility and typically comes attached to an assortment of social problems.

Anonymous said...

A high IQ would at least drastically reduce the common sad sight of elem teachers who can't use proper English, are afraid of math or can't logically think/expressing concisely.




Yes, lets pretend that those things are somehow connected to IQ. Clearly the typical person in the country has much lower IQ now than in the past, and that's what explains the bad English and other problems.

I had a lot of Chinese professors in college who were doubtless high IQ, but whose English was sadly lacking.

Dictaprole said...

"This is increasingly important beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and especially important for gifted kids."

Who gives a crap about so-called "gifted" kids or, as I call them, "future oppressors"?

Dennis Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
punk said...

I just want to know whether FeministX is really Half Sigma.


Why, coz u like her legs? They are nice, I have to admit.

strunstick said...

Also, Gladwell's dad is a mathematician. Gladwell probably has a higher IQ than Sailer.


Gotta laugh at that crap! My Pa is also a mathematician/plasma physicist from a top international uni. I'm a good engineer at best an my sis's IQ is sufficient to be a nurse. At least she's a lovely person which cannot be sed about many high IQ types.

headache said...

but it's so easy for Sailer to envy Gladwell.

This would be the standard reaction of someone obsessed with status, as Gladwell and his groupies, which probably include this Anonymous, are.

I think Steve is just enjoying shooting holes at the self-righteous, pretentious pose which Gladwell and his media handlers like the NYT put up. Guys like Steve get a kick out of pointing out the haughty silliness of these people and institutions.

The fact that Steve needs to panhandle is just the result of the Zeitgeist being about as unscientific as it was in the days of Galileo, except that now they are scrounging around in areas where science still cannot measure in order to peddle their crap.

The real scandal of course is that the NYT, especially its owners, know all about the importance of IQ. But the rest of us are supposed to think it does not matter.

sj071 said...

Very OT but might be of interest to iSteves and iStevettes.
University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has been hacked last night. A 60 MB 'Motherlode' file including internal emails, data sets, and tactics on disseminating Climate Change propaganda is now publicly available here:
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=75J4XO4T

I am reading through it right now and it's pretty much... epic fail.

“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

Who says there's no Santa.

Cordelia said...

Anonymous said: "Also, Gladwell's dad is a mathematician. Gladwell probably has a higher IQ than Sailer."

Gladwell's dad is professor of civil engineering. While obviously there are a lot of maths involved in engineering, that doesn't quite make him a mathematician.

His mother is a (ee gads!) psychotherapist. She's part Jewish and part black-Jamaican (and part other stuff like Scottish).

Svigor said...

That old "all things being equal" will get you every time. It's the "all things" which make people good teachers.

Err...what does this mean?

An IQ over 120 has no utility and typically comes attached to an assortment of social problems.

And what does that mean?

The only message I'm getting so far is "logic sucks; trust me and stuff."

Pat Shuff said...

Dennis Dale said...

We live in curious times: a self-benighted elite defends a faith under assault from the empirical scrutiny of...enlightened, irreligious provincials.

I kind of like it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O tempora! O mores!

All well stated and transparently so.
Worse than the provincials is a childlike wonder of the world as majesty is paraded by.."But Mommie he has no clothes."

There is no worse crime than lese majeste which is where this is getting.
A majesty suffering injury and getting encroached upon by irreverence lines the approach with Watsoned heads on spikes for intruders with anything to lose to take heed beginning at the far outskirts of the fiefdom, clashes and running street battles between factions
on the unofficial, unmanageable web turf.

"As a commenter pointed out, this debate over NFL quarterbacks is really a stalking horse for the debate over IQ and race, which, in turn, influences practically every other concept about how the world works."

Anonymous said...

Steve is getting more publicity via Business Insider headlined "Gladwell: Steven Pinker Got His Data From A Racist." Aparently a race headline is more catchy than what the article is about.

http://www.businessinsider.com/gladwell-steven-pinker-got-his-data-from-a-racist-2009-11

Anonymous said...

This is absurd considering that Gladwell is way, way more successful than Sailer. If Gladwell's 10,000 hours were ill-spent then surely he wouldn't be so well recognized.

Also, Gladwell's dad is a mathematician. Gladwell probably has a higher IQ than Sailer
.

So, you are endorsing Gladwell, blank slate, anyone can make it, put in 10k hours etc etc

But...

Then you claim Gladwell has a higher IQ (yeah right!) and ergo that is the source of his superiority. So Gladwell's success is not the result of merely hard work, anyone can do it blah blah it turns out that he has an innate advantage.

Therefore your defence of Gladwell actually endorses a Sailerian view of human capability and repudiates Gladwell's.

And that leaves you and Gladwell...where?

Anonymous said...

That old "all things being equal" will get you every time. It's the "all things" which make people good teachers. An IQ over 120 has no utility and typically comes attached to an assortment of social problems.

I explained (in layman's terms for readers like you) that we are discussing IQ as an independent variable in predicting teacher effectiveness. You confound the issue by saying IQ's over 120 typically come with negative social problems.

This is like saying the fastest 100 meters sprinters make poor WR or RB prospects because they are typically too short, weak and lack toughness. The same argument goes for any other performance metric which is why they are treated as *independent variables* and combined with each other to arrive at a more predictive overall metric.

It's wrong to say that IQ is worthless as an independent metric in assessing teacher performance as you imply. It's the most predictive human metric we have for beneficial outcomes across virtually all fields of human endeavor.

All things being equal(independent variables), who would want their offspring taught by a teacher with an IQ85-90 (the avg IQ of some populations) rather than an IQ115 teacher (what used to be typical for a college graduate). Certainly not the right thinking liberal elite like Obama, Clinton, Biden, and Gore all who ditched the DC public schools they claim to support for Sidwell Friends (average IQ spread probably 2SD between faculties which isn't the only advantage but a fundamental one).

An IQ over 120 has a lot of ultility for teachers with students with IQs over 105 (within 1SD). An IQ105 is at or below the AVERAGE IQ for entire countries like Hong Kong, S. Korean, and Japan and even further beneath the IQ for offspring of self-selecting groups like Brahims, Ashkenazim, Parsi, likely occupational groups like elite lawyers and parents living in areas like college towns and knowledge centers like Silicon Valley.

Anonymous said...

That old "all things being equal" will get you every time. It's the "all things" which make people good teachers.

Galdwell and his followers like this again remind me of Wes Studi's character the Sphinx in the movie Mystery Men:

Wes Studi as The Sphinx. One of the world's most respected superheroes, the Sphinx is shrouded in myth, and has the power to cut guns in half with his mind. He offers the rest of the team advice, though most of it comes as predictable ("until you learn to master your rage, your rage will become your master") and often nonsensical ("when you learn to balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack") platitudes.

David said...

Let them snicker at their superiors, whom they regard as ignoble amateurs. Remember the relationship between the philosophes and the ancien regime - and the outcome.

How many courtiers will be flushed down the toilet on that glorious day?

Ecrasez l'infame.

Anonymous said...

"Yup. Whatever the merits of high IQ in other occupations, I'd expect it to be much less of an important factor in identifying good teachers. At least at the pre-college level."

Good teachers can teach struggling students because they understand enough about their subject AND enough about what the struggling kid's confusion is, to be able to explain it in a way that struggler "gets it."
Good teachers can teach gifted kids because they know enough about the complexities of the subject to be able to answer their gifted kids' challenging questions when he catches a mistake in the text.
Both abilities ARE correlated with high IQ.

The problem with today's schools is, teacher's college takes in, as students, the lowest-IQ college kids. So we end up with a whole bunch of just plain dumb teachers who cannot figure out where the struggler's confusion lies, nor how to correct it, nor understand the subject matter deeply enough to answer the gifted kid's challenging questions.
The dumb teachers also, being dumb, do not recognize the utter foolishness and counterproductivity of all the education fads. Their (crazy) ed prof said it would work, so it must work, they assume.

keypusher said...

A high IQ would at least drastically reduce the common sad sight of elem teachers who can't use proper English, are afraid of math or can't logically think/expressing concisely.

To this, Anonymous rejoined:

Yes, lets pretend that those things are somehow connected to IQ.

They are connected. Pretending isn't necessary.

I had a lot of Chinese professors in college who were doubtless high IQ, but whose English was sadly lacking.

How was their Chinese?

Ivy League Bastard said...

re:
"The SAT-GPA correlation while high, is also biased downward [by use of both data as selection factors; ] at a given school, those with the highest SAT scores will tend to have the weakest HS performance and vice versa. (If someone was well above average in both, they'd go to a better school). "

Those are interesting points but the logic is wrong. Use (and over-use) of grades in the admission is probably inflating the power of SAT and other test scores to predict college grades.

Think of the extreme cases where both SAT and grades are used in the selection, but in a lopsided way, with one factor predominating. If only students with near-perfect high school grades are accepted, then SAT will rule as a predictor; if top SATs are the requirement, the predictive power shifts to grades. In other words, putting some selection weight on high school grades doesn't necessarily reduce the predictiveness of test scores. If grades are overvalued, that will make the SAT look better than it really is.

silly girl said...

"This is increasingly important beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and especially important for gifted kids."

Who gives a crap about so-called "gifted" kids or, as I call them, "future oppressors"?

Yeah, I hate all the "oppressive" crap invented by the gifted, like cars, electronics and vaccinations. We could all be living free and natural if it weren't for those damned gifted folks and the wretched technology they invented.

Anonymous said...

"It's harder to find high-IQ teachers, but I'd always prefer my kids have the brightest mentors as possible (again, all things being equal). This is increasingly important beyond 2nd or 3rd grade and especially important for gifted kids."

Hell yes, they are discriminated against. A retired engineer, programmer or finance guy that wants to teach math, computers or accounting for a few years after he retires to give back to the community has to jump through a bunch a hoops and BS. Plus the other teachers and administrators are often such idiots, it creates an insane work environment. A few private schools are pretty good because of better working conditions and fewer dumb kids.

Ray Sawhill said...

I had coffee with FeministX the other day. I didn't come away from it with the impression that she's Half Sigma in disguise.

albertosaurus said...

People should actually read one of Gladwell's books. Many of the posted commentators here seem to only know of Gladwell through the short excerpts that iSteve publishs. The football quarterback example is only one of a number of illustrations of Gladwell's world view.

Basically Gladwell tries to claim that there is no such thing as talent, just practice. He doesn't come right out and say it but he strongly implies that Bill Gates isn't smarter than you, he just played with computers longer. The Beatles aren't better muscicians than you either, they just parcticed for 10,000 hours at that little club in Germany. In fact Mozart was just an ordinary guy - like you - who happened to have practiced the piano a lot.

This is a very seductive message. Gladwell wants you to look at Gates or Mozart and feel yourself to be their equal. You are supposed to look at them and say to yourself "There but for the grace of God go I".

He can get away with such silliness because so many people don't have much direct experience about Gates or Mozart. However when he extends this kind of thinking to football, it's too familiar. He gets called on his contra factual statements by a sea of football fans.

DCS said...

The New Yorker magazine has a grand tradition of publishing authors who are powerful and effective writers but in spite of it get quite a bit wrong. Rachel Carlson (DDT causes thinning of bird eggs but is NOT a carcinogen),Paul Brodeur (direct current power lines and EMFs do NOT cause cancer) and now Malcolm Gladwell. Whatever else people think of it, it's consistent.

Bill said...

flenser:
Yup. Whatever the merits of high IQ in other occupations, I'd expect it to be much less of an important factor in identifying good teachers. At least at the pre-college level.


As you might expect, there is research on this topic. On balance, the evidence leans towards IQ-like tests being predictive of
teacher quality.

Also, teacher IQ has been falling over time lately, as high ability women can find more remunerative employment elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

And what does that mean?


It means that your inability to understand simple written English suggests a low IQ.


The only message I'm getting so far is "logic sucks; trust me and stuff."



See above.



But I'll break this down for someone of your obviously limited intellect. The ideal high-school teacher is NOT somebody with an IQ of 140. Such a person is ill suited to trying to teach multiplication and division to to 14 year old students with a IQ of 95. When they don't get it instantly, and they won't, Mz 140IQ is apt to get frustrated.

The ideal high school teacher has an IQ at the same level or slightly above that of his students. And also has a good supply of those qualities the commenter above casually referred to in "all else being equal". Excellent social skills, empathy, and patience, for instance.

Teachers just like this were the norm back in the days when American students were actually learning to read and write.

Anonymous said...

stop the bloodletting for the love of God! Where is Gladwell's cornerman to throw in the towel?

Dan in DC

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"But I'll break this down for someone of your obviously limited intellect. The ideal high-school teacher is NOT somebody with an IQ of 140. Such a person is ill suited to trying to teach multiplication and division to to 14 year old students with a IQ of 95. When they don't get it instantly, and they won't, Mz 140IQ is apt to get frustrated."

Whereas, Mz 95 is not even able to teach multiplication and division, at all. Because if IQ 95 means, as you imply, still learning such basic math at 14, then they will never get it, at all, so the IQ 95 teacher never did, either..



"The ideal high school teacher has an IQ at the same level or slightly above that of his students"

Holy cr......

Please, please, tell me where your kids go to school so I can avoid sending mine there.

David said...

DCS said

> The New Yorker magazine has a grand tradition of publishing authors who are powerful and effective writers but in spite of it get quite a bit wrong <

There's a lot of BS out there, but some of it is getting exposed by the Real Elite (i.e., modern-day internet philosophes like our Steve, AKA "savvy amateurs"). One late example of this here.

Regarding the optimum level of intelligence in teachers of small children, Anonymous has a point. Again I think Mencken has something interesting to say, indicated here. The quote, I believe, is from a chapter in the _Chrestomathy_ that is wryly humorous but that nonetheless struck me as being also soundly argued (not often the case in Mencken). That such teachers should be at or near the mental level of their charges is an old, traditional idea.

David said...

Anonymous said

> Hell yes, they are discriminated against. A retired engineer, programmer or finance guy that wants to teach math, computers or accounting for a few years after he retires to give back to the community has to jump through a bunch a hoops and BS. Plus the other teachers and administrators are often such idiots, it creates an insane work environment. A few private schools are pretty good because of better working conditions and fewer dumb kids. <

What a joy you must be as a teacher. It's really your calling. Don't give up.

Svigor said...

Anonymous:
An IQ over 120 has no utility and typically comes attached to an assortment of social problems.

Me:

And what does that mean?

Anonymous:

It means that your inability to understand simple written English suggests a low IQ.

It also suggests your brilliance; only a genius could make such intuitive leaps with such confidence.

Me:
The only message I'm getting so far is "logic sucks; trust me and stuff."

Anon:
See above.

Two draws from the well of argumentum ad hominem are another sure sign of brilliance.

But I'll break this down for someone of your obviously limited intellect.

Your charity knows no bounds. We simpletons enjoy participating too, after all; it keeps us out of gangs and stuff.

The ideal high-school teacher is NOT somebody with an IQ of 140. Such a person is ill suited to trying to teach multiplication and division to to 14 year old students with a IQ of 95. When they don't get it instantly, and they won't, Mz 140IQ is apt to get frustrated.

Ah.

At any point, are you going to support your arguments with evidence? Geniuses may not need it, but we simpletons plod along better with boring supporting data.

The ideal high school teacher has an IQ at the same level or slightly above that of his students. And also has a good supply of those qualities the commenter above casually referred to in "all else being equal". Excellent social skills, empathy, and patience, for instance.

My limited intellect simply can't encompass your argument. My IQ is so low, I keep coming away with the idea that you're saying that, ceteris paribus, higher IQ doesn't make for a better teacher, which doesn't make sense because you've got the words "all else being equal" stuck in a paragraph.

Teachers just like this were the norm back in the days when American students were actually learning to read and write.

Again, my lil' brain can't quite understand why you seem to be using "the norm" and "ideal" interchangeably. Maybe you can explain it to me using grunts and gestures?

P.S., I'm so stupid I missed the part where you explained this:

An IQ over 120 has no utility and typically comes attached to an assortment of social problems.

Maybe our conversation is the best support yet for your thesis. If your IQ wasn't set at such a dizzying height, you could 'learn me a thing or two.

Anonymous said...

Whereas, Mz 95 is not even able to teach multiplication and division, at all.




You think that people with an IQ of 95 cannot learn basic math?

This is the problem with the sort of people you find in the Steveosphere. They have no understanding at all of their fellow human beings. Or even of IQ, properly understood.

Anonymous said...

It also suggests your brilliance; only a genius could make such intuitive leaps with such confidence


No great intuitive leap neccesary, at least for me. I suppose for one such as you it may seem like a great leap.


We simpletons enjoy participating too, after all; it keeps us out of gangs and stuff.




That's why I stick with you. I'd hate to have your criminal record on my conscience.


My IQ is so low, I keep coming away with the idea that you're saying that, ceteris paribus, higher IQ doesn't make for a better teacher




Well done! That's exactly what I'm saying. See, my sticking with you is paying dividends.


At any point, are you going to support your arguments with evidence?



Like you?



my lil' brain can't quite understand why you seem to be using "the norm" and "ideal" interchangeably.



Your lil' brain can't comprehend the meanings of those words, it would seem. If only you'd had an Engish teacher more closely matched to your IQ level ...


If your IQ wasn't set at such a dizzying height, you could 'learn me a thing or two.


Don't fret, perhaps one of the other comenters here can help you.



I've enjoyed swapping insults with you. If that's an IQ dependent skill, you're a moron.

Truth said...

I'd say Svig-O-Lino and anonymous are about even after 6 rounds right now. I will be waiting intently to see who lands the big right hand.

RKU said...

Well, for whatever it's worth, I'd probably find myself part-way between Svigor and Anonymous regarding teacher intelligence.

I think it's probably a bad idea to have teacher who aren't at least somewhat above average in intelligence, say 115+ in "IQish" numbers.

And for especially smart honors/elite students, it's probably sensible to have pretty smart teachers as well.

But I'd also say that the marginal value of high teacher intelligence is usually less than that for various elite professions, such as scientists, academics, software developers, lawyers, or Wall Street crooks. So a society that encourages the smartest people to become regular teachers is probably seriously misallocating its human capital.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this. For example, sending every employee at Goldman Sachs and all the big hedge funds off to teach remedial math in the absolutely worst ghetto schools would be tremendously beneficial to society, even though I doubt many of the students would actually learn anything.

Anonymous said...

I'd say Svig-O-Lino and anonymous are about even after 6 rounds right now. I will be waiting intently to see who lands the big right hand.

I'm holding Svi's coat and Ive got a bottle of water ready if he needs a sip.

Anonymous said...

Really baloo- that dog in the ad was a crimethinker? Really? How did my sarah palin slogan sell? I want 10% btw


Dan in Dc

Anonymous said...

I think the avereage sports fan once they read that Gladweel said there's no correlatio between high draft picks and nfl qb success would have laughed at the idiot and gone about their day...


Dan in DC

CMA said...

Bill: Interesting links!

Svigor said...

Funny, RKU and supra-genius Anon both imply that I have a stated position vis-a-vis teachers and IQ; RKU thinks his position occupies a middle ground between mine and supra-genius', and SG seems to suggest that I have to support my "position". Er, my "position" has consisted of asking SG to support his. So, here's the "evidence": when you make an assertion, the burden of proof is on you.

P.S., I'm still waiting for you to explain the IQ/"bad stuff" correlation. Or did you burn too many calories with that soft shoe dance?

P.P.S., do I have to belabor the humor in Anon's ceteris paribus thing, or does everyone other than Anon get it already?

Anonymous said...

do I have to belabor the humor in Anon's ceteris paribus thing, or does everyone other than Anon get it already?





Oh, go on, you Robin Williams impersonator! Make us roll in the aisles! Belabor away!

Anonymous said...

I think it's probably a bad idea to have teacher who aren't at least somewhat above average in intelligence, say 115+ in "IQish" numbers.


And for especially smart honors/elite students, it's probably sensible to have pretty smart teachers as well.



I don't see any reason why, and I don't see anyone offering one. The transmission of knowledge is not a high IQ skill. The number of people capable of teaching your child to read is immense.

The fallacy here seems to be the same one to which the Stevosphere is always prone - that whatever the activity at hand, more IQ can always do a better job of it.

But that is clearly untrue. Suppose a job such as one of those at a unionized, highly automated factory, e.g some of those at GM. You have people whose "job" consists of pushing a certain button at a certain time.

Can a 140 IQ worker really perform this task in a superior fashion to a mere 110 IQ worker? Can a high IQ man with a shovel dig ditches better than a medium IQ man with the same implement? I think it's pretty clear that the answer is "No".

And that's where the "high IQ as the wholly grail" mindset comes undone. There is no IQ shortage, in most walks of life. It is NOT the case that more IQ helps everyone to do their jobs better. Each activity and occupation has a range of IQ's appropriate to it. Too little IQ and you cannot do the job. Too much and the excess brainpower is wasted doing tasks which are less than it could do.

Consider strength. If a job requires you to be able to lift 100 lb weights, and you are capable of lifting 180 lbs, it does not enable you to do the job any better than the other guy who can "only" lift 150.

There are some occupations where more IQ is always better, but they make up a small fraction of all the jobs in society.

Anonymous said...

"Consider strength. If a job requires you to be able to lift 100 lb weights, and you are capable of lifting 180 lbs, it does not enable you to do the job any better than the other guy who can "only" lift 150."

Actually it might. Our 180lb lifter has more limit strength than our 150lb lifter (clearly), however, he may or may not have more strength-endurance. If I had to place a bet on it with only the information you have provided I would bet that the 180lb lifter has more strength endurance (ie. he can lift 100lbs more times before he is exhausted) than the 150lb lifter.

Baloo said...

Dan in DC, which slogan was it? I've done a heap of Palin material. You can see it all HERE.

Svigor said...

Oh, go on, you Robin Williams impersonator! Make us roll in the aisles! Belabor away!

Okay:

Anonymous:
all things being equal, I can't imagine why high-IQ teachers wouldn't be superior even for pre-college students.

Supra-Genius:
That old "all things being equal" will get you every time. It's the "all things" which make people good teachers.

Me:
My IQ is so low, I keep coming away with the idea that you're saying that, ceteris paribus, higher IQ doesn't make for a better teacher

Supra-Genius:
Well done! That's exactly what I'm saying.

This stuff writes itself.

Svigor said...

And for especially smart honors/elite students, it's probably sensible to have pretty smart teachers as well.

I don't see any reason why, and I don't see anyone offering one. The transmission of knowledge is not a high IQ skill. The number of people capable of teaching your child to read is immense.

Reasonable speculation:

IQ correlates with the ability to transmit knowledge? (No, I don't have any proof, hence the words "reasonable" and "speculation," and the lack of any assertions or supporting logical fallacies)

Does anyone have an example of something that, ceteris paribus, dumb, motivated people do better than smart, motivated people? Just curious.

The fallacy here seems to be the same one to which the Stevosphere is always prone - that whatever the activity at hand, more IQ can always do a better job of it.

But that is clearly untrue. Suppose a job such as one of those at a unionized, highly automated factory, e.g some of those at GM. You have people whose "job" consists of pushing a certain button at a certain time.

Can a 140 IQ worker really perform this task in a superior fashion to a mere 110 IQ worker?


It's reasonable to suppose he can, ceteris paribus, even within your implausible hypothetical.

Can a high IQ man with a shovel dig ditches better than a medium IQ man with the same implement? I think it's pretty clear that the answer is "No".

I don't see that as clear, no.

And that's where the "high IQ as the wholly grail" mindset comes undone. There is no IQ shortage, in most walks of life. It is NOT the case that more IQ helps everyone to do their jobs better. Each activity and occupation has a range of IQ's appropriate to it. Too little IQ and you cannot do the job. Too much and the excess brainpower is wasted doing tasks which are less than it could do.

Shifting the goalposts. We're not discussing whether people with x range IQs would be better utilized elsewhere. We're not discussing teaching's IQ threshold.

There are some occupations where more IQ is always better, but they make up a small fraction of all the jobs in society.

Now you've moved the goalposts back to where they were, and pretending you never moved them.

MQ said...

IQ-denialism is the "rotten core" (to use Stephen Jay Gould's phrase in a more accurate context) of the modern conventional wisdom.

This right here summarizes the problem with Steve intellectually -- the massive overemphasis on IQ, probably in part fed by a sense of grievance over being marginalized. IQ is one small dimension of human personality; even in a highly abstract and bureaucratic society such as our own it shows only a small correlation with personal success.

Svigor said...

IQ is one small dimension of human personality; even in a highly abstract and bureaucratic society such as our own it shows only a small correlation with personal success.

So trot out some of the other correlations. And it would help if they were stronger.

Jennifer said...

No, IQ is highly correlated with personal success as measured by such things as marital status, job performance, health, and SES status.

Also, whichever moron is stating that teaching is a profession in which individual performance is divorced from IQ is totally wrong. Teaching, like every other bloody profession, even ditch digging, shows a positive correlation between individual aptitude and IQ. Moreover, teaching is an intellectual profession, and as such, individual performance is highly correlated with all G-loaded qualities, including academic performance in college, IQ, test scores, and so on.

Dennis Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ben tillman said...

But I'll break this down for someone of your obviously limited intellect. The ideal high-school teacher is NOT somebody with an IQ of 140. Such a person is ill suited to trying to teach multiplication and division to to 14 year old students with a IQ of 95.

You obviously don't have a 140+ IQ. The higher the IQ, the better -- always, in every teaching situation.

ben tillman said...

But I'd also say that the marginal value of high teacher intelligence is usually less than that for various elite professions, such as scientists, academics, software developers, lawyers, or Wall Street crooks. So a society that encourages the smartest people to become regular teachers is probably seriously misallocating its human capital.

Now, you have a point.

MQ said...

trying to split the difference between convention and reality by deriding intelligence as having a "small correlation" is simply not supportable.

Yes it is. Look at the actual evidence, namely the correspondence between IQ and personal success. IQ has a small partial correlation with income. I'm just stating the facts here. Try reading them instead of saturating yourself in the quasi-religious atmosphere around IQ here.

Small as compared to what? Is there a better predictor of personal and societal success?

Yes, many are as or more important. Again, try reading the actual resarch.

Please don't cite the products of intelligence--wealth, culture, personal discipline--as their cause.

Why? Because you don't want to deal with complexity? It's rather obvious that wealth, culture, and personal discipline are both causes and consequences of intelligence. Everyone understands this in their personal lives -- this is why we warn young people to be disciplined at school or else they will be stupid when they grow up. This is why parents spend their wealth to ensure that their kids attend schools where they will be surrounded by kids who share the parents culture.

Both culture and discipline are prior to IQ in another sense. IQ is just a very recent psychometric measurement for performance in modern bureaucratic organizations while culture and self-discipline have been recognized as essential to human society for thousands of years. IQ is an epiphenomenon of culture.

The way IQ is discussed around here flys in the face of evidence, experience, and common sense. Just like left-wingers tend to ignore certain realities about human differences to preserve sentimental political beliefs, right-wingers here ignore certain realities about how culture works to preserve their various racial bitternesses.

Anonymous said...

MQ

I started reading the UofCO econ paper you linked to.

These two researchers are jokers. On the very first page they make their patently false assumption that intelligence is entirely due to environment against the vast majority of psychometric research.

You, and likely these economists, make the error of assuming everyone wants to singlemindedly maximize their wealth. You assume that anyone with high IQ would apply that talent towards maximizing income.

This is not only wrong on the face of it, it is particularly inapplicable for those with IQ more than several SDs out from the mean who are not content with the predictability and intellectual banality of law, medicine or finance.

Svigor said...

Richard Hoste over at HBDbooks posted an excerpt from The Bell Curve

Note the table.

More g means you're more likely to show up on time every day, less likely to hurt yourself at work, less likely to hit that water main or power line, etc.

On the other hand, you're also much more likely to save up your cash and find a better job...