Roland G. Fryer, Jr.
Harvard University and NBER
This paper describes a field experiment in Oklahoma City Public Schools in which students were provided with free cellular phones and daily information about the link between human capital and future outcomes via text message. Students’ reported beliefs about the relationship between education and outcomes were influenced by treatment, and treatment students also report being more focused and working harder in school. However, there were no measureable changes in attendance, behavioral incidents, or test scores. The patterns in the data appear most consistent with a model in which students cannot translate effort into measureable output, though other explanations are possible.
Perhaps they were too busy texting their friends who also got FryerPhones to do their homework?
"Fryer is black."
I know that sounds like one of those horrible reductionist things that only I am so crude as to say, but I didn't make it up, I just read it in the NYT. As Steve Levitt's Freakonomics writing partner Steve Dubner wrote in the NYT Magazine in 2005:
To Fryer, the language of economics, a field proud of its coldblooded rationalism, is ideally suited for otherwise volatile conversations. ''I want to have an honest discussion about race in a time and a place where I don't think we can,'' he says. ''Blacks and whites are both to blame. As soon as you say something like, 'Well, could the black-white test-score gap be genetics?' everybody gets tensed up. But why shouldn't that be on the table?''
Fryer said this several months ago, which was well before Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard, wondered aloud if genetics might help explain why women are so underrepresented in the sciences. Summers -- who is also an economist and a fan of Fryer's work -- is still being punished for his musings. There is a key difference, of course: Summers is not a woman; Fryer is black.
Here's an interesting thought experiment: What if Professor Fryer announced that -- so far as he can tell after blowing through loads of philanthropic money (Bloomberg's, et al) testing every intervention he could dream up -- the best explanation for The Gap remains the one put forward by Shockley, Jensen, Herrnstein, Murray, Watson, and Richwine.
Say, he just let it slip out in casual conversation like Watson did that wound up in the newpaper?
Would Fryer be Watsoned/Richwined? Or would being black suffice as an all-purpose protection?
Further, would such an admission get any publicity at all? Or would it be like, say, the Obama Administration's 2011 report on how much more homicidal blacks have been over the last 29 years: something that only disreputable Internet commenters link to, a fact that your knowledge of is taken as prima facie evidence of your disreputableness?
More depressingly, what if Fryer got hit by the bus tomorrow? Who, out of this country of 300 million, would replace him as the only reputable social scientist in America encouraged to poke around at the margins of the race and IQ topic?