January 22, 2007

"Murray and Magnets"

My new Vdare .com column:

Murray and Magnets

Last week saw two events exemplifying the vast contradiction between how the American upper middle class speaks of IQ and schooling in public—and what it actually thinks in private.

The widely-reviled heretic Charles Murray published three essays in the Wall Street Journal on how we are kidding ourselves about schooling ("Half of all children are below average in intelligence, and teachers can do only so much for them"), college ("Too many Americans are going to college"), and the wisdom of the elite ("Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise"), and was … widely reviled for his heresy.

Meanwhile, the bourgeois parents of liberal Los Angeles were in a frenzy as last Friday's deadline for postmarking applications for magnet public schools bore down upon them.

Bob Sipchen wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

"Negligent Los Angeles parents take note: You have only until Friday to get a postmark on the magnet school application that your more responsible peers regard—rightly or wrongly—as their last desperate hope for getting their children a good education at taxpayer expense… It goes without saying that you're terrified of the local middle school, which you just assume has lousy test scores because of those tough-looking kids you see hanging out in front, presumably spreading graffiti, smack and STDs."[How to make it to a magnet By Bob Sipchen (Monday's Column, Jan. 15, 2007)]

For example, the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES) received 2939 applications last year for its 192 openings. That seven percent acceptance rate is lower than Harvard's.

The LA Times ran daily updates of the "Ask a Magnet Yenta" advice column by Sandra Tsing Loh on how to manipulate the magnet system to avoid having to send your kid to either a normal public school or a private school that can run up to $27,000. "Actually, now that there are so many Democrats in private school, the preferred term is 'independent" school,'" acidly notes Loh, who may be the only conservative performance artist in America, in her hilarious “Scandalously Informal Guide to Los Angeles Schools”.

Why does what Loh calls the "Prius-driving screenwriter" class find magnets so magnetically attractive? [More]

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


Anonymous said...

Does Los Angeles have any equivalent to New York's competitive-admissions high schools? While the vast majority of NYC high schools are dreary places, there are a handful of schools that admit students via competitive examination, accepting only a very small percentage of applicants - Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and I think a couple others. They're among the top-rated high schools, public or private, in the country.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Peter: Not really. There are a few "Highly Gifted Magnets" that require very high scores on the Wechsler IV IQ test, but nothing much like the famous NYC schools, or like Boston Latin. Whitney in Cerritos is the closest thing in Southern California to a NYC competitive exam science school.

Anonymous said...


What about parochial schools in LA? Are they good? Granted, we probably have a higher percentage of English-speaking Catholics here in New Jersey, but even a few non-Catholics have been known to enroll their kids in parochial schools here (if they can't the real estate in good public school districts or private school tuition).


jody said...

i had a mexican girlfriend and her sister's kids in LA were afraid to go to school. she drove them across town everyday so they could go to less dangerous school. they got bullied at school. they were half mexican and half black. they looked brazilian.

dealing with that family introduced me to mexifornia.

Anonymous said...


Did they look like these Brazilians? Not all Brazilians are mulatto.


Anonymous said...

Or this Brazilian. 100% German.

Ade said...

Maybe Ezra Klein believes everyone can have above average intelligence....

Even if we accept that the average person is a lot smarter than a century ago (hard to believe, I know), intelligence/education in the marketplace is akin to what economist Fred Hirsch called a positional good, i.e., one whose value is primarily relative to social status.


Anonymous said...

I keep thinking that universal access to the internet will eventually make kids much smarter if they can just LEARN TO READ. Just about every kid ever born is nosy about the world around them. If I'd had the internet when I was a lad, I'd have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours just looking up (googling, wikipedia-ing) and question I had about any particular person, place, or thing, or ideology that caught my attention that day. Perhaps nosy kids, even poor ones, can get smarter at night so they can "act cool" all day in class?

God, lets hope so anyway.

meep said...

I made a comment on Murray's last piece, of the three column series, here:

I don't talk in terms of IQ, but the point is that there are kids smarter than the other kids, and everybody knows it. And thus something in particular needs to be done with/to those kids.

albatross said...

I think most people are helped by the internet, in the sense of being able to do more mental work. But smarter people probably benefit more. Look at a tool like Excel, or even a Basic or Python interpreter. It makes more possible for most people, but the most smart and talented people who learn the tool will be able to do things that the others can barely dream of.