May 03, 2017

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University

Source: Bigstock

The General Social Survey, which has been running for 45 years, includes a ten-question vocabulary test. This isn”€™t an IQ test, but it correlates surprisingly well with most formal IQ tests, because vocabulary”€”such as being cognizant of the distinctions in meaning between “€œuninterested“€ and “€œdisinterested“€”€”is an excellent test of general intelligence.

The Audacious Epigone converts the results to an IQ-style scale with a standard deviation of 15 and a mean of 98.

Among respondents who graduated from college in the 1960s, the average score on the vocabulary test, expressed on an IQ scale, was 112.3, almost a standard deviation above average. For each decade since then, the average vocabulary IQ has dropped steadily down to 100.0 (two points above the mean) for those who graduated in the 2010s.

Among those who didn”€™t graduate from college, the mean score has dropped from 97.3 for those who left school in the 1960s to 89.3 in the current decade.

You might be somewhat surprised by the falling vocabulary test scores because raw IQ scores in the 20th century tended to go up. But the Flynn effect was seen less on culture-loaded subtests such as vocabulary and more on subtests that resemble programming your smartphone. The explanation for why nobody much noticed the Flynn effect appears to have been that it didn”€™t much show up in the cognitive skills used in conversation, but instead in more technical skills needed for using new electronic devices.

Audacious took another look at vocabulary skill and got a similar result. He calculated the percentage of age 25″€“40 college grads who answered nine or ten words right out of ten questions on the GSS. In 1974, almost one out of two grads aced the test. By recent years, the high-scorers were down to one out of six.

Much of the explanation for Audacious Epigone’s finding is likely that a larger fraction of the population sticks it out for a bachelor degree today, especially since the 2008 economic collapse dried up construction jobs.

Another factor is that the population of young people is becoming more diverse, and diversity doesn”€™t correlate well with a mastery of English vocabulary.

But what this means is that a larger and less bright fraction of the population is hanging around for a full four years of political indoctrination on campus.

Ideology has dumbed down to accommodate the limitations of today’s college grads.

Back in the 1960s, campus leftism was in part a product of the lifting of quotas on the number of high-IQ Jews admitted. Harvard dropped its quota on Jews in the mid-1950s, and Yale in 1965. Before then, Yale had concentrated on letting in unintellectual rich guys with leadership potential, such as John F. Kerry in 1962 (IQ ~ 115) and George W. Bush (IQ ~ 120) in 1964.

But in the mid-1960s Yale eliminated its Jewish quota, and, according to my late friend Jim Chapin, brother of folksinger Harry Chapin, who was a history instructor at Yale then, the campus atmosphere immediately became more intellectually intense. Bush, the son of a congressman and grandson of a senator, became alienated from the new culture.

Much of the student radicalism of the late 1960s was due to huge numbers of Jewish students suddenly being liberated to be together at elite institutions. Why, they asked, should WASPs like Bush or crypto-semi-Jewish students like Kerry be in Skull & Bones when there were much smarter students available?

In contrast, student bodies today are slowly drifting downward intellectually as colleges add more non-Asian minorities with affirmative-action privileges and rich Chinese students who can pay full tuition but can”€™t really speak English.

Not surprisingly, the kind of thinking that’s trendy on campuses is getting dumber all the time.

Consider the term “€œmicroaggression.”€ To think that’s a cool word that will persuade skeptics, you have to be kind of a buffoon.

The overall ideology today doesn”€™t even pretend anymore to try to use objective principles. Instead, there are simply Good People, who belong to favored categories, such as black or transgendered, and Bad People, who are cishet white males.

What the Good People do is Good and what the Bad People do is Bad, and that’s about all you need to know.


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