January 28, 2014

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As the civil-rights movement settles into stagnation and one nostrum after the next fails to move the needle, public rituals celebrating the faith have become de rigueur. Nowhere is this religion-like activity more visible than when people beseech prestige universities to open their doors for more blacks and graduate them by hook or by crook. The college diploma has taken on a magical quality, the ticket to the middle class as if “€œthe middle class”€ were an exclusive club requiring a BA to get by the doorman. That this give-us-a-diploma mania has been going on for decades with little to show for it makes scant difference”€”gotta keep the faith.

The latest public ceremony occurred on January 16, 2014. Here President Obama, egged on by First Lady Michelle, held a daylong White House “€œsummit”€ attended by scores of college presidents, corporate heads, and nonprofit leaders. As the price of admission, all participants were obligated to bring a plan to increase minority college enrollments. 

It was axiomatically assumed that intellectually talented black high-school students abound but that top colleges ignore them. Furthermore, these potential college graduates were allegedly often clueless regarding the admission process. Particularly odious according to the president were standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT that impede access to top schools. (In the civil-rights lingo, when blacks cannot pass a test, it is “€œa barrier.”€) The president called for doubling of the National College Advising Corps where recent college graduates help students in “€œunderserved”€ high schools complete the college admission process. He also advocated hiring new advisers and subsidizing college prep classes routinely available to rich white and Asian students.

“€œThe evidence that IQ cannot be boosted by enrichment programs is, as they say, settled science.”€

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan also witnessed another ritualistic we-need-more-diplomas event. Here agitated black students were outraged that blacks comprised 14% of the state’s population but only 5% of the student body. So on the High Holy Day of Martin Luther King’s birthday, the activists granted the university seven days to respond to seven demands or face “€œphysical actions”€ by Monday, January 27, 2014. Demands included emergency scholarships for black students unable to concentrate as a result of the school’s hostile racial climate, inexpensive on-campus housing for blacks, and doubling black enrollment to 10%. No mention was made of the state law that bars the university from using race in college admissions.

To a clear-eyed Martian, such rituals are truly bizarre given the plain-to-see reality. SAT scores do predict college success, and blacks and whites on average differ by 100 points on the reading, math, and writing tests. These gaps have remained unchanged for 25 years. Yes, intensive tutoring and memorizing math formulae might add a few points here and there, but Obama’s call for free tutoring to boost scores just echoes charlatans peddling alleged miracles. 

Even more damning (and unspeakable) is the average 15-point white/black difference in IQ. The evidence that IQ cannot be boosted by enrichment programs is, as they say, settled science. This gap is particularly discouraging at the bell curve’s right side where the pool of young blacks with an IQ appropriate to an elite school”€”130 or higher”€”is tiny. Billions have been spent trying to narrow this largely genetic gap, and, despite some occasional misleading media hype, nothing works.

Moreover, even if we politely ignore SAT and IQ tests, most colleges already have elaborate outreach programs targeting talented minority students. It is inconceivable that an impoverished ghetto dweller with 650 on his SAT scores will slip through the cracks and instead head to the car wash. If anything, today’s colleges are overdoing it”€”admitting marginal black students, polishing them up with summer “€œbridge programs,”€ and supplying ample remedial academic help”€”even creating whole iffy academic programs such as Black Studies to manufacture diplomas.

So why the charade?


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