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Shutting Down Charles Murray

April 12, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

Allison Stanger is the politics and economics professor at Middlebury College who suffered a concussion during her attempt to shuffle Charles Murray to a safe place during the riots that broke out at his appearance at the school. She wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times on March 24 that confirms what many had suspected: The students rioting against Murray were uninformed about what he had written on matters of race and gender.
Stanger began her column by seeking to demonstrate her liberal bona fides and sympathy for the students, who she says were at the “boiling point” because of how “President Trump has demonized Muslims as terrorists and dehumanized many groups of marginalized people….College students have seen this, and have taken note: Speech can become action.”
For the sake of this discussion, let us set aside Stanger’s anti-Trump hand-wringing. It can be understood, I guess. She has to go on working at Middlebury. What is important is that she recognizes that the protesting students had “concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous ‘never Trump’ wing of the Republican Party.”
Those angry coeds screaming “Shut it down!” and the frail bearded men in denim shirts shaking their fists had done no “fact-checking,” says Stanger. They did not “analyze and assess” what they had heard. “Faulty information became the catalyst for shutting off the free exchange of ideas at Middlebury. We must all be more rigorous in evaluating and investigating anger, or this pattern of miscommunication will continue on other college campuses.”
Hear, hear. What the protesting students would have found if they did some reading was that, while Murray has written things that do not conform to the consensus on many issues in academic circles, they were nothing remotely close to racist diatribes. Murray’s theories can be challenged, but they deserve to be challenged reasonably, with the honest give-and-take expected in honest academic debate.
What are the most “offensive” things that Murray has written? The following examples are Murray at his worst, according to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the left-wing activist group that has led the charge against Murray:
“The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists). Women of all races and ethnic groups follow this pattern in similar fashion. There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.”
Dysgenics is the theory that women with low IQs in the underclass tend to have more children than successful women with higher IQs, and that this results, according to Wikipedia, in the “the accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits in offspring of a particular population or species.”
Is dysgenics a “racist” explanation for why IQs are lower in certain inner-city neighborhoods and in Appalachian hollows than in the suburbs of Boston and Manhattan? In what way? It does not posit that the populations of these areas are innately of lower intelligence. It contends that there is another explanation, one based on birthrates. If Murray is wrong about this, he should be debated, not threatened with violence.
Likewise Murray’s contention that “the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line. This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true.”
The SPLC assumes that Murray is offering this data to justify a lessening of our efforts as a society to help the poor, and offers as corroboration Murray’s comments when being interviewed by Ben Wattenberg on PBS in 1994:
“You want to have a job training program for welfare mothers? You think that’s going to cure the welfare problem? Well, when you construct that job training program and try to decide what jobs they might qualify for, you had better keep in mind that the mean IQ of welfare mothers is somewhere in the 80s, which means that you have certain limitations in what you’re going to accomplish.”
What Murray is arguing for is a job training program for welfare mothers that will be effective, not that we should not have one at all. What is “racist” about that?
The SPLC charges that Murray is a “statistically minded sociologist by training, who has spent decades working to rehabilitate long-discredited theories of IQ and heredity, turning them into a foundation on which to build a conservative theory of society that rejects equality and egalitarianism”; that he believes the “relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups,” that “the groups that make up the ‘underclass’ are there solely because of their genes.”
That is a cheap shot. Nowhere in his writing does Murray say the members of the underclass are “there solely because of their genes.” Murray’s position is that differences in IQ exist between economically successful families and those who underachieve, and that we should not devise poverty programs — or evaluate their success — without keeping these differences in mind.
In his last book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, Murray focused on the social turmoil in white, working-class areas of the United States, where what Mr. Murray calls America’s four “founding virtues” — marriage, industriousness, community, and faith — have all but collapsed. He blames this collapse on liberal reforms that “fundamentally changed the signals and the incentives facing low-income people and encouraged a variety of trends that soon became self-reinforcing.”
Reread that. He does not say that social problems faced by portions of our population are caused solely by genes. He attributes the problems of the white underclass to the same causes that have harmed blacks. To liberal welfare programs, not to genes. If the students at Middlebury College had read his writings, rather than unfounded smears by the SPLC and its fellow-travelers, they would have seen that.
It makes one wonder if they were interested in the facts, or if they were looking for a reason to strut and fret their hour on the stage to impress the other kids back in the dorms, rather than the truth.

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Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is fitzpatrijames@sbcglobal.net, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.

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