Don’t Lose Hope, Rochelle

14 11 2017


Illini math prof:  Math is hard!  Especially for NAMs.  Therefore, social justice.

The angle she’s working is that, if the University of Illinois has a math requirement, she wants it to be eliminated, so all those NAM social justice majors who find math “problematic” (i.e. difficult) can get their social justice sheepskins and then go to work as social justice jihadis.

This may not seem like that kind of story that I’d be that interested in here on the second day in a row after four months that I’ve at least temporarily gotten back some semblance of ability and desire to use the internet in an active sense, including today’s posting storm, but there’s a big profound consequential error in her autistic screeching which gives me the opportunity to cut and paste a really profound consequential comment I read in AR several years ago and saved.

For example, Rochelle Gutierrez claims that:

Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white.


“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

As it turns out, math ability, ceteris paribus, is overrated.

Hence, the AR comment I just referenced.  It’s very long, so make some time to read it, because it’s very much worth reading:

On the question of IQ tests, Whites versus Asians, the best analysis I have seen so far is that of Steven Farron.

Some of his conclusions include: the Verbal SAT section “is a more accurate measure than the Math of ability at “analyzing, synthesizing, and manipulating information; distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information; and other types of abilities that are commonly called intelligent.

Whites have higher IQ in “general intelligence” than Asians, are more creative, get better grades in university. There is also greater discrimination in affirmative action against Whites than Asians.

Here is a section of a paper he wrote on this:

“In my book, I repeatedly point out that the contention that Asians suffer from greater discrimination than Whites in undergraduate admissions is usually based on comparisons between the combined Verbal+Math SAT scores of Asians and Whites at the same colleges. But that is a misleading measure since the Verbal section, on which Whites do better than Asians, is more important than the Math section, on which Asians do better than Whites. However, I do not provide any evidence for the greater importance of the Verbal than the Math SAT in my book. I will correct that defect now.

There are two reasons why the Verbal SAT is more important than the Math. One is obvious: the types of questions and problems on the Verbal section are relevant to many more university courses and many more occupations than the questions and problems on the Math. (In my book (pages 152, 303), I warn against confusing mathematical reasoning with accuracy of arithmetic computation.)

A more important reason for the greater importance of the Verbal section is that it is a more accurate measure of General Intelligence (i.e., it is more g-loaded) than the Math section. To state that non-technically:

the Verbal section is a more accurate measure than the Math of ability at “analyzing, synthesizing, and manipulating information; distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information; and other types of abilities that are commonly called intelligent” (page 303 of my book). (The definitive discussion of General Intelligence (g) is Jensen 1998.)

The higher g-loading of the Verbal than the Math SAT explains a fact that I mention on pages 281-3 of my book. I show there that coaching/preparation does little to raise SAT scores. But it raises Math scores more than Verbal scores. This probably surprised many readers, who assumed that the opposite should be true. However, although the form of the Verbal section is words, its substance is General Intelligence; and General Intelligence is the most completely genetically determined of all mental traits.

Unfortunately, I could find only one article on this subject, by Alexander Beaujean, et al., in Personality and Individual Differences 41, 2006 (pages 353-7), which is available at…. In it, Beaujean, et al., reported the results of a study of the correlation of Verbal and Math SAT scores with scores on the Composite Intelligence Index, which consists of two verbal and two non-verbal subtests. Beaujean, et al., concluded, “SAT Total or SAT Verbal alone best predicted IQ;” “Using both SAT Math and SAT Verbal does not produce the optimal equation, as when both variables are included SAT Math loses significance as a predictor.”

The participants in this study were 97 students at a private, Midwestern university who represented a wide cross-section of academic majors. But 94 percent were self-identified as Caucasian.

Fortunately, much more cogent and relevant data on this subject are available. On page 261 of my book, I discuss the predictive accuracy of the subtests of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Because of its importance for the applicants involved and for the general society, the predictive accuracy of the MCAT has been more intensively studied than any other academic test. (The predictive accuracy of the SAT has been more extensively studied.)

I report on page 261 of my book that before 1991, the MCAT had five sections: Biology, Physics, Science Problems, Reading, and Quantitative. Extensive studies were done of how well each section predicted performance on the three parts of the National Board of Medical Examiners examinations (NBME). Here I will remind the reader that the courses in the first two years of medical school are devoted to the sciences relevant to medicine (anatomy, biochemistry, etc.). The courses in the third and fourth years involve specifically medical subjects (surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, etc.). Then, after a medical student has an MD degree, he works in a hospital as an intern. Part I of the NBME was taken at the end of the second year of medical school, Part II at the end of the fourth year, and Part III at the end of internship.

The Quantitative section of the MCAT, which resembled the Math SAT, was found to have no predictive value for any of the three parts of the NBME. The science sections had the highest predictive accuracy for Part I, as could be expected. The Reading section had slightly better predictive accuracy than the science sections for Part II. On Part III, which is clearly the most important, the Reading section had by far the highest predictive accuracy. (One point on the combined science sections added 9.70 points to the score on Part III; one point on Reading added 14.45 points on Part III.) Karen Glaser, et al., (1992: 404), who summarized these studies, concluded, “verbal ability reflected in the reading skills scores of an applicant to medical school are a more important indicator of later physician competence … than the applicant’s ability to solve science problems.” For this reason, the Association of American Medical Colleges radically changed the contents of the MCAT in 1991. It eliminated the Quantitative section, reduced the science sections from three to two, and added a Writing Sample, thus giving verbal ability equal weighting with science ability (Glaser, et al., 1992).

In the first sentence of the previous paragraph, I wrote that the Quantitative subtest was found to have no predictive value for any of the three parts of the NBME. In my book, I wrote that it had “little” predictive accuracy. But I overstated its value. In fact, “Scores on the quantitative skills subtest did not contribute to any prediction” (Glaser et al., 1992: 395). This total non-prediction includes Part I of the NBME, which examines what students learned in the science courses that comprise the first two years of medical school.

These facts make clear that even what I call above the “obvious” wider applicability of the Verbal than the Math SAT significantly understates the difference between them. We must assume that Math SAT has a great deal of predictive accuracy for mathematics-based subjects, like engineering; although even there, the Verbal+Math score must be a more accurate predictor than the Math score alone. But for the large majority of academic subjects, the Math SAT is completely irrelevant. That includes even non-mathematical scientific subjects.

University Performance

I point out on pages 261-2 of my book that in 1992, a year after the new MCAT was introduced, the three parts of the NBME was replaced by Steps I, II, and III of United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Of the students who entered medical schools in 1992, 93.4 of the Whites and 86.8 percent of Asians passed Step I of the USMLE on the first try; and 96.3 percent of Whites and 87.6 percent of Asians passed Step II on the first try (Case, et al., 1996: S91).

On pages 259-60 of my book, I discuss the relative performance of Asian and White law students on the bar examination. The most recent statistics I could find for the passing rates of Whites and Asians on a bar exam were from New York in 2006: 78.3 percent of the Whites and 71.6 percent of the Asians passed the New York bar exam on the first try (

After my book was published, I found a study of the relative undergraduate performance of Asians and Whites. It is a chapter in a book edited by Guofang Li and Lihsgung Wang entitled Model Minority Myth Revisited, published in 2008 by Information Age Publishers. The chapter that compares Asian and White undergraduates is on pages 233-51. Its title is “Whither the “Whiz Kids’ Went,” by Julia Dmitrieva, et al. They begin (pages 234-5) by reporting the results of the only two previous studies of this subject. One, published in 2001, concerned undergraduate performance at the University of California at Berkley. It included 291 Asian students, of whom 60 percent were Chinese, 14 percent Korean, 7 percent South Asian (i.e., Indian and Pakistani), and 19 percent other Asians. It found, “Asian American students had significantly lower self-reported GPA [Grade Point Average] than their European American counterparts.” The other study, which was published in 2004, examined Asian-White differences in academic achievement of 3,500 undergraduates at New York University. The national origins of Asian American group were representative or Asians in the United States. It “found similar ethnic differences in grades [as the Berkley study], using official GPA records.” (Dmitrieva et al., do not provide the specific results of these studies, only the overall results, which I quote.)

Dmitirieva et al., then (pages 238-42) report on the three studies they performed, all on undergraduates at the University of California at Irvine. The first study was of 785 students, 70 percent of whom were Asian Americans and 30 percent European Americans, which mirrored their representation at Irvine. Of the Asian students, 37 percent were Chinese, 16 percent Vietnamese, 15 percent Korean, 14 percent Filipino, 7 percent Thai, 6 percent South Asians, and 5 percent Japanese. The average high school GPA of the Asian students was significantly higher than that of the European American students; their average SAT scores were similar. In all four college years, the average GPA of the European American students was higher than that of the Asian American students. This difference was significant in the sophomore and senior years, but too small to be significant in the freshman and junior years.

The second study involved 400 students, of whom 74 percent were Asian Americans and 26 percent were European Americans. Of the Asians, 29 percent were Chinese, 18 percent Korean, 17 percent Vietnamese, 11 percent Filipino, 9 percent South Asian, 5 percent Japanese, and 13 percent other Asians. In this study also, the average Asian American student had lower average grades than European American students in all four college years; although the difference was significant only in the junior year.

The third study followed 452 students from the twelfth grade through their sophomore year in college. Forty-eight percent were Asian, 52 percent were European. The high school grades of the two groups were similar. The Asians did worse academically in their freshman college year, the two groups did not differ in their sophomore year.

In all three studies, the Asian-European difference remained after controlling for gender and parental educational attainment.

An obvious explanation for the poor college performance of Asian relative to White students might be that a higher proportion of Asians take courses in the natural sciences, which are more difficult and graded more stringently than Liberal Arts and social science courses. However, Dmitirieva et al., found (page 243) that among undergraduates at Irvine, Whites majoring in the natural sciences got higher grades than Asians majoring in the natural sciences in every year except senior year, in which their grades were similar.

A chapter in the same book as Dmitrieva, et al.,’s article (Model Minority Myth Revisited) proposes a possible explanation for the disjuncture between high school and university performance of Whites and Asians. On pages 184-6, David Dai cites several studies, conducted in both the United States and Asia, that compared creativity of Chinese and Whites. All except one found that Chinese are less innovative and creative – less able to generate new ideas and approaches – than Whites. For example, Singaporean students are … top performers … in the world in TIMSS [Trends in International Math and Science Studies] … Yet when they were asked to be creative and generate new ideas for a firm, many of them were simply lost, to the point that the leadership of the firm had to open a new sector in the United States to take care of more innovate endeavours for the firm.

Unfortunately, Dai did not know about the most comprehensive study of this subject: Richard Lynn’s “Race Differences in Intelligence, Creativity and Creative Achievement,” on pages 157-68 of the 2007 (48,2) issue of Mankind Quarterly. In it, Lynn came to the same conclusion as the studies that Dai cites.

Creativity – “thinking outside the box” – does not contribute to high school grades. In fact, it may lower them. Nor is it captured by the SAT or the tests for entrance to professional schools. But it is an important factor in university performance and on professional qualifying examinations.

However, the cause is irrelevant to the present discussion. What matters is that Asians do worse academically than Whites at the same colleges and do worse on qualifying examinations for professions. Consequently, the constant brouhaha about Asians being the primary or only victims of academic affirmative action is absurd.

My own life is evidence of that.  I have Top 0.5% for sure and maybe even Top 0.1% math skills, while my verbal skills are consistently at or very near the 85th percentile in every credible test or measure.  (Maybe not at this moment, I must admit.)  The 85th percentile is way above average, but hardly elite, and nowhere near the top single percent, much less the top half a percent, much less still the top tenth of a percent.  In the real world, guess which one has served me better in terms of a real functional professional life, and also in terms of making me money.

Ceteris paribus, it’s easier to make money from verbal skills than mathematical skills.  To put it more mathematically, it takes being far higher and far more elite on the percentile scale to make the same income from math skills than it does with verbal skills.

And, contra Prof. Gutierrez, not being that good at math is hardly the end of the world, because the “premium” she thinks society puts on good math skills only applies to the elite of the elite of the elite of math abilities.  Like I said, all she probably wants is for the black studies majors not to have to pass a math course.




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15 11 2017
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