Whenever I protest the firing of

distinguished thinkers such as

James Watson and

Larry Summers for

doubting the race-denying

Blank Slate conventional wisdom, I often hear back

something like this:

*"Everybody who is in a
position of power knows the facts, but, THINK OF THE
CHILDREN! We can`t deflate their
self-esteem by mentioning the truth in public. Don`t
worry, though, the big guys aren`t naïve—they won`t do
anything stupid just because we`re all supposed to talk
as if everybody is exactly the same in intelligence."*

Sounds reassuring, right?

But the evidence from what the big

guys *do* makes appallingly clear that, in fact,

they actually really, truly believe their own press

releases.

Consider one of the

biggest of the big guys, the

governor of the largest state in the union:

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Last month, the former action hero

persuaded the California Board of Education, all of

whom he had appointed, to make California the first

state to require that all public school students, no

matter how slow, take

Algebra I in eighth grade.

This will be so destructive that

even the State Superintendent of Public Instruction,

Jack O`Connell, a

notorious nimrod who last year

blamed lower black test scores on white teachers

imposing *too much* discipline on black children

taught in black churches to be physically active,

protested strongly.

Currently, in the massive Los

Angeles public school district,

four percent of students take Algebra I in seventh

grade (as my son did when he went to an LAUSD middle

school), 45 percent in eighth grade, 55 percent in ninth

grade, 20 percent in tenth grade, and eight percent in

eleventh grade. (The numbers add up to 132 percent due

to students repeating the class because they flunked

it.)

Here`s that paragraph in

visual form:

The four percent of kids (in the salmon-colored cells on

the lower left diagonal of the table) who make it into

their second semester of Algebra I in 7th grade, and

thus are qualified to take the California Standards Test

in Algebra I, are the same type of math stars who go on

to take Geometry in 8th grade and Algebra II in 9th

grade.

Similarly, the 45 percent of above average kids who take

Algebra I in 8th grade (the yellow diagonal) go on to do

okay in Geometry in 10th and Algebra II in 11th.

The kids in the bottom half of the bell curve (gray

diagonal) begin taking high school level math in 9th

grade. They do poorly in it, as well as in Geometry and

Algebra II. (The kids in the uncolored cells in the

upper right are typically ones who flunked a standard

track course and are trying to catch up later. They do

badly.)

Obviously, there are many students who would benefit

more from

studying basic math in 8th grade rather than jumping

in over their heads into algebra.

And the ones

who are capable of learning algebra at that age

won`t benefit from having the other kids

dumped, against their will, into their Algebra I

classrooms.

Yet, the

Governator prevailed by an 8-1 vote.

The technical issue at hand was whether the state

would continue to offer two different California

Standards Tests to eighth graders in the late spring of

each school year: a harder one for the half who are

taking Algebra I and an easier one for those who haven`t

started on algebra yet because their teachers and

parents don`t see them as being ready for it.

Testing drives classwork. Hence, making all eighth

graders take the algebra test means that all must take

the algebra class.

Schwarzenegger denounced the current two-track

testing system and demanded equality. Apparently he

thinks only mathematical

girly men worry that some students just aren`t

bright enough for algebra in middle school.

Board of Education president

Ted Mitchell, a Schwarzenegger

appointee, proudly said the new policy rammed home

by Schwarzenegger demonstrates that there is **
"unequivocally one set of standards for all kids, no
matter their ZIP code,
race or income level"**.[

*Algebra*

1 to be required for all 8th-graders,By

1 to be required for all 8th-graders,

Nanette Asimov,

*San Francisco Chronicle,*July 10,

2008]

In previous generations, Algebra I was traditionally

a ninth grade subject. It was felt that most students

weren`t ready for the higher level of abstraction that

algebra requires until well into puberty. These

generations

went on to design

space rockets with slide rules, so maybe this wasn`t

such a bad idea.

Lately, though, the educational system has pushed for

introducing more advanced math earlier. And California

has taken the lead. As Schwarzenegger noted in his

decisive letter to the Board of Education:

**"Since 2003, the number of California eighth
graders taking Algebra I has increased from 34 percent
to 52 percent, compared with just 30 percent of eighth
graders nationwide. We expected more of our students,
and they delivered."[PDF]**

Bunk. In reality, the students didn`t deliver at all.

In 2003,

California public school students scored nine points

below the U.S. average on the National Assessment of

Educational Progress math test for eighth graders. In

2007, after the large increase in the number of

California eighth graders taking Algebra I that

Schwarzenegger boasts of, they lagged the national

average by ten points.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or get worse.

It *is* true that students who take Algebra I

earlier in their careers average higher on the CST than

students who take it later.

However, there`s a very simple explanation—the kids

who have been getting into advanced math classes at an

earlier age are *better at math*.

Unfortunately, that`s not the kind of explanation

you`re supposed to mention in polite society.

Here are the percentages of Los Angeles students

scoring Advanced (the equivalent of an A) or Proficient

(B) on the California Standards Tests, with some

color-coding to help you see what`s really happening.

The small fraction of kids (4%) who are good enough

to do Algebra 1 in 7^{th} grade (see the first

table, top left) are so good that well over half (61%)

get an **“Advanced”** or **“Proficient”** grade on

the CST. Conversely, the small fraction of kids (8%)

who are so weak in math that they only get to Algebra 1

in 11^{th} grade (see first table again, top

right) are so weak that only one in 20 (5%) get an **
“Advanced”** or

**“Proficient”**grade on the CST.

A pretty simple model, huh? Nevertheless, it`s

largely unintelligible to our ruling class—due to

pervasive political correctness.

Indeed, Schwarzenegger`s letter is a classic example

of how ideas have consequences—even self-evidently

stupid ideas. Schwarzenegger enunciates the race-denying

Blank Slate theory on

steroids.

Why? Because we punish prominent leaders like Summers

and Watson who admit that they don`t believe the

reigning dogmas. Therefore, we shouldn`t be surprised

when other leaders, like Schwarzenegger, act as if these

dogmas are real.

Just because there is such a thing as an imaginary

number, though, doesn`t mean there is such a thing as

imaginary reality. But don`t try to convince the

governor of California of that. He doesn`t care.

Arnold wrote:

**"The State Board must choose whether we align the
eighth-grade mathematics test with our high expectations
or perpetuate a two-track system: one for high achievers
and one for those of whom we expect less."**

Personally, I think a two-track system in math

education seems like a good idea.

Reason: As

Barbie correctly noted: **"Math is hard!" **

The second semester of Algebra I is particularly hard

because the

California standards focus on quadratics and

rational expressions.

The first half of

Algebra I, fortunately, is devoted to straightforward,

widely useful problems like this one taken from the most

recent

California Standards Test of Algebra I (the test

that was the subject of the dispute between

Schwarzenegger and O`Connell):

By the spring, however,

California`s Algebra I standards demand a wholly

different level of cognition:

The answer, symbolically enough, is D: **"No real
solution"**.

The United States of America is currently undergoing

an economic crisis caused, in some not insignificant

measure, by California homebuyers who couldn`t calculate

the impact of a rise in interest rates on their home

mortgage payments. We could be teaching the

less-advanced half of eighth graders about interest

rates. But instead, Gov. Schwarzenegger insists that we

teach them all about rational expressions.

A **“rational
expression”**, as you no doubt remember, is not what I

say as opposed to what the Governator says—here`s an

example from the CST:

The answer, in case you were

wondering, is C.

The Bush Department of Education

(needless to say, given its authorship of the No Child

Left Behind fiasco—see below) cheered Schwarzenegger on.

The Associated Press

reported:

**"Assistant U.S. Secretary of
Education
Kerri Briggs praised the board`s action. She said
California was setting a bold goal that would not be
easy to achieve but was critically important. `Kids are
dropping out because they`re bored and they don`t feel
like there`s enough challenge and expectations for
them,` she said. `This may be exactly what they need to
help spur achievement.`"**

No, actually—the number of students

who drop out because they aren`t being taught enough

abstract math is negligible.

Far more drop out because they *
can`t pass required math courses like Algebra I and
Geometry (and starting, this fall in Los Angeles,
Algebra II*).

Nor can they see how they would

ever use the kind of techniques taught in the second

semester.

Schwarzenegger goes on:

**"This fork in the road is a
choice between California`s bold future and a status quo
that is safe, mediocre and unacceptable"**.

Bunk (again). In reality, **
"mediocre"** would be a distinct improvement over

California`s present. As Schwarzenegger admitted,

**"In**

2007, California`s eighth graders ranked 44th in the

nation in mathematics achievement".

2007, California`s eighth graders ranked 44th in the

nation in mathematics achievement"

(By my count, though, California`s

eighth graders actually came in

45th out of the 50 states. Yet, who cares about

simple arithmetic when we have the abstract worlds of

algebra to conquer?)

Schwarzenegger states:

**"I am asking the State Board to
do away with the below grade-level General Mathematics
test and designate the state`s existing Algebra I exam
as California`s test to measure eighth-grade mathematics
for federal accountability purposes. To do otherwise
would lower our expectations and continue to divide our
children between those we believe in and those we leave
behind."**

I`m

frequently accused of over-rating the importance of

IQ. Nonetheless, it`s the mainstream (and nobody more

perfectly represents mainstream thinking than the

liberal Republican governor of California) who

repeatedly *act* as if they believe

lower IQ people are so innately worthless that we

all must pretend that they actually have the same IQ as

everybody else.

As Karl Rove once notoriously said,

he

didn`t want his son doing menial hotel work (so

bring in Hispanic illegals). But America once respected

the

dignity of labor.

Arnold continues:

**"If we don`t believe in every
child`s potential, how can we ask children to believe in
themselves?"**

This is both a cliché and insanity.

We all know that the potential of

some individuals in *mathematics* is incredibly

greater than that of others. As Charles Murray

wrote in the **"Summation"** chapter of *
Human Accomplishment*, quoting math historian

John

Derbyshire:

**"Before the Eulers, Gausses and
Newtons, we are worms, worms."**

And, guess what? The vast majority

of human beings don`t find their sense of self-worth

shattered by not measuring up to

Gauss in mathematics. (Indeed, most of them have

never heard of him.) As

Tolstoy observed:

**"No one is satisfied with his
fortune, and everyone is satisfied with his wit.`**

Schwarzenegger sums up:

**"Today`s decision sends a signal
to the rest of the nation that California has faith in
our students to achieve their dreams and exceed
expectations. California`s children have already proven
that when we set the bar high—they can do anything.”**

You might wonder whether

Schwarzenegger`s delusional reasoning reflects

steroid-induced mania or merely conventional wisdom.

Yet, these days, is there really

much of a difference? For example, in 2001, President

Bush and Senator Kennedy got together and passed the

No Child Left Behind act, which mandates that *
every single public school student in America will by
2014 score * (i.e.,

**"proficient"**

above average).

This madness is driven by the

perceived need to act as if, real soon now, we`re going

to social engineer all ethnic groups into equality.

Sadly,

children get hurt by this irrational policy-making.

It`s time to stop worrying about

eliminating group differences—and start worrying about

helping

all

students achieve as

much of their potential as feasible.