It’s hardly encouraging to read an article about declining American intelligence that features typos in both the headline and the first sentence, but I suppose it drives home the point.
“American IQ’s [sic] Are Dropping. Here’s Why It Might Not Be A Bad Thing,” reads the headline in something called fatherly.com.
So far, so bad. Then comes the first sentence:
New research from Northwestern University in Illinois finds that American’s [sic] IQs are dropping.
The sole bright spot is that someone figured out how to properly render the plural form of “IQ” during the brief window of time in between writing the headline and the first sentence, but then they had to go and wreck that temporary blip of progress by spitting out the singular possessive form of “American” rather than the plural form.
In the process of getting one thing right, they got two things wrong. As the saying goes, “one step forward, two steps back.”
Whoever cobbled together that typo-addled headline and first sentence unwittingly proved the study’s point. The much vaunted “Flynn effect” — a term that was allegedly coined by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in 1994’s The Bell Curve — refers to New Zealand-based political scientist James Flynn’s observation ten years earlier that scores on standardized intelligence tests had been steadily rising throughout the twentieth century.
At a certain point in time, though — the specific point depends on which study you read — IQ researchers noticed that the Flynn effect had halted and showed signs of a decline. This troubling but entirely noticeable trend is variously referred to as “reversed Flynn effect,” “negative Flynn effect,” or, as I have so adorably coined it, the “Flunk Effect.”
The new “research from Northwestern University in Illinois” — as opposed to, oh, Northwestern University in Nebraska or Northwestern University in Mississippi, or the University of Miami in Ohio, or perhaps even Ruth’s Chris Steak House — is titled “Looking for Flynn effects in a recent online U.S. adult sample: Examining shifts within the SAPA Project.” It comes from the May-June 2023 issue of Intelligence, and I am clearly not intelligent enough to discern why I was able to read the whole study today, when, if I’m not mistaken, we’re still in March 2023.
The four main bullet points at the study’s beginning read thusly:
- A reverse Flynn effect was found for composite ability scores with large US adult sample from 2006 to 2018 and 2011 to 2018.
- Domain scores of matrix reasoning, letter and number series, verbal reasoning showed evidence of declining scores.
- Three-dimensional rotation scores generally increased from 2011 to 2018.
- Differences in ability scores were present regardless of age, education, or gender.
Well, what about race? Hello?
The study was lopsided gender-wise, as “participants were disproportionately female identifying (65.03%) and between the ages of 18 and 90.”
They had to use the term “female identifying,” didn’t they? You bet your sweet bippy they did; in her faculty profile, study co-author Elizabeth M. Dworak lists her pronouns as “she, her, hers.”
The study’s results are likewise further muddied by the fact that they don’t rely on major and more widely-known IQ tests such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, but instead on the Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment Project (SAPA) — whose 250 or so questions only feature 35 designed to measure cognitive ability — and the International Cognitive Ability Resource (ICAR), which I’d never heard of before and which should disqualify its legitimacy based on that fact alone. On the ICAR, only 60 of the 150 questions focus on tasks that generally measure what has come to be known as IQ. The researchers claim they only focused on the pertinent cognitive-ability questions on each test, and I suppose we’ll all have to sit here in the dark and take them at their word.
In a press release from Northwestern University — the one in Illinois — Dworak cautions readers from assuming that the lower American test scores signify that “Americans are getting less intelligent. . . . It could just be that they’re getting worse at taking tests or specifically worse at taking these kinds of tests.”
Ah, the old “IQ tests only measure one’s ability at taking IQ tests” canard. It makes as much sense as saying that “winning a baseball game only measures a team’s ability at playing baseball” or “making money only measures one’s ability to make money.”
By the standard measurements, school-aged Americans are losing the ability to take tests. According to a New York Times headline from October 2022, “Math Scores Fell in Nearly Every State, and Reading Dipped on National Exam.” The Times goes on to explain, “U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday.”
Almost all demographics? Why so unspecific?
Just last week in response to cratering test 2022 scores across New York State — for example, “in Schenectady, no eighth grader who took the math test scored as proficient” — the Board of Regents announced that they will lower the minimum proficiency score and declare it to be “the new normal.”
On Monday, a self-identified black man named Darrell Owens published an article on his Substack account titled “Half of Black Students Can Barely Read.” It’s unclear whether this means that the other half of black students can’t read at all, or whether they sure can read purty danged good. Owens’ article focuses on the San Francisco Bay Area:
Including students who are close but still not proficient: 71.5% of Black [sic] high school juniors in San Francisco cannot read at a proficient level, compared to 20.3% of Asian students, 22.6% of White [sic] students, 32% of Filipino students and 61.8% of Hispanic students. . . . These are not numbers from a red state in the Deep South but San Francisco.
Is he trying to say that black students have trouble reading wherever you find them? Sounds pretty racist to me!
Owens also notes that Asians tend to make more money than whites, who tend to make more money than Hispanics, who tend to make more money than blacks.
And of course he blames the “racialized results” on the educational system. Far be it from me to allege that the educational system is decent anywhere in America, but did it ever occur to any of these numbnuts that although teachers, schools, and textbooks may be lacking, perhaps the main problem leading to these disparities is that some groups of students are innately dumber than others?
Owens says that it’s goofy to think that black people don’t esteem education, and he relies on a single unintentionally hilarious anecdote to “prove” it:
Moreover the idea that Black [sic] people don’t value education is absurd. My father was illiterate and was very conscious about it.
Owens — because he’s black — lauds the recent proposal to toss $5 million in “reparations” at every eligible black San Francisco adult as a “smart” idea:
Ensuring students with truancy or criminal records have parents at home who can supervisor [sic] their children, or give those kids spending money to keep them away from thefts and drug dealing is smart.
I kid the blacks, of course. The Flunk Effect is real, and it appears to be adversely affecting “almost” all demographics, not only the blacks. And I would never deny that environment plays a role in it; I’m simply mocking those who entirely rule out the role of genetics because it’s not only impolite to do so, it’s effectively forbidden and may soon be illegal.
Blame the environment all you want; I don’t mind. You can blame nutrition, pollution, educators, dysgenic fertility, and especially diminishing attention spans induced by smartphone poisoning.
Blame both nurture and nature. I won’t tell anybody. Your secret is safe with me.
But I must avert my eyes from this increasingly dopey world. I can no longer bear to stare at the endumbification of everything, the savagely doltish stuperstitions that so enrapture and enthrall this nation of 332 million blockheads. The future’s so dumb, I gotta wear shades.
* * *
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