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TNR Grades The Bell Curve

The October 31, 1994, issue of The New Republic contains a lengthy article by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein entitled "Race, Genes and I.Q.--An Apologia", and a series of critical articles by TNR staffers and other writers. I highly recommend this issue, whether or not you intend to read The Bell Curve. Below you will find a few selected quotations from the critical articles contained in this issue, and a copy of the table of contents.

"Declaring a stark and intractable gap between the intellectual abilities of black and white Americans is a political act."
-----Glenn Loury, professor of economics at Boston University.

"In all too many quarters, controversiality is viewed as a good in and of itself. And it probably is for those interested only in selling goods in the cultural marketplace. For those interested in the overall health of our culture, however, the fixation on mere controversiality is a problem. We ought to distinguish between work that is usefully controversial because it opens up new avenues of thought and work that is controversial merely because it provides an occasion for shouting about pre-formed views. The Murray and Herrnstein project falls in the latter category."

-----Randall Kennedy, Harvard law professor and editor of Reconstruction magazine.

"Unlike the rest of us, Murray and Herrnstein are certain they know just what intelligence is. But do they know whether we ought to be paying more attention to it, or less? In The Bell Curve, they write that 'intelligence has taken on a much higher place in the pantheon of human virtues than it deserves.' Yet they also prescribe measures that would place intelligence even higher in that pantheon. They want to steer government money away from remedial education to meet the needs of gifted students; they imply that employers ought to be allowed to use i.q. tests to make hiring decisions; and they recommend redesigning immigration policy to slow the influx of groups with substandard i.q.s. Murray and Herrnstein preach compassion toward those who 'aren't very smart'; but this is a compassion without consequences. Their favorite policy proposals would bestow still more advantages onto 'the cognitive elite.'"

". . . Murray and Herrnstein like to portray themselves as brave men, confronting hard truths. But they also long to reassure. In his previous book, In Pursuit, Murray insisted that people are fundamentally 'benign' when left to themselves. And in the proposal for The Bell Curve, he said that he hoped to make whites 'feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say.' This is a partly callous, partly therapeutic conservatism. Murray and Herrnstein's advice to blacks is to look on the bright side: once you've acknowledged your collective intellectual inferiority you can get on with establishing more appropriate bases of self-esteem. Their advice to affluent whites is to abandon all concern for those less comfortable than yourselves, and to get on with the pursuit of happiness. If there's a single sentiment driving their masses of data, that sentiment is, why bother?"
-----Alexander Star

"Murray and Herrnstein sound like two people who have found a way for racists to rationalize their racism without losing sleep over it. One could call what they are facilitating Racist Chic."
-----Hugh Pearson, author of The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America (Addison-Wesley) and a writer for Pacific News Service.

Table of Contents of the October 31, 1994, issue of The New Republic

MICKEY KAUS TRB: Behind the Curve The disingenuousness of Charles Murray.
CORRESPONDENCE Check your i.q. here, it's the Murray-free zone!
THE EDITORS The Issue Why we published the data on race, genes and i.q.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. Why Now? The peculiar timing of this apologia.
DANTE RAMOS Base Data How low does the curve go?
WALTER LIPPMANN Caste Aside An eerie precursor.
ALEXANDER STAR Dumbskulls Are Murray and Herrnstein too clever by half?
MARTIN PERETZ A Class Thing A teacher's racial dilemmas.
STANLEY CROUCH Tom Cat Blues Reflections on Gatsby and social advancement.
GLENN LOURY A Political Act The repercussions of "science."
ANDREW HACKER White on White The double standards of racial counting.
JEFFREY ROSEN & CHARLES LANE Neo-Nazis! Scouring The Bell Curve's footnotes.
RICHARD NISBETT Blue Genes A psychometrician reinterprets the data.
NATHAN GLAZER The Lying Game Some truths are maybe not worth knowing.
HUGH PEARSON Race Mutters The veiled whispers of the white elite.
ALAN WOLFE From P.C. to P.R. Wanting the truth without the consequences.
JOHN B. JUDIS Taboo You Despite the protests, it sounds like eugenics.
ANN HULBERT Freedom is Slavery And war is peace. A guide to the Newspeak.
RANDALL KENNEDY The Phony War The media packaging of warmed-over bigotry.
LEON WIESELTIER The Lowerers What science cannot teach.
MICHAEL LIND Brave New Right Conservatism's lunge into its darker past.
CHARLES MURRAY & RICHARD J. HERRNSTEIN Race, Genes and I.Q.--An Apologia The data suggest that i.q. matters in our society; that there are intractable ethnic differences in i.q.; that these cannot be accounted for entirely by environment. Is it time to rethink our approaches to race? A case for conservative multiculturalism.
STANLEY KAUFFMANN On Films: Careering Along Hooray for Albert Finney.
RICHARD A. POSNER Barflies A Nation Under Lawyers by Mary Ann Glendon
SEAN WILENTZ Sense and Sensitivity Dictatorship of Virtue by Richard Bernstein
W.D. SNODGRASS Poem A Presence
MARK FORD Reality Bites The Essential Haiku edited by Robert Hass
WENDY LESSER The Munro Doctrine Open Secrets by Alice Munro
FRED BARNES Washington Diarist: Look Who's Talking

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Meanderings 1.07 -- October 25, 1994