The Obsidian grudge match

While I was enjoying a weekend away, Obsidian decided to take a sucker punch at your humble blogger.

(At a minimum, internet etiquette demands that if you are going to criticize my views, please quote my actual views instead of putting words in my mouth.)

Background

By way of background, last week, I put up a post criticizing Matt Zuckerberg for wasting $100 million dollars. Obsidian jumped to criticize my view – but interestingly not to explicitly defend Zuckerberg, more on this later – and a heated round of comments ensued.

Feel free to read the comments, but I will summarize them for you.

Obsidian thinks that I don’t hang around enough with black people – this was the main theme of his comments. I live in an area that is roughly 50/50 black and white. My zip code is about 80% black. I have black neighbors, I’ve been to a black barbershop (Obsidian asked), etc. While this exchange was going on, one of my best friends who is in medical school was staying with me – he’s African-American but not black (his parents immigrated from Egypt). In short: black people love me, heh. I have no idea why Obsidian wants to know this stuff, but he asked. I answered for your reading pleasure and to appease his whims.

Slightly more substantively, Obsidian thinks that HBDers offer no solutions. So, I asked Obsidian to define the problem. His answer so far from 30 comments and now a separate post is easy to quote entirely: "". Surely, everyone has solutions to a problem that is so well-specified!

Of course, since Obsidian won’t define the problem, it’s easy for him to say that others "don’t offer solutions." After all, it’s impossible to solve a problem that is undefined. Perhaps I do not have solutions, but at least I’m willing to sack-up and define the problem.

Let’s begin.

Problem

The closest Obsidian gets to defining the problem is to steal the definition of the problem from "HBDers." I think. Here is the relevant paragraph:

Because Black people are inherently, immutably, intractably, intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians. To bolster this point, they cite scholars like J. Phillipe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein; they point to military IQ testing going back a century or so, and the late John Ogbu’s infamous Shaker Heights study, all of which, among a great many other things they contend, that Black folk simply aren’t worth the time and money trying to “save” them, that “closing the achievement gap” is a Fool’s Errand.

Ok. First, this misconstrues HBD. HBD is the belief that on average we see differences in racial achievement in areas where achievement is objectively measurable. HBD says nothing about a specific person of any race. None of the authors or studies mentioned by Obsidian contend that "Black folk simply aren’t worth the time and money." However, they contend that on average and on measurable planes of achievement, we will see racial disparities. Thinking statistically is hard, but it’s important. Obsidian should at least try.

The problem then is "closing the achievement gap." Let’s unpack this to be clear. I am taking Obsidian as saying that the problem is: eliminating the disparities between average levels of achievement across various races.

Solution

I offered a solution in the comments, which Obsidian studiously ignored and then largely ripped off. Here was my "solution:"

I would suggest dropping the goal of the modern educational system: making everyone equal. People with low IQs should be given some technical training and sent to work much more quickly (i.e. they don’t all need to go to college). Obviously my “solution” won’t solve the problem – it only formalizes it. The same number of people “drop out” but at least they don’t ruin the schools, waste so many resources and never have a chance to succeed.

I am a formalist. I believe that the problem of making races equal on average is insoluble. Time would be better spent turning lead into gold or building a perpetual motion machine. Thus, I propose acknowledging this reality – accepting the truth of HBD and working from the fact that identical educational systems cannot work for a group with an average IQ of 104 and a group with an average IQ of 85.

Note that my proposal does not "solve" the "problem." Instead it institutionalizes "the problem." People with low IQs will be taught basic skills and sent off to work. The achievement gap will therefore persist across races with different IQs.

Interestingly, Obsidian’s solution has the same effect. Here is his solution:

1. GET RID OF THE DEADWOOD IN THE SCHOOLS. That Weingarten lady who is the head of the Teacher’s Union in this country is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and we all know it. We all know that it’s in the very nature of unions to protect their own incompetency among the membership. . . .
2. Bring back that which we know works: phonics, reading comp, basic math functions, basic understanding of how our country came to be and the role of Black folk in it (I’m talking about inner city schools now), what it means to be an American citizen, how to function in this society. . . .

3. Stop glorifying college. Because for so many people, it’s simply not a real option that pays off in a cost/benefit fashion. . . .

4. Throw the current “curricula” in the trash. Much of it is bunk, which in part explains why so many Black boys vote with their feet. Instead, put in place stuff that these boys and other students will actually need: how to buy a house, how to rent an apartment, how to balance a checkbook, how our economic system works and why, how to go food shopping (VERY important in this Age of Obesity), and other key and important life skills, to say actually taking an interest in what these kids see as important in their lives and engaging them on that. . . .

5. Bring back tracking, but make it meaningful and purposeful-it’s not the end of the world if little Bilal or KeyShawn ain’t cut out for the AP track, and this is something a lot of Black parents need to confront. . . .

6. Bring back the reform schools-look, I get it, some kids are just bad seeds and need serious intervention. Just because you’re poor and down and out, doesn’t give you the right to make everyone else’s lives miserable. Reforms schools have a long and for the most part, pretty decent tradition in this country, and the times have shown us that they’re still very much needed. . . .

Obsidian criticizes HBDers, but it’s nice to see that his solution implicitly accepts the premises of HBD!

Note that under his proposal, people with low IQs (and thus a disproportionate number of blacks) would receive a different education and a shorter education than people with higher IQs.

The result would clearly be a world in which the black-white achievement gap persists. People who have been educated to balance their check books simply will not earn money at the same level as people who are trained to perform neurosurgery. Thus, the achievement gap persists. Obsidian’s "solution" has not "solved" the problem, it has merely institutionalized it and accepted it. Much like my proposal.

Obsidian’s randomness

The problem with arguing with Obsidian is that he fills his post with totally unrelated statements. Let’s take a look at a sample of quotes from his post that have no relation to the topic at hand:

GOP’s “Pledge with America” and the manifesto of the Tea Party

I support neither and I don’t why he brings them up. In fact, I don’t vote, I oppose democracy. This blog proudly supports the restoration of the monarchy – preferably a restoration of the Stuarts. Most HBD blogs have been very critical of the Tea Party, which spends most of its time pandering to media to show that it really does indeed love black people and is, in turn, loved by black people.

But the problem I have with the HBDers as a group, is that they offer no workable solutions-indeed, these guys seem to delight in either their utter nihilism, or their ability to come up with not only arcane, but completely unworkable programs that no one can or will get behind.

My "program" was eerily similar to Obsidian’s and I will point out again that neither one "solved" the problem. Far from it, both accepted that the problem was not going to be solved.

Indeed, by how much so many of them nurture a borderline creepy adoration for Goldwater and Rand, for Libertarianism writ large

I’ve spent the last three weeks criticizing libertarians at every turn. Further, this has no relation to the topic of Zuckerberg giving away his money or improving schools. These statements are completely random.

For one thing, if their argument hinges in whole or in part on the massive amounts of money that we currently spend on inner city schools with precious little to show for it, then they must also be concerned with the cost it will take to warehouse the Darkies in the joint-because invariably, that’s where a lot of these guys (and increasingly, gals) are gonna wind up.

All of sudden we have "an argument" whereas a paragraph prior, we "had no solutions." I never made the argument that should turn anyone out of school onto the streets. I would also never make the, frankly, racist assumption that those who were turned out would be put in jail, heh. Seriously, I have no idea where this is coming from so I don’t know how to respond. My argument does not hinge on the cost of prison.

Of course, the HBDers couldn’t really care less about any of this, because simply put they not only deem Blacks to be “less than” intellectually than the “founding stock” of this nation and their model minority Asians, but they also really don’t see the African Americans as just that…American.

"The ‘founding stock’ of this nation" plus Asians is new favorite saying. On one hand, you’re accusing us of only liking our own and on the other you’re acknowledging that this criticism doesn’t apply. All in the same sentence! I heart George Washington (even though I’m a restorationist) and Chinamen therefore I’m racist. Is that the argument? Really?

Of course, Obsidian only makes these points in case he gets argued into a corner. At that point he can point to one of these random, incoherent statements and say "you didn’t respond to my point about Goldwater." Then, you’ll leave because you’ll pretty sure he’s crazy.

Obsidian

I think it’s clear from his "solution," his refusal to define the "problem," and his unwillingness to defend Zuckerberg, that Obsidian agrees with much of HBD’s premises. He just doesn’t like the obvious conclusions. I admit, the conclusions are many ways unpleasant. That doesn’t make them wrong.

Finally, as for the accusation that I am nothing but a critic, I would note that I aspire to nothing more. The world is full of idiots that are happy to take your money in exchange for their "solutions" none of which will actually solve any problems.

So few people are critical in the modern era. As a result, so few problems are correctly defined. Albert Jay Nock identified the particular "problem" that we are discussing over 80 years ago. He told us that an educational system whose goal was equal outcome for everyone could only lead to a world in which everyone was a moron. We are far along that road and this problem, the problem, still remains something that is impolite to discuss. To most it is not even acknowledged. Yet there it sits. Free for all to read.

With good critics so few and far between, I would be truly honored to be considered among them.

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8 Responses to The Obsidian grudge match

  1. ScottS says:

    I saw that he had written the post, but I figured that if I read it, I would just get irritated. Looks to me like it’s one rambling strawman after another, so I’m glad I didn’t. I do find it amusing that his solution is so very close to yours and mine, but somehow we end up being racist and he doesn’t. In fact, I feel like he ripped off some of what I said and held it up as his own. Whatever. I’ve given up trying to understand how his mind works.

    More Nock on education:
    The Disadvantages of Being Educated – in my opinion, Nock’s best work.
    http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/nock-albert-jay_on-education.html

    If Obsidian is either unwilling or incapable of thinking statistically, he is either unwilling or incapable of understanding the fundamental premise of HBD. His post makes it very clear that he is not there yet. I suggest he do some homework, maybe even try to accept that his preconceived notions might be wrong, and THEN try to engage people on the topic.

  2. Matt says:

    “The result would clearly be a world in which the black-white achievement gap persists. People who have been educated to balance their check books simply will not earn money at the same level as people who are trained to perform neurosurgery. Thus, the achievement gap persists.”

    It “persists” in the sense that it is not completely and utterly wiped out now and forevermore, I suppose.

    But anyone who counts that as the standard of “success” has no realistic hope, regardless of whether they accept the HBD premise or not. Even the hardest of hardcore lefties talk mostly about _narrowing_ the gap. And schools that could teach low-IQ students how to balance a checkbook (as well as get and keep a productive job doing useful work) would certainly narrow the present real-world achievement gap by a very substantial amount.

    • Foseti says:

      Matt,

      Obviously the IQ gap wouldn’t be closed. The achievement gap might be closed, but I suspect a small narrowing is more likely.

      • Matt says:

        The size of the narrowing effect that would occur is undoubtedly dependent on other factors as well. If you teach people the skills to get useful jobs, but leave them mired in a culture that doesn’t expect them to, they’ll continue to do worse in life.

        But I find it hard to imagine that, even given the most pessimistic assumptions about other contributing factors, it wouldn’t be a meaningful and worthwhile improvement. Which, considering the track record of the present system, counts as a big win.

        Will people with low IQs ever do, on average, as well as people with high IQs? I’d bet against it. But as long as we’re running a school system, we might as well try to ensure that the next generation can do better on this metric than the current generation has. Which is a job that our present educational institutions have proven spectacularly bad at.

      • Foseti says:

        I agree. However keep in mind that we’re measuring a gap.

        It’s unlikely that reforms that help black people will low IQ would not help white people with low IQ. Thus, it’s likely that everyone will low IQ will do better. Such a situation will not necessarily narrow the gap.

  3. Zanon says:

    Matt,

    Plenty of leftists talk about “closing” the gap rather than just narrowing it.

    You’re lying if you say otherwise.

  4. […] – “Foseti’s Multicultural Weekend“, “The Obsidian Grudge Match“, “Libertarians on Education“, “Apologists for Government“, […]

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