Saying the unsayable about Hispanics

As is often the case with my brain, I need to mull over things sometimes to decide what I think about them. Such is the case with Jason Richwine, the Heritage Foundation scholar who was driven out when it was discovered that his thesis (which passed inspection at Harvard) reached the following conclusions:

So what is actually in the dissertation? The dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on many different types of IQ tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive gap rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how this cognitive gap could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and it concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

I have a few anecdotes plus a theory.

1.  Back in the late 1980s, before political correctness wrapped its smothering embrace around free speech, I ran into old family friends whom I hadn’t seen in years.  They were a Hispanic couple in their 60s, and very wealthy.  What were they doing with themselves since they retired, I asked.  Retired!?  No way.  They had founded an outreach program to work with poor Hispanic families.  Their specific focus was school drop-out rates.  The problem, they told me, was that immigrant Hispanic families resented that their children had to go to school.  They came from an agrarian society and saw only backbreaking labor as the path to survival.  While the news was talking about the gang culture turning Hispanics away from education, this couple told me that the problem was the parents.

2.  In the mid-1980s, one of the girls at my law school informed us that she was the first woman in her family, not only to go to college, but to go on to graduate school  Her Hispanic family was not proud of her, considering that she was a fool for wasting her time instead of getting a clerical job, getting married, and having babies.

3.  In the early 1980s, I met a nice gal at Berkeley.  She considered going to Berkeley a major triumph because her Hispanic family had done everything possible to stop her.  Education, they said, was a waste of time.  With Berkeley, they might have been right, of course, but having the degree alone definitely gave her probably higher life-time earnings than her siblings.

My takeaway:  American Hispanic culture was highly anti-intellectual.  Not everyone, of course, but the majority of immigrant parents worked ferociously hard as physical laborers and saw that as the only way to get ahead.  Education was a time waster. Kids who went to school were not contributing to the family welfare and needed to be made to see that they should work in Dad’s autobody shop or Uncle’s gardening business.  In this way, Hispanic culture was very different from the Jewish and Asian culture surrounding my youth, which was completely focused on educational achievement.

So my thought has always been this one:  If your culture is distinguished by a pervasive anti-intellectualism, will that fact reveal itself in your academic performances and tests?  I’ve always assumed the answer is “yes.”  If you think something is a stupid waste of time, you’ll almost certainly do badly.  I think the IQ test results reflect this fact.  They measure a specific culture — and not a culture of poverty as the Left says, or a culture of pervasive discrimination against Hispanics, as the Left also says, but an agrarian culture that both consciously and unconsciously can’t be bothered.

Put another way, observing an objective trend on IQ tests is not wrong or racist.  It’s a fact.  Richwine makes that point too:

Why did I discuss differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites at all? Because the largest portion of the post-1965 immigration wave has come from Latin America. Studies of Hispanic IQ are naturally useful in estimating overall immigrant IQ and its intergenerational transmission.

That last point bears elaborating: There is absolutely no racial or ethnic agenda in my dissertation. Nothing in it suggests that any groups are “inferior” to any others, nor is there any call to base immigration policy on ethnicity. In fact, I argue for individual IQ selection as a way to identify bright people who do not have access to a university education in their home countries.

We can pretend that nothing is going on, consigning further generations of Hispanic Americans to manual labor, even as Asian or other immigrant groups that value education move ahead of them.  Or we can acknowledge the need to convince legal Hispanic immigrants that, in an information-rich age, the one who cracks the books is the one who gets ahead.