04 June 2012

Social engineering and the Thought Police

The following is an extract from an article by Professor Max Hammerton* entitled ‘The Thought Police’ in a recent issue of the Oxford Magazine, which mildly endorses the idea that heritability of intelligence undermines demands that there should be more representation among university students from outside the middle class.
David Hume, the greatest philosopher of modern times, rightly pointed out that no ‘ought’ statement can validly be deduced from any ‘is’ statement. However, if you accept some ‘ought’, an ‘is’ may tell you how some action, or want of action, may help or hinder its achievement. Now I trust that you will agree with this ‘ought’: that ability to profit from a course of study should be the only criterion for a person’s being selected for that course. If it should appear that factors other than ability are influencing the outcome then there is a case for altering the selection procedures used. (Oxford Magazine, No.325, p.7)
I certainly do not agree with Hammerton that the ‘ability to profit from a course of study should be the only criterion for a person’s being selected for that course.’

This implies a context within which a ‘course of study’ is a necessary prerequisite for obtaining a qualification and is not devised and paid for by the person seeking the qualification, or by his representative (parents, etc.). The ‘course of study’ is an obstacle race devised by people who have been given their positions by other people, all the way back to a democratically elected government, the members of which are motivated to win approval from the population at large. The ‘course of study’ devised in this way cannot even be freely bought by anyone who has sufficient money to do so. It is bestowed upon those who are selected to receive it by agents of the collective who are empowered to do so.

When the Oppressive State was introduced in 1945, people, including those with above-average IQs, rejoiced that they would receive, under the names of ‘education’ and ‘medicine’, goods which corresponded to things for which they might previously have wished to pay.

However, ‘courses of study’ for which you have not paid directly cannot be presumed to be a positive factor in any sense. They are certainly likely to be less positive than those for which you might have paid, as indeed is generally supposed to be the case in comparing state-funded ‘education’ with private education (with the consequence that those who have not been exposed to state schools ‘should’ be discriminated against). Or the unpaid-for version may be so destructive in every respect that you would be far better off without it.

‘Caveat emptor’ does not apply, because you are not paying for what you get.

Those who run a person’s ‘free’ education may act on any combination of ideological rationalisation and personal malice. As Hammerton says, ‘it is now a generally adopted act of faith that group differences simply do not exist, and any hint that they may is to be suppressed by the Thought Police.’

It is not only an act of faith, but expert dogma, that differences between individuals are predominantly the result of environmental influences.

Therefore, we may plausibly assume, agents of the collective are strongly motivated to make their beliefs appear true, and will stop at nothing to ruin the lives of those with exceptional ability, who might otherwise give the naive observer grounds for wondering whether ability is not, in fact, largely innate.

A recent Daily Mail quotes someone as admitting that the middle classes (in other words, those with higher average IQs) are being discriminated against. Actually, in my experience, high IQs have been discriminated against throughout my lifetime (from the age of 10 onwards, when I was first exposed to state-funded education).
Mary Curnock Cook raised a series of concerns over the so-called social engineering of university admissions. Under the policy, universities are expected to make background checks on applicants and use the information to reduce entry grades for poorer students. But Mrs Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, warned that ‘somebody has to lose out’ unless the total number of university places increases ...

The UCAS chief went on to admit she had ‘real concerns’ over the quality of official data on pupils’ backgrounds supplied to universities. The system could result in discrimination against deprived pupils who received bursaries to go to private schools while giving an advantage to wealthy pupils at under-achieving schools, she suggested ...

Her remarks to a conference came on the day Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched a major social mobility drive aimed at breaking the grip of middle-class families on top jobs and sought-after universities. (Daily Mail, 1 June 2012)
Of course somebody has to lose out, and it will obviously be offspring of the middle class, i.e. those statistically likely to have higher IQs.

Expressing concerns over whether the discrimination urged on universities may not work exactly in the directions intended merely diverts attention away from the more serious flaw in the whole programme of admissions engineering: that there is no reason why discriminating in favour of some relatively excluded social group is going to result in more, rather than less, weight being given to innate ability. The issue of heritability is simply ignored. One may well conclude that the programme is essentially an effective part of the strategy for discriminating against ability.

* Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Newcastle University. Head of Department 1973-92.