- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

Charles Murray wrote an opinion article on differences in racial groups’ intellectual attainments, “The inequality taboo,” in the Oct. 12 Wall Street Journal (https://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007391). I find it unbelievable that in 2005 I have to respond to such incredible blather about the differences between blacks and whites.

I vehemently disagree with the American Psychological Association report that, “reached the same conclusions as ‘The Bell Curve’ on the size and meaningfulness of the black-white difference … about one standard deviation in magnitude among subjects who have reached adolescence; cultural bias in IQ tests does not explain the difference; and the tests are about equally predictive of educational, social and economic outcomes for blacks and whites.” This is a “no-brainer”: the differences clearly are environmental and cultural.

To start, any class in child development will include information about the Romanian orphans left in their cribs with no caregiver stimulation. Unsurprisingly, this had an extremely negative effect on the growth of their brains compared with babies who received lots of caring human interaction. Their ability to interact also was severely stunted.

The brain grows rapidly in early childhood. Children who receive inadequate interaction, stimulation, nurturing and exposure to activities that create the foundation for learning in the schoolroom, will enter school on average 2 years behind their peers. No question: This is not due to genetics but poor environment.

Many American children facing the greatest economic and social adversity simply haven’t received as much cognitive stimulation. It is very hard to make up that loss unless a school systematically builds in additional hours for remediation. How many? Very few schools provide adequate intervention.

It is not surprising those subgroups, such as deprived black children, are unable to outperform other subgroups on IQ tests and the like. The brain, like a muscle, responds to exercise.

Disadvantaged youths do not use vocabularies as large as youngsters from more advantaged environments. For the disadvantaged, school becomes increasingly difficult. The gaps in ability widen. Many of the disadvantaged give up.

This gap is precisely what No Child Left Behind aims to eradicate. Every child can succeed. Unfortunately, too many enter the school system way behind. These children’s families need interventions, high-quality preschool and a substantial amount of explicit classroom instruction.

The bottom line: Children will experience about a year of academic growth for each grade in school. When a child starts two years behind and doesn’t get substantial remediation to make up the difference, the problem increases as the child advances in grades. For without a good foundation in reading, the basis for all learning, the child cannot master academic content. In schools, children need reading skills to learn, starting at about third grade. Earlier, children are learning the skills needed to read.

This is why there has been so much emphasis on reading in the primary grades. Reading ability predicts school success.

Our brain grows like the rest of our body. It is critical that underprivileged children receive additional stimulation from caregivers outside the family to facilitate their intellectual growth so they can catch up with their advantaged peers.

They need lots of instruction to make up for lost time. The younger a child, the easier for him or her to absorb the reading skills that are basic to academic success.

That is not to say children cannot make up for lost time in later grades. But it is more difficult because more remediation is needed. They must learn to read and master academic content.

I’ve read it is easier for kids to learn languages, skating and bicycle riding at a young age. Their muscles are more limber and perhaps they don’t think as hard about the “what ifs.”

These skills become second nature. I learned to skate as an adult. It was much harder and I don’t believe I will ever achieve the skating skill I would have if I had learned as a youngster. I do know my children can skate circles around me.

But I’ve been reading for many years and I never get anxious when I pick up a book. No one should have to worry about that.



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