Yesterday, radio host Thom Hartmann challenged guest Pat Buchanan over his recent writing about minorities and test scores. Hartmann said that “a lot of people are taking what you’re saying as code for inferior genes” and twice pressed Buchanan to disavow that theory. Buchanan did not, instead claiming that he doesn’t “know anything” about the topic.
From The Thom Hartmann Program:
HARTMANN: A lot of people are taking what you’re saying as code for inferior genes. Please tell me that’s not what you’re talking about.
BUCHANAN: Well look, I’m not–don’t know anything about what genetics or something like that. What I’m saying is, is these are the test scores and we haven’t been able to–
HARTMANN: So do you disavow that?
HARTMANN: Do you disavow that idea, that concept–
BUCHANAN: Well, I don’t know anything about being–look. The Coleman Report–
HARTMANN: I mean, you’re being quoted over on–
BUCHANAN: The Coleman Report, and I think I’ve got in my book, the Coleman Report said what a child brings to school is far more important than what he finds in schools, in other words, heredity and home environment, nature and nurture. Do I know the differences, or what percentages, or this and that, of course not. I’m not going to get into that. I’m saying is here’s the test scores now, and this is the problem, and in our future, quite frankly, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans, because of test scores, because of the dropout rate is fifty percent, they’re going to be in the service economy and the rest of us are going to be up there in the knowledge industry and that doesn’t make for a united America.
[The remarks above begin roughly 4:20 into this clip]
The Boston Globe reported in a January 1992 article that as a White House aide, Buchanan “suggested in a memo to President Nixon that efforts to integrate the U.S. might only result in ‘perpetual friction’ because blacks and the poor may be genetically inferior to middle-class whites.”
At the time of the report, Buchanan was running for president and under criticism for his history of controversial racial statements. The Globe reported that “Buchanan said yesterday he does not believe blacks are genetically inferior to whites and did not have that belief in the past. Buchanan said he sent the memo to Nixon as a routine matter of intellectual curiosity.”
The Globe wrote of Buchanan’s memo:
The memo to Nixon was prompted by the September 1971 issue of The Atlantic, in which author Richard Herrnstein argued that the devotion of government resources to compensatory education and other anti-poverty programs would not result in a more equitable society. The more that government removed social barriers, Herrnstein wrote, the more that genetically blessed individuals would rise to the top of a caste system based on merit.
“Basically, it demonstrates that heredity, rather than environment, determines intelligence–and that the more we proceed to provide everyone with a ‘good environment,’ surely the more heredity will become the dominant factor–in their intelligence, and thus in their success and social standing,” Buchanan wrote to Nixon. ” It is almost the iron law of intelligence that is being propounded here–based on heredity.
“The importance of this article is difficult to understate. If correct, then all our efforts and expenditures not only for ‘compensatory education’ but to provide an ‘equal chance at the starting line’ are guaranteeing that we wind up with the intelligent ones coming in first. And every study we have shows blacks 15 IQ points below whites on the average.”
Buchanan also warned Nixon that, as Herrnstein noted, the ultimate conclusion of the thesis–that some groups or races are inherently superior to others–carried “rather frightful” political implications.
Buchanan wrote in his book:
In 1971, the Atlantic Monthly ran a cover article by Harvard’s Richard Herrnstein. His thesis was that even if we are able to equalize the home and school environment of all children, natural academic ability will enable some children to outperform others. No matter how much money is invested in reducing class size and enhancing teacher training, an “hereditary meritocracy” will arise in a public school system where expenditures are equal.
Coleman and Herrnstein were teaching predestination in education. They were implying that the national effort just launched to raise the test scores of minority children to parity with the scores of white children was an experiment noble in purpose but doomed to fail. But pessimism about the ability of government to succeed in its ambitions was not in vogue when government was being hailed as architect and builder of the Great Society.
America plunged forward. U.S. and state governments and local school districts began the most massive investment in education in all of history. Expenditures per pupil doubled and tripled. Head Start, a preschool program for low-income children established in 1965, was lavishly funded. Perhaps $200 billion was poured into Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided additional funds to schools based on their population of low-income students.
What were the results? Writes Murray, “no evaluation from Title I from the 1970s onward has found credible evidence of a significant positive impact on student achievement . . . . A 2001 study by the Department of Education revealed that the gap widened rather than diminished.”
George W. Bush attacked the disparity between majority and minority school achievement anew with his No Child Left Behind law. The Department of Education budget doubled again. What was accomplished? Judging by test scores, writes Murray, “NCLB has done nothing to raise reading skills despite the enormous effort that has been expended.” [pp. 214-215]
Near the conclusion of his section on race and education, on page 224, Buchanan quotes the writing of white supremacist Sam Francis, in which Francis writes that “the doctrine of equality is unimportant, because no one save perhaps Pol Pot and Ben Wattenberg really believes in it, and no one, least of all those who profess it most loudly, is seriously motivated by it . . . . The real meaning of the doctrine of equality is that it serves as a political weapon.”