Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 12, 1994

Forum Addresses Questions on Race, Ability and Achievement
By Christine A. Rowett

Nearly two and a half hours into a forum organized to address the
controversial question of whether achievement is related to race,
Hopkins geography professor David Harvey took a microphone in
Immediately, event moderator Lester Salamon, director of the
Institute for Policy Studies, stepped to his mike.
     "Professor Harvey, I think we re doing OK here," a smiling
Dr. Salamon said, referring to the relatively tame tone of the
discussion. "Don t blow it."
     But for Dr. Harvey, who returned the smile, the opportunity
was too tempting.
     "Why the hell are we paying attention?" he asked.
     The attention was initially prompted by a story titled
"Professors of Hate" published in an October issue of Rolling
Stone magazine. The article described Hopkins sociology professor
Robert Gordon as one of those "Professors of Hate," which
resulted in a call to "non-racist students" to boycott Dr.
Gordon s classes.
     The forum was opened with presentations by Dr. Gordon and
Princeton University professor Howard Taylor. The two were each
allotted 40 minutes to discuss the research and merits of The
Bell Curve, a recently published book that states, in part, that
on average blacks are less intelligent than whites. Dr. Gordon
supports the work; Dr. Taylor adamantly rebuts it.
     The event was held Wednesday night to a packed crowd in
Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus. An estimated 800 attended.
     "I think [Dr. Gordon] is deluded," Dr. Harvey said during
his time at the micro-phone. "But if you fired all the Hopkins
professors who are deluded, you d lose 60 percent of them. And
many of my colleagues would put me in that crowd."
     Earlier, in starkly contrasting presentations, Drs. Gordon
and Taylor addressed The Bell Curve.
     Dr. Gordon, who spoke first, used an overhead projector and
dozens of transparencies during his discussion. He cited numerous
studies conducted from 1920 through 1980, and used his time to
present a large array of statistics.
     "Despite a great increase in schooling of blacks and whites,
there has been no diminution in the magnitude of the black-white
IQ difference," he said. "It is something that has a resistance
to change that is puzzling and troubling."
     To bolster the argument that inheritance plays a predominant
role in determining intelligence, he also cited a study of
adopted twins who had been raised separately, stating that though
their environments were different, their IQs were very close.
     Dr. Taylor, the former director of Princeton s Afro-American
Studies Program and a researcher in the IQ heritability
controversy, utilized a relaxed style during his presentation. 
     "I m not going to bore you with charts," he said to slight
applause. "I ve got the charts; if you want to come see them,
you re welcome to."
     He specifically rebutted Dr. Gordon s claims regarding
identical twins and similar IQs. The twins in the study, Dr.
Taylor said, were never actually separated. He cited four sets of
twins who grew up together, and read from the appendix of the
twins/IQ research.
     "My favorite are Ed and Fred. They live  in the same New
England town, they went to the same school for a time and each
owns a fox terrier dog named Trixie, " he read. "Consider the
probability of some gene compelling them to have a dog of the
same name and same breed. The probability is higher that they are
talking about the same dog."
     IP researcher Patricia Fern ndez-Kelly later rallied the
crowd with a brief but animated presentation that included 
practical examples of research.
     "While we all have our ideologies, the purpose of science is
to be able to distinguish ideology from science," she said.
"Otherwise what we have is the proliferation of people with their
own customized truths."
     The Bell Curve authors, she said, have misused research.
Using an example of a theoretical study on home owners and
wealth, she said one may conclude that those who own homes
probably have money in the bank. But it would be incorrect, she
said, to conclude that home ownership causes people to have
     "Do you get the point?" she asked. "The causal connection is
     Immediately after Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly s speech, University
of Delaware professor Linda Gottfredson stood up from the
audience to announce that she had a question. After receiving a
microphone Dr. Gottfredson, who is Dr. Gordon s ex-wife, said,
"Think about this. What if Dr. Gordon is right?"
     Her subsequent remarks sparked a negative reaction in the
audience, and though Dr. Gottfredson requested a "few minutes"
more to speak, Dr. Salamon turned her down.
     When the forum was opened to allow the audience questions,
long lines quickly formed at the microphones. Most of the
speakers questioned and criticized Dr. Gordon; one audience
member accused the professor of racing through the data 
and speaking too quickly to be understood.
     "It doesn t even seem like you believe it," senior Sam King
said. "It seems to me you have something to hide."
     Sophomore biophysics major Dawit G. Habte questioned Dr.
Gordon s method of compiling research and unsatisfied that he had
been answered placed the microphone down and walked out of the
forum amid applause and high fives.
     "[On his charts] of maximum intelligence all the
measurements were for the white race," Habte later said. "What
does that tell you about his research?"
     Baltimore City resident Sean Henson caused a stir when he
commented on the background of the assembled panel.
     "I m disappointed there are no blacks up there representing
us," he said. "I am African American, black."
     The statement received laughter and a quick response from
Dr. Taylor, who is black. But Henson, who continued talking,
apparently did not hear anyone until finally, Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly
spoke directly to him.
     "My dear, he is black," she said, pointing across the stage
to Dr. Taylor.
     Several minutes and several questions later Henson managed
to grab a micro-
phone again and said to Dr. Taylor, "When America sees you they see
a white man."
     "When black people look at me they see another black," Dr.
Taylor responded.
     Audience reaction to the event ranged from frustration to
     "He s really scary," one student said of Dr. Gordon.
     But the general level of interest was high.
     "I think it s really important to have things like this,"
another student said.
     Bill Bleigh, an area high school teacher and member of the
International Committee Against Racism, was the lone vocal
protester who stood up after Dr. Gordon s presentation.
     "I think it is a disgrace to have this at Hopkins," he
shouted. "This is scientific nonsense."

     The forum was sponsored by the Black Student Union and
several other student groups, and by the Department of Sociology
and the School of Arts and Sciences.

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