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 hand. 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 money. "Do you get the point?" she asked. "The causal connection is backwards." 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 appreciation. "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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