Cultural Caviar

“Frantic Yelling Ensued”

March 15, 2017

Representative King pointed out this achievement gap last summer. From an irate NYT article during the Republican convention:

“If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face,” Charles P. Pierce, a writer at large at ‘Esquire’ magazine, said during the panel discussion.

In response, Mr. King said: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”…

Frantic yelling ensued, with the panelists speaking over one another. “What about Africa? What about Asia?” April Ryan, a reporter on the panel, said.

Indeed, what about Africa? What about Asia? What is to be done about the fact that they didn’t contribute all that much to the current world?

One increasingly popular response to the irredeemable abundance of white male creativity is scrubbing the names of dead white men from the historical record for being evil. This is becoming ever more a ritual for those whose pride is oppressed by the excessive accomplishments of their non-ancestors.

For example, this week the Palo Alto, Calif., school board votes on a proposal to expunge the name of the most important family in Silicon Valley history—the Termans—from a middle school.

Lewis Terman introduced standardized cognitive testing to America in 1916 with his Stanford-Binet IQ test. He believed genes were important to intelligence, a view for which Charles Murray was recently assaulted at Middlebury College.

We are often told that intelligence testing is a “pseudo-science.” Yet Stanford continues to require extremely high scores for admission on tests derived from the Stanford-Binet, such as the SAT and the ACT. Stanford, which has been at the heart of intelligence research for a century and which has no intention of giving up the SAT, now has an endowment of $22.4 billion.

That is not a coincidence.

Lewis’ son, Fred Terman, became Stanford’s visionary dean of engineering. From behind the scenes, Fred pulled the strings to create the Silicon Valley we know today and make it into a mighty arsenal in the Cold War.

You might think that Lewis and Fred deserve a middle school each, considering how central their contributions have been to Palo Alto’s current prosperity. (The average 3,000-square-foot house in Palo Alto costs over $4 million.)

But activists want to spend $100,000 to erase the Terman name from the one school jointly named after them.

A compromise proposal to rub out just Lewis’ name was shot down on the presumption that the son inherits the sins of the father.

But the contributions of giants like the Termans are likely to haunt resentful memories even after their offending names have been laboriously scraped away. “History…guides us by vanities,” acidly observed T.S. Eliot’s “Gerontion”:

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

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