Customer Reviews for

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Whether you'll agree or disagree, it's worth your time

American Enterprise Institute academic Michael Ledeen was right to call ¿The Bell Curve¿ ¿the most moderate book in recent years to spark such an accusatorial controversy.¿ While it's true that ¿The Bell Curve¿ draws many surprising and concerning conclusions, and some...
American Enterprise Institute academic Michael Ledeen was right to call ¿The Bell Curve¿ ¿the most moderate book in recent years to spark such an accusatorial controversy.¿ While it's true that ¿The Bell Curve¿ draws many surprising and concerning conclusions, and some conclusions that some people find alarming, the issues are legitimate and merit consideration. The basic premises and theses of ¿The Bell Curve¿ are these: that intelligence, IQ, or (perhaps less inflammatorily) cognitive ability is a real, measurable, quantifiable characteristic of a human being; that different people tend to be assigned very different roles by society depending on their level of cognitive ability; that people of different cognitive abilities behave differently in some important ways; that cognitive ability is substantially heritable; and that different groups tend to have differing levels of cognitive ability. The authors support these theses using the (remarkably rich) body of literature on the subject. Their procedures are documented with great care and a tremendous variety of sources is cited. The book can be read at a number of levels. At its shortest, the book amounts to only some thirty pages in length. Each chapter begins with a summary that briefly outlines the conclusions that will be reached. The main text of the book is about 550 pages. The content consists chiefly of validation and explanation of the authors' claims, as well as some psychometric history, all of which is both fascinating and persuasive. In addition to the primary text, the book is replete with sidenotes, endnotes, and appendices, to say nothing of the hundreds of external sources to which we are referred in the bibliography. The authors' style is simultaneously informative, accessible, frank, cautious, and persuasive. Of especial interest to the skeptical (including me) is the afterword, in which one of the authors responds to recent critical commentary of ¿The Bell Curve.¿ Whatever your position on psychometrics and whatever critical commentary you may have read on ¿The Bell Curve,¿ this book is an indispensable tool that will allow you to survey the evidence for yourself. Like many who read the primary source rather than relying on biased commentaries, you may find that the logic, not to mention the statistics, of the authors is inescapable. Regardless of your personal beliefs, the book brings up issues that will be fundamental to the future of the human race. It is at least worth your examination.

posted by Anonymous on August 23, 2003

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Funny book...

1. Can an IQ exam give an accurate measure of a person's intelligence? An IQ score and intelligence are not the same thing. If you don't understand that, you're too stupid to be using the internet. 2. "How could the authors be racists/white supremacists if they s...
1. Can an IQ exam give an accurate measure of a person's intelligence? An IQ score and intelligence are not the same thing. If you don't understand that, you're too stupid to be using the internet. 2. "How could the authors be racists/white supremacists if they show studies that asians and jews are smarter than whites?" What kind of surname is 'Herrnstein'? That's right... the author is Jewish. 3. Who designs the IQ tests? Be realistic... EVERYTHING in our world is culturally biased to some degree or another... why not exams? 4. Jews are not a race... many jews themselves argue that they are not an ethnicity either; they say they are just people part of the same religion. Saying that Jews are a race is akin to saying Italians and Japanese people are entire RACES unto themselves. I find it a little disturbing that when the authors conclude which RACE is the smartest, they point to a smaller ETHNICITY. 5. Statistics require interpretation no matter what, and when conclusions are reached, you must continue to ask questions, not just leave it at that. 6. "Sucess in life is not social background but high intelligence." Yeah, sure... Can you name the current President of the United States? 7. The average Asian high school student may get higher scores than the average American student, but in most Asian countries, only the best students progress all the way through high school... large numbers of students are weeded out over the years and trained to do other things.

posted by Anonymous on September 24, 2002

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    Whether you'll agree or disagree, it's worth your time

    American Enterprise Institute academic Michael Ledeen was right to call ¿The Bell Curve¿ ¿the most moderate book in recent years to spark such an accusatorial controversy.¿ While it's true that ¿The Bell Curve¿ draws many surprising and concerning conclusions, and some conclusions that some people find alarming, the issues are legitimate and merit consideration. The basic premises and theses of ¿The Bell Curve¿ are these: that intelligence, IQ, or (perhaps less inflammatorily) cognitive ability is a real, measurable, quantifiable characteristic of a human being; that different people tend to be assigned very different roles by society depending on their level of cognitive ability; that people of different cognitive abilities behave differently in some important ways; that cognitive ability is substantially heritable; and that different groups tend to have differing levels of cognitive ability. The authors support these theses using the (remarkably rich) body of literature on the subject. Their procedures are documented with great care and a tremendous variety of sources is cited. The book can be read at a number of levels. At its shortest, the book amounts to only some thirty pages in length. Each chapter begins with a summary that briefly outlines the conclusions that will be reached. The main text of the book is about 550 pages. The content consists chiefly of validation and explanation of the authors' claims, as well as some psychometric history, all of which is both fascinating and persuasive. In addition to the primary text, the book is replete with sidenotes, endnotes, and appendices, to say nothing of the hundreds of external sources to which we are referred in the bibliography. The authors' style is simultaneously informative, accessible, frank, cautious, and persuasive. Of especial interest to the skeptical (including me) is the afterword, in which one of the authors responds to recent critical commentary of ¿The Bell Curve.¿ Whatever your position on psychometrics and whatever critical commentary you may have read on ¿The Bell Curve,¿ this book is an indispensable tool that will allow you to survey the evidence for yourself. Like many who read the primary source rather than relying on biased commentaries, you may find that the logic, not to mention the statistics, of the authors is inescapable. Regardless of your personal beliefs, the book brings up issues that will be fundamental to the future of the human race. It is at least worth your examination.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2002

    Funny book...

    1. Can an IQ exam give an accurate measure of a person's intelligence? An IQ score and intelligence are not the same thing. If you don't understand that, you're too stupid to be using the internet. 2. "How could the authors be racists/white supremacists if they show studies that asians and jews are smarter than whites?" What kind of surname is 'Herrnstein'? That's right... the author is Jewish. 3. Who designs the IQ tests? Be realistic... EVERYTHING in our world is culturally biased to some degree or another... why not exams? 4. Jews are not a race... many jews themselves argue that they are not an ethnicity either; they say they are just people part of the same religion. Saying that Jews are a race is akin to saying Italians and Japanese people are entire RACES unto themselves. I find it a little disturbing that when the authors conclude which RACE is the smartest, they point to a smaller ETHNICITY. 5. Statistics require interpretation no matter what, and when conclusions are reached, you must continue to ask questions, not just leave it at that. 6. "Sucess in life is not social background but high intelligence." Yeah, sure... Can you name the current President of the United States? 7. The average Asian high school student may get higher scores than the average American student, but in most Asian countries, only the best students progress all the way through high school... large numbers of students are weeded out over the years and trained to do other things.

    2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2001

    Challenging, Enlightening

    Forces the reader to critically and consciously think about every day occurances and experiences as they relate to the biological undercurrent of race. How does the interaction of society and tested 'intelligence', as perceived through the lens of biological race, manifest itself? The reader must come to terms with the data and evidence presented, whether he is convinced or not. The nature vs nurture argument is peripherally re-surfaced in light of both convincing and suspect evidence. Challenges post modern social 'science' (not to be confused with true science) through a different social 'science' perspective of reductionism. Recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000

    Can a truly HONEST assessment be done?

    In preparing a paper for a grad student lecture, i came across some interesting studies. One involved a child who had been traumatized and IQ taken shortly after the trauma. Years later, as a teen, the boy was re-tested and there was a 40 point spread between the initial IQ and later one.The trauma involved was the sudden separation of the boy from his parents for one weekend after being dropped off at his grandparents' home with no explanation of what was going on.The point here is the impact of stress can sometimes produce large consequences on testing performance.The variables are too numerous to make a honest appraisal and these tests appear to be more of a screening mechanism than anything else.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2000

    What is this trying to prove??

    Intelligence and its measurement has been a longstanding controversy. William James Sidis of Portsmouth,NH in the early 1900s was estimated to have spoken 50 languages fluently and was lecturing mathematicians at MIT in 26 dimensional geometry at age 11 but flunked a civil service exam in Massachusetts. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome flunked out of Harvard.. and so on. In the study of the Terman kids, none of the kids involved and tracked demonstrated the revolutionary capabilities of an Einstein although many had an equivalent or higher 'IQ'. There are many problems in matching IQ to any group because of the sheer number of unequal variables involved. For example, differences in how kids are raised,quality of teachers and instructional materials, curriculum design, family support for learning,and so on. Studies of kids raised in institutional environments have shown excessive concrete reasoning and the lack of ability to understand simile and metaphor.And some studies have shown that IQ can become depressed or grow by as much as 40 points in one case due to trauma in the home. And aren't tests a certain measure also of the people who design them and what they find important? Not to mention that IQ was first developed as a measure to determine conformity to a standard of school achievement in French schools.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    Not racist

    There are definitely some weaknesses in how the statistics were laid out, as noted by another reviewer, but racist? How racist is a book written by white authors who go out of their way to note that the average IQs of Asians dwarf those of whites? People who make the claim that the book is OVERTLY racist baffle me. What it calls for is an earthy pragmatism; a divorcing of emotion from perspective, an un-biasing, to get people to view such issues as social class apart from the politically correct view that has been bred into us. The reason I don't mark this book as 5 stars, as it certainly is a milestone, is that a detailed record of sources and statistical studies and analyses should have been provided in the Appendices (more than is there), or provided separately as a companion volume. I wonder if reviewers such as the ones who shout racist are just repeating rhetoric w/o having given the book a fair chance, because those who have looked into the studies done by the authors have found no shortcomings in methodology. One of them is an acclaimed Harvard professor, the other's received just as much national and professional prestige-they ARE professionals, and would not be where they are if they let agenda cloud their research.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    Truth hurts

    One of the best Honest studies on race and iq from 3rd party. Racism is the only argument critics can use on the statistics of this great work. Honesty isnt always what people want to hear which is why so many critics of the book have come to hate it even more so. Very informal!

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Interesting

    Excellent factual book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2003

    Don't leave the parents out....and this book did not.

    I have read this book twice. And both times I noticed that the authors mentioned that parents played a role in their childrens' success. They pushed them to learn.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2000

    Shallow

    Why should readers be surprized about the pre-existing inequality that is the basis of all the statistical mumbo jumbo? The book does nothing to solve the riddle of why some groups outperform others, and what exactly, in our so called democratic society, we ought to do about developing everyone's talent. The book does, however, feed in to entrenched, destructive stereotypes that are historically proven failures.Insensitive to its sources, the book establishes that tenured professors have much to fear from the internet.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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