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Volume 24, Issue 1 (1995)

For Whom The Bell Tolls: Why The Bell Curve Is Important for School Psychologists

pp. 27—35

Abstract: Because school psychologists are considered experts on intelligence and assessment, they have an ethical obligation to read - and understand - The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994). However, many psychologists will avoid this task, because me Bell Curve forces one to confront issues that educators would prefer to dismiss or avoid. This article addresses four questions that psychologists should consider before dismissing The Bell Curve: (a) Is IQ really helpful? (b) Could the black-white IQ gap be genetic?, (c) Could it help to know that the gap is genetic?, and (d) What should educators do about all this? I answer “Yes” to the first three questions. It is possible to reconcile a genetic account of the black-white IQ gap with a vigorous commitment to social justice. Society has already accepted a genetic account of ability differences between . groups; namely, differences in physical ability between males and females. Feminist principles show how society can embrace differences in ability (and outcomes) while eradicating differences in opportunity. The fourth question is addressed by noting that individualism (rather than egalitarianism) provides a socially, morally, and scientifically defensible basis for educational policy. Although some of Herrnstein and Murray’s educational policy proposals merit criticism, their recommendations are worthy of discussion. School psychologists owe it to themselves - and the children they serve - to read The Bell Curve.

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