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NASP Home NASP Publications School Psychology Review (SPR) Volume 10 Issue 4 (1981) Book Reviews
Volume 10, Issue 4 (1981)

Book Reviews

pp. 513—524

The last edition (Vol. IX, No. 2 Spring, 1980) of School Psychology Review was devoted to the issue of the landmark Larry P. decision. Excellent reviews of the legal decision itself(Bersoff, 1980; Condas, 1980; Madden, 1980), the psychological evidence presented (Reschly,1980) and the long and short term implications for the fields of school psychology and special education (Bardon, 1980; Condas, 1980; MacMillan & Meyers, 1980) were presented. Reschly(1980) suggests that one of the implicit issues in the Larry P. opinion was the nature-nurture controversy and that “it is likely that the widespread publicity accorded to Jensen’s (1969)article was at least an influence on the plaintiffs motivation to press the case.” (p. 132) Most school psychologists will recall Jensen’s controversial 1969 paper (published in the prestigious Harvard Educational Review) which presented evidence that blacks score lower on the average than whites on standardized intelligence tests; Jensen suggested that this difference is due primarily to genetic rather than environmental influences. This paper also brought Jensen both notoriety and death threats in the mail. It is interesting that Jensen’s new book, Bias in Mental Testing, was in the final pre-publication stages at approximately the same time that the Larry P. final decision was published by Judge Peckham. However, while Judge Peckham found IQ tests to be culturally biased against blacks, Arthur Jensen in his encyclopedic review of the mental testing literature concludes that “by and large standardized tests of general mental ability and scholastic achievement, as well as many vocational aptitude tests, are not biased with respect to any native-born, English-speaking minority groups in the United States.” (p.175) Although Jensen is perhaps best known for these writings which attribute black-white mean IQ differences primarily to genetic factors, school psychologists would be mistaken to assume that this is the only issue Jensen addresses in Bias in Mental Testing. Those who have dismissed Jensen’s ideas on grounds of logic or fair play may dismiss this book on these same grounds. The reader is introduced to this controversial heritability hypothesis in a footnote to Chapter Three. He concludes,” the idea of a genetic component in the racial [i.e., black-white] IQ differences is the most disputed and at present is generally regarded by genetics as a scientifically unproven hypothesis.” (p. 58) In Bias in Mental Testing, Jensen does not attempt to prove his genetic hypothesis directly but rather strengthens it only by trying to dismiss cultural bias of mental tests as a plausible explanation for the observed mean IQ difference between racial groups.

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