Ron Johnson is a Tea Party-oriented candidate for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, one of whose main concerns is the sorry state of education in this country. Earlier this year, Johnson invited Charles Murray to speak before the group chaired by Johnson, the Partners in Education Council. Instead of an open-minded hearing that could have introduced new ideas to people concerned with education, the result was all too predictable.
After Murray’s March speech, school board member Matt Wiedenhoeft took issue with Murray’s suggestions during an individual conversation that the United States couldn’t keep up with Asian countries in producing engineers because of a difference in genetic abilities.
According to an e-mail Murray wrote to Leschke, he told Wiedenhoeft in a personal conversation that east Asians have more of the “visual-spatial abilities associated with engineering than whites or any other ethnic group.”
Wiedenhoeft said he believes the comments were racist and requested that the Partners in Education Council vote to apologize to the community for inviting Murray.
“To me, that is a comment that I cannot imagine we would want to promote because, I guess in my mind, you end up with a statement that one race is better than another via genetics. Until it’s proved, I’m certainly not going to support that kind of a theory,” Wiedenhoeft said.
Murray told the Northwestern his theory is backed by IQ test data showing Japanese and Chinese students score higher on visual-spatial components of IQ tests than whites of European origin. He said that pattern is observed in both Chinese raised in China and Chinese Americans whose families have lived in the U.S. for multiple generations.
“Can you think of any explanation of this pattern that does not involve genes?” he wrote in an e-mail to The Northwestern. “The hand-wringing reaction of the council member, and of everyone who gets upset by any mention of ethnic differences is, in my view, childish.”
Childish, indeed, infantile really, the reaction elicited by the school board member. Charges of racism seem to be the catch-all term for anyone seeking to end debate, or even someone who decides that he had better make the charge first before someone accuse him of racism for having listened to Murray, a sort of preemptive charge of racism.
Whereas once the U.S was the nation of open minds with the will to excel and compete, we're now the country of charges of racism. Whereas once we had no compunctions about having Werner von Braun and his team work on our space program, today we're frightened of education reformers who attempt to tell us the truth.