Charles Murray's Lesson for America

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Charles Murray's Lesson for America

By: John A. Baden, Ph.D.
Posted on March 08, 2017 FREE Insights

I've known Charles Murray for some twenty years. A Senior Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Charles is one of America's most productive and compassionate scholars.  I've hosted him in Montana and reviewed four of his books. I greatly admire his courage and intellect and believe he deserves great respect, especially at colleges and universities.

I congratulated Charles for his bravery when he agreed to speak at Middlebury College March 2, 2017--and commiserated with him after that sorry event.  Intolerant, fascistic bullies dominated and displaced his talk at this $64,000 per school year.  

Laurie L. Patton, Middlebury's president described “a violent incident with a lot of pushing and shoving.”  Protesters swarmed Charles Murray and Allison Stanger, a professor who served as moderator. Protesters injured her and Prof. Stanger was taken to the hospital ER to be patched up.

Who is the Charles Murray who generated this ruckus? Why did it occur?

After high school in Newton, Iowa, Charles went to Harvard, graduated in 1965, and served in the Peace Corps in Thailand for three years, then stayed on for another two. He returned to America and earned a Ph. D. in Political Science from MIT in 1974.

Charles is the father of two bi-racial children with his first wife and two with his current wife, Catherine Cox, a Quaker. A libertarian, he publicly supports gay marriage. His writings on education and welfare reform focus on reforming policies that harm the middle class and those below.

What's a progressive student not to like? Just one thing and I learned it as a graduate student: Unless you are asserting that there are none, don't under any circumstances write about ethnic and racial differences in cognitive abilities. Doing so violates a hard taboo. Charles did.

In 1994 Murray co-authored a book, The Bell Curve. It includes a few pages on race. Here is an example from Chapter 13 :"...ethnic differences in cognitive ability are neither surprising nor in doubt" (p.269). Due to a few such observations Murray must lug the albatross of The Bell Curve whenever he writes and speaks regardless of topic.

The reaction to Charles is why major professor, William J. Siffin, burned my paper for a Ph. D. qualifying class in 1968.  He was a very wise man and understood I had violated a critical taboo; assuming some intelligence differences among identifiable groups. Here was the core argument.

I identified a largely endogamous group of high achievers in the intellectual and high professional world. I then explained why this situation might evolve. I argued it was mainly because of a disproportion of male births and survivability and hence strong competition for females in their nonviolent culture. I assumed 40% heritability of the underlying attributes, the low generally accepted estimate, and ran a simulation over several generations.  The result was an identified, widely recognized population with unusually high cognitive abilities. This is the paper he burned.

Burning a critically important paper in the days before Xerox and PCs was a serious statement indeed. There was only one unless one had made a carbon copy. "Why," I asked Prof. Siffin. "did you burn my paper? Was it that bad?"

“Oh no,” he responded. “It was clearly an A, maybe better. You just can’t write about such things. Doing so would follow and brand you and I can’t let that happen. The best thing to do was to burn it, so I did.” And I received an A in the class.

I think we are fortunate that Charles didn't have an experience similar to mine. Why? His well-publicized experience at Middlebury alerts us to the hypocrisy, bigotry, and cowardliness of progressive elitists. As a result America is a better place as such creatures are exposed and their influence weaken. Thanks for your courage Charles.


“Below are some press reports and comments on Charles Murray at Middlebury College.”

Murray, who was ostensibly invited to Middlebury to talk about newer work, should have to carry the albatross of The Bell Curve with him every time he writes and speaks about new ideas is a relevant question for another column

In a statement to the campus on Friday, Laurie L. Patton, the college’s president, described “a violent incident with a lot of pushing and shoving” as protesters swarmed Charles Murray, the speaker, and Allison Stanger, a professor who served as moderator, after the event. Ms. Patton apologized to Mr. Murray, Ms. Stanger, who was injured during the encounter, and “everyone who came in good faith to participate in a serious discussion.” “Last night,” the president wrote, “we failed to live up to our core values.”

Bill Burger, a college spokesman who was part of the group escorting Mr. Murray, told the Times that masked protesters accosted Ms. Stanger. “Someone grabbed Allison’s hair and twisted her neck,” he told the newspaper. Ms. Stanger was treated and fitted with a neck brace at a nearby hospital, according to the Addison Independent.

Roger Kimball, The Middlebury Meltdown. “Future historians of the liberal arts in American academic life will be able to pinpoint the time and place of its death with remarkable accuracy. The fatal blow was delivered Thursday night, March 2, at Wilson Hall, Middlebury College, Vermont. The victim struggled manfully, but finally expired outside the McCullough Student Center an hour or so later. It was there that liberal fascism—that witch’s brew of identity politics, political correctness, and what I’ve called the weaponization of victimhood—finally erupted with definitive virulence.”

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