January 17, 2007

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal’s online OpinionJournal puts forth a thesis that might seem obvious when looked at superficially.  Half of all children are below average.

I’m surprised that this piece appeared in such a highly regarded publication.  Its primary assertion shows a lack of facility with statistics.  It’s not necessarily the case that half of children are below average.  This is only true when the mean equals the median.  Suppose you have an extremely difficult mathematics competition, such as the American Invitational Mathematics Examination given to talented high school students across the United States.  Possible scores on this exam are from 0 to 15.  However, the average score is usually less than 3.  Many students on this exam get a score of 0 or 1, even when they are straight A+ students in their regular high school math classes.

I’m also intrigued by the remark suggesting that the standards set by NAEP may be “on the tough side”.  Wow.  The United States is far from being the leader in literacy among its students compared to other countries, and some people think we set the bar too high.


One Response to “Intelligence”

  1. Gwen Stefani Says:

    The child population in America IS large enough that it can best be modeled by a normalized curve. If this is the case, then the mean does equal the median and 50% of American children are retarded.

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