Friday, July 14, 2023

An Asian Invasion in American Education?, by Chanda Chisala - The Unz Review

 Explaining my fast-maturity hypothesis for Asian scholastic dominance

An Imaginary interview with Larry King.

LK: So you still believe that Asians biologically mature faster than other ethnic groups in childhood and this gives them an early advantage in school?

CC: Yes. East Asians, to be more specific. Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, etc. If I am right that they mature faster, before some others catch up with them, then they have an early learning (and testing) advantage that puts them way ahead of everyone else in those school and college years. So, if your average 4 year old American is in class with 4 year old East Asians, he is really learning with kids who are effectively 6 years old (or thereabout).

LK: I guess that means they are even less distracted in class, compared to their less mature classmates?

CC: Correct. But just the intelligence from being biologically older is the main difference.

LK: So, does this mean you are against the Supreme Court ruling that struck down affirmative action in college admissions?

CC: I support it, in principle. I am a full believer in merit and competition. And I also just do not like fake solutions to real problems, especially when there are some risky unintended consequences. I mean, if there are not enough blacks or women working as pilots, the solution is not to get more of them into pilot school by lowering the aptitude standards for dealing with the complexities of air navigation!

LK: Well, some people say the reason there are so few blacks in such professions is because of a history of racism against them.

CC: Whatever the causes, you do not solve the problem by forcing a result you wish was true.

LK: I guess it also takes away from the respect that such achievements are supposed to endow on a deserving person from that favored group.

CC: It does. The magic of the university is how it enables anyone to raise his station in life, no matter what background he is coming from. He can get himself on track to join the ranks of the leaders of society, by sheer effort and talent rather than the imposed accidents of birth and pedigree. This is in contrast to the aristocratic rigidities of Old Europe.

LK: Not only Europe. Practically all cultures have had these permanent structures of social hierarchy through ancestry. Like the caste system of many societies all over the world. Education allows you to escape all such barriers as an individual.

CC: It really does. And that includes self-education, too, for many fields.

LK: But on the other hand, we can’t ignore the fact that blacks have had some big hurdles in American history. I think we should acknowledge that they are a special case because they are the only group that were brought here as slaves. So, maybe some form of affirmative action makes sense for them, no?

CC: A valid argument for some kind of special assistance could probably be made, especially for multigenerational black Americans, the descendants of slaves. But I think the magic of this meritocratic system is actually most powerfully manifested for a motivated and talented black person than for any other person from other ethnicities. If he or she can go to a good university, despite all those (cultural or historical) impediments associated with him, he is even more respected than anyone else in society who may have not had those hurdles. So, you’re taking that away from real black achievers when you award many blacks that should not have taken those university places. You know what I mean?

LK: So, a black achiever loses some of that respect because everyone thinks he didn’t deserve it?

CC: Yes. You have robbed him of the glory that would have in fact shone brighter than everyone else, since it shines from an incomparably dark past. Thomas Sowell said something about how everyone used to have the utmost respect for a black person who made it in careers that were typically white dominated. Some people actually preferred to deal with such blacks because they knew they had to be quite special. After all, it was only some whites who were essentially getting affirmative action protections back then, by limiting elite university access for other groups.

LK: OK, we are not here to discuss affirmative action itself, but to get to the root of your hypothesis on Asian dominance on these scholastic tests that qualify them to these elite schools more than anyone else. You seem to contradict yourself a bit when you say you don’t believe in affirmative action but you somehow also think Harvard was kind of right to limit the number of Asians enrolled. You can’t have it both ways, can you?

CC: I was actually opposed to their reason for discriminating against Asians: campus diversity or something like that. But I argued that their discriminatory practice ended up achieving an objectively more meritocratic outcome, given the East Asians’ biological fluke of simply developing or maturing faster than the other groups. In fact, they should have limited their numbers even more than they did, and so should have all those elite high schools (Stuyvesant in New York, Thomas Jefferson in Virginia, etc.)

LK: So, it sounds like you’re against pure merit then?

CC: The problem is how you define merit.

LK: Come on. I think we can all agree that a kid who has higher scores on a test has earned a place at university by merit. Asians outscore everyone, that’s merit. It’s not a complicated concept.

CC: Yes, but I think it’s folly, if not dangerous, to just idolize merit without any regard to context. Let’s take women’s sports, for example.

LK: Biologically male transgenders competing against females?

CC: Well, that’s an extreme and obvious case of atypical biological traits being used to an unfair advantage against typical women. But we don’t even need to go that far to get a good analogy for the Asian case, whose “unfair” advantage is more natural than anything whimsical or artificial. There have been some actual women born with an atypical ability to produce testosterone at almost male levels, and they just destroy other women in sport. The International Olympic Committee has banned them from competing against fellow women even though they are actual biological women in every other way. Some “meritocratists” say they should just be allowed to compete since they are women, but others feel they have an advantage that is so big that it undermines the whole point of the women’s category. We can call that “conservative meritocracy,” one that is cognizant of both original intent and the wider flukes of nature.

LK: And applying this to Asians, are you saying they should be penalized academically for their biological advantage of growing up faster?

CC: Well, not “penalized.”

LK: It sounds to me like that’s exactly what you are saying. I mean, it’s not their fault if that is true. It would be like disqualifying a kid from competing in basketball just because he grows really tall for his age, no?

CC: Well, let’s consider that analogy. Suppose you have a new ethnicity of people who migrate to the US and their 8 year olds physically look and act like they are fourteen year olds, because they just grow up faster (even if their parents look normal). Would it be unreasonable, at the very least, to discuss whether they should be put in the same wrestling class as your regular 8 year old natives?

LK: Wrestling? Oh, like an extracurricular activity?

CC: Yes. Or whatever physical activity that clearly gives a fourteen year old body an advantage over 8 year olds, sometimes an even dangerous advantage. Football, karate, volleyball, etc.

LK: OK. But would it be fair to say these kids should not be allowed to do those sports because they are too big for their age?

CC: Well, that’s not necessarily the solution. We can think about it and be creative. Maybe those kids can be put in a separate special class so that they don’t harm the much smaller kids. It’s kind of common sense. You can’t just worship at the altar of “merit” while you watch your small children get pummeled by some new kids with abnormal early development!

LK: Are you advocating that Asians should be put in separate classrooms (or even schools) because they mature faster than their peers from other races?

CC: I am not advocating anything. I am simply inviting a policy discussion, after others rigorously check if my observation is true. Personally, I think they should be put in higher grades in grade school.

LK: Or perhaps in gifted classes in the same school grade?

CC: No. Higher grades. We know they can handle the work in higher grades than where they are, so it would not be punitive to put them in the right grade of school. And only those who are still overachievers in those higher grades should be put in the gifted class. That way you get only truly gifted Asians in such gifted programs, rather than having mostly early maturers, as I believe we see now, which completely undermines the point of those gifted classes and schools for truly special talents. And this way it will also only be the truly talented Asians who will get into Harvard etc.

LK: So, if you are a 7 year old Asian, you are put in third grade?

CC: Or whatever grade is equivalent to their development, on average. Yes, I think their development is around 2 years ahead of the average American child. But it can be measured precisely. My guess is 2 to 3 years for the northeast Asians, and 1 to 2 years for the southeast Asians.

LK: OK, this is the point at which we’ll need to see your evidence for these claims. Have you researched it more since you wrote your first article on this?

CC: Yes, I have become more convinced since that article was published. There is now almost no doubt in my mind that there is faster East Asian development.

LK: OK, first recap for us what you argued in your last article?

CC: My argument was based on a simple empirical fact about the IQs of very young Asians. Every psychometrician who has tested healthy East Asian children in the US has found astonishingly high IQs. It would be one thing if these were just children of scientists running away from some Asian university. But no, all these tests have been on children of just random Asian immigrant kids, many of whom are pretty poor. And they have scored 10, 15 or even 20 IQ points above whites!

LK: Wow. That’s astonishing indeed. But maybe Asians are just innately smarter than everyone else?

CC: Well, even the people who make that claim don’t believe the IQ advantage is that high. They believe it’s around 3 to 5 points higher at best, not 10 to 20 points. So, this brings us to an inevitable syllogism: If it’s true that East Asians are only 3 to 5 IQ points above white IQ, and if it’s also true that Asian children test much higher than 3 to 5 points, it should logically follow that East Asian IQ decreases with increasing age (relative to others). Which seems to indicate that at some point they just had a faster growth or maturity rate.

LK: So, it’s basically the other kids who increase their intelligence.

CC: Just like it happens with height sometimes. Some very tall little children end up not looking so tall once their friends catch up with them later in life. It’s not that their height literally reduced; it’s that they no longer had the advantage from that faster spurt of growth.

LK: OK. But are you sure that the Asian children are always very high IQ on average? Could it be that these studies that tested them just happened to test some really smart samples?

CC: I would have had my doubts if you had mixed results, like if it was 60 percent of the samples that showed such high IQs and 40 percent that show they are just normal or just 5 points above. But it looks like it’s 100 percent of the healthy Asian samples so far that test ridiculously high in the US, so the burden of proof has shifted to those who doubt my conjecture: present the proof that all (or most of) these samples are just biased and present the data that shows that most East Asian children score much lower than that.

LK: Or maybe these are all old studies? Are there any new ones?

CC: Just the other week, I saw an article by Steve Sailer in which he mentioned some recent report by another researcher that shows that a “nationally representative sample of 9 and 10 year old” children of Northeast Asian descent have an IQ of 111.2!

LK: Or maybe this is just in America?

CC: Nope. The same author (John Fuerst), in a paper with the famous IQ researcher Richard Lynn, looked at different scholastic and cognitive tests in England. They didn’t calculate the average scores for the different tests they collected, so I did it for them. I found that the average IQ score for the Chinese students there came to 110.8. Almost exactly the same IQ he found for the US (111.2).

LK: That’s fascinating. Or maybe they just score like that when they are migrants? There could be some other kind of migrant self-selection going on.

CC: No. Some time back Richard Lynn reported IQ scores of Japanese children in Japan. It was also 111!

LK: OK, I think that’s pretty convincing. But you also mentioned IQ 120 for some of their samples.

CC: Most of the times I have seen such extra-abnormally high IQs is when they’ve tested 4 year olds or around that age. And that is consistent with this early maturity hypothesis.

LK: But isn’t it also possible that it’s the 103-105 IQ estimate for Northeast Asians that’s wrong?

CC: Meaning, what if the adults are also above 110 IQ?

LK: Yes. Maybe their IQ has risen with time, relative to Europeans and everyone else. Those 104 IQ studies could be outdated. In which case you don’t need to posit a faster-maturity hypothesis. Those kids may just be much smarter, innately.

CC: Well, there’s a simple way to test that. If you take a group of children in first grade who are smarter than their peers, it can be that they are older children (born in earlier months) or it can be that they are just innately smarter children, right?

LK: Children from the same ethnicity?

CC: Yes. It’s a well known fact that even within the same ethnicity, children in the same school grade who have earlier birthdays have many cognitive (and even physical) advantages over their younger classmates. I believe Malcolm Gladwell popularized this idea concerning sport in one of his bestselling books, but it’s a well-known and highly studied issue; it’s called the “relative age effect.”

In fact, maybe I should just read from the Wikipedia page about this phenomenon, which doesn’t even involve children who are years apart, just months apart:

“The relative age effect and reversal effect are evident in education [71] with older students on average scoring higher marks, getting into gifted and talented programs,[72] and are more likely to attend higher education [73] in academic schools over vocational schools,[74] not necessarily due to higher intelligence.[75]


CC: But there are also children who are just smarter. Smarter than their peers born in the same month or even in earlier months. So, nothing to do with age advantage. And they also get into gifted programs, elite schools, etc, but for them it is “necessarily due to higher [innate] intelligence.”

LK: Right. So what does this have to do with the Asian IQ?

CC: Well, the Asian children are either smarter in the same way that older children of the same grade are smarter or they are just like the smart children who have not gained this from having earlier birthdays. If they are more like the latter, just innately smarter, we should not find any signs of early maturity in the rest of their bodies. That’s how it is when a child is just smarter because of higher intelligence and not because of older age, right?

LK: OK, so we can check if the Asians have other signs of “older” age?

CC: The maturation of their bones would be the best test. If it’s all just about innate intelligence or something, their bones should be just like the other kids of the same age. In fact, another IQ scientist, the late Philip Rushton, who proposed that Asians have the slowest maturity (and blacks fastest), specifically predicted that if we looked at their bones, we would find that their bones indicate slower skeletal maturity; they should effectively have a bone age that is younger than their actual age, relative to others.

LK: That sounds like the opposite of your hypothesis. Has anyone looked yet?

CC: I’m glad you asked. Some scientists have indeed compared children’s bones from different ethnicities, for some other purpose, and have found that the Asian bones do actually look older than their age peers from other races.

LK: How did they check this?

CC: In the earliest experiment I can find, they simply asked expert radiologists to look at pairs of x-rays of children from different racial groups and I believe they were asked to determine which bones were older, without being told whose bones they were. These experts tended to overestimate the ages of the bones of Asian children more than any other racial group!

LK: Which means their bones looked older?

CC: Yes, which means Rushton has already been falsified. The truth seems to be the exact opposite: they mature faster, and this is what gives them both a personality and cognitive advantage. The study was later replicated with more advanced methods.

LK: And the bones don’t lie?

CC: The bones don’t lie. They are pretty accurate in indicating the relative growth process, so a young person with older-looking bones just implies faster growth. Interestingly, this could also probably explain the shocking success of some East Asians in the ‘Little League’ international baseball tournaments of young children of the same age, as one of my readers, Mark Cad, insightfully observed in support of my hypothesis. Isn’t it interesting that they totally dominate those little leagues but are conspicuously rare in the (older) “Major Leagues” of professional baseball when everyone is fully grown up? The same thing you see in just about every other elite career when we look at the top.

LK: But for that to be true, age has to be a critical factor in those Little Leagues.

CC: Age may be the most critical factor. I did some reading up on the Little League. One story that demonstrates this perfectly was when a team from the Philippines (southeast Asia) beat the northeast Asian teams for the first time to qualify to the world finals (and of course they easily beat the US team in the finals, as East Asians typically do.) There were suspicions that they had cheated to achieve this historical feat. And you know what the investigations to these allegations were focused on? Birth certificates. Here, let me just read this from the Wikipedia page that discusses that scandal:

“ A few days after Zamboanga City’s triumphant victory, however, journalist Al Mendoza of the Philippine Daily Inquirer began publishing stories suggesting that some players were ineligible. He’d received letters from several neighbors and relatives claiming that several players were too old for Little League. Local administrator Armando Andaya was faxed four questions from Little League president Creighton Hale, regarding player ages, birth certificates, residence, and a specific question regarding winning championship game pitcher Ian Tolentino’s participation in a tournament in 1990 (possibly with the view of suggesting this would have made him over-age).”

LK: So, they cheated to beat the northeast Asians and they used the same team to beat the Americans?

CC: Yes. They got away with it when they beat the northeast Asians, but they should not have used the same cheating team when they met the Americans, because they totally decimated the US team.

LK: Right, which sounds like they were already superior to the US even without cheating.

CC: Now, think about that. Isn’t it interesting that even among themselves, the East Asians perform against each other in the Little Leagues the exact same way they do on scholastic tests, with the northeast Asians (Japan, China, Korea etc) ranking above the southeast Asians? It took the Philippines a bit of age-cheating to outperform the northeast Asians, who didn’t need to use any overaged player. I believe that the reason is that, although East Asians all mature fast, the northeast Asians mature even faster. This is another easily testable hypothesis within my hypothesis, if someone could just examine their bones.

LK: Southeast versus northeast Asian bones?

CC: Yes. For children.

LK: Let me ask you this from a different angle. I believe I heard somewhere that on IQ tests, the East Asians tend to score very highly on the math or quantitative part, but they are about the same as, if not lower than, whites on verbal IQ. Maybe that’s why they do so well in math? Why can’t it be just that math talent that explains their math prowess in school.

CC: Yes, for example, Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein reported in the Bell Curve that East Asians score equal or lower than whites on verbal IQ, and they emphasized that this is even “more certain” than the size of any IQ gap between them. But if it’s true that their IQ is only really superior on the quantitative or nonverbal parts, it only adds weight to my suggestion that their superior performance in school is a matter of maturity rather than innate intelligence.

LK: How so?

CC: It’s not just math they excel in so conspicuously. If it was just math, or just quantitative subjects that they were so dominant in, you might say there’s a chance that this just has to do with their innate intelligence since it’s supposedly skewed that way, right? But they are superior at everything, which is more consistent with just being “older” children.

LK: OK, so you’re saying it is not just quantitative subjects. What other subjects are they dominant in besides math?

CC: It’s basically everything, the same way 9 year olds are dominant over 7 year olds in practically everything. Besides the US math Olympiad team, which is always full of Asian names, I also checked the chemistry Olympiad team for 2022. Asian.

LK: Well, chemistry is also kind of quantitative, one might argue.

CC: How about biology? I checked the biology team for 2022. It’s 100 percent East Asian! I don’t think you need to be some math genius to understand the digestive system, certainly not at high school level.

LK: I guess then maybe they are just good at the sciences. That should be somehow related to their quantitative strengths in their cognitive profile. Apparently language or verbal intelligence is their Achilles’ heel, so that’s why they can’t dominate there.

CC: Not so fast! I thought that too. But I decided to test my hypothesis by checking one more area of top awards in high school. I checked the Linguistics Olympiads.

LK: And?

CC: I must admit this one shocked me quite a bit too, even if it was consistent with my hypothesis.

LK: Asians get linguistic prizes too?

CC: The 2021 gold medal went to someone called Jonathan Huang.

LK: What!?

CC: And in 2020 the winner in the whole of the USA was Wesley Zhang.

LK: In linguistics? No way! How about in 2022?

CC: I didn’t want to mention who won in 2022 because there’s some white kid who tends to mess with my Asian precocity hypothesis a bit. His name is Luke Robitaille.

LK: He messes with your hypothesis how?

CC: I’m being facetious; my hypothesis is still solid even with a few exceptions once in a while. It’s just that if this Luke kid hadn’t won gold in linguistics, the East Asians would have won gold three years in a row, since the one who was second to Robitaille in 2022 was also East Asian. Without this one kid they would have been 3 out of 3 in consecutive years. But even just one would have proved the point since this is indeed their putative Achilles’ heel, cognitively.

LK: So, this Robitaille must be quite gifted since he’s non-Asian and he stopped them from sweeping the linguistics olympiad.

CC: Oh it’s more spectacular than that. The main reason I half-jokingly say this kid is messing with my hypothesis is that I also found his name in mathematics. He beat the Asians in math too. So, he really is quite special.

LK: The very same kid?

CC: The very one. He’s quite insane. He won the highest national math competition for middle school two times, which has never been done by any Asian, ever. And he also made it to the Math Olympiad Team, winning gold for the USA. To crown it all, he’s also one of the five winners of the famous math college competition, the Putnam, in his first year at MIT.

LK: Oh wow. Some Good Will Hunting type?

CC: I think one advantage he’s had is that he was homeschooled. For psychological reasons, I think gifted non-Asian kids in the US should probably be homeschooled, if the status quo doesn’t change.

LK: Why?

CC: Imagine if Robitaille had been in school with Asians from as early as 4 years old when their average IQ is probably 120 or more. He was going to get some very early (false) signs that he wasn’t that smart. Or his parents would have let him know by constantly asking him why he can’t read as well as Jane Zhu or do long division in his head like Ming Xin, maybe throughout the first few grades of school. By the time his brain is catching up and outpacing them in development, he would have already been convinced that he’s not that good, and he would have instead been spending more time on video games or something, while the early-smart Asian kids would have been doing even more math practice since they enjoy that early competence. It can be practically impossible to catch up after that even if your brain becomes stronger in the end.

LK: Well, if he’s that good, then he would surely beat the Asian kids who are IQ 120?

CC: No, 110 to 120 would be just their average at that early age. Remember that they also have gifted kids among them, so those would be even much further developed – already on the very right end of the Bell Curve, before people like Luke have a chance to come into their own, so to speak.

LK: Right. This means their gifted ones are even more precocious?

CC: Yes. Gifted children of any ethnicity are almost always precocious. So, if you are gifted and also come from an early maturing ethnicity, you will be even more spectacularly precocious.Think of a genuinely gifted guy like the (northeast Asian) mathematician Terence Tao. By age 9 he was already doing university level math; by 10 he became the youngest participant in the International math olympiad, a record that still stands to this day. To end up as a top level adult mathematician, an East Asian had better be extremely precocious, so that he can still remain at the top when that early maturity advantage disappears.

LK: Perhaps that’s why they even work so hard in those school years. They have to make sure they take advantage of their precocity and gain early mastery so that they’ll always have the advantage of knowledge and experience when others catch up in mental development? Am I getting this right?

CC: I think that’s probably right, maybe at a subconscious level. Practice will always give you a lifelong edge, especially in areas like mathematics, where there’s so much material to cover.

LK: Right. I’m just so surprised that they also dominate the linguistics olympiads, though. Is it only in the US that they dominate linguistics awards?

CC: No, actually, I found that even internationally their national dominance is almost identical to their performance in mathematics, if not more so. For example: the Northeast Asian teams took all the top spots at the 2022 International Linguistics Olympiad!

International Linguistics Olympiad 2022 Team results.
International Linguistics Olympiad 2022 Team results.

LK: Wow, that’s truly impressive. I would have never guessed this.

CC: I know, right?

LK: Well. This is fascinating. Can you summarize your argument as we come to the end?

CC: Sure.

1. Kids who are just genuinely smarter than their peers, not because they are older, do not show older bones (in fact, they are usually even smarter than much older kids.) East Asian children show older bones, indicating that their cognitive advantage is more likely due to faster maturation than to innate intelligence. Besides the well-known “relative age effect,” we should also be looking into the “relative biological age effect” within a population, but also among different (ethnic) populations.

2. If it’s true that East Asian cognitive strength is in quantitative parts, as psychometricians tell us, then they should not be so dominant in non-quantitative fields at school. But older children dominate younger children in every single thing. Likewise, East Asians in school dominate in everything, including non quantitative subjects, thus indicating an advantage of biological “age” is a more likely explanation.

3. Children in the same grade who are smarter because of an earlier birthday lose this advantage when all children reach full maturity. This appears to be what also happens with the wide cognitive advantage of East Asian kids as everyone reaches full maturity. Thus their adult achievements at the top of elite careers fail to match their childhood scholastic dominance, especially at the top, whether in executive corporate leadership, scientific discoveries, financial innovations, technological inventions or even mathematical originality; that is, in pure or applied fields, involving verbal or quantitative intelligence.

This means that the vast majority of East Asians who were put in gifted programs or elite universities were in fact not that far above average in natural cognitive ability. It is only a tiny minority among them, usually with extremely high precociousness, who truly earned their places on absolute merit.

LK: Thanks, that was a good interview. Now, off the record, just out of curiosity, is this Luke kid one of …. one of us?

CC: Excuse me?

LK: I mean… ok, never mind. Just thinking….

CC: Oh, oh! Jewish? I don’t know, Larry. I actually don’t think so, but who knows.

LK: No, that’s even more interesting, actually. So he’s giving the Asians a run for their money, eh?

CC: Oh yes, quite literally, in fact. He actually also won a $10, 000 Fellowship with the Davidson Institute, those guys who run a program in Nevada for super-gifted kids. And before that, he was a finalist at the Regeneron Science Talent Search, where he won $40, 000.

The only other non-Asian kid who comes to mind with similar levels of giftedness in recent years was Evan O’Dourney, who also won the same science talent search, won the national spelling bee, was on the math Olympiad team four times, and was a Putnam fellow three times!

LK: Oh! So maybe one can do it without homeschooling! O’Dourney’s self-confidence was clearly not affected by his early Asian classmates.

CC: He was homeschooled too!

LK: Ok OK. But isn’t it funny that these kids made tens of thousands of dollars from academic prizes before they even entered college? Was Luke’s $10,000 the highest prize from the Davidson Institute?

CC: No, second highest. Actually, third highest. Their highest award is $50,000 and there were three students who won that one. And I believe there’s also $25, 000.

LK: Oh, And who were the three who won that big one?

CC: Choi, He and Liu.