Screenshot of project (@Quantummechbook via Twitter)

Administrators at an elite Sacramento, Calif., magnet school are apologizing profusely after students, staff and parents became upset about a racially charged science project linking race and IQ.

According to the Sacramento Bee, C.K. McClatchy High School’s fourth annual science fair featured a project entitled “Race and IQ.” The student who designed the project, described as a boy of Asian descent, is a participant in the accelerated Humanities and International Studies Program, or HISP, which was created to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity.

The project featured excerpts from five texts, including The Essential Kafir, a book published in 1904 that supported apartheid by arguing that black South Africans were intellectually inferior to whites. The related term “Kaffir” has long been derided as the South African equivalent of the n-word.

The student asked a handful of his fellow students to take an online intelligence quiz and used his results to justify why there were so few blacks and Hispanics in the HISP program. The school district says that the program currently has 508 students enrolled, including 12 African Americans, 80 Hispanics and 104 Asian Americans. The student researcher concluded:

[T]he lower average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and nonwhite Hispanics means that they are not as likely as non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians to be accepted into a more academically rigorous program such as HISP. Therefore, the racial disproportionality of HISP is justified.

Advertisement

Connecting race and IQ through science has a long history that stretches back to the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which used eugenics to turn the “one-drop rule” into law. More recently, white supremacists have used Charles Murray’s scientifically discredited The Bell Curve to justify a relatively unknown movement called the “alt-right.” You’ve probably never heard of it, but trust me, it’s going to be huge.

To understand this phenomenon, one must understand that the “intelligence quotient” does not measure smarts. It measures a certain kind of intelligence. Ironically, the creator of the scale that is most used to measure intelligence, Alfred Binet, believed that these tests were an inadequate way to measure intelligence because they don’t factor in emotional intelligence or creativity.

Scientists know that the results of these tests are skewed in favor of certain socioeconomic groups and have nothing to do with genetics. For instance, studies show that kids adopted by rich parents score 15 points higher on IQ tests, and family income is one of the more accurate predictors of SAT scores, a test that was created to exclude certain minorities.

Advertisement

“I want to be clear that at McClatchy High School we promote and embrace an inclusive environment and way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination,” wrote Peter Lambert, principal of McClatchy High, in an email to parents. “Many of you have asked me what our school is doing in response to this incident. I want you to know we are taking this incident very seriously and we will be reviewing the incident and implementing all measures as appropriate to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all of our students.”

To be clear, the idea that race is connected to intelligence is not a fringe idea. More than a decade ago, another California high school student wrote that a number of his classmates “lacked basic English skills” and there were “very few, if any,” Hispanic students in his honors classes, “despite the large number of Hispanic students that attend our school.”

Advertisement

That student eventually graduated and went on to become a prominent figure who helped craft the current presidential administration’s travel ban and immigration policy and is credited with creating Donald Trump’s “America first” slogan. His name is Stephen Miller.