Living in the Abstract

Maintaining a personal blog on the World Wide Web is challenging because I don’t know who my audience is and what their motives are. Were I writing for hire, I would presumably have less personal equity in the content I spew into cyberspace. As a student of risk management and internal controls, I deal with this uncertainty by adding layers—however thin they may be—of abstraction to my stories. I tweak perspective, interpretation, and, sometimes, setting to distance the real me from the character in the stories. My approach to life is not a little like a photographer’s; I take in a variety of situations from the perspective of my choosing. I realize my potential audience includes my family, employers, coworkers, recruiters, professors, classmates, friends, enemies, pastors, mentors, and only God knows who else. Writing to please such an audience involves adding layers of obscurity and removing layers of emotion, personal attachment, and judgment. At least that is the logical process. The end result is a bland collection of statements that are neither truth or fiction, biased or unbiased—they are, in short, uninteresting. This is the challenge.

The Bell Curve, *by Richard Herrnstein et al, is a book which explores the connection between intelligence and class structure in American life, as its subtitle states. I have always been skeptical of intelligence testing, in part because of the tremendous damage it has done society in the past. My point in the bell curve of intelligence lies in the 99th percentile, further increasing my skepticism of this analysis. *The Bell Curve is a hefty book, which, according to the authors, will not be read by anyone having an IQ lower than 135. I find this statement both challenging and condescending. Maybe it is true, maybe its purpose is merely to challenge people to read the book. Stephen Jay Gould, professor of zoology at Harvard University, states, “How strange that we would let a single and false number divide us, when evolution has united all people in the recency of our common ancestry thus undergirding with a shared humanity that infinite variety which custom can never stale.” While many of Gould’s findings in the zoology field are controversial, this harsh critique of Herrnstein is warranted. Granted, Herrnstein does not advocate IQ as a measure of society; the focus of The Bell Curve is rather on correlation between society’s blights and strengths, and the measure of IQ in humans who participate in said activities. Herrnstein, not surprisingly, almost universally finds a positive correlation between IQ and “good” things in society, and a negative correlation between IQ and “bad” things in society. Furthermore, data referenced in The Bell Curve suggests that IQ is only 40% predetermined by genes, with 60% obtained from environment and experiences. These findings should motivate educators and students alike to use IQ feedback in implementing continuous-improvement learning environments. While there is sufficient data in *The Bell Curve *for advocates of one perfect race measured by one irrefutable number, this is definitely not the focus of the book. The author acknowledges the many flaws and weaknesses in IQ theory, but makes an appropriate choice to focus the book instead on strengths and successes obtained by this measure.