Recently The Heritage Foundation published a study arguing a $600+ billion dollar cost to the American Economy if virtually anything were done to “fix” immigration policy. The big fuss started, however, when Richwine’s 2009 dissertation became national news. Since then, the Heritage Foundation ended Richwine’s very lucrative fellowship, and he’s been labeled (accurately) as a believer and peddler in biological racism. He doesn’t apologize though, and some of those who jumped on the “we’re not racist” bandwagon couldn’t point to the multiple times this type of scholarship has been debunked in the last century.
Dr. Richard Valencia from the University of Texas at Austin, however, takes down Richwine’s use of pseudo-science in a recently published article by the Teachers College Record.
The subtitle of this commentary signals the foundation of my critique of Richwine (2009). So, let us begin there.5 Hereditarian thought refers to the doctrine that genetics primarily accounts for individual differences in the behavior (e.g., intellectual) of human beings, including differences between groups (Valencia, 1997, 2010, chapter 1; Valencia & Suzuki, 2001, chapter 1). With respect to the measurement of mean differences in the intelligence of “racial” groups, research hit a zenith in the 1920s (Valencia, 1997). These “race psychology” studies of this period frequently concluded that children of color (i.e., Black, Mexican American, and American Indian) were intellectually inferior to their White peers, and that the basis was largely genetic (e.g., Garth, 1925; Garretson, 1928; Terman, 1916). Although hereditariansm was the orthodoxy of the 1920s, a vigorous assault on the status quo by White activist scholars (e.g., Franz Boas, cultural anthropologist; Otto Klineberg, psychologist), a small cadre of Black scholars (see Thomas, 1982), and the indomitable George Sánchez, a Mexican American (Valencia, 1997) helped to debunk hereditarian thought, and it substantially declined by around 1930 (D. E. Foley, 1997). By no means did genetic interpretations of mean racial differences in intelligence disappear. Hereditarianism merely went into dormancy, waiting to be awakened when the time was right. The late Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist and author of The Mismeasure of Man (1996), asserts that such resurgences are not mysterious nor predictably cyclical. Rather, hereditarian reoccurrences are sociopolitically driven. I refer to these reemergences as “neohereditarianism,” and elsewhere I provide a periodization of three waves of neohereditarianism (see Valencia, 2010, p. 34, Table 2.1).
Pseudoscience, the second term in the commentary’s subtitle, is also integral to the present critique of Richwine (2009). Blum (1978) defines pseudoscience as a “process of false persuasion by scientific pretense” (p.12). We are all familiar with the core of the scientific method — empirical verification. Science (in this case, logical positivism) rests on the process of: definition of a research problem, hypothesis formation, design (e.g., sound sampling; valid and reliable instruments), data gathering, data analysis and reporting, confirmation or rejection of hypothesis, and discussion of theoretical implications an/or practical applications. Pseudoscience, by contrast, engages in the formulation of unsound assumptions, employs weak or invalid instruments, and does not consider rival interpretations for the findings. Although researcher bias is present in most research, in pseudoscience the investigator engages in pronounced bias and vigorously pursues hypothesis verification, often in a proselytizing manner. Pseudoscience is key to understanding a related construct, scientific racism — which is the use of pseudoscience to support an alleged scientific paradigm of White superiority, apropos to people of color (Valencia, 2010, chapter 2). Richwines’s treatise falls in the realm of scientific racism.
The third subtitle concept, deficit thinking, also plays a significant role in Richwine’s (2009) analysis. This notion, in the context of parents of color and their offspring, asserts that children fail in school because of alleged shortcomings in cognition, motivation, and inadequacies of parents’ socialization for academic competence. In sum, it is an exogenous theory of “victim blaming.” Deficit thinking can also be characterized as being oppressive, pseudoscientific, and is shaped by the ideological climate of the time (Valencia, 1997, 2010, 2012).