After all the trouble he encountered last time his involvement with the eugenics movement was revealed to the world, one might have expected that the loathsome Toby Young would stop and think before revisiting the subject - or, indeed, any area that might bring him close to it. But for Tobes, that thought has not been allowed to enter, as he has gone there anyway, in another of his tedious posts for the Spectator.
Under the heading “The left is heading for a reckoning with the new genetics”, he admits “Writing about the link between genes and educational attainment can be dangerous”, but goes there directly. And he goes there by quoting Arthur Jensen and Charles Murray, but in the meantime, readers get the apologia for his past transgressions.
“At the beginning of the year, I was accused of being a ‘Nazi’ after an article I’d written for an Australian magazine in 2015 about the deepening link between IQ and socio-economic status was dug up. My sin was to include a solution to this problem that I labelled ‘progressive eugenics’. It was a million miles away from what is commonly understood by ‘eugenics’, but few people bothered to read the piece. The fact that I’d used the E word was enough to damn me. ‘With his views on eugenics, why does Toby Young still have a job in education?’ thundered Polly Toynbee in the Guardian. A few weeks later I didn’t”.
Yeah, right. As if Polly Toynbee, or any of his other critics, was responsible for the catalogue of appalling past behaviour that caused him to step down from that board appointment at the Office for Students, to which he should not have been appointed in the first place. So what is he on about this time?
Science writer Philip Ball has written a piece for the Staggers which is right up Tobes’ street. Part of the article speaks Tobes’ language: “These findings make it nigh on impossible for anyone to claim that intelligence differences are all to do with nurture and nothing to do with nature”. Back he goes to genetics. But not eugenics, honestly.
Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh? “In the New Statesman, Ball discusses some of my articles on genetics and is gracious enough to describe a blog I wrote for Teach First about the impact of children’s DNA on exam results as ‘rather accurate’”. It was such a good article that Teach First had to pull it. And Tobes’ citations are equally worrying.
After asking “What are the implications for education policy?” he talks about “Most psychologists and geneticists who engage with this subject, going back at least as far as Jensen”. Arthur Jensen suggested “a genetic component is implicated in the white-black difference in IQ”. Some races, it seems, were naturally smarter than others. Jensen received funding from the Pioneer Fund, “an organization frequently described as racist and white supremacist in nature”. And then there is Charles Murray.
Murray is perhaps best-known for co-authoring The Bell Curve, in which he and is co-author “write about the enduring differences in race and intelligence and discuss implications of that difference”. The Southern Poverty Law Centre called him a “white nationalist”, alleging that his ideas were rooted in eugenics.
And there he is being quoted by Tobes at some length. He even interviewed Murray. Yet he claims to be misunderstood and not dabbling in eugenics. I’ll just leave that one there.