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    #123461 - 02/19/12 11:03 AM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    I bought the book yesterday. Will report back when I've read a chunk of it.

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    #123465 - 02/19/12 12:34 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: Val]
    islandofapples Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/11
    Posts: 332
    Originally Posted By: Val
    I bought the book yesterday. Will report back when I've read a chunk of it.


    I'm working my way through it and I very much suspect many of us will completely identify with the "new upper class". I definitely identify with that culture, but my husband and I are still trying to make our way. We can't afford to live exactly how we want to. But both of us are smart enough that we could have gone to good colleges... if our lives had been different.

    So far I feel really grateful that Murray has isolated this sub culture and explained it in detail. I now have a way to talk about it and think about it and understand why what we are interested in is so different from what all of our neighbors are interested in (even beyond the "gifted" thing.)

    I'm just not sure how I picked up a culture that I've barely been exposed to... completely through books and certain places I've lived, I guess. My dad also picked up a lot when he moved to a bigger city. My husband picked up new preferences through me.


    EDIT: Ah. Overeducated Elitist Snob syndrome. Well I won't be using that phrase. This is HIGHLY interesting, though. Can't wait to see what he has to say about his.
    Probably no one here wants to admit to being one of those. I guess I will!

    Goddddd. Way to beat "SuperZips" to death. lol. The USA map looks like a list of all the top places DH and I picked to settle (in our dreams, anyway.)



    Edited by islandofapples (02/19/12 01:03 PM)

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    #123471 - 02/19/12 01:46 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    mithawk Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/25/11
    Posts: 268
    I bought "Coming Apart" a week ago and have read about half of the book so far. This is my first exposure to Charles Murray and I am enjoying the book.

    Part 1 of the book is about the increasing income spread between the top quintile and the remaining quintiles, and the reasons behind it. This part is fact based and should arouse little controversy. Here are the reasons (that I remember) that he cites for this income spread:

    1. Increasing return to IQ. Many well-paying occupations require the completion of a professional degree, and a minimum IQ (e.g. 115) is required to complete these demanding degrees.
    2. The College Sorting Machine: Fifty years ago, the average IQ of the Ivy League schools was little different from other colleges, but that rapidly changed. Today, the top schools capture a disproportionate share of highly talented people.
    3. Homogamy: These intelligent people that are concentrated in certain colleges or in certain prestige professions tend to marry each other, a practice he defines as homogamy. Since intelligence is at least partially inherited, the children are likely to also be more intelligent than average.
    4. Concentration into "SuperZips". The successful people want to live in nice neighborhoods with good schools, and while each person makes an independent decision, as a group they concentrate themselves into a small subset of desirable zip codes he calls "SuperZips". SuperZips are upper-middle class or wealthy towns that hold what he calls the "broad elite". The broad elite consists of professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers) that roughly are in the top 5% of income.

    The net result of this segregation is that the children of professionals become socially isolated from the world at large. He has a 25-question quiz that determines how well you fit in with the rest of society. Questions include:

    * Do you have a close friend that is an evangelical Christian?
    * In the last month, have you purchased mass market beer (Bud, Bud Lite, Busch, Miller, etc.)?
    * Have you ever spent a year in poverty?
    * Do you know anyone who despite significant effort, could only get "C"s in high school?
    * Have you ever watched an episode of Oprah or Judge Judy to completion?
    * In the last month, have you intentionally socialized with someone who was smoking a cigarette?

    I had DD13 take a portion of this test (the parts that were appropriate for her age) and she scored much lower than I would have at that age for the same questions. But then I grew up in a poor town, and she is growing up in one of the SuperZips listed in the book.

    The second part of this book describes what he thinks are the reasons for a new white underclass. This part is controversial, but he lays out ample evidence . In particular, he cites the decline of four key virtues: Marriage, Religion, Industrious and Honesty. He compares the shifts in these virtues between a fictionalized Belmont, MA (a SuperZip) and Fishtown, PA (8th percentile in income). He pays particular attention to the increase of illegitimate children and the negative outcomes that it has on children.

    I am now reading Part 3, and will add more when I finish the book.

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    #123475 - 02/19/12 03:19 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    islandofapples Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/11
    Posts: 332
    I'm feeling a little turned off by this book so far.
    He knows exactly who his audience is... us... the "new upper class white people". He tries to knock us down a peg or two or at least show us how ignorant we are when it comes to other white Americans and how they are leading their lives...

    And now, in Part two, I feel like we are dispassionately dissecting the lives and motives of the "lower class whites" and trying to decide what we are going to do about them and their departure from important American values. It is like an academic exercise or like analyzing a tribe of "barbarians" or gorillas.

    I would be so offended by this entire book if I was the sort of person that would be living in Fishtown, but of course, the chances of me actually being interested in his book if I was are pretty slim. (But I also grew up in a Fishtown-ish town and I know a large number of cohabitating couples with young babies right now...)

    So I feel like we're peering into a world we supposedly know nothing about and we're analyzing and judging it for the worse.

    (My husband and I could do quite well on his little test, though, because neither of us come from upper class families to begin with.)

    I guess we can all be offended by the OES term, too, though.

    I still haven't figured out where Murray is going with this and I'm almost halfway through the book.


    (Also, he pointed out in the beginning that white people will be a minority come mid-century, so who cares anyway? Shouldn't we be looking to the culture that is emerging now across the board with all types of people?)


    Edited by islandofapples (02/19/12 03:42 PM)

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    #123486 - 02/19/12 05:26 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    JonLaw Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/29/11
    Posts: 2007
    Loc: The Sub-Tropics
    Originally Posted By: islandofapples
    (Also, he pointed out in the beginning that white people will be a minority come mid-century, so who cares anyway? Shouldn't we be looking to the culture that is emerging now across the board with all types of people?)


    That's "non-hispanic" white people. English, French, German, Polish, Italians, and Irish mostly.

    White hispanic people are still white. And the white population (if you count the Spaniards) is going to drop from about 80% to 74% by mid-century.

    Someone explain to me why the Spanish are excluded from everybody else.


    Edited by JonLaw (02/19/12 05:27 PM)
    Edit Reason: Forgot the Italians - I think I lumped them in with the Spanish in my head

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    #123487 - 02/19/12 05:41 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: JonLaw]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    Caucasian people include Europeans, North Africans, West Asians,and many others (see this Wikipedia entry). But if you really want the nitty gritty details about the US, read the Wikipedia article on whiteness in America.




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    #123490 - 02/19/12 06:02 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: Val]
    JonLaw Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/29/11
    Posts: 2007
    Loc: The Sub-Tropics
    Originally Posted By: Val
    Caucasian people include Europeans, North Africans, West Asians,and many others (see this Wikipedia entry). But if you really want the nitty gritty details about the US, read the Wikipedia article on whiteness in America.


    Looks like I nailed the top immigrant-supplying non-Spanish European countries without even looking!

    Winning!

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    #123492 - 02/19/12 06:51 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    islandofapples Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/11
    Posts: 332
    I assumed white mostly meant to old wave of immigrants from Europe... from Italy, Poland, England, Ireland, Russia, Spain, France... etc.

    The immigrants are mostly Hispanic... from South America. (There are plenty of families in South America, especially Argentina, who will tell you they are "white" because their ancestors came over from Spain, Italy, Germany, etc., as recently as WW2. But if they then move here, I think we still mostly lump them in as "Hispanic".)

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    #123495 - 02/19/12 07:21 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    islandofapples Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/11
    Posts: 332
    Ok. I finished. I'm still processing the book in my mind, but I'm going to at least try to sum up what I think the point was.

    The book did NOT go where I thought it was going to go and I feel a little perplexed. There were a lot of statistics and graphs, but not about some things that I think needed to be included for Murray to make a cohesive argument.

    The founding fathers of America felt that our constitution could only successfully govern a virtuous people... and important virtues include honesty / integrity, industriousness, marriage, and being religious (even though the founding fathers weren't that religious themselves.)

    Murray shows how a sense of community and trusting that other people are honest, fair and worth trusting increases happiness. He also shows how marriage, meaningful work and religion all do the same.

    He thinks these are important to a well-functioning society, and that these are important reasons why America was great and unique and what we need to get back to if we are to keep ourselves from turning into more of a "welfare state".

    (He is a Libertarian and sees the end in sight for welfare states like in Europe. He predicts science will show us exactly why 2 parent homes are so good for children... that human beings are wired to need meaningful work and responsibility for outcomes (meaning social safety nets hinder this) etc.)


    Now...

    The new upper class (the top 5%) is the "creative class" that rose in power due to cognitive ability. The power is likely to stay with this new class because IQ was responsible for their rise to power, and since IQ is hereditary, these families aren't likely to lose their status in 3 generations (as was the stereotype about rich and powerful families in the past.)

    Each generation of upper class children is getting further removed from the reality of life as it is for most Americans. He made a very good case for how past generations of those in power were not as far removed from what the average American experienced and that they even interacted with regular Americans. Now, the upper class have segregated themselves and children born into that class don't really even come into contact with "normal" Americans. So the people in power are becoming more and more out of touch.

    The new upper class values the same virtues Murray says the founding fathers did. He shows that since the 1960's the new upper class has kept a fairly high rate of marriage, has low crime rates in the places they tend to live, has a low rate of arrests, participates more in civic activities and is more likely to be religious.

    The lower class has gone way downhill... A huge number of mothers cohabitate and give birth out of wedlock. The men are useless and don't work very much.... People in these communities are far less likely to engage in any sort of community activity than they were in the 60s. They are all less happy because of this, apparently.

    He goes on to show that his thesis applies to all Americans in the lower and new upper class, not just whites, too.

    (I wish he would have spent more time describing what the outcomes for the next generation of babies in the lower class he describes will be. He barely touched upon the poor outcomes for children of single mothers and such.)

    Anyway, he makes a point for all of this and then basically says that the new upper class is weak. They don't LEAD by example, but rather they are very politically correct and preach a culture of "niceness" where you aren't allowed to say if you think one way of living is better than another.

    He thinks the upper class needs to preach what it practices and lead by example, or we're going to go the way of most great nations....

    Other nations fall when the leaders lose confidence in themselves, adopt the "vulgar" customs of the lower classes (as the upper class has been doing... and you can see that if you look at the media and such which they control and create) and basically implode.

    He figures that if the new upper class doesn't start caring about what is happening to the rest of America, that our policies will just keep moving the direction they have been (toward more of a welfare state) and that will be the end of what made our nation great.




    Edited by islandofapples (02/19/12 07:27 PM)

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    #123497 - 02/19/12 07:37 PM Re: Coming Apart by Charles Murray [Re: islandofapples]
    islandofapples Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/11
    Posts: 332
    Now... My opinion on it.

    The whole premise just sounds kind of weak when you sum it up. When you are reading it it seems so scientific and like he went to great trouble with his statistics, but he didn't convince me about the "virtues" he chose, even though I do agree that they correlate with an overall increase in how happy a person is likely to feel.


    The main thing that struck me about this, was the part about how political correctness may be our undoing. We can't deal with social issues if we are unwilling to admit that some situations DO have better outcomes than others.

    As long as we say things about single parent homes just being "different" from married parent homes or say that some children just learn "differently", but all should get the same sort of education... then I think we'll continue to make little progress as a society.

    Most well-educated members of the new upper class shudder at anyone who acts self-righteous (like their Christian/heterosexual/whatever way is the only way).
    That dislike for "close-minded" behavior partially comes from what is taught in a liberal university. And I think tolerance is fine, up to a point, but not if it degrades into something so ridiculous that society is just falling apart at the seams.

    I really dove into that way of thinking when I was a teenager and started taking some college courses (like Women's Studies), but I eventually came up for air.

    I decided that I don't accept that "all ways are equally worthy" or that "No way is better than another way." It started to seem to me like a serious cop-out. How EASY it is to just say that instead of asking some hard questions that might have some difficult to swallow answers? The political correctness is an extreme reaction to the stifling close-mindedness and racism/ sexism of earlier times. We have to find a balance now. Neither extreme is good!

    (Unless this "play nice" society is just the new normal and it is OK if the divide between the upper and lower classes just keeps getting wider, as Murray thinks it will....)



    I read another book awhile back - Dark Ages: The Case for A Science of Human Behavior by Lee McIntyre and I believe the author argued a similar case, but he left out the bits about preserving our great nation.

    Dark Ages was all about how social scientists don't want to have to ask or honestly answer the tough questions that might have answers that we don't want to hear.

    We don't want to hear that the sexes are BORN different and that it isn't all social conditioning (as Murray states in his book, we are beginning to find out that men and women are really hardwired differently, like in how they react to babies, and "nurture" doesn't seem to play into it. It is all nature.)

    We don't want to find out that some people really do have a lower IQ and can't do the work...

    We wouldn't want to come to the conclusion that some students (perhaps the gifted ones) would benefit society in far greater numbers if they were given a bigger chunk of the money pie...

    We don't want to hear that two parent homes really are the best and that we, as a society, should aim for that...

    We can't say formula feeding puts your baby at risk (You have to say - Not breastfeeding puts your baby at risk!)-- because formula feeding or breastfeeding is a CHOICE and whatever a mom chooses needs to be respected.

    And it would be really bad if we found out that babies do better if mom stays home or that the whole family does better when gender roles are clear and traditional.

    Now I'm just totally making some of that up, but no one really wants to find out anything that disrupts what we would currently like to be true.

    We've worked VERY HARD for the right to choose how we want to live and work and we want to be able to make our own choices and not get judged. But what if it turns out some of our new "improvements" aren't good for the long-term outcomes of society, or children or even of our own happiness?

    While "real" science has made all kinds of discoveries, social science hasn't yet been able to help us eradicate crime or child abuse and McIntyre blames it on us really being afraid of what we'll find.




    Now I hope someone engages in a juicy conversation with me about this because there is NO way I have anyone in real life to talk with about this stuff at the moment! (And my husband and I agree on this stuff, so the convo ends quickly.)


    Edited by islandofapples (02/19/12 07:58 PM)

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