October 31, 2008

What's Obama's SAT score secret?

One of the oddities of Presidential races is that so little actual information about the candidates is generated by the press. Reporters seem to envision their role not as digging up facts, but as rather like that of theater critics. Their job is to evaluate how well the campaigns mount their little fantasies, and that's about it.

One of the things the press fails to do is to get together and demand facts. For example, consider the candidates' health. The leading news-gathering institutions should pool their money and make it a tradition to offer to pay for each candidate to visit during the dog days of summer the Mayo Clinic for a full check-up to be then published.

Similarly, the press should push to make it traditional to release academic records and test scores. Otherwise, we're at the mercy of campaign spin and conventional wisdom. In 2004, we heard all the time about how bright Kerry was, but then it turned out the year after that we learned he had an even lower GPA than Bush at Yale two years earlier, taking similar courses.

I suspect McCain isn't the kind of guy to remember what he got on the SAT 55 years ago. But Obama is exactly the kind of guy to remember what he got. (Joe ''I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do" Biden is the kind of guy who has been trying to forget his SAT scores for 50 years. Anybody want to guess who would score higher if they took a test today, unadjusted for age: Biden or Palin?)

Now, here's my guess about how Obama did on the verbal half of the SAT and on the LSAT:

He aced them.

I bet that's Obama's SAT score secret: standardized testing, that politically incorrect bogeyman, worked perfectly for him.

Some kind of entrance exam got him into Punahou prep school from Nowheresville in Indonesia, then a high verbal SAT score propelled this dope-smoking Hawaiian slacker with mediocre grades first to Occidental, then to Columbia. The LSAT took him to Harvard Law, where he finally buckled down and earned grades in line with his scores. (I have no guess as to how he did on the SAT Math test -- members of his family were good at math, so he might be too. He just seldom talks numbers. As one commenters say, Perhaps he is good with numbers and he knows his budget numbers don't add up.)

Sure, affirmative action helped make up for his nothing-special grades in high school and undergrad college, but test scores are what showed the world his potential. That's what got him in to the cool schools' affirmative action slots ahead of the hardworking true African-American kids with 1050 SAT scores who were valedictorians of their all-black high schools.
Of course, he can't come out and say that, in own his experience, standardized testing is reasonably accurate and that all this Bell Curve stuff makes sense. Think of what poor Michelle, who is still publicly tormented by her mediocre test scores, would do to him!

That would explain why, amidst all of Obama's petty racial complaints in Dreams from My Father (like the white girl who mentioned to him that she liked Stevie Wonder), there's none of the conventional complaints about standardized testing being how The Man is keeping blacks down.

A reader writes:
There can be almost no doubt that Obama earned exceptionally high standardized test scores. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School – i.e., top 10% of his class. Unlike in college, there is no way to coast through law school taking gut classes. As an HLS grad, I don’t know anyone who earned magna who isn’t an exceptionally bright guy. My guess is that Obama got something in the neighborhood of a 175 on the LSAT – which I would I guess is roughly like scoring above 1500 in the old days before the mid-90s recentering. For someone officially categorized as “African American,” this makes him about as rare as a unicorn.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

OT: Obama's real father is Frank Davis? I haven't seen this discussed here. Then there's this.

Steve Sailer said...

No.

Obama Jr. is clearly part East African. Just look at him.

Obama Sr. was likely the only East African in Honolulu in November 1960.

_Of course_ Barack Obama Jr. is the son of Barack Obama Sr.

Stop making up stuff about him being a 7/16ths Arab born in Kenya as the child of Frank Davis.

If anybody actually wants to understand who Obama really is, read ... my ... book.

Steve Sailer said...

Try to notice the common denominator in the various Obama Origin rumors:

- He's a secret Muslim

- His father was 7/8ths Arab

- His real father was a member of the Communist Party USA.

We've reached a point in 2008 in when political correctness has become so pervasive than even the denizens of the fever swamps are trying to say, "It's not about race."

But with Obama, it really is all about "a story of race and inheritance."

hcl said...

Steve, that's first impression I had upon seeing Obama and his dad's pic (about a year ago): Junior doesn't much resemble Senior.

And then I saw that Frank Davis article, and thought, "Holy Cow"...

baduin said...

Did Obama actually went to Columbia?

Anonymous said...

hcl,
Obama looks nothing in body type to any West African descended man. Having lived in the South my whole life and been around blacks constantly, I do not recognize Obama in any of them. Black skin and woolly hair is all he shares with them.
Also, he looks mostly like his mother in his face.
Steve,
The truth is, nobody likes Muslims except Leftists, and everyone is afraid of them. I do agree with you, though, about race.
For the fevered swamps, conspiracies that take away Obama's blackness, which is a major plus, and trade it in for Arabness is very satisfactory.

Scott said...

So Steve-

I am assuming with respect to who would perform better on an IQ test, you think that Obama would best McCain--even adjusting for age?

eh said...

I don't understand the interest in this. I don't think a high/low SAT score necessarily means someone will be a good/bad President.

Steve Sailer said...

McCain's 133 is a good score. Presumably the other IQ test he took after coming back from Vietnam was lower, but that's still highly respectable in a politician.

Would Obama do better or worse, age-adjusted? I would assume it would depend on his visual and quantitative cognitive skills, which are a black box to me. He never talks numbers. Does that mean he's no good with numbers or that he knows other people don't like numbers much? I don't know.

eh said...

Some kind of entrance exam got him into Punahou prep school...

Maybe. In recent years many private schools have introduced entrance exams due to high demand. But when I went to private (parochial) schools back in the '60s and '70s they did not have entrance exams (the high school does now, however).

Sure, affirmative action helped make up for his nothing-special grades in high school and undergrad college,...

Probably. Although I don't see affirmative action in Hawaii, where Whites are not so dominant, in quite the same light. In any case his obvious intelligence -- which would e.g. come across in an admissions interview -- combined with his ethnicity was probably enough, or would probably have been enough, to overcome weak test scores.

Anonymous said...

There is much more on this at halfsigma's blog:

link

The evidence is very strong that Obama is much smarter than McCain. Whether he got 175 on the LSAT is another question.

i am the walrus said...

Steve, how do you know who Obama's real father is? More importantly, how does Obama know? If your daddy abandoned you when you were a child and you only saw him once the rest of your life, wouldn't you consider the possibility that he was never really your father in the first place? I hardly think it makes someone a denizen of a fever swamp to ask those obvious questions.

Bill said...

Sure, affirmative action helped make up for his nothing-special grades in high school and undergrad college, but test scores are what showed the world his potential

That's where affirmative action really started to hit hard in the 1980s/90s. Grades were ratcheted up in importance, test scores down, and teachers began to institute grading policies that favored girls. This is where the current college gender gap started. For minorities - blacks in particular - grades were simply inflated by liberal teachers.

Anonymous said...

iSteve:

I love ya but you're being too clever by half. Obama's big secret is he crushed the SAT and LSAT? NO WAY!

Twere that the case some Obamanoid woulda leaked it.

Simple answer is the best: it's all due to affirmative action, including the magna cum laude. That's why we ain't never seen no scores, no transcripts, no nuthin'. That's the Chicago way.

J said...

Anonymous

Some observations on the pics. The girl is obviously over 17 - 18, more like 27. It is Christmas, yet she has been burned by the sun while wearing a one-piece swimsuit. Did people go to the beach in winter? The shoes are totally out of context.

And Obama's skin clearly shows that his biological father is, to use his words, "ink black"

David said...

The guy is not a product of meritocracy. He was handpicked at an early age.

The real story: who are and were his handlers, and what was/is their motivation?

That story even Steve won't touch.

stari_momak said...

Steve, you are being accepted more and more into the mainstream, by name rather than on 'deep background'. And now you go and do something so foolhardy as to juxtapose 'niggling' and 'racial' in the same sentence. I mean, we all know what niggling means here, but wait only Garage Roto-Router or whatever her name is gets hold of that phrasing. The claim will be it reveals your inner antipathy to the black man.

Outis said...

He never talks numbers. Does that mean he's no good with numbers or that he knows other people don't like numbers much?

Here's another theory: Obama is good with numbers, so the reason he never talks numbers is because he knows they don't add up.

Michael said...

I think Biden is probably much less smart than he or the vast majority of people thinks he is. Passing the bar at all requires being a fair amount above average, I'd guess his SATs were in the low 1200s high 1100s range (maybe an iq of 115?). I don't see much evidence that Palin is smart though. She goes word salad really quickly. She was a good female athlete and beauty queen whose academic career has all the red flags of actually not bright (weak major, lots of transferring, community college). I don't know whether this sort of evidence even indicates an above average intellect at all.

Anonymous said...

I took the LSAT in the mid-70's, and it was on an 800(perfect) scale. Was it changed to a 1600 scale between then and the mid-90's when I guess from these comments that it was further changed, to a 200 (perfect?) scale? Anyone with knowledge of this care to give the board a quick synopsis of the LSAT? Would be useful with all the rank speculation here. Isn't it more than likely that Barry H had LSAT scores in line with other favored minorities? Why not?

Anonymous said...

Sailer is probably right, depending on the definition of "crushing" the SAT and LSAT. I could see 720-750 SAT Verbal, and 165 LSAT, or about the 92-95th percentile. By the way, a 165 on the LSAT is more than adequate to be top 10% at HLS. It doesn't work like math and science, where scoring in the 99.9th percentile on standardized tests is a necessary condition to being the best in the field. Law is fundamentally about understanding a collective consciousness, something Obama is brilliant at. Capacity for logic is only one part of this task; reflecting on how the world really works is just as important. Not to mention, a girl at my law school scored a 1600 on the SAT and a 165 on the LSAT, and this is not unusual, so the LSAT likely measures skills that are a bit different.

Anyone who disprespects the capacity for achievement that Obama has demonstrated is just being petty, and frankly, pathetic. Tests are blind-graded at law school. Obama did better than at least 4/5 and perhaps 9/10 students at Harvard Law. Over 50% of these students have scored in the 99.5 percentile on a G-loaded task, and they continue to work their butts off throughout law school, not because they have to, but because climbing to the top of the academic hierarchy is the only thing the know. That is an astonishing pure intellectual feat that he pulled off. If law firms held a draft after his graduation, he would have been the first overall pick, even if he were white (given his combination of verbal and written skills). We are talking about the best law student in the most powerful country in the history of the world.

Finally, Steve, I'm a fan of your work, but you do better with non-human subjects, like immigration and foreign policy. I think you missed the mark with Obama. I don't think he is race obsessed. He was probably made to be so in his early life by teachers who are obsessed with the subject, but I bet he outgrew it. Remember, his book was initially supposed to be on race relations, so what did you expect him to write about? The real human story about Obama I think is revealed in his time in NYC. The truth about him is that he is solitary and intellectual. Also, I'm sure, driven and ambitious. People think he is the type of guy who lights up a room when he walks through the door, but that has never been the case I bet. I think he will be a vastly different type of president than we have had, at least in my lifetime. Way more analytic, and way more reliant on expertise and research.

AS said...

Steve, you are selling out!

You actually changed "niggling" to "petty"?!

Since respectable people think you're a vile racist anyway, why not go whole hog and use words like "niggardly" and "niggling"?

Anonymous said...

Garage Roto-Router - LOL!

I can never remember if its a man or woman. Usually the clue is in the name...

Anonymous said...

Way more analytic, and way more reliant on expertise and research.

Indeed, he will accelerate the US down the South African path to destruction. But he will do it in a more methodical way. So thats alright then.

McCain otoh would do the same, but in a more haphazard way.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy this whole business of Obama being so smart because of his magna cum laude status at Harvard Law School. I keep hearing about this "anonymous testing" business and, frankly, it makes no sense.

No matter how anonymous a test may be, the written exams that law schools use allow ample opportunity for minority candidates to divulge their minority status to a grader. Maybe if these tests were multiple choice like the SAT's, then, yeah, I could see inferring Obama's intelligence from them. But because Obama can pepper any narrative with clues as to who he is, why would his mcl status at Harvard be significant?

Since Democrat candidates are always talking about how smart they are, why don't they simply release their board scores and allow the entire planet an objective look at what they are?

Anonymous said...

"No matter how anonymous a test may be, the written exams that law schools use allow ample opportunity for minority candidates to divulge their minority status to a grader."

This is the type of petty resentment I was talking about. Far fetched hypotheses that Obama really didn't do well. Clinging to the idea that there is nothing more than test scores, and that once native capacity is established, real achievement should not matter. You want a direct rebuttal to you little paranoid theory that law school grades are not really blind, what about the fact that the median black students GPA is in about the 10th percentile of the class. Basically, law schools do let minority students sink the the bottom.

See this research by Richard Sander:
http://www.law.ucla.edu/sander/Systemic/SA.htm

What's the theory now, that only Obama was given preferences, and not the other black students? So much for Occam's Razor.

"Indeed, he will accelerate the US down the South African path to destruction. But he will do it in a more methodical way. So thats alright then."

The truth is in the center, so Obama will come to the center. That's my guess at least. In any event, I have no idea where you get the notion that he is some insane liberal. He viewed himself as a race-agitator because that was his most obvious path to power and fame. Now he is at the seat of power, and being a race agitator would just marginalize him. He has the chance to be a historic figure, if only he can discern the right moves to advance America and Western Democracy. I have little doubt that this is his new motivation.

Hilbert said...

Slightly off-topic, but I'm wondering whether this critique of rising SAT scores in British education doesn't encapsulate the problem of the Flynn effect.

Anonymous said...

NRO's "The Corner" blog has a link today (10/31) to a letter BO wrote as a law student to the Harvard Law Record (the law school newspaper) in which he acknowledges that he benefited from AA in being asked to join the Harvard Law Review, which I presume would have been done after his first year, which would seemingly indicate that his grades weren't enough by themselves to earn an invite, and would not have earned an invite to the HLR for a white student. Would not this acknowledgement from BO at the time show conclusively that his grades weren't necessarily equal to those of his fellow (white) students who were asked to join the Review, as some in this thread have asserted?

PrestoPundit said...

Harvard:

someone wrote:

"Unlike in college, there is no way to coast through law school taking gut classes."

We KNOW that Obama took LOTS of Critical Legal Studies classes at Harvard Law, and lots of black professor taught Civil Rights classes, etc.

I.e. his professors were almost uniformly far left Democrats, many of them black.

Obama's background was in ... Marxist theory and literature and neoColonialism and black studies and "political science", etc. -- exactly the same sort of material.

He should have been well prepared for the politicized, post-modern "law" curriculum he took at Harvard.

And think about who would have taken the courses Obama took -- and who took the courses Obama did NOT take. He wasn't competing with the best Harvard Law students.

So you can argue that Obama was an "affirmative action" magna cum laude at Harvard Law for Leftists taking the post modern, leftist classes dominated by affirmative action minorities.

People keep forgetting to look at the reality on the ground for Obama -- it ain't the reality people assume when dealing with what the world looked like 40 and 50 years ago.

Wake up people. It's not 1964.

Anonymous said...

"Would not this acknowledgement from BO at the time show conclusively that his grades weren't necessarily equal to those of his fellow (white) students who were asked to join the Review, as some in this thread have asserted?"

I'm guessing this was addressed to me. I don't doubt Obama was given AA preference to get on law review, but I guarantee he was at least in the top half of his class after first year. He would have to be if he were to graduate magna cum laude. MCL at my law school is top 10%. Perhaps it was a bit more generous at HLS, but it couldn't have been more than 20-25%.

How many critical race classes do you think there are? Have you been to law school? Maybe, and I mean maybe, he could have taken a year's worth of gut classes, but I guarantee he had to take some difficult classes beyond first year, like corporations, trusts and estates, tax, international law, etc. Also, even if a class is a gut, if there is a curve, you still have to beat out other brilliant, grade crazy students. Finally, students of all colors take easy classes to boost their GPA's. No way Obama was able to earn MCL just by virtue of taking easy classes.

rast said...

I suspect McCain isn't the kind of guy to remember what he got on the SAT 55 years ago.

So what? The College Board can dig the scores out of their archives. Nobody should get a pass here.

various Obama Origin rumors... His real father was a member of the Communist Party USA

This is a particularly stupid rumor. What, the fact that his mother was a communist (if not actually a member of the Communist Party USA) isn't good enough?

Tsoldrin said...

For many prep schools, the entrance exam is the tuition fee.

The math half of the SAT can sometimes be easier for weaker students. I had a hard time grasping algebra in high school (I never really got it well until getting into programing after college) and ended up flunking it and taking algebra in summer school, then geometry right before taking the SAT test... which was mostly algebra and geometry - all of it was fresh in my mind and I aced it. Kids 2-3 courses ahead of me in the various maths did mediocre or poorly on the math half of the SAT, because they'd mostly forgotten the material by that time.

Truth said...

"Did Obama actually went to Columbia?"

Did you actually went to grammar school?

Anonymous said...

@Steve Sailer

We don't actually know that he was magna cum laude at Harvard. Just cuz everyone is saying it, don't make it so.

Anyone seriously interested in BHO and his grades, read these two articles for cogent arguments as to why BHO is most likely a severe affirmative action case.

From http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=74877

*****
For starters, Obama did not do nearly well enough at his previous stop, Columbia University, to justify admission to Harvard Law.

According to the New York Sun, university spokesman Brian Connolly confirmed that Obama graduated in 1983 with a major in political science but without honors.

In the age of affirmative action and grade inflation, a minority in a relatively easy major like political science had to under-perform dramatically to avoid minimal honors. Obama apparently did just that.
...
Harvard Law School is notoriously difficult to get into. Annually, some 7,000 applications apply for some 500 seats. Applicant LSAT scores generally chart in the 98 to 99 percentile range, and GPAs average between 3.80 and 3.95.

If Obama's LSAT scores merited admission, we would know about them. We don't. The Obama camp guards those scores, like his SAT scores, more tightly that Iran does its nuclear secrets.

We know enough about Obama's Columbia grades to know how far they fall below the Harvard norm, likely even below the affirmative action-adjusted black norm at Harvard.

From http://reason.com/news/show/128461.html

Root: No, no I'm not, because here's the moral to the story.... I had a B-plus, A-minus average at Columbia University, in four years. When I graduated, I took the LSATs and I did well. I didn't do great, I did well; B-plus, A-minus average. My counselor at Columbia said don't even bother applying to Harvard Law School, because you can get into any law school in the country with your record, except Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton [Editor's Note: Princeton doesn't have a law school]. Except for the very top, you can get in anywhere, but don't even try those, because your grades don't cut it.

Well, everyone says how bright Barack is, but Barack won't release his transcripts from Columbia University.

---------------------

-Patrik

Cal said...

I think the truth is somewhere in between. I agree that his GPA at Harvard is probably a result of kind professors and (relatively) easy courses.

I don't think he had a spectacularly high SAT score or LSAT. He wouldn't need it. Only 6% of African Americans get above 600 on either section of the SAT, and that's before recentering. So if Obama got a 1200 in 1979, he'd have been one of maybe 200 African American students with those scores. Similarly, an LSAT score in the low 160s would put him up in the stratosphere for black students (I can't remember what the LSAT scores were in the late 80s, but whatever).

My guess is he certainly had astronomically high scores for a black man, which was a respectable but unspectacular top 10-15% of all students in both.

Anonymous said...

"I don't doubt Obama was given AA preference to get on law review"...
I don't care if he was in the top half, for christ's sake, he was bumped because of his race and others weren't. Period.

Um, judgement for me.

Yes, I went to law school, not HLS but a top tier one, and it was 30 years ago before AA was institutionalized and made so goddam infuriating. I just wish you and all of it's other defenders would quite denying the facts of AA, which have been confirmed by SC and other federal appellate decisions, the ETS, many articles by scholars and renegade law profs who've broken the usual silence and gone public with the whole scam after years of being silent, and disgusted. If BO were held to white standards he wouldn't have matriculated to Columbia and HLS.

Truth said...

"We KNOW that Obama took LOTS of Critical Legal Studies classes at Harvard Law, and lots of black professor taught Civil Rights classes, etc.

I.e. his professors were almost uniformly far left Democrats, many of them black."

Wrong, 80% of law courses are boilerplate from Harvard to West South Dakota School of Law. All lawyers must pass the bar exam, so only in the last year do they delve heavily into electives.

Anonymous said...

Tests are blind-graded at law school.

Bunk. I graduated from a top-5 law school the same year as Obama (1991) and I can tell you for a fact that the system was gamed to make sure AA students' grading was not strictly blind.

At my school, it was a covert operation called MAP--Minority Assistance Program--and it was designed to work every angle to informally tip off professors which exams from their classes were NAMs, from "tutoring" sessions in which profs could learn their NAM students' handwriting, to coaching everyone involved on the special "code words" for the semester. Sometimes it just flat out involved showing the NAMs the test questions ahead of time, or discreetly giving them an extra hour or so on the final, or making it a "take home" exam. Of course the NAMs were sworn to secrecy, but some of them talked.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I really feel for you. I know it's tough to have a low IQ, and I don't hold it against for wanting to lash out at Obama for being, you know, more intelligent than you. But man, there are so many out there who are clearly way above you that I think you'd be doing yourself a favor by stopping the griping and resigning yourself to the fact -- as this blog shows time and time again -- that you just don't have it up there.

Svigor said...

This is the type of petty resentment I was talking about.

But your claim is extraordinary (I believe "astronomical" is a good way of putting it, whether you know it or not), and requires extraordinary proof.

PrestoPundit said...

"How many critical race classes do you think there are?"

It seems you don't have the foggiest idea what "Critical Legal Studies" is, or which professors taught it at Harvard.

PrestoPundit said...

"80% of law courses are boilerplate from Harvard to West South Dakota School of Law."

At Harvard almost all of these classes are taught by left leaning Democrats.

Its a fact. And when they are taught by "critical legal studies" types, the content is very different than at your unrated freshwater Podunk U.

Garrett said...

"There were fewer than 600 black students in the entire country with combined SAT scores of 1,200 in 1983, compared to more than 60,000 whites. The eight Ivy League colleges alone could absorb every black undergraduate who scored over 1,200 and still have blacks statistically “under-represented” in the Ivy League."

- Race and Culture, by Thomas Sowell (1995), p. 176

. . .

Since it's unlikely the numbers from 1978 are much different from 1983, it's hard to reconcile these facts with the idea that he aced his SATs. If 1200 put a black guy of that era into an Ivy, why wouldn't BHO, given his obsession with his father, go to Harvard like Obama Sr. did? Occidental is certainly a respectable school, but it's pretty far down the list, and I would think there would be at least a 100-150 point gap there. So a 1050 SAT wouldn't be that far out of line.

Given that he's reasonably adept verbally, 600 or so would be about right on the verbal section. But that would leave him with a 450 on the math section, which would be a little embarrassing. It would open him up to TV ads that said "With the state of the economy today, how comfortable are you with a guy giving away 200 points to George W. Bush on the math section of the SAT being president? Soy John McCain y apruebo este mensaje."

TGGP said...

I postulate here that verbal IQ leads people to the left while visuospatial causes one to lean right (I am more confident in the former). I'd appreciate it if anyone has some good data to test this theory.

Steve Sailer said...

But why do Bayesian analysis of a highly unusual individual when we know a huge amount about the individual?

His mother was accepted into the U. of Chicago when she was 15. His father was possibly the brightest man born in his country in the year 1936. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from U. of Hawaii in three years and got a Master's in Economics from Harvard in another year. He has a half-brother who has a master's in physics from Stanford.

Every single person who talks to him comes away saying this guy is smart. Granted, he doesn't actually say anything, but that's pretty smart when you are a politician!

He can write better than any other politician, including Jim Webb.

Steve Sailer said...

TGGP:

I'm sure your theory about verbal vs. visuospatial IQ is right. One way to collect data is to look at average SAT scores for Math vs. Verbal by college and correlate them with some data somewhere on student political attitudes. For example, when I was at Rice 1976-1980, it was much more conservative politically than the typical college with the same average SAT score because it was so dominated by science-engineering professors and students. So, its average Math SAT score was a lot higher than its average Verbal SAT score. The school most tilted in the Verbal direction back then was Bennington, where Camille Paglia was always getting in trouble with feminists.

Anonymous said...

If Obama was Magna Cum Laude at HLS, this does not necessarily mean he was in the top 10% of his class. From 1999 onwards, the top 10% at HLS are magna cum laude (what Obama allegedly received, though his campaign won't release his transcripts) and the next 30% are cum laude (collectively, honors). Before that, the various classes of honors awarded were based on achieving a certain fixed GPA. However, rampant grade inflation in the 80s and 90s made a joke out of the honors standards, with something 76% of the class receiving an honors degree. Obama graduated in 1991, so graduating magna may not mean that he was in the top 10% (though it does mean that he did relatively well - well into the top half). I have, however, been unable to find what the proportion of magna cum laude to cum laude was at the time Obama was there, so what his exact class rank may have been is just speculation.

It would also be interesting to look at his transcript to see what grades he received in various courses. Required first year courses and large 2nd and 3rd year bar and business related courses are generally taught as lecture courses and grades are awarded according to (allegedly) anonymously graded final exams. (However, Profs. may give students a "bump" up or down due to "exceptional class participation" and/or poor attendance.) Seminar courses offered in the 2nd and 3rd years of law school are generally graded on the basis of a paper produced by the student (again with bumps up or down for participation and attendance). In such courses, the grader knows the students identity. Seminar courses often involve subjects like critical race theory which a young man who writes stories about "race and inheritance" would probably be drawn to. I would love to know what subjects Obama took and if his transcript is full of As in seminar courses and more modest performances in required and bar/business exam-based courses. Also, with the allowance of "bumps," Profs. still have some room to fiddle with the grades they want to give students even in the later type of courses.

Perhaps Obama's grades were good at HLS, but he doesn't want people to know what kind of elective courses he took? It wouldn't look very good for the "post-racial uniter" to have taken one critical race theory course after another. He took at least a few courses with then HLS Prof. Derrick Bell (of critical race theory fame) and was close to him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derrick_Bell).

It is also noteworthy that Harvard, at the time Obama was there, as now, has affirmative action slots for blacks on Harvard Law Review, and that the presidency of HLR is an elective, not grade-based position.

Basically, there isn't enough data to know exactly how well Obama did academically at HLS and whether he received any special treatment because of his race.

It is also worth noting how rare exceptionally talented black law students are. Obama likely took the LSAT in 1987. I couldn't find data online for that year, but data presented by Herrnstein and Murray in the Bell Curve point out that in approximately that period only 3 blacks per year in the US scored 170 or better on the LSAT.

For 2002-3 (the year I took the LSAT data is available from the LSAC (and the results from year to year are similar)(http://www.lsacnet.org/research/LSAT-Performance-with-Regional-Gender-and-Racial-Ethnic-Breakdowns-1997–1998-Through-2003–2004-Testing-Years.pdf):

Blacks: avg.: 142.05, S.D.= 8.40, N= 12,641

Whites: avg.: 152.30, S.D. = 8.80, N = 78,648

A score of 166 represents the 95th percentile.

Plugging in the N, SD and means, we get 28 blacks vs. 4,672 whites scoring at this level or better.

169 represents the 98th percentile (and the bottom quartile at Harvard)

9 blacks vs. 2,257 whites scored at this level or better

172 represents the 99th percentile (and the median at Harvard)

2 to 3 blacks vs. 983 whites scored at this level or better

To get per capita numbers, simply divide the white numbers by 6.2. [Note that these numbers are derived by plugging the data into the normal curve. Scores are roughly normally distributed, but there can be some divergences from a perfect normal distribution at the tails of the curve. Therefore, the above results are only approximate (but seem to be corroborated by Herrnstein and Murray's earlier reported data.]

-PG

weston said...

The notion that Obama is "hiding" his outstanding test scores is hilarious. Both aspects, the fact that he got those scores, and the fact we wouldn't have heard about them already are absurd.

In The Bell Curve, the authors looked at one year of LSAT scores. There were only two blacks who scored above 170 in that year. I'm not sure exactly how many blacks Harvard Law takes each year, but it's probably at least a few dozen. A mid 160s LSAT score will pretty much guarantee admission at any law school in the country for blacks. A mid 170s score is almost unheard of.

Anonymous said...

It's true that high math IQ types are relatively more likely to lean right than their high verbal counterparts.

But it's also true that as IQ goes up in general people tend to lean left! The Dems are the party of the very smart and the very dumb :-)

I would not be surprised if 60-70% of IQ>140 people were liberals, with a somewhat (but not hugely) lower percentage for high math types and a higher percentage for high verbal types.

Just look at silicon valley or high finance or university faculties. In all three cases there are a preponderance of democrats.

Steve Sailer said...

Has any candidate ever released their SAT scores? The only two scores I know are Bush's and Gore's and those leaked out without the candidate's involvement.

There is simply no tradition of releasing test scores. Nor grades for that matter -- Kerry's leaked out in 2005.

So, I don't think you can draw much in the way of conclusions from Obama (or McCain) not releasing test scores -- it's simply not something that is expected.

Truth said...

"Bunk. I graduated from a top-5 law school the same year as Obama (1991) and I can tell you for a fact that the system was gamed to make sure AA students' grading was not strictly blind..."

I always love when the nefarious, all-encompassing conspiracy is well-known amongst every member of an insignificant subgroup involved with it; such as every member of the incoming law school freshman class, every black bagboy at the ghetto supermarket or every union mason home on disability, who sees an interracial couple on a soap-opera. Excuse me for a moment while I instruct my broker to purchase shares of Reynolds Wrap.

"And when they are taught by "critical legal studies" types, the content is very different than at your unrated freshwater Podunk U."

Again wrong. If the course material at a few elite 'liberal' universities was that much different from that of the other 99% of law schools, it would not prepare the students for a common goal which is to pass the same exam.

Anonymous said...

Most of the detailed questions people are raising here -- HLS grading, law review presidency, magna percentage, etc. were discussed in much more detail on halfsigma's blog. See link in earlier comment if you really want to know the answers...

Anonymous said...

"This is the type of petty resentment I was talking about. Far fetched hypotheses that Obama really didn't do well. Clinging to the idea that there is nothing more than test scores, and that once native capacity is established, real achievement should not matter."

I will take this as addressed to me.

You are the one who is clinging. You want to deny the reality that most of the top-level schools are affirmative action factories when it comes to non-Asian minorities. Funny how test-score don't matter when your non-white or non-Asian, but, when your not...oh...man...do those tests matter.

Big Bill said...

Prestopundit, Muffy Strange's main squeeze and Unger were the biggie crits when Obama was at HLS. Not too many others. Lots of spear-carrying liberals: Dersh, Tribe, et al. And a brutha or two, Bell and Tree. But Tree was not a crit. A black nationalist, sure, but not a crit. That would have been a bit too egghead for him. Bell? Well Bell had other irons in the fire during Obama's years at HLS, but I would consider him a black nationalist. The crits were Dunk and Roberto: Roberto the propeller-head theoreticial and Dunk the showman.

Herod said...

His mother was accepted into the U. of Chicago when she was 15.

Thanks SS
That is Stanley Ann Dunham. I never heard that before. Can you please extend that comment?

The Dude said...

Crit professors are a big deal these days but back in 1982 at Harvard Law they were few and rightly marginalized

For a real crit/lesbian/post modernist/anti colonialist freak show check out today's Harvard English faculty
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~english/people/facultyprofiles.html

Anonymous said...

If he did that well, we'd know about it.

Not that he's dumb. He isn't.

Josh said...

I dont see Obama as being that smart. I understand--as mentioned before,and as described by Scott Turow in his book about Hrvard,'One L",that tests in the law school are blind-graded and nobody is supposed to know who is who...but i dont believe it. I do not see Obama graduating cum laude( tho I am sure he exceeded Mike Tysons "Thank You Lawdy!" honor bestowed when he graduated 8th grade!!") )from Harvard. Steve is certainly smarter than me,and far more Barry-knowledeable,so I should defer to him,but my gut feeling is he is wrong about Barry. Affrim action is such a corrupt and dirty thing,is it impossible to believe that Barrys grades were played with--for the Cause?? Is the honor of the Harvard Faculty so certain that some hijinks are not possible? (Remember that when Barry was in college,he was also getting hsi activist training,and did he not say he learned more form the activist school than he did from the real school?? To ask that question is to aswer it:Hell no!! (Look at Colubia u,with regard to the madonna Constantine fiasco. They know darn well she put that noose on her door,but its not PC to be truthful. Theyre liars and con artists.) I bet if you asked people across the country,all 57 states,most would agree!:)

Anonymous said...

"So, I don't think you can draw much in the way of conclusions from Obama (or McCain) not releasing test scores -- it's simply not something that is expected."

But Obama's black. Which means any success he has earned is necessarily tainted by the prospect that he wouldn't have earned it but for affirmative action.

If Obama was close to a median admit at HLS, I'm sure we would have heard about it.

Obama wrote while he was at HLS:

"I must say, however, that as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year."

Is that consistent with a 1500 SAT or 175 LSAT scoring applicant? Undoubtedly benefitted, he said.

Which is not to say he isn't a very smart man. He obviously is. But I think you and others read too much into his success at HLS.

And, it should be noted, if Obama was close to a median admit at HLS, he almost certainly would be admitted to Yale under affirmative action. Has Obama ever commented that he chose HLS over Yale?

Anonymous said...

Another point. The other component of affirmative action is discrimination in financial aid.

A black student that scored a 170 or more would probably be getting a full ride, even at HLS.

And we know about the Obamas student loans only recently being paid off from Michelle's comments. If Obama was "rare as a unicorn," do you think he'd be paying off any student loans?

Sideways said...

It's this sort of post that shows the divide between the inquisitive and the racists around here, I suppose.

On the other hand, comments like this
If law firms held a draft after his graduation, he would have been the first overall pick, even if he were white (given his combination of verbal and written skills).

are equally silly. The guy has an exceptional lack of original legal writing for someone of his stature and background. There's no way he'd be taken over a dozen other legitimate geniuses who had written articles in law reviews, etc. Given his intelligence and his race, he might have been number one.

Anonymous said...

"The guy has an exceptional lack of original legal writing for someone of his stature and background. There's no way he'd be taken over a dozen other legitimate geniuses who had written articles in law reviews, etc. Given his intelligence and his race, he might have been number one."

The original point was not silly at all, and you show a real lack of understanding of the legal profession. I said law FIRM, not law SCHOOL. Being a lawyer is not like being a mathematician, which requires only one skill. I have law professors who are the best in their field, and they would make awful lawyers by their own admission. There are lawyers at my firm where I will work next year, and just recently spent the summer, that are the best in their field (litigation) but who graduated from law schools outside of the top 10, sometimes without honors. These guys are former US Attornys, and listed as the best of the best in professional journals. Barack, by his academic achievement would be intellectually superior to any one of them. Add to that his tremendous ability as an orator, and you have an individual, black or white, that would be considered either the best, or one of the top ten recruits of his year.

As for your theory about publications, having done a lot of legal writing might preclude you from being the top pick because it shows you are too bookish and have no life.

And, I remained stunned that people keep wanting to look past his grades and get at his test scores. His grades measure something more real than the stupid LSAT. Admittedly, the LSAT is a good test, and I'm glad it exists, but its worth is only so high as its ability to accurately predict first-year grades in law school. I don't think Sailer is nearly as test-obsessed as the people who read his blog apparently are. It just happens that these tests are a good, neutral, and quick way to assess the likelihood of real achievement. If real achievement can otherwise be shown, all the better.

Anonymous said...

"It's this sort of post that shows the divide between the inquisitive and the racists around here, I suppose."

Those commenters suggesting Obama isn't a gifted individual are wrong.

However, Obama's obvious gifts do not mean it is likely Obama is "rare as a unicorn," the 175 LSAT scoring black. If Obama scored that high we would know about it, either from his own statements or from the presence of a scholarship (his choice of HLS over Yale is another indication, did he not get into Yale?).

My guess is that Obama scored in the 160-165 range. Very good (good enough for Mensa) but not a Harvard score without affirmative action. You don't need to have an IQ of 180 to write a superb law school exam or possess literary talent or appear professorial. You need that sort of IQ to be at the forefront of physics, but not law.

To say that Obama probably wasn't one of a handful of blacks to score above 170 in the year he took the exam is not a denial of his talents.

Anonymous said...

"To say that Obama probably wasn't one of a handful of blacks to score above 170 in the year he took the exam is not a denial of his talents."

Thanks you! I would guess that no president in our history would score a 170 on the LSAT. Certainly none of the good ones. I guess Clinton may have come close, and Romney almost certainly did, but he, unfortunately, is not going to be president.

Anonymous said...

If real achievement can otherwise be shown, all the better.

Hmmmm. What are Barry O's real achievements?

Zip as a lawyer.

Zilch as a legislator.

He crushed that race hustler thing though -- and he's only half African so I guess that is double the achievement.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmmm. What are Barry O's real achievements?"

Well, I was referring to graduating from Harvard Law magna cum laude-again, with blind grading. Have you ever beat out 2/3 of a group of statistical geniuses on a 3 year long g-loaded task that is highly valued? Perhaps you have, and if so, congratulations on your achievement.

For my money, that's a lot better than McCain's greatest achievement of being a war prisoner. I'm pretty sure he had to stay in that camp due to Navy protocol anyway. I'm not saying the guy isn't a hero, but he hasn't displayed courage above and beyond thousands of other soldiers. And he certainly hasn't demonstrated intellect like Obama.

There are good arguments that Obama is not right for the Presidency. I'd rather Romney myself. But it is just stupid to say he hasn't achieved anything in life. He make lack in leadership experience (and perhaps ability), but not in worthwile accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

"There are good arguments that Obama is not right for the Presidency. I'd rather Romney myself. But it is just stupid to say he hasn't achieved anything in life. He make lack in leadership experience (and perhaps ability), but not in worthwile accomplishments."

And what did he do with all those smarts? Did he start a business and produce jobs? Did he become a great leader at the state legislature? Did he produce any meaningful academic scholarship? Did he work in the high pressure and intellectually challenging world of corporate law? No, he chose to become a race hustler, then mediocre state senator. Now he's going to be president. Oh boy!

If anything his intellectual ability is a liability. What will he think he can't do?

Anonymous said...

"And what did he do with all those smarts? Did he start a business and produce jobs? Did he become a great leader at the state legislature? Did he produce any meaningful academic scholarship? Did he work in the high pressure and intellectually challenging world of corporate law? No, he chose to become a race hustler, then mediocre state senator. Now he's going to be president. Oh boy!"

Couple things. First, remember where this topic started. Sailer said Obama probably had high test scores. People were incredulous. I put forth the idea that his academic achievement at Harvard was a better indicator of his intellectual capacity than his LSAT score anyway. So, the point from the outset to was to guage his smarts, not his fitness for the presidency.

Second, I don't think he is the ideal person to be president. I think there are thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands of people in America who are more fit. But, democracy is never perfect. Between Barack and McCain, it is not even a choice to me. McCain thinks he knows answers that experts do not. Barack has shown a bit more deference, and a bit more of a deliberative thinking process. I'll take Barack.

Third, you have to cut the guy at least a little bit of slack on the race-hustling thing. I mean, he grew up being absolutely inculcated with it by his mother. He went to college at the pinnacle of political correctness, where saying this kind of stuff is exactly what got you ahead. Plus, he was commissioned to right a book on the very topic. When I was 22 (only 4 years ago actually), I went to Harvard School of Public Health for all sorts of idealistic reasons. I dropped out after a semester because I realized that it wasn't leading anywhere good, and that the world was infinitely more complicated than my simplistic vision (hat tip to Steve for his contribution to that cause). The truth is that it takes time to figure out the way the world really works. When you have authority figures telling you it's one way for your entire life, you really have to SEE that it is the other before you can come to a different understanding. I bet Barack's failure as a community organizer went a long way in changing his worldview. The way he talks these days, he sounds a bit like he gets it. Just my two cents.

SFG said...

And what did he do with all those smarts? Did he start a business and produce jobs? Did he become a great leader at the state legislature? Did he produce any meaningful academic scholarship? Did he work in the high pressure and intellectually challenging world of corporate law? No, he chose to become a race hustler, then mediocre state senator. Now he's going to be president. Oh boy!
No, he went into politics, and is about to get elected President, as you point out. Sounds pretty smart to me.

PrestoPundit said...

We know that Obama studied with Unger, Bell, Ogletree, and Tribe.

How many law professors does one get in 3 years of law school?

It's unknown to me whether Obama studied with Duncan Kennedy.

Dershowitz? Who knows.

Anyone else who who Obama studies with?

Did he study with the "Dunk"?

>>Prestopundit, Muffy Strange's main squeeze and Unger were the biggie crits when Obama was at HLS. Not too many others. Lots of spear-carrying liberals: Dersh, Tribe, et al. And a brutha or two, Bell and Tree. But Tree was not a crit. A black nationalist, sure, but not a crit. That would have been a bit too egghead for him. Bell? Well Bell had other irons in the fire during Obama's years at HLS, but I would consider him a black nationalist. The crits were Dunk and Roberto: Roberto the propeller-head theoreticial and Dunk the showman.<<

Anonymous said...

To make my last point even more clear, consider the racial idealism exhibited by George W. Bush. No Child Left Behind, War in Iraq (all Iraqi's want is to be free...right), Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the Diversity Recession, the list barely ever ends. People keep acting like it is Obama who will open the floodgates when Bush could hardly have been worse.

Now here is a bold statement, I bet Barack Obama, deep down, is more of a race-realist than GWB. GWB, you see, has been sheltered from the problems associated with diversity his entire life, whereas Obama has at least seen the differences between white working class culture and black poverty. And here is a bold prediction. Obama will be slightly less preferential to minorities than Bush was, and no more than McCain would be. The only exception here will be Supreme Court nominations, but it is hard to castigate him for that because the judges decide things other than AA and racial profiling cases.

ben tillman said...

My guess is that Obama got something in the neighborhood of a 175 on the LSAT – which I would I guess is roughly like scoring above 1500 in the old days before the mid-90s recentering.

He couldn't have gotten a 175 on the LSAT. That grading scale was not introduced until the 1990's. I assume the top score when he took it was a 48.

ben tillman said...

Wrong, 80% of law courses are boilerplate from Harvard to West South Dakota School of Law. All lawyers must pass the bar exam, so only in the last year do they delve heavily into electives.

Wrong. One colleague from HLS '90 reported that at Harvard she took just one semester of torts!

Truth said...

"Did he work in the high pressure and intellectually challenging world of corporate law? No, he chose to become a race hustler.."

I keep reading this "race hustler" stuff. Since when is a smart person who accepts a low-paying job to help a group of people he considers wrong a 'race hustler?'

Was Joan of Arc a race hustler?

Was Samuel Gompers a race hustler?

Was Crystal Lee Sutton a race hustler?

What about Erin Brockovich?

What about father Desmond McGrath?

What about Fannie Sellins?

Whitely King? Patrick Crowley?

How about the ultimate race hustler William Jennings Bryan?

Why is it that standing up for disenfranchised blacks is somehow different than standing up for disenfranchised West Virginians, mine workers, etc.?

As usual, you people debate like you went to college on A.A.

Ronduck said...

Why is it that standing up for disenfranchised blacks is somehow different than standing up for disenfranchised West Virginians, mine workers, etc.?

Because most, if not all, community organizers aren't standing up to defend helpless Blacks who are being persecuted, but are instead trying to bilk the government out of its' funds. Blacks aren't having to deal with the kind of work problems that miners have because many of them do not have, and do not want jobs.

Furthermore, no community organizer has pointed the finger at the Black church as the moral failure it is. Instead the organizers always spin some tale about how Whitey is holding them down and they need to fight back. The only people holding Blacks back are themselves.

J Milken said...

I'm still scratching my head over those who believe that Obama is a genius. I find him no smarter than an average lawyer or law maker. I have my own theories over why people are in awe of his intelligence, which pretty much amount to folks not expecting much from him, and then being taken by surprise when they see/hear an articulate person.

schiffer said...

What's it called when a bunch of retards discuss intelligence?

LOSERVILLE!

Sail on, Sailer boy.