National Achievement Scholarship Program

For many years, The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has given a test aimed at black students, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, originally called the the National Achievement Scholarship program for Outstanding Negro Students. It was a lower-standard version of the National Merit scholarship program, created because few blacks qualified for the National Merit scholarships. You could have defined other groups that were under-represented in National Merit scholarships, but they probably weren’t as numerous or as important a voting block. And racial favoritism was in vogue then, although not in the way it is today.

The program ended last fall: I didn’t notice it at the time because I was under the weather. You might guess that it’s because blacks have caught up and are now winning the ordinary National Merit Scholarships in rough proportion to their numbers, but that’s not the case. The NMSC is replacing it with a program that aids students that graduate from historically black colleges and universities – money that will help them pay off college loans or finance graduate study.

This strikes me as an odd decision. It can’t be that the administrators of the program have renounced racial favoritism in favor of fairness to individuals and utility maximization: we know that decision would be accompanied by one hundred million angels singing, which has not yet occurred. Generally, everyone expects every affirmative action program to last forever, or at least until this country destroys itself.

I wonder if they dropped the program because too many people were gaming it. There was never any test of blackness: as far as I know, anyone could claim it. I remember urging my little brother to check that box many years ago – [He didn’t and won anyhow]. So for all I know people named Magnusson were applying for and winning it, or perhaps the First Born of Mars. Maybe too many Nigerian immigrants were receiving it, probably after promising the administrators ten million dollars….

I guess that they figure that nobody would be crazy enough to attend Grambling or Howard in search of this money, so the new program should avoid the gaming.

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48 Responses to National Achievement Scholarship Program

  1. The Right Honourable Clifton Hugh Lancelot de Verdon Baron Wrottesley says:

    “Maybe too many Nigerian immigrants were receiving it”: I commend your self-discipline in writing Nigerian rather than Kenyan.

  2. pyrrhus says:

    This post triggers some thoughts on nature vs nurture. In a family I am very familiar with, there were 4 brothers, all of whom were National Merit scholars. One of the brothers had 2 sons, both of whom were National Merit scholars…..6/6. If National Merit scores were randomly distributed, the odds against this sequence in one family would be at least 500 trillion to 1……

  3. Yudi says:

    I’m always curious about how much the kids of HBDers end up learning about, and accepting, their parents’ views. Greg, how familiar are your kids with your brand of crimethink, and how do they respond to it?

    Derbyshire has always been vague about what his children feel about his views, but I get the impression that they don’t agree with them. And I’m particularly interested in what Jayman plans to discuss with his, when they come of age…

    We often talk here about the social and career persecution hereditarians face, but this is far closer to home. No one in my family knows what I think about this stuff, and only one or two of my friends, who already believe similar things anyway.

    • guest says:

      “I’m always curious about how much the kids of HBDers end up learning about, and accepting, their parents’ views.”

      Me too. I wonder how heritable the views are, and which traits allow a person to accept them to be true.

      • The Z Blog says:

        My guess is HBD’ers are well over on the skepticism end of the belief scale. To accept blank slatism requires a degree of belief equal to anything required of conventional religions. Therefore, the same qualities we see in agnostic and spiritually indifferent probably show up in HBD’ers.

        • jim says:

          Describing something as a “blank slate” suggests that it is something with a relatively simple internal structure. To think of the neurological system of a newborn child as something with relatively little internal structure.requires an abysmal level of ignorance of biological systems.

          • The Z Blog says:

            Possibly. You have lots of people that appear to be quite intelligent arguing, for instance, that sex is a social construct. That with the right training, boys will identify as girls and girls will identify as boys. In fact, schools are now trying to erase any references to sex distinctions, by banning things like certain pronouns.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Mad as hatters. Makes you wonder about the pluses and minuses of intelligence as we know it today.

            • guest says:

              I mentioned in the comment section of another blogpost that the nurture point of view might be hard-wired(atleast to some degree), and it fits most of the time.

              The blank slate thinking is applied to gender(as you said), to IQ, to academic performance, to talent(10000 hours rule), etc, but an exception is sexual orientation which must be genetic(I read something similar to this train of thought on here but I don’t remember the author of the comment/post. Could have been Gregory Cochran, but I’m not sure). Why is sexual orientation different?

              Are the progressives feeling that they are looking out for the underdog somehow? That the possibilities for a person are endless, except for their sexual orientation because if it was enviromental that could lead to great negative consequences for that group?

              It’s like the preference for nature/nurture flip-flops depending on whether it’s negative or positive for a vulnerable group.

              (Sorry for the rambling)

              • Greying Wanderer says:

                “Why is sexual orientation different?”

                because the television says so

                (aka cultural hegemony)

                People are social animals so the most powerful tool of social control is not pain or violence or jail or poverty it’s social exclusion – shunning.

                Religion used to decide who got shunned but now it’s TV.

                And the TV say everything is a blank slate except homosexuality which is genetic and so people conform to nonsense to avoid social exclusion.

                (Hence for a fail-safe system you need genes that make some people always go against the tide whatever the tide is.)

              • Greying Wanderer says:

                “Are the progressives feeling that they are looking out for the underdog somehow?”

                I think this is partly true with the genuine ones (not the ones just going with the tide because it’s currently dominant) – at least in their head.

                But in reality it’s more that upsetting people, upsets them – so they blank it out.

                feelz > logic

                (hence female > male)

                This is partly because they don’t believe there’s a solution to racial averages but there is – it’s just slow, hence pointing out that racial averages are fixable over generations will help crack those kind of progressives.

                Similarly if some aspect of the argument outweighs the negative feelz with positive feelz e.g. the huge potential benefits of tailored medicine.

              • Ursiform says:

                “Why is sexual orientation different?”

                Because some people they disagree with call it a choice and try to get people to change it, thus is must not be a choice.

                On other orientations people they disagree with consider them innate traits, therefore they must be changeable.

    • My first two sons, 37 and 33, high SAT’s and of genetic stock centered on the North Sea, reluctantly believe much of HBD, but they are much more concerned about social acceptability and not wanting to appear privileged, arrogant, etc. I think they are in the “possibly true, don’t talk about it” camp. I have alluded to this with sons 3-5 in vaguer ways, as 2 are adopted from Transylvania and the 5th is a nephew who has 50% North Sea combos, 50% unknown genetics. As the first two are very familiar with gypsies, Oaxacans, and Tejanos, {also son # 3 lives in Nome (cue Yupik and Inupiat), son #4 now lives in Norway (including Saami, new North African immigrants)}, they already expect different ethnic groups to be different in abilities, without me saying a thing. They see Romanians as genetically middling-to-above, and that’s fine with them. Son #5 is now in the military and that has its own educative factor, even though everyone supposedly has an IQ 92 or above. They’ve all seen worse than themselves and don’t mind being Betas.

      • SonOfRekab says:

        No place better than the military to get a degree in HBD.
        Everything i have read since was just a confirmation to my own observations.

      • Romanian says:

        When you say adopted from Transylvania, what kind of stock are we talking about? Gypsies, Romanians, Hungarians, Germans? I agree with their assessment, but I hold some hope for resolving our chronic iodine deficiency problems in pregnant women and kids and gaining a little boost down the line from that.

    • Moe says:

      I would be very surprised if Jayman’s kids even knew what he thought. I mean… what’s the point? They are just going to make some statistical decisions based on their genetics and non-shared environment, right?

  4. JerryC says:

    Perhaps they realized their scholarships had become superfluous, since black kids scoring well enough to win a National Achievement Scholarship are already besieged with scholarship offers from colleges anyway.

    • Ray Maddon says:

      Good point, they were probably pretty redundant. Although you would still have the recognition factor from actually winning one. Do they test the college grads the same way they were testing high school grads? Seems to me this transition would be a good opportunity for anyone who wanted to change the way they decided how to award the money to more “holistic” measures.

  5. The Z Blog says:

    Greg, I think the reason it was changed is the original program was open to black Hispanics. The new program is black only. Hence no fanfare.

  6. Zombie Paul Krugman says:

    Is there anything comparable to this program for Hispanics?

  7. anon says:

    our corner of the Internet is officially being denounced by Hillary Clinton on Thursday. Thank you, greg, for providing the intellectual nourishment that our movement required to get its feet of the ground. From here, it’s up to the charismatic extroverted types to lead.

    • MawBTS says:

      Great, I can’t wait to see a group of a few thousand twitter trolls get called an existential threat to society.

      I doubt Greg considers himself part of the alt-right, given his history of loudly mocking its members. They deserve it, too. They’ve become the worst thing: a joke that doesn’t know it’s a joke.

      I support Trump. Why? Because I’m Australian, am safely insulated from him by 15,187 kilometers of ocean, and a Trump presidency would be hilarious. I liked the alt-right more when they supported Trump as a nihilistic burn-down-democracy gesture. Now it’s full of self-serious nimrods who think he’d actually be a good candidate. Sad!

      Tho honestly Trump’s the closest we have to a HBDer in Washington. (Mental traits are polygenic. Whatever.)

  8. Greying Wanderer says:


    “Great, I can’t wait to see a group of a few thousand twitter trolls get called an existential threat to society.”

    They’re an existential threat to the people who earn their living from the blank slate lie because it’s a lie.

    The Emperor has no clothes and the alt-right are pointing at him and making dick jokes.

  9. B says:

    This is off-topic, but I remember that you mentioned (in an interview with James D. Miller on the Future Strategist podcast), that surely Gregory Clark believes that genes matter in the SES mobility debate. Well, funnily enough, I came across an interview with him in Polish at The headline reads: “Social upward mobility depends on genes” and Gregory provides three explanations for social mobility — genes are one of them; one of the questions is “why do you reject the other two?” and Gregory goes on to explain why he thinks genes matter more.

  10. Gringo says:

    As has previously been pointed out, Barack Obama got no recognition from the National Achievement Scholarship Program, which is evidence that contrary to the claims of some, he was far from being the most brilliant President evah. What was the cutoff point for recognition from the
    National Achievement Scholarship Program?

    • gcochran9 says:

      To win, in recent years, low 190s. To be recognized, 170-175. Either Obama didn’t take the test, or he scored lower than that.

    • Why would he bother taking that test? If I’m not mistaken, he’s actually bright enough to score well on real tests. He’s no Paul Dirac, but he’s good enough for Harvard Law.

      The crazy and/or stupid things he believes have had a substantial payoff; he’d’ve been a fool to have any sense.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It’s the same test (PSAT), just a different cutoff score.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if he’d never even heard of it. It’s a black thing.

        He didn’t score spectacularly well on the SAT, judging from his college choice. Probably he did on the LSAT (for a black guy) : if so, that is probably the only standardized test that he ever aced.

        • ursiform says:

          Occidental College is a pretty good school, and he went from there to Columbia, quite a good school.

          He’s half white, and was raised by his white mother. You’re overplaying the “black thing”.

          A lot of kids don’t take the PSAT.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Occidental is indeed a pretty good school: I have seen many people say otherwise for some reason but they are incorrect. But it’s not the place you go if you have spectacular scores, or spectacular scores for your race. Of course some people with high scores do their own unpredictable thing..

            Obama says he didn’t work hard there and didn’t have particularly good grades: “goofing off for the first two years of college” as he put it. I’m surprised that would allow you to transfer to Columbia. Possible because he was sorta black? I would guess so.

            Actually I’m agreeing with you: Obama was not raised by blacks, didn’t have any connection with American black culture, lived in a place [ Hawaii] where he may well have been thought of as just another mixed race kid – and so had possibly never heard of those National Achievement scholarships.

            Most kids take the PSAT nowadays. For Hawaii, back in the day, I have no idea.

            Generally speaking, when people suggest that some prominent figure has super-high test scores or an extremely high IQ, I doubt it, mostly because such scores are rare. And this doubting strategy has been right in almost every case where checking eventually became possible. It’s like suspecting that an Olympic athlete is a doper.

            • ursiform says:

              I’m a few years older than Obama, and I don’t recall most of the kids at my school in California taking the PSAT. It wasn’t yet assumed back then that most kids would go to college.

              Obama is certainly not brilliant. But he’s smarter than many of the people who call him stupid, or worse. He strikes me as in family with, perhaps a bit above average among, the last few presidents. Not a brilliant group, to say the least, but none as dumb as some people accused them of being.

            • Steve Sailer says:

              Columbia had a regular transfer pipeline from Occidental. I recall it being mentioned about Occidental when I was looking at colleges in 1975.

              Also, in 1981 it wasn’t that hard to transfer into Columbia. New York City was kind of a wreck back then and the Ivy League wasn’t as competitive as it is now. But Columbia was pretty hard then to get good grades at.

              Obama says he had a B+ GPA at Occidental and an A- GPA at Columbia. He didn’t make much of an impression on his fellow students at Columbia because he was in the library long hours studying hard for the first time in his life.

      • gcochran9 says:

        If he had believed something else, he might have suffered golf disadvantages, but then again he might not have had to marry Michelle.

  11. G.M. says:

    DHS has relatively quietly rolled out a bursary for disadvantaged & “positively engaged” politically active youth called National Instruction Grants for Negro Or Gender Studies. Upon successful completion of relevant programs, it is envisaged that graduates will be on a preferred track for junior leadership positions within TSA, FEMA, NPPD, OPS or the Advisory Groups.

  12. Steve Sailer says:

    At the last high school graduation I attended, the one student who was mentioned for winning the black version of the National Merit award was totally legitimately black: her mother, a doctor, and her father, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World, were both in the audience.

    But the students who were mentioned as winning the Hispanic version were all greeted with murmurs like, “Huh? I didn’t know Judah Chang was Hispanic? Did you know Judah Chang was Hispanic?”

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