Larry Summers has offended the professionally sensitive, and we await his assassination in the mainstream media. Here is the background:
About 50 academics from across the nation, many of them economists, participated in the conference, “Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and their S. & E. Careers.” Dr. Summers arrived after a morning session and addressed a working lunch, speaking without notes. No transcript was made because the conference was designed to be off-the-record so that participants could speak candidly without fear of public misunderstanding or disclosure later.
In his presentation, Dr. Summers addressed the question of why so few women were on math and engineering faculties at top research universities.
“I began by saying that the whole issue of gender equality was profoundly important and that we are taking major steps at Harvard to combat passive discrimination,” he recalled in yesterday’s interview. “Then I wanted to add some provocation to what I understand to be basically a social science discussion.”
Here are the ‘offensive’ remarks:
He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.
The response from the offended:
Dr. Hopkins said, “I didn’t disagree, but didn’t like the way he presented that point because I like to work 80 hours a week, and I know a lot of women who work that hard.”
At this point, underclassmen in a basic stats class would be giggling, whispering to each other “N of 1.” Other offensive statements
In citing a second factor, Dr. Summers cited research showing that more high school boys than girls tend to score at very high and very low levels on standardized math tests, and that it was important to consider the possibility that such differences may stem from biological differences between the sexes.
Dr. Freeman said, “Men are taller than women, that comes from the biology, and Larry’s view was that perhaps the dispersion in test scores could also come from the biology.”
Dr. Summers said, “I was trying to provoke discussion, and I certainly believe that there’s been some move in the research away from believing that all these things are shaped only by socialization.”
Considering that we already know that there are numerous differences between the male and female brain, this is hardly a shocking statement. Regardless, it is hardly an endorsement of the viewpoint.
Welcome to the modern university, where feelings trump reason.
More here and here.