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Reaction to transcript of Harvard's President Summer's remarks

2005-02-18 , ,

Read the full text yourself, [available at The Crimson](http://www.thecrimson.com/today/article505844.html). Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’m certain that his observations regarding the lack of certain religious, ethnic or racial groups in particular jobs, which is to say that there is a preponderance of some other easily identified stereotype in those fields, will cause hoots and howls. Regurgitating stereotypes is an easy target but you need to read far enough into his remarks to find him skewering anti-discrimination practices because of the “quality of marginal hires … when major diversity efforts are mounted” to really get something to whip up a mob but anyone who found that objectionable should be equally irate over his reasoning about girls and boys. He asserts that women are poorly represented in top positions because, in summary:

  • high-powered jobs demand sacrifices and commitments women don’t make.
  • the availability of aptitude at the high end.
  • socialization and discrimination.

He has it neatly wrong. The first and third artifacts of socialization— job demands and discrimination are part of its expression and reinforcement. This continues with much qualification toward:
> … there are some systematic differences in variability in different populations, then whatever the set of attributes are that are precisely defined to correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley, those are probably different in their standard deviations as well.

All of which is simply an elaborate and defensible way of saying that girls aren’t good at Math and Science because they are intrinsically not good at them. Whatever the intention, this is regression from the status quo to the justification. That’s rather good rhetoric but awfully bad thinking for the leader of a university.

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