Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
I have never felt happier about the U of C
Yes, it's freezing, and difficult, and people mistake us for UIC all the time. But at least our university president isn't horribly embarrassing:

The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.


Summers said the comments were made ``in the spirit of academic inquiry'' and his goal was to underscore the need for further research to understand a situation that is likely due to a variety of factors.


``It's possible I made some reference to innate differences,'' he said. He said people ``would prefer to believe'' that the differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, ``but these are things that need to be studied.''

Why am I suddenly reminded of those "studying too hard will atrophy your ovaries" arguments produced during the nineteenth century? (Or the related arguments which said that mathematicians and physicists required robust, manly bodies.)

He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them ``daddy truck'' and ``baby truck,'' as if they were dolls.

You mean we can cite personal anecdotes to support general arguments about all of humanity? Sweet! You know, I won the American Mathematics Competition in my high school when I was a junior--I beat out people who had the equivalent of one and a half years of math instruction on me. And yes, Dr. Summers, my school was co-ed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a logic problem set to complete.

(Maureen Craig is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in mathematics at the University of Chicago)

UPDATE: Hanna Gray, President Emerita (and one of my professors), believes Summers was misinterpreted. That may be the case, but Dr. Summers really should have reflected upon the fact that although he was explicitly speaking as an independent economist, his thoughts implicitly reflect on Harvard University.

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