Thus Spake Zuska
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Monday, July 25, 2005

Lawrence Summers - Zuska's Synopsis

I made reference in my last post (which, sadly, I forgot to title) to Harvard President Lawrence Summers's infamous January remarks on the topic of gender equity in science and mathematics.  Many of you will already be familiar with Mr. Summers's remarks; but some of you, particularly students, may not.  Those familiar may wish to refresh their memory; the unfamiliar may wish to learn what the fuss is all about. 

Though I provide here once more the link to the remarks, I am aware that life is short.  Just as Mr. Summers did not feel compelled to connect his musings with the actual research on the subject of gender and science, you may not feel compelled to read his actual speech, tedious and rambling as it is.  Therefore, I have taken the liberty of preparing, for your benefit, this synopsis, much in the manner of a Cliffs Notes.  Call it Zuska's Notes, or, if you will, Larry Lite. 

The issue of "Why so few women in science and engineering" is neither terribly important nor terribly interesting.  But I, Larry Summers, have long cogitated earnestly over this trivial matter.  Or, I at least looked at a few items one of my staff pulled together at the last minute, and for fun, concocted a few slapdash analyses on the back of a napkin last night at happy hour.  Let's give it a whirl, shall we?  Because, what the hell. 

I, Larry Summers, believe it all comes down to this.  Women don't have the balls to put in the long hours we men do, and let's face it, their brains aren't really up to snuff even for the few lesbos among them who do want to be ballbreakers and pretend they can do it.  Oh, sure, you can cry socialization and all that, but I bought a toy truck for my daughters, and they were all "oh look how cute, Daddy Truck is giving Baby Truck a ride" and so what can you do?  They are gonna have to be nurses, not civil engineers.  Now, some people say there is out and out discrimination, and I'll admit, I'd rather hang out with a WASP any day - damn, I was glad as hell when that ass Cornel West split for whatever the hell institution it was that took him off my hands!  Good riddance!  But, okay, look, if there were really talented scientists out there who weren't white men, we'd be hiring them, because we wouldn't want to be at a competitive disadvantage with Berkeley or Cal Tech.  God, I HATE Cal Tech.  What do they know about the liberal arts?  Or economics, for that matter?  So, anyway, what I was saying was, all the people who are really good, are already here doing science, and it just so happens that they are white males, plus a few bright folks from India and some Russians in the math department, and that's the way it is.  Oh, yeah, I think we do have a woman or two, so that just goes to show you that we are not, in fact, discriminating.  If there is a good woman, we will hire her.  But there aren't, usually.  So we don't.  Where are they?  Just show them to me, and we'll hire them.  But you can't, can you?  Hah.  Alright.  Drinks, anyone?

5:20:09 PM    comment []

An article in the July 29, 2005 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (Vol. LI, No. 47, pp. A12-A14) describes the University of Michigan's innovative faculty-development theater program.  The program is designed to help faculty and graduate students remove obstacles and create a more welcoming classroom environment for students from underrepresented groups.  The program's approach was inspired by the Theater of the Oppressed, itself developed by a PhD chemical engineer from Brazil named Augusto Boal.  (Hooray for engineers who combine engineering with interests in art and social justice!)

But Michigan's program worries Frederick M. Hess, of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.  Though he professes sympathy with the program's goals, he warns the Chronicle's writer:

"...there have been high-profile instances over the last 10 years where universities have overdone it, where people who were against the grain, who had pre-feminist views on gender, have been afraid to speak their minds."  

(Geez, maybe he's right.  If you let the women and the blacks and the Hispanics and the low-income kids feel comfortable in class, they might get the idea that they are actually welcome at the university.  And then where would we be?)

Well, anyway.  We might ask, whose tender sensibilities is Mr. Hess worried about?  Which "pre-feminist" views on gender is he concerned to nurture? 

Go to the head of the class if you guessed - Harvard's President Lawrence Summers and his cutting-edge theory that "innate differences of ability" are the reason mathematics, science, and engineering remain solidly pale and male!  Yes, Mr. Hess cites the "hue and cry" over Summers' "pre-feminist" natterings last January as an example to prove his point.

Something's overdone indeed, Mr. Hess - the whining and whimpering from conservative quarters when the slightest attempt is made to improve the climate for underrepresented groups.  

2:54:41 PM    comment []

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