Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More on Summers

Following up on my post on the Larry Summers controversy - Ezra Klein points to this response from Zoe Vanderwolk. She defends Summers, suggesting he was "set up" - that he was invited to speak off the record, but that his remarks were reported in the Boston Globe anyway, and out of context ("he summarized the contents of a paper that was about to be presented at the conference, which had valid statistical findings with regards to women underperforming in the sciences" she says). That seems reasonable enough, I guess, though I think it's unrealistic to expect anything someone in his position says to be taken apart from his position (and thus related to tenure issues at Harvard) - and I think the broader issues still tend to make Summers' remarks wrong-headed. In fact, Vanderwolk concludes the post with an argument that gets at what I was hoping I said:

Conclusions: many girls can do maths very well. Some can't. Some boys do maths extremely well. Many don't. However, schools shunt girls out of maths to concentrate on the small percentage that do extremely well, because that's how teachers are evaluated, and also because girls are routinely pushed out of maths at all levels. I think girls need more encouragement in general to do stuff, although I don't know if this is a nature or a nurture thing. A study I read last year showed a similar imbalance in women seeking office - once women actually run for office, there's no inherent bias against them, but many fewer women even bother to run initially because they are far less likely than men to get support and endorsement from political parties. . . .

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