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Harvard President Shows His Bias!

  1. Jan 18, 2005 #1

    Moonbear

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    This is the sort of thing that makes my blood boil!

    For the rest of the story, see: http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/worldwide/story/0,9959,1392808,00.html

    For another version (from ABC news), see here: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0105/200914.html

    And the Boston Globe's version: http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_action=doc&p_docid=107B29AB48AD8292&p_docnum=1
     
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  3. Jan 18, 2005 #2

    cronxeh

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    Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 30, 1954, Mr. Summers spent most of his childhood in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, and was educated in the Lower Merion public schools. He has twin daughters, Pam and Ruth, age thirteen, and a son, Harry, age ten.


    his daughters must be proud
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2005
  4. Jan 18, 2005 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    Note. Ability to solve previously unseen difficult math problems is not identical with getting good grades in highschool math. Girls as a class do the latter better than boys but the former not as well. This doesn't say (and Summers didn't say) that NO women are good at math, some clearly are, but they are always a small number, both among women and among mathematicians. This may make your blood boil but it's true.
     
  5. Jan 18, 2005 #4

    Curious3141

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    Have you considered that the problem might lie in "outspoken" people like this Harvard egghead telling females throughout their lives that they're inferior in math and science ? Teachers are highly influential on their students, if many teachers share the bias of this Harvard guy, we're on a very slippery slope for the future of our female students. I think there's merit in attributing a large part of the disparity to discouragement and social stigmatisation.

    Can you look at what our society has done to impede female greats like Sophie Germain (aka "Monsieur" Le Blanc) and Hypatia and honestly say that bias and prejudice don't have a big role to play in the status quo ?
     
  6. Jan 18, 2005 #5
    It has been proven through neurological scans that men have a greater brain density and size than women. I believe the president was speaking for the genders as a whole, which really, doesn't really make him wrong.

    Of course, many women have greater biological stats in intelligence, because the aforementioned only pertains to the average. It's more or less ignorant and trite to truly believe that two genders should have equally weighted brain density and sizes. It wouldn't make sense. Either women, or men, should have a higher intelligence. The probability of them being the same, is just so small, it's not very feasible, now is it?

    Moonbear, you should not be upset about this. You're obviously quite intelligent, so why are you offended by that comment? People make stupid remarks about groups I belong to all the time, and yet, I don't care, since I know they don't pertain to me. I find it quite amusing that at such a meeting, there were so many offended people.
     
  7. Jan 18, 2005 #6

    Astronuc

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    If women are under-represented in math and science, it also could indicate a systemic bias in the educational system which discourages women.

    As for an inherent superiority of males to females, I imagine the PF sisterhood is evidence to the contrary. :biggrin:

    Still some males cannot handle that fact that they are no better than their female counterparts. Some boys just never grow up. :biggrin:
     
  8. Jan 18, 2005 #7

    Bystander

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    I woulda sworn The Bell Curve has taken a thorough trashing somewhere on here --- face it, gang, "Hahvahd" is a snob school for libs who talk the talk but never dream of walking the walk.
     
  9. Jan 18, 2005 #8
    Actually the problem is the education system at a low level(grade school, middle school, when i deas about what is socially desirable are first formed.) and cultural attitude towards intellectuals in general.



    But the facts are still the facts.
     
  10. Jan 18, 2005 #9

    I don't like the bell curve simply because i don't like trusting my gpa to the stupidity of others, despite my confidence in that trait of theirs. That said i can understand its usefullness in compensating for a teacher who's tests are too easy or too hard.
     
  11. Jan 18, 2005 #10

    Evo

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    I don't think anyone will disagree that men are denser than women, but that doesn't make them smarter. :biggrin:

    My ex-husband cannot do even simple math. He cannot balance a check book and he has no concept of finance. When my daughter was in middle school she came to me upset one day because she had flunked her math homework. I asked her what happened and she told me "daddy helped me again". Whenever you help me, I get everything right, when he helps me, I get everything wrong."

    This stereotyping is wrong. Girls are not encouraged to do well in math, in some cases they are even discouraged, I've seen it.

    I'm 100% with Moonbear on this. That guy is a dolt.

    edit: Kudos to Astronuc, Bystander, Franznietzsche, Curious3141 & Cronxeh, obviously some things men grasp more easily than women, some things women grasp more easily than men, but this does not mean either can't excel if they want to.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2005
  12. Jan 18, 2005 #11

    Moonbear

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    Zeteg, I've already debated elsewhere in PF regarding the brain size/density/intelligence issues, so will not start that up again here. You can search for old threads if you want to find my arguments on that.

    Regarding why I am offended, I didn't say offended, I said it made my blood boil, in other words, it angers me. However, the reason this is particularly disturbing is because this wasn't some random person, but the president of Harvard University. If you read through the articles, you'll also note that in his term as president of that university, the proportion of women given faculty appointments has also dropped. Even though the president of the university is not typically involved other than to "rubber stamp" faculty appointments and promotions to tenure, having someone in place who believes women are not as able as men means he won't be questioning this drop in appointments and holding department chairs and deans accountable for ensuring equal opportunity for everyone. Now, this could just be coincidence that for some reason there has been a drop-off in women applying for appointments to Harvard, but it could also be occurring due to other reasons, and if those other reasons include inequality in either hiring or in the support given to faculty coming up for tenure. The president of the university should be ensuring such biases are not occurring, not giving the nod that it's acceptable because women are innately incapable of performing as well as men.

    selfAdjoint, first, the statement referred to math and science, not just math. Second, I think the differences to which you are referring are in gender differences in performance on open versus closed type problems. As far as I know, the reason for this disparity has not been determined to be "innate" although it is postulated to be related to gender differences in risk-taking behavior and test anxiety.

    Yes, there are differences in the numbers of women entering these fields (though in the biological sciences, we don't see this gender disparity to the same extent in the student population, but more in the numbers who continue on in academic careers). However, the reasons for these differences are still a matter under investigation.

    Anyway, as I'm calming myself down over this, and the reason I limited my comments in my initial post, as well as the reason I posted this in General Discussion rather than somewhere that might have been more appropriate to discussion of gender differences in math and science ability, is that while my title for the thread sounds accusatory, I have not seen any direct quotes of what Dr. Summers said during the conference to know if this is a case of the media making something sound more inflammatory than it actually was. I'm not sure yet if I'm incensed over the remarks made by Dr. Summers or by media hype because I don't know which is the case yet. Either way, it doesn't help young girls to be hearing that the president of Harvard is saying they can't be good in math and science because they were just born that way, whether it was the president himself who said it, or the media exploitation of his comments that say it.
     
  13. Jan 18, 2005 #12

    I agree that the main problem is cultural attitudes towards girls in math and sciences.

    However keep in mind that when someone talks about one group being better than another in a certain respect they are almost always talking about averages (if they aren't then they probably are dolts). You're forgetting the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence. "This guy i knew..." is not scientific evidence. Period. To treat it as such is disgracefully unscientific.
     
  14. Jan 18, 2005 #13

    Evo

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    I wasn't trying to be scientific. :biggrin:
     
  15. Jan 18, 2005 #14
    While I agree with the sentiment that men are no better than women when it comes to Math, I can't help pointing out the fact that Gloria Steinem the great feminista said a lot of stupid things regarding the "opposite sex" and got away with it. Yawn
     
  16. Jan 18, 2005 #15
    From my own experience I tend to notice that men perform better in areas requiring intense problem solving such as math while women are better at subjects requiring more work and/or memorization. Weather this is social or biological I have no idea, it's just a trend I've noticed in my school.

    The Arts are also an area where women are also generally superior. This is almost definitly a social trend as my school is full of rednecks so Fine Arts are "gay".
     
  17. Jan 18, 2005 #16

    Evo

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    A lot of women (me for one) didn't agree too much with her opinions, but she got exposure and she made changes.
     
  18. Jan 18, 2005 #17

    Tsk tsk. You should know how much i rant about the unscietific mindset of the common people. And my point still stands.
     
  19. Jan 18, 2005 #18

    Moonbear

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    I say this as an ardent feminist...Gloria Steinem is a putz! :biggrin:

    She's as sexist as the male chauvenists she rants about. I believe in equal opportunity, not stomping men down to put women ahead.
     
  20. Jan 18, 2005 #19

    But do you believe in equal treatment? Equal responsibility?

    To clarify my question, consider the feminist college student who wants equal opportunity, to be treated as an equal, but still expects special treatment. I'm trying to think of an adequate example...one that doesn't involve a dating scenario...dang i can't think of any off hand, but i know my dad and i had this discussion with my mom where there was some instance where based on traditional gender role she expected special treatment (it was something minor, but caught our attention nonetheless) after having just ranted about equal treatment for women.

    My point is, i'm all for equal treatment of women, but that means they have to give up their prized gender role that grants them special treatment.
     
  21. Jan 18, 2005 #20

    Evo

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    I do believe that men are better (on average) at spatial concepts such as seeing things in three dimensions and being able to imagine how things rotate, while women are better at distiguishing between subtle hints and details and having a good visual memory. There is a cute test the BBC has posted that determines if you are "male or female" brained. I had my friend getting his PHD in experimental particle physics take the test and he had a "female" brain. Go figure. :tongue2:
     
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