Thursday, March 17, 2005
Political Correctness Run Amok
In a symbolic but stunning rebuke, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences passed a motion Tuesday saying it lacked confidence in President Lawrence Summers---the first such action in the nearly 400-year history of the university.
The 218-185 vote supporting the motion--which even supporters had expected to be defeated--was in response to disparaging comments Summers made in January about women in science[emphasis mine].
In a perfect world, where the SAEN was actually unbiased in its news reporting, the description of Summers' comments as "disparaging" would have been left out. If you knew nothing of what brought on the no confidence vote you would be hard pressed to disagree with Harvard's faculty because the SAEN tells you the comments were "disparaging." Who wants to support a guy who makes "disparaging" comments about women? Not I certainly; however, I know the rest of the story, and so I know the SAEN has ignored the idea of fair and balanced reporting in order to make a value judgment. Basically, Lawrence Summers is in trouble for saying that women and men are different. Here is what got Summers in so much trouble with the liberal SAEN, according to a Washington Post report:
Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.
Oh, the horror! And Summers wasn't even stating the idea as fact, but as something to promote discussion at a conference he was attending:
Summers told the Globe he was discussing hypotheses based on the scholarly work assembled for the conference, not expressing his own views. He also said more research needs to be done on the issues. He said people "would prefer to believe" that differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, "but these are things that need to be studied."
So the SAEN feel that it has to make a value judgment in reporting on this by calling his remarks "disparaging." As Linda Chavez points out in the Washington Times, Summers was on firm ground, factually speaking:
But as uncomfortable as it might make feminists, the empirical evidence points to small but important differences in scientific and mathematical abilities between men and women.
In the realm of political correctness in which the SAEN operates, facts don't matter; the remark was "disparaging" even if it is true. Am I wrong on this?
When talking about aptitude he talked about the extremes and not the averages. In math and science differences, Summers took some data on the top 5% and extrapolated it to roughly the top 0.02%. Imagine taking the top 1% of Mensa members. However this was just the excuse for the faculty to vote now, Summers treats them like adults and scholars (if he didn't, he would never have given this talk) and it is this that they object to.