Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Linda Chavez defends Larry Summers and the accusation that professors discriminate against women.
But Hopkins is also an outspoken feminist. She made a name for herself in the mid-1990s by charging that MIT discriminated against female scientists, allotting them less lab space and giving them fewer plum assignments. Hopkins later led a university-appointed group to study her own charges, which -- surprise, surprise -- found gender discrimination at MIT "subtle but pervasive," even though the group's report fell short of offering evidence of such discrimination in differential salaries, for example. The report nonetheless concluded that gender bias "stems largely from unconscious ways of thinking that have been socialized into all of us, men and women alike."

Summers, an economist, would have trouble accepting that kind of explanation. As he explained to the NBER conferees, if a school practiced that kind of discrimination against women, another school would gain an advantage by hiring them away. Since there is no evidence that is happening, Summer told the Globe "the real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination."

I'd like to see that sort of logic applied to affirmative action programs rather than throwing away standards.

I would add, however, that I firmly disbelieve any accusation that teachers at any age discriminate unconsciously or otherwise against girls. Teachers love bright children regardless of gender. They often prefer girl students because they are better behaved. Having taught bright kids for about ten years as a teacher of the gifted in 8th grade and now teaching Advanced Placement students in high school, I can tell you that the girls are in there competing as rigorously as boys. Whenever the subject comes up about gender discrimination with my students, the girls just scoff at it. They totally reject the hypothesis that teachers are subtly discriminating against them. Since evidence of discrimination against girls is so difficult to quantify and the supposed victims themselves deny it, those making excuses have to resort to arguing that the discrimination is "unconsious" and so subtle that no one can actually perceive it except for their delicate selves. Bosh!

I see that Jonah Goldberg makes almost the same point in his column today.
Now, I don't mean to be sexist when mocking Ms. Hopkins. I don't think her media-savvy hysteria has much to do with her sex. I think it has everything to do with a species of liberalism and/or feminism which is completely at odds with the best traditions of scholarship and liberalism, properly understood.

Ms. Hopkins made a name for herself a few years ago by whining incessantly about gender discrimination at MIT. Indeed, she complained so much that she was able to finagle the chairmanship (sorry, the chairpersonship) of a committee tasked with finding discrimination at MIT. Shockingly, Dr. Hopkins found discrimination! Her report made her a hero in the pages of The New York Times, which dubbed her a "reluctant feminist" in the headline of its gushing profile of her.

The report, which emphasized the feelings of anonymous female professors, found that discrimination manifested itself in a "stealth-like" way at MIT - which is generally PC code for "I'm not going to provide any evidence." The supposedly convincing evidence was kept secret, while the official report explained: "Discrimination consists of a pattern of powerful but unrecognized assumptions. . Once you 'get it,' it seems almost obvious."


This is perfectly consistent with Dr. Hopkins' current schtick - which got her a nice, sympathetic interview on the "Today" show and newspaper coverage around the world. In the past, women used to claim that vulgar language would cause them to grow ill or faint. Now feminists like Hopkins use the same tactic to silence ideologically unacceptable ideas and to intimidate the intellectually curious. That's the stereotype Dr. Hopkins is reinforcing: that feminists and the left are pro-science and pro-scholarship as long as they already agree with the conclusions.

Examine the science Dr. Hopkins, and disprove it by finding out what's wrong with the research. It is fully possible that the studies showing that boys do better at spatial tasks while girls do better at verbal tasks are done poorly. If so, disprove them, don't just huff out of the room without answering the arguments and run straight to the media.