February 13, 2005

University Presidents and Verboten Research

Three university presidents have issued a statement about the Larry Summers foofaraw:

Speculation that “innate differences” may be a significant cause of under-representation by women in science and engineering may rejuvenate old myths and reinforce negative stereotypes and biases.

The rest of the piece is about how we need women in science, Marie Curie proved women can do science, yadda yadda. Significantly, the piece contradicts itself on the "innateness" issue with the following:

For example, recent research shows that different teaching methods can lead to comparable performance for males and females in high school mathematics.

Now I suppose nimble casuistry could lead to the argument that they're not talking about any innate differences here, but purely environmental reasons why different teaching methods are effective, so they're not indulging in the verboten speculation about innate differences. But that's a strained interpretation.

Suppose one is a stone feminist and wants to educate more woman mathematicians and physicists. Wouldn't it help to know if there are innate differences -- even just statistical differences -- between women and men's cognitive styles?

Sorry, this research is forbidden because it might reinforce stereotypes.

Our whole university system is smelling more and more like the Augean stables.

HT: Bitch, Ph.D.

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