Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Larry Summers v. Diversity

If you want to know why Larry Summers is coming under such fire for his uncontroversial remarks to the effect that, statistically speaking, the highest achievers among men in math and science are more than the highest achievers among women in math and science, you just have to read the speech. The point about genetic differences between men and women is just the rallying point for the unthinking Liberals in the Ivory Tower.

What really rankled the reactionary elements of higher learning, was portions like this one:
It is after all not the case that the role of women in science is the only example of a group that is significantly underrepresented in an important activity and whose underrepresentation contributes to a shortage of role models for others who are considering being in that group. To take a set of diverse examples, the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture. These are all phenomena in which one observes underrepresentation, and I think it's important to try to think systematically and clinically about the reasons for underrepresentation.

Jews, Catholics and white people?!?! What do they know of discrimination! Only the intellectual elites of Ivy-league universities truly know about the ravaging effects of discrimination. Various seminars have been attended, classical works deconstructed for useful narratives, and departments formed so that these enligthened few might discover the true face of discrimination.

But if that one got the crowds blood boiling, this little anti-diversity nugget must've sent 'em over the top:
First, it would be very useful to know, with hard data, what the quality of marginal hires are when major diversity efforts are mounted. When major diversity efforts are mounted, and consciousness is raised, and special efforts are made, and you look five years later at the quality of the people who have been hired during that period, how many are there who have turned out to be much better than the institutional norm who wouldn't have been found without a greater search. And how many of them are plausible compromises that aren't unreasonable, and how many of them are what the right-wing critics of all of this suppose represent clear abandonments of quality standards. I don't know the answer, but I think if people want to move the world on this question, they have to be willing to ask the question in ways that could face any possible answer that came out.

He's...he's... questioning diversity? Grab the torches! The sun revolves around the Earth, facts be damned! Recant your views or you shall burn like something that is flammable!

This speech, of which you read the whole thing, is really landmark. A university president (of Harvard, no less!) has come out and questioned the prevailing dogmas of higher education. Not so much even questioned them, but suggested that they should be questioned. And yet, because of this, he is irrationally attacked with a passion heretofore seen only in the Mongol invasion of Europe.

Because of this, Summers will be forced to recant his views (I think he has already apologized) and he will offer sops to the various aggrieved groups: more slots for minority hires, more diversity seminars, and, ironically, more women in math and science positions. But even as he is forced to accept the irrational tenants of diversity and political correctness, he will stand as an example. There are questions to be asked of diversty--even the Harvard president said so.

This is promising.


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