Mar 092005
Authors: Jesse McLain

Lawrence Summers has ruined himself.

In case you haven't heard his name by now, Lawrence Summers is the president of Harvard University, and on Jan. 14, in a meeting of The National Bureau on Economic Research, he gave his opinion as to why men outnumber women in high-ranking science professions. Lawrence claims there are three "hypotheses" pertaining to why the numbers add up the way they do.

He said: "One is what I would call … the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I have just described." Lawrence, throughout his message, continues to encourage debate and even arguments over his opinion.

Well, can't you just picture the feminist uproar? How dare the president of Harvard say that women don't want high-end science jobs — that can't be the truth. It must be discrimination that accounts for the numbers or the fact that little girls just aren't taught to grow up to be engineers — they're taught to be nurses and teachers.

The thing that really baffles me is the fact that everyone seems so opposed to the idea that there may actually be significant differences in the composition of the male and female brain. There are obvious biological differences present from the time of birth (in the vast majority of cases), so why are people so determined that the differences stop at the obvious. If the outward construction of an animal varies greatly from that of the same animal of the opposite sex, then wouldn't it be ignorant to assume that is where the differences stop? — Apparently not.

Many seem to believe that biological anatomy is the only difference between the two sexes and that everything else is due to socialization and convincing children to act within their pre-determined gender roles. However, this opinion seems far less based in scientific study and more based in equality fanatics who want all differences ignored.

OK, so why don't we just start dividing our children up in preschool: Half the boys and girls on one side will be trained and developed with the math, science and technology fields, and the other half of the class will be put on a path toward the social sciences, health care and English fields. And we can by no means let the kids change their minds, because of course they would only be responding to their discriminating socialization.

Now that sounds like a crazy suggestion, but it seems that some critics, perhaps including many of those now calling for Lawrence's resignation, won't be happy until that is exactly how the numbers fall. There must be an equal number of men and women in all professional, and therefore educational, fields, or clearly discrimination is once again rearing its ugly head and no child is safe from its wrath.

I'm sure many women feel that opinions like mine set their cause back years, or maybe I'm just so stuck in my own background that I can't see how I've been brainwashed — maybe everyone will just feel sorry for the ignorant opinions that remain out there in girls who just don't know any better. Well, I guess that's one way to look at it.

I can understand the concern that women feel for the possibility of respected scholars coming out and saying that there are fundamental differences in the male and female brain. Women may worry that discrimination could then be justified by science.

But the second a female engineering professor isn't offered tenure at a university simply because of sex, then she (and all women) have a serious problem. Right now, however, it seems these critics are just out looking for a fight — and they won't stop until the have a head as big as Summers' to mount on their mantle.

Jesse McLain is a junior English major. Her column runs every other Thursday in the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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