Sunday, July 31, 2005

Aptitude Aplenty LONG bloody post

Aptitude Aplenty:
The WAPO, in their rush to be loved, pubished an editorial -- they'd want it to be called an article -- which is embarrasing to the the point they're trying to make. The subject is Dr. Larry Summers' "hit me with a sucker punch" speech musing aloud about the relative dearth of women in the top tiers of math and science.

Let's start at the very beginning. Summers said that three point five to four standard deviations above the mean IQ, women are underrepresented. He said that women are underrepresented, not

So, WAPO publishes an article which demonstrates that there are women to perform at this level and there are girls who may someday perform at this level. This isn't news, Dr. Summers would be the first to agree.
"Aptitude Aplenty For these young women, and their mentors, science is what comes naturally
By Kathy Lally

Sunday, July 31, 2005; Page W08 of the Washington Post Magazine

The article starts describing a couple of young women who are finalists in the Intel Science Search. The girls involved aren't this issue; young women have been part of the Intel (fomerly Westinghouse) for a long time now. Even here, however, the female of the species is rarer than the male.
-- snip--

Though boys always outnumber girls in the Intel finals -- 25 to 15 this year -- Abby and Sherri didn't pay much attention to the disparity. Nor did they mind being in the minority in the program at Blair, where, according to magnet coordinator Eilenne Steinkraus, about 35 percent of the students are girls. They felt confident even in the toughest math and science classes. Eight girls and 20 boys in Abby's physics class? She didn't see that as intimidating. Five girls and 20 boys in Abby's optics class last year? "What does that matter?" Sherri asks.

They've grown up surrounded by women who are good at math and science. Half the teachers in Blair's magnet program are women, including Glenda Torrence, who has a PhD in chemistry and teaches the research class that helps students prepare Intel-worthy projects. Abby's mother went to MIT, Sherri's is an engineer. Female astronomers and neuroscientists running top-flight labs mentored them during their research projects.

Yet the girls were celebrating their Intel achievement less than two weeks after Harvard President Lawrence Summers questioned the "intrinsic aptitude" of women in science. His remarks at a conference in Boston provoked a furious reaction at his own university and across the country, particularly among established female scientists.

Dr. Summers did indeed say, "there are issues of intrinsic aptitude" which cause women to be underrepresented in the sciences and math. If WAPO has 'issues' with that statement, they need to demonstrate that Summers' assertion is wrong.


"I've never felt there's something I can't do because I'm a girl," says Sherri, who co-edits Montgomery Blair's highly regarded student newspaper. "Our generation feels empowered to do things." She's been encouraged to think that way all her life. "My parents have always told me it's what's here that counts," says Sherri, motioning to her brain. And everything in her experience confirms that that's true.
WAPO finds a way to demonstrate the fallacy of wishful thinking:
"Science is a very collaborative field," Kathy Fraeman says, "and the ability to work with others is very useful. When you have several minds working on the same problem, you'll get better results."
Fraeman -- the mother of one of the girls -- is partially right, perhaps even mostly right. However, at the upper reaches, the supergeniuses often do their breakthroughs alone: think Einstein, think Newton.

Fraeman, 49, has discussed Summers and his remarks with Abby. She was an undergraduate at MIT at the same time as Summers, when biology was being taught by Nancy Hopkins, the MIT professor who walked out in anger as the Harvard president explained why women are underrepresented on the science faculties of major universities. Besides wondering if women were innately inferior at math and science, he also cited 80-hour work weeks and the reluctance of many women with children to make that kind of sacrifice.

At least in the popular press, Dr. Hopkins has never done much more than say how upset she is.

Fraeman knows just how daunting it can be for women in science to combine work and family. After she got a master's degree from Harvard in public health and environmental science, Fraeman worked as a computer programmer, then took 10 years off to care for Abby and her older sister, Dora, 20. She enjoyed that time immensely, she says, but couldn't command the salary she felt she deserved when she returned to the workforce in 1994. That rankled her. So eight years ago, she went into business with another woman, performing statistical analyses of medical trials from home.

Now if she (Fraeman) could show that her salary was substiantially less than that of a similarly qualified man who had taken a decade off, she might have a point. She doesn't, so she doesn't.


Many of the female scientists at Carnegie and Walter Reed watched Abby and Sherri work with a mixture of pride in their abilities and hope that the obstacles that had confronted earlier generations were disappearing.

Discrimination isn't overt, but it bubbles up, says Debra Yourick, a researcher in pharmacology and neuroscience at Walter Reed. It's persuasive enough that women don't like to draw attention to themselves as women. "You almost apologize for being pregnant," says Yourick, a mother of three girls ages 4 to 14, who has watched some colleagues return to work three weeks after giving birth. She says she still struggles to balance her work with her children, racing home to get to a soccer practice by 6. "I'm out of my mind," she says.

At Walter Reed, the female scientists all make their own coffee, so they won't be put in the position of having to make it for one of the men. Marti Jett, a research chemist and chief of the department of molecular pathology, goes a step further. "I don't drink it," she says, which allows her to say: "Coffee? Oh, I never drink coffee."
This strikes me as just plain weird. I'd want some indication, demonstrable and repeatable before I'd be willing to grant the premise that a senior male scientist thinks women are only suitable for making coffee.

We now meet a woman scientist who is performing at the super-academic level:

At Carnegie, Abby worked in the same building as Vera Rubin, a revered astronomer in the department of terrestrial magnetism who also happened to be one of the 12 Intel judges. The offices adjoining Abby's were filled with women with postdoctoral appointments, and to work among them would be to assume that being a female astronomer is completely unremarkable. That was not Vera Rubin's experience.

Rubin, 77, remembers being a lonely and uncomfortable girl in science class 60 years ago. "I certainly didn't like my high school physics class," she says. "My teacher didn't know how to treat a young woman." Rubin wanted to take mechanical drawing, but she didn't have the nerve to enter that male domain until she persuaded another girl to take the class with her.

Vassar rescued her. It was a women's college at that time, and Rubin found an atmosphere that encouraged women to pursue what interested them. She went on to a brilliant career. Rubin, who has been at Carnegie for 40 years, confirmed the existence of dark matter in the universe, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and received the National Medal of Science. She also married and had four children, including a daughter who is an astronomer.

When she was working on her PhD, Rubin says, she and her husband would put their children to bed, and she would work from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., getting up with the children in the morning. She has one tip in particular for aspiring woman scientists: Marry the right man, one who understands the importance of your career.

Let's stick to the subject: the author's trying to show that Summers was wrong when he said when he asserted that women occur less often at the 3.5-4.0 STDEV above the IQ mean. The author found an exception. Summers didn't say women were unrepresented, he said they were underrepresented. His assertion still stands.

By the time she started judging the Intel competition, and saw girls like Abby and Sherri coming along, she thought the path had been cleared, and girls could go wherever they wanted in the world of science and math. Then came Summers, whose remarks dismayed and infuriated her.

"I think I've really been wrong on this," she says. "I really thought things were getting better. The fact that my generation could do it -- we thought it would change for others."

Though more and more women are getting doctorates, The number of women getting Doctorates in the hard sciences and math is substantially lower than the number of men. Question: Does this number reflect the IQ data? If no, then perhaps Dr. Rubin has a point; if yes, Dr. Rubin needs to show why this isn't significant.she says, they are not getting the academic jobs they deserve. "It's still possible to get a PhD never having studied under a woman," Rubin says. "Women don't have role models." In 2001, according to the National Science Foundation, 6,867 women received doctorates in science and engineering, compared with 9,395 men. That same year, there were only 9,490 women who were full professors in college science and engineering departments, compared with 60,470 men.

These are the numbers that Saavik Ford, one of Abby's mentors, fears. The blatant discrimination of 30 years ago has disappeared, says Ford, who is 27, and her own postdoctoral appointment at Carnegie testifies to this.

Ford is pursuing an academic research career along a path that Abby might one day tread as well. First there's the PhD, then a series of short-term, postdoctoral appointments of two or three years. "Typically, you spend five to 10 years leading a nomadic life, moving from short-term appointment to short-term appointment," Ford says, building toward a tenure-track job. But there aren't enough tenure-track science jobs out there, so two out of three of today's postdocs will have to go elsewhere, she says. "They won't end up sleeping on the street in a cardboard box," she says, but taking jobs in industry, government or policymaking. Others will teach high school.

Even when women reach the point of being considered for a tenure-track job, Ford says, it's difficult to break through that final barrier. Most hiring is done by white male faculty members, who got there first and are still running things. "They're interviewing six to eight people, deciding if they want to spend 30 years with one of these people," she says. "You feel comfortable around the people who are like you. You choose a man."

And if a woman in academia marries a man in academia, as Ford has, she's really asking for trouble. Trying to get post-doctoral appointments and tenure-track jobs in the same cities can be nearly impossible. More often than not, it's the woman who ends up leaving the field. Which is just what Ford is doing. Her astronomer husband, better positioned for a tenure-track opportunity because he is a little farther along in the pipeline than she is, has an offer in North Carolina. They're packing up and moving on. Ford is giving up her dreams of becoming a tenured professor. Perhaps, she says, she can get into science writing.

Some teachers in Blair's science and math magnet say that girls and boys behave differently in class. Adolescent boys call out answers, not caring whether they're right or wrong. Though Abby says she feels no reluctance to raise her hand in class, many of her female classmates are quieter, her teachers say, waiting until they're sure they're right. More girls wait to ask questions after class. But when it comes time for a test, the girls at Blair score as well as the boys.

Speaking up -- Elizabeth Mann still wrestles with that. She graduated from the Blair magnet program in 1993. Like Abby and Sherri, she was a finalist in what was then called the Westinghouse science contest. She went to Harvard, got her doctorate at Oxford and now is at MIT, about to begin the final year of a three-year post-doctoral appointment. She's teaching multi-variable calculus and a version of theoretical calculus, not bad for someone who never liked to speak up.

Her teachers at Blair remember Mann as a brilliant student. She remembers herself as hesitant. She used to think her reticence didn't matter. It didn't keep her from soaring right to the top on tests. Now, as a teacher herself, she sees it differently.

All of which demonstrates, dare I say it?, an intrinsic difference, no?

OK, I'm done. You can read the WAPO article here and Dr. Larry Summers' remarks here.

I really don't think reports believe significance is significant.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Kendall Harmon: Bishop Duncan M. Gray Swings and Misses

I have stiven mightily to avoid commenting on the continuing crisis in the Mondo Anglicana, not least because others are doing it better. One of those doing 'it' better is the Reverend Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina.
Here the goode Canon is quoting Bishop Tom Wright of the Church of England:

"The situation is indeed new. We have not been this way before; and the Lambeth Commission was challenged to map out, cautiously, the new territory we have entered. Never before in the Anglican Communion has there been a moment when, after each of the four so-called Instruments of Unity have advised against a particular action, a Province or a Diocese has gone ahead with it unilaterally."

As Canon Kendall is wont to say, read it all.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mr. Dave Arnold, meathead, and NEA member* demonstrates why...

People snicker when they hear, "NEA."
Quoth the numbskull:

"There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.

"There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let's say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all.
Same goes for cars. Not many people have the skills and knowledge to perform all repairs on the family car. Even if they do, they probably don't own the proper tools. Heck, some people have their hands full just knowing how to drive.
The premise, 'cause he takes a while to get to it, is that teachers are the equivalent of mechanics, doctors, plumbers. The reason this article's so funny: we, consumers, would never tolerate a plumber to plumbed like NEA members teach."
"So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children's minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!"

Read it all

Friday, July 22, 2005

An un-politically-correct grumpy old reprobate frazzles some whiskers

As put in another forum: "Absence of evidence is not proof of absence." That is, btw, a version of the logical fallacy of accidence; because 'x' does not here, now, exist doesn't mean that 'x' never exists or never existed.
Read it all: Fred's latest rant

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bipartisanily afflicted upon us

Marginal Revolution: Department of Uh-Oh (another continuing series):
"I am willing to buy the notion that prescription drugs do people more good than most other forms of medical care. So a Medicare program, for a given level of expenditures, should not penalize drug expenditures. But the benefit plan we are getting is surely one of the most ill-conceived pieces of legislation in modern times. "

Truer words wuz never spoke

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ready? Aye, ready.

ayc: In Solidarity...

The Chronicle of Higher Education: How to be a college Cheapskate

Here's the link: The Chronicle: 7/15/2005: The Goshorn Method:
"It all started about a decade ago when the Goshorns' firstborn was about to graduate from high school, and the other children were not far behind. The father, Lawrence, a computer engineer and former professor at Arizona State University, looked at the situation analytically.
'I had a practical problem,' he says. 'I couldn't afford to spend $200,000 per kid.'

Amen Bruddah!

"The solution: Have the children start earning college credits while still in high school. Then send them to a community college for all but one or two years of their undergraduate studies, which they would finish at the University of California at San Diego. Finally, have them pay for graduate studies through work, scholarships, or financial aid."

Incidentally, the master of financial planning, Ric Edelman, agrees

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Folk Song Army Sings Africa

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Folk Song Army Sings Africa:
"Forty years ago, 'The Folk Song Army,' by singer-satirist Tom Lehrer, captured the smugness of Live 8 and the demonstrators at the G-8 summit. One self-described activist says that flying to Scotland, where the summit is meeting, 'shows you that people are passionate about ending poverty...' Unlike the rest of you squares."

Tom Lehrer, lyricist and melodist of the "Folk Song Army" is an article of faith among the self-annointed thinking crowd. They should read him more often.

Today is the birthday of Robert the Bruce Heritage & Culture - Robert the Bruce:
ROBERT the Bruce, like so many figures in Scottish history, has developed a popular and colourful biography that freely weaves truth and legend. Listed among the BBC's 'Top 100 Great Britons' list in 2003, the 'Warrior King of Scotland' was, prior to Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart, probably the historical character held dearest to the nation's heart. However, where Wallace, included in the same list, was driven by anti-English sentiment and a fiercely patriotic pursuit of vengeance, Robert the Bruce switched allegiance when necessary to further his goals.
Unlike Wallace, he was successful in achieving his aims."
Gibson's movie makes up in entertainment what it lack in historical accuracy. Matter of fact, based on Gibson's film history, you can make a pretty good case that anti-English sentiment is a major part of his makeup too. Emphasis is mine.

Read it all

International News Article |

International News Article | "SREBRENICA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Families grieved over the skeletal remains of Srebrenica victims on Monday at the 10th anniversary of the massacre, as the West acknowledged its failure to prevent Europe's worst atrocity in 50 years.
Women in white headscarves wept and touched some of the 610 green-draped coffins lined up under a gray sky at the Potocari cemetery, now a muddy field after an overnight storm.
The dead had lain for years in hidden pits where they were flung by Bosnian Serb troops in July 1995 after the systematic slaughter of 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys taken from what was supposed to be a U.N.-protected 'safe area.'

What the article doesn't say: the Serb army felt very much that they'd been publicly humiliated on an international stage. A reasonably-well-equipped military force posessed of ancient hatred and a huge chip on their shoulders just looking for a reason.

Identified by DNA analysis, their bones came home for burial in narrow, cylindrical boxes tagged with a number and a name.
'Srebrenica was the failure of NATO, of the West, of peacekeeping and of the United Nations. It was the tragedy that should never be allowed to happen again,' said former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke.
A message from U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan repeated that Srebrenica would haunt the world body forever. Some 400 lightly armed Dutch troops guarding Srebrenica's Muslims were swept aside by Bosnia Serb forces while the U.N. rejected appeals for air strikes by NATO to halt their advance."

The Dutch troops weren't just swept aside; the Commander was bluntly told, "If you resist we'll kill everyone, women and children, boys and men, and peacekeepers."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Are boys and girls hardwired differently?

Are boys and girls hardwired differently? - Books - "Over the past two decades, research has shown that differences between the sexes are more significant than previously acknowledged. Using a biological-based approach, Leonard Sax has developed a valuable resource to help teachers and parents understand the gender-specific ways children think, feel, and learn. Psychologist and family physician Dr. Leonard Sax, the author of 'Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences,' was invited on Today to talk about his contentious argument for single-sex education and more. "

Read it all

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Godspeed, Great Britain

I spent most of today wondering what to post. Turns out that Asymmetrical Information did it for me here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Education Wonks: The Carnival Of Education: Week 22

The Education Wonks: The Carnival Of Education: Week 22

Quoth the mavens:

As always, the secret for having a well-attended Carnival is publicity. Please consider helping to spread the word. The more folks that know about this collection of exhibits, the more that will "drop-in" and visit the midway. Trackbacks, links, and mentions all help.

And, of course, your comments and constructive criticism are always most welcome.

There are, I assert, three levels of qualification.
1. Ordained by the Diety. I, ahem, haven't seen this often, 'specially not in the education realm, but I've seen plenty who claim this mantle... or is it a halo?
2. Entitled to have an opinion. A Medical Doctor diagnosing a cough, for instance, or -- ahem, again -- an experienced teacher describing classroom practices. By far the largest of the three groups, there are a couple of points that need to be made.
2a. Such people are appointed, not anointed. They don't, in other words belong in category 1, above. The more they rest on their qualifications in the face of contrary evidence, the more they leave category 2 and fall into
3. Walkin' talkin' examples of why appeal to authority is a logical fallacy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

From Virginia Postrel: Is Nancy Pelosi Stupid, or Does She Think We Are?

Dynamist Blog: Is Nancy Pelosi Stupid, or Does She Think We Are?:
Based on this:
"The House has passed an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds to seize private property for private economic development projects. In its report on the bill, the LAT quotes the Runaway-Bride-Eyed minority leader's reason for opposing it. She said she doesn't want to withhold federal dollars "for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court, no matter how opposed I am to that decision."

My money's on both.
Virginia Postrel, former editor of Reason Magazine and author of The Future and Its Enemies, has a blog at

Wesley Pruden on Live Aid: Slaking a thirst with a fire hose

From the Washington Times (a/k/a WaTi):
Wesley Pruden, WATI editor, is unreconstructed un-pc. Quoth the maven:
"Live 8 concerts are nice, and the photographs of starving children will break the coldest heart, but unless Europe and the West accompany aid with the kind of supervision nobody has the courage to impose, the aid will wind up in the usual Swiss banks, and 20 years from now another generation of children will die while naive hearts bleed."

Socialism, alas, is not yet dead in the UK:
"Tony Blair's No. 2 man, George Brown, talks giddily of a Marshall Plan for Africa, but Nigerian despots alone have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans."

Ayuh, the emphasis is mine.
Click on the link up top and read it all.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Wisdom from the Fordham Foundation via Rocky Mountain News

The Rocky Mountain News: Archival Article:
"Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, says, 'This field is awash in jargon, self-proclaimed experts, unwarranted claims, strong feelings and lots and lots of snake oil peddlers."

Amen, bruddah. It takes alot for an industry to develop more of a herd mentality than does the press; however, education shewah enuff duz it!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Doctor Don Boudreaux blogs Jeff Jacoby on Kelo

Cafe Hayek: Kelo and Just Compensation:
"The government is very sure that its theft of private property will generate ample economic benefits to citizens at large, as well as increase the City's own tax revenues."

The government is also very sure that, if they're wrong, there won't be so much as a "sorry 'bout that" to the people whose houses were stolen. Yes, that's obnoxious. Nope, I'm not apologizin'.

Emphasis, as always, is mine.