Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Larry Summers, Vindicated.

From Heather Mac Donald in the City Journal:

“The New York Times is determined to show that women are discriminated against in the sciences; too bad the facts say otherwise. A new study has “found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests,” claims a July 25 article by Tamar Lewin—thus, the underrepresentation of women on science faculties must result from bias. Actually, the study, summarized in the July 25 issue of Science, shows something quite different: while boys’ and girls’ average scores are similar, boys outnumber girls among students in both the highest and the lowest score ranges. Either the Times is deliberately concealing the results of the study or its reporter cannot understand the most basic science reporting.”

Which was precisely Dr. Summers point. Had he restricted his remarks to wondering why there were so many boys at the left end of the bell curve, he would have doubtless won the plaudits of feminists everywhere.

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution provides an additional flogging of this PC / Title IX horse. Keith Winstein also gets it right in the Wall Street Journal:

“The latest study, in this week's journal Science, examined scores from seven million students who took statewide mathematics tests from grades two through 11 in 10 states between 2005 and 2007.

The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, didn't find a significant overall difference between girls' and boys' scores. But the study also found that boys' scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well -- or extremely poorly -- than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.

One measure of a top score is achieving the "99th percentile" -- scoring in the top 1% of all students. Boys were significantly more likely to hit this goal than girls.”

It’s a sad tale that Dr. Summer’s idle and relatively non-controversial hypothesis could unleash such a storm of ignorance – at Harvard, no less – that it cost him his job.