28 February 2005

timothy burke has a short, nicely written piece on larry summers, including one line of reasoning that i find somewhat dubious but very interesting: burke claims that harvard, as the wealthiest and most powerful institution of higher learning in this country and possibly the world, has no excuse not to have parity. not having parity, given resources like those available to harvard, is tantamount to saying that gender disparities are not problematic, or at least that they are not problems worth solving.

i have been enjoying fitting the various summers-rants or summers-thoughts into the framework that i laid out here, and i think that burke's idea works nicely: if you observe it, and you have the resources to fix it but you don't, then you are either endorsing it outright or claiming that it's not worth fixing--which is just about like endorsing it.

the reason i'm dubious about this is that it only works at harvard. i think that burke is right to bring up the fact that lots of universities don't have the resources of yale or harvard, and that there is an objective scarcity of brilliant women in these fields right now, due to other factors. so what's the real solution? how about changing the pedagogy of the sciences at the undergrad level, or concentrating resources on the recruitment and training of women scientists at the grad level?

anyway, nice food for thought.