Sunday, January 23, 2005

Rekha Basu Sucks at Math

I know you're going to find this shocking given the thoughtful statistical analysis that one usually finds in Ms. Basu's columns. But, today she admits it!

But, thank the Goddess, it's not her fault. The lack of a collaborative learning style in the classroom has kept Rekha and her sisters down. Damn "The Man" and his institutional repression of women and minorities!

I've been following this story since it broke last week. Many thoughtful pieces have been written in the blogosphere in the in MSM on the topic. Kris at Random Mentality wrote an excellent and well balanced piece.

Rekha's piece... well, let's just say it's personal, facile and carefully cherry picks its supporting points. But you probably knew that already. Let's review.

Rekha's bad at math.

Only a female middle school teacher ever got through to her. She had a male tutor in high school - to no avail.

President Summers "properly denounced for stigmatizing half the population."

A short list of "Random Numbers" (her own words) that she uses to suport that:

Women obviously aren't lacking math and science aptitude. So what explains the gap?
Uh... I think we're going to find out...

Then it's on to a local "expert" - a female AP Physics teacher at Central (at-a-girl, aim high Rekha!) - who teaches differently to boys and girls and comments on "classical female style" of learning.

A couple of other frustrated female academics later, we get to the capper.

While no generalizations fit all men and women, there may be a pattern. This learning-styles theory could be a tool to overcome the achievement gap. I'm re-examining my own math struggles in light of it. Unfortunately, it's risky to talk about it. Any acknowledgment of gender differences becomes a prompt for some to suggest one group is inherently superior or inferior.

Which is exactly what Summers did. He added up a couple of observations to reach an easy but unsupportable conclusion. I'd say it's his math that's flawed.
Wait a minute Rekha, I thought you said you didn't do math. Anyway...

Man, you can't even talk about it. "You can't support that conclusion! It's unsupportable. I said so. Off to the Gulag with you." says the Commissar of State Science.

I wonder if Rekha even read the transcript of Summers talk?

But all of this is academic (sorry...) because citing any evidence that men and women as groups may have different attitudes or aptitudes is heresy to Rekha.

And what's not there...?

Well for one, not one word regarding Nancy Hopkins - that hothouse flower of an MIT biology professor - who had to leave Summer's presentation because his theory brought on an attack of the vapors. Hopkins, a tenured female professor at one of the top hard science universities in the country, simply can't deal with a the mere wisp of a mention of a theory that offends her political sensibilities. So much for rigorous academic discourse.

Sorry, but if you can't stand the heat of academic rigor, competition and conflict, maybe you should get the hell out of the lab. Collaborative science is not necessarily good science. It does not matter how many people believe that a theory is true if it ain't. Theories and personalities collide - and that's a good thing. Conflict is often the mother (or perhaps father...) of scientific discovery.

Remember "The Harmony of the Spheres" - Ptolemy’s beautiful, elegant and utterly bogus theory that the perfect circle ruled and the Earth was at the center of a crystalline celestial sphere. This theory dominated cosmology for a thousand years. It became more and more twisted and baroque to account for new contradictory observations until the crystal was shattered by Copernicus in the 16th century.

How long are paleo-progressives going to live (and try to force us to live) in this tabula rasa Ptolemaic wacko-world? How long are they going to try to contort reality to fit the attractive but zany notion that every human being is a blank slate to be written upon? How long are they going to cling to the stale, discredited idea that equal outcome can be achieved if we just engineer the right social construct?

If we just bolster women's self esteem and institute a collaborative learning style in the classroom, within a generation 50% of the top physicists at Yale, Harvard, MIT, Cal Polytech, University of Chicago will be female. And if you believe that, I have some very attractive real estate in Florida for you.

Man, it's a bummer when reality comes in and bitch slaps your vision of how the universe should be. Rekha Basu and her fellow old school progressives are feeling the sting.


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