Gender equity full timers are at it again - you didn't really think, did you, that they'd run out of things to complain about? The earth-shaking injustice in their minds this time centers on college basketball: whenever double-headers featuring both men's and women's basketball teams are scheduled, the ladies usually play first, followed by the men's squad. Is that a big deal? Evidently the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights thinks so. On the basis of an anonymous complaint it received last March, OCR is now hard at work investigating several collegiate basketball conferences to determine whether, as the complainant alleges, such "sexist" scheduling demeans women's basketball. Inside Higher Education has the details here. But when you've read that, be sure to check out this recent piece by the always-lucid Christina Sommers. Feminist sports advocates, she notes, are in a big lather over the fact that men's sporting events typically draw much larger TV and live audiences than women's do. In this case, though, they aren't dealing with clandestine federal bureacrats or easily cowed college administrators, but with the actual public sports market where fans can freely adjust their TV channels or decide which games they want to attend. On that basis, female basketball teams may well see most of the crowd head for the exits if OCR decides to coerce college sports schedule makers into having the guys play first. I'm all for women playing basketball, needless to say, but if feminists win here, female athletes will likely lose.
Education needs a manifesto for a new humanism; sadly, Martha Nussbaum’s new book is not that manifesto. I had high hopes for Not for Profit but Dr. Nussbaum’s argument quickly becomes a tangle of faulty logic and ideology and notably stale seventies feminism. Why is she still pumping the wells of female victimization (while referencing the female president of Harvard) and the plight of African American children who lack role models (while noting the African American President of the United States)? At one point, she praises Mr. Obama’s personal values as developed by the progressive education she endorses. Then she indicts him for not supporting such education for others, raising the question of just what sort of person her recommended liberal education actually produces. When Nussbaum pleads for progressive schools (wherein teachers sagely guide students to discover and construct knowledge themselves), I think of Geoffrey Pyke [pictured] and his Malting House School (John Dewey meets William Golding). Although Dr. Nussbaum embraces Socratic self-examination, ideology blinds her to her own biases. She is pedantic when attacking pedantry, and she abhors “the dead hand of authority” yet repeatedly invokes the authority of Nobel Prize credentials. She advocates critical thinking to combat “demeaning stereotypes,” then proceeds to stereotype men, women, whites, and Southerners. Masculinity comes off badly unless it is “maternal” which, she implies, is the true essence of human nature (making masculine behavior an aberration, less than human). In this book, women are saintly and victimized (unless they are named Margaret Thatcher). Nussbaum scorns the image of the self-reliant cowboy, then, on the next page, explains that every child must develop “less need to call on others.” Decrying education that involves mere inculcation of facts (more Seventies flotsam), she later admits to the necessity for “a lot of factual knowledge.” Worse, Dr. Nussbaum extols the individual but avoids any mention of the tribalizing effects of multiculturalism and its diminution of . . . the individual. Among several straw man arguments, she condemns “the facile equation of Islam with terrorism” without mentioning just who ever assumed that equivalence. The values she prizes are particularly Western, giving her desire to spread them globally a whiff of cultural imperialism. And Dr. Nussbaum recommends role-playing to develop sympathy for "the other." I met an eyewitness from one progressive school in Northern California that did just that: to develop sympathy for slaves on a ship, teachers locked students in a Quonset hut, chained to their desks surrounded by rotting fish. In fact, Dr. Nussbaum’s book is a call not for a new humanism but for an old political correctness. She even warns that because artworks are so effective at creating empathy, teachers must exercise “careful selectivity” so that students do not read “defective forms of `literature’” which evoke unsocial feelings and “uneven sympathies.” Yikes! Goodbye Salinger, Twain, Poe, O’Conner, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka. With friends like Dr. Nussbaum, liberal arts education doesn’t need enemies.
Our friend Christina Sommers has frequently piqued the wrath of academic feminists by arguing that public education, far from favoring boys as legend has it, is loaded heavily against them and in favor of girls all through the K-12 years. See, for example, her book The War Against Boys, which makes that case very convincingly. In this article in today's American, the AEI magazine, Sommers illustrates how the "war" continues in the New York City school system's program for gifted students. Despite the fact that, statistically, there are approximately equivalent numbers of academically talented boys and girls, the selection process, especially the heavily verbal rather than quantitative orientation of the qualifying exams, is decidedly skewed in favor of girls. Not surprisingly, nearly three-fifths of the students selected for the special programs are girls. Of course, there's nothing wrong with providing talented girls with every opportunity to realize their potential. But equally talented boys are currently getting the very short end of the stick. It's simply one more example, Sommers concludes, of the fact that boys of every variety have been relegated to second-class status by feminist-dominated school systems. To my mind, the greatest irony lies in the fact that, despite the increasing dominance of academic, leadership and social awards by girls, many of them also graduate from high school with a strong sense of grievance and victimhood. Thus, the typically upscale suburbanite valedictorian on her way to an Ivy League school next Fall, with lots of scholarship support in hand, will often as not give an address explaining how things are so heavily stacked against women, and she fully expects to encounter massive discrimination in the years ahead. Her college experience, alas, isn't likely to dispel that outlook.
Today's New York Times features John Tierney's followup to his piece last week about attempts to legislate "gender equity," which he concludes will never work: a mixture of innate biological factors and individual career choices, rather than a "glass ceiling" or deliberate discrminination account for the statistical disparities between men and women in fields such as physics or mechanical engineering. Tierney cites a solid body of research to bolster his conclusion - including the stellar work of our friend Christina Sommers - but the comments thread indicates that, where this subject is concerned, ideology still reigns supreme for many others. The gap can be explained by "gender bias," case closed. Unfortunately, Congress seems to be listening to the ideologues at the moment.
The American Association of University Women Action Network is pushing for passage of an idiotic bit of federal meddling in the labor market, the Paycheck Fairness Act. We're told that this is "a man's issue, too" because some men might benefit if his spouse or significant other received a mandatory pay increase. So paying women more is good for everyone! Naturally, there is no consideration whatsoever of the unseen costs and unintended consequences that would have a deleterious impact on women and men. Evidently, AAUW members are expected to check their thinking caps at the door and just go along with their leadership. Also delightfully absurd is the admonition to "give Dad the gift of AAUW membership for Father's Day" because "it literally pays dividends." No, it doesn't pay dividends at all. Not literally. Not even figuratively.
John Tierney has an interesting piece in today's New York Times about the ongoing controversy over what an "equitable" proportion of female faculty in scientific fields such as physics, aeronautics or engineering might be. His title - "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" - indicates how politically radioactive that subject continues to be, although perhaps we can take heart from the fact that it's appearing in the Times. Given the ubiquitous presumption that male/female statistical disparities are attributable to entrenched "bias," Tierney asks whether the "gender equity" legislation just passed by the House of Representatives would be amenable to at least considering some pretty solid evidence that other factors may be at work as well. Echoing the seminal work of Christina Sommers which we noted here last week, he observes that in any case, we're talking about a relatively small number of people, since most of us, male or female, aren't especially talented in the hard sciences, and tend to fall in the middle of most statistical measurements. A small number of men, however, score both much lower AND much higher than the comparable number of women in mathematically oriented scientific fields such as those noted above. If this is true, then perhaps we cannot continue to assume that social factors alone account for differences in the ratios between men and women. In any case, it's striking that male/female disparities are much more pronounced in a number of other fields, such as English Literature, psychology, veterinary science and special education, but aren't attracting the solicitude of Congress or "gender equity" activists on campus. Go figure. Be that as it may, it's fine with us if you want to discuss "women in science" at this page, so feel free to let us know what you think. We won't try to prevent you from getting tenure or seek to have you sacked from your job as a college president.
A new essay on campus feminism is now available online at NAS.org. Authored by Karin Agness, founder and president of the Network of enlightened Women (new friends of NAS), the article will appear in the forthcoming "Student Culture" issue of Academic Questions (vol. 23, no. 2). Agness documents the rise of feminism in higher education and recounts her own encounter with feminism as an undergrad at UVA:
At the end of the tour, I asked her, “Would the Women’s Center consider cosponsoring a group for conservative women?” She looked at me as if I were crazy, chuckled, and said, “Not here.” I thanked her and decided to start a club for conservative women on my own.
Kudos to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for raising an issue that the higher education establishment would rather keep buried. The commission's latest inquiry involves suspected gender discrimination on campuses, where women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. As this report indicates, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, no matter that feminist activists have been carping for years about supposed discrimination against females. The question arises whether, bowing to "reverse" gender bias, campuses are now limiting the number of women they admit so as to increase the ranks of less meritorious men. Jennifer Rubin at Commentary remarks aptly on this ironic turn of events:
First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.
Economics professor Walter Block doesn't accept the politically correct feminist doctrine that the average earnings differential between men and women is due to employment discrimination and for that he has been pilloried as a "racist" and "sexist" by the administration at Loyola of New Orleans. Then, when he tries to clear his name and defend his position, the administration clams up. Read about it here. Academic liberals used to boast that they spoke "truth to power." Now that they're in power, they turn out to be a bunch of intolerant authoritarians.
Duke professor Dan Ariely is engaged in some research on attitudes towards sex toys. According to this story in the Raleigh News & Observer, a few people at Duke are upset. This reinforces my view that faculty research ought to be put on a free-market footing. That is, the norm should be a full teaching load (let's say 12 hours, although, speaking from experience, it isn't hard to do more), but if a professor can get sufficient outside funding for a research project to be able to buy a reduced teaching load, fine. That would lead to far less waste that the prevailing system, which has a low teaching load norm and assumes that professors will devote much of their time to useful research. What we get from that system is a lot of research that's done just for the sake of publishing. We should put academic research to the test of the market: Will people voluntarily pay for it?
Surprise, surprise: multicultural dogma and concern for "the Other" have seeped from college campuses to the highest corridors of power (again).
To wit: The first veiled female appointee in the White House, Dalia Mogahed, member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Mogahed recently appeared on an Islamic television show in the UK touting her Gallup poll purporting to show that women are OK with sharia. Westerners just don't get it, she says:
"the majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance. Whereas only a small fraction associated oppression of women with compliance with the shari`ah."**
For the transcript, click here. There was little news coverage, except for this British article.
Imagine if a president appointed a strict Christian adviser who stated: "gender justice means obeying the Bible and church rulings on it." Can you imagine the uproar?
The key point: Christians are not "the Other." The dominant or majority group is held to a different standard. "Others" get a pass because "it's an 'Other thing,' you just wouldn't understand."
Where is Western-style feminism when you need it? We don't lack for Women's Studies Departments that issue secular fatwas when they feel the pea of oppression through their seats in the Ivory Tower. Surely, they have something to say about treatment of women in Muslim countries? Alas, we must seek out a Yemeni feminist to criticize the appointment of Dalia Mogahed.
I can hear the comebacks: feminist critics of sharia are a minority (the abolitionists were a minority too). Or: "those uppity women need to read Dalia’s surveys and tighten their hijabs!"
**For Mogahed's puffed-up survey results, go to "Who Speaks for Islam?" For criticism of Gallup "spin" see Jihadwatch More to the point, read the conditions under which pollsters labor in Muslim countries, given the many restrictions on women and the watching eye of government and family. Do these restrictions lend themselves to representative opinion surveys?
Postscript: Apologies to Helen Reddy: "I am Woman" is the title of her best-selling song (1972). Reddy did not have sharia on her mind.