Vive la différence!
Cognitive differences between the sexes are not yet a state secret, though someday soon they may be. Anyone who cares to investigate can find out that they exist. The reason males are overrepresented among the world's chess and mathematical prodigies is not that little girls have been dressed in frilly aprons, steered towards the kitchen, and told that they may not become the next Fischer or Euler. Rather, because of how their brains are wired, boys are overrepresented at the two extremes of the bell curve, among both the super geniuses and the super duds.
THE SCRAPBOOK can safely point this out because our appointment to the presidency of Harvard has not yet materialized. When, three years ago, the actual president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, alluded to cognitive difference as one possible explanation for disproportionately male engineering faculties at elite schools, he was set upon by a flock of academic Harpies from Harvard and MIT and dragged from his perch.
As other institutions of higher learning tend to follow Harvard's lead, we can say with confidence that the job of a university president these days is to stick to his fundraising and keep his yap shut. Talking about ideas, especially ideas that are true but unacceptable to the Harpies, is what disc jockeys, stand-up comedians, and cab drivers are for.
Journalists, alas, cannot be added to this list. They increasingly see themselves as uniformed officers in the Department of Correct Thinking, enforcement division. On Friday, July 25, to cite a glaring example, the New York Times ran an article on page A12 headlined, "Math Scores Show No Gap for Girls, Study Finds." The Times's Tamar Lewin reports: "Three years after the president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, got into trouble for questioning women's 'intrinsic aptitude' for science and engineering--and 16 years after the talking Barbie doll proclaimed that 'math class is tough'--a study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests." (Old slogan of the New York Times: "All the News That's Fit to Print." New slogan: "Your Source for Barbie Doll Rebuttals Since 1992.")
The Times continues: "The researchers looked at the average of the test scores of all students, the performance of the most gifted children and the ability to solve complex math problems. They found, in every category, that girls did as well as boys."
No, the researchers, perhaps to their dismay, did not find that. Certainly it's true that the average girl is every bit as capable in math as the average boy. It was a low blow by the Times reporter to pretend that Summers ever said other-wise. The controversy has to do with the highly gifted, and here the Times is engaged in an ideological cover-up.
The same study was summarized on the same day in the Wall Street Journal, which did an honest job of it: "Boys' Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows," reads the headline. The reporter explains: "Girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests, but boys more often excelled or failed, researchers reported. The fresh research adds to the debate about gender differences in aptitude for mathematics, including efforts to explain the relative scarcity of women among professors of science, math and engineering." The researchers found that "boys' scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well--or extremely poorly--than girls. . . . In Minnesota, for example, 1.85% of white boys in the 11th grade hit the 99th percentile, compared with 0.9 % of girls--meaning there were more than twice as many boys among the top scorers than girls."
You can see why Harvard and MIT might end up with a few more men than women in the math faculty lounge. These are institutions that pride themselves on doing business at the 99th percentile level and above, not at the 50th percentile. As for the New York Times, it remains securely at the top of the heap in tendentious reporting.