The Title IXing Of Science
Christina Hoff Sommers writes in The American about Harvard’s infamous “Math 55” course, perhaps the most difficult math course in the country.
It is legendary among high school math prodigies, who hear terrifying stories about it in their computer camps and at the Math Olympiads. Some go to Harvard just to have the opportunity to enroll in it. Its formal title is “Honors Advanced Calculus and Linear Algebra,” but it is also known as “math boot camp” and “a cult.” The two-semester freshman course meets for three hours a week, but, as the catalog says, homework for the class takes between 24 and 60 hours a week.
This is a good thingTM, right?
Perhaps it is. Therefore, the Powers That Be have determined that it must change. You see, since woman now earn 57% of all bachelors degrees and 59% of all masters degrees, it only follows that Math 55 must have that same ratio.
Women comprise just 19 percent of tenure-track professors in math, 11 percent in physics, 10 percent in computer science, and 10 percent in electrical engineering. And the pipeline does not promise statistical parity any time soon: women are now earning 24 percent of the Ph.D.s in the physical sciences-way up from the 4 percent of the 1960s, but still far behind the rate they are winning doctorates in other fields. “The change is glacial,” says Debra Rolison, a physical chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory.
Rolison, who describes herself as an “uppity woman,” has a solution. A popular anti-gender bias lecturer, she gives talks with titles like “Isn’t a Millennium of Affirmative Action for White Men Sufficient?” She wants to apply Title IX to science education. Title IX, the celebrated gender equity provision of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, has so far mainly been applied to college sports. But the measure is not limited to sports. It provides, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex…be denied the benefits of…any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
I would remind Rolison, though I’m sure she knows, what Title IX has done to collegiate wrestling. Indeed, the benefits of the quotas imposed by the enforcement of Title IX have been described as apparent only if you apply Enron accounting methods to the statistics.
The imposition of gender quotas on collegiate science programs wouldn’t harm Harvard’s Math 55. At least, not at first. It would, however, immediately harm small and marginal programs, the analog to wrestling, hockey and even men’s track and field (remember that as you watch this summer’s Olympic Games).
H/T to Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings.