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What Kinds of Girls Are Upper Tier Colleges Looking For?

That's the question I put to a someone close to the admissions process at a reasonably selective school recently. His/her reply, which he/she would be the first to admit was deliberately highly exaggerated for maximum epigraphical effect is below (I've edited and cleaned up a disjointed conversation, so this is not a literal transcription). You can understand why my discussant was not interested in being identified and, as I say, this was exaggerated for maximum shock value.

(Although this is perhaps less shocking to Our Readership than I think, I still have a feeling I am going to regret putting this up. On the other hand, as an official card-carrying Bobo and father of a teen daughter coming up on college admissions, I have this undeniable fascination.)

Selective schools are not interested these days in girls who like English and history, like to read and are able to write clearly and well. Those skills fill the bell curve for smart girls ... Selective schools have absorbed the folk myths of bobo culture. So cool girls are math smart, genetically destined to be hackers, risk takers, and into competitive sports. Cool girls for selective schools prefer engineering over history, math over English, computer science over political science, and economics over psychology. A touch of Asperger's isn't a bad thing for a girl, either. Actually, it's a great thing. It will be a long time before being able to write well, disconnected from technical skills in math or science, will be a valued skill for its own sake in admissions. Actually, I don't think writing as a valued skill is ever coming back. That's why writing got transferred over to the SAT.

troll_dc2 (mail):
I just hope that this reasonably selective school was not the one that I went to.

But what does Asperger's Syndrome have to do with anything?
8.8.2009 2:41pm
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

But what does Asperger's Syndrome have to do with anything?

There's a stereotype that people with Asperger's are so obsessive that they excel at math and the hard sciences (and other disciplines that require dealing with a lot of detailed information). I have no idea if the stereotype has any truth to it.
8.8.2009 2:47pm
pmorem (mail):
That sounds suspiciously like my dating criteria.

More seriously, this is valuing one skill set/aptitude over another, which seems like a completely reasonable thing.

The pendulum swings this way and that... as the people with each skill set forever try to assert that theirs is the highest value. Change where you stand on the field by moving the goalposts.
8.8.2009 2:50pm
Passing By:
So, basically, to get admitted you must excel - but to stand out from the crowd you should excel in areas different from most other applicants. Shocking!
8.8.2009 3:05pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
So in other words, now that our educational policies have successfully skewed secondary educational success and college applications and admissions towards girls at the expense of boys, schools are looking for boy-like girls to fill the gap.
8.8.2009 3:12pm
David Welker (www):
Who cares what upper tier colleges are looking for?

I am serious.

Changing your interests or career plans to suit the bizarre, arbitrary, and fickle preferences of admissions officers does not strike me as wise.

Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school.
8.8.2009 3:16pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school.

Cart before the horse?
8.8.2009 3:21pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school.



Not necessarily. I would not trade my undergraduate educational experience for anything, and, in addition, many of my fellow students (including some not in my class) were later useful to me in my life or my career.
8.8.2009 3:29pm
Off Kilter (mail):
Sorry--don't have kids myself and it's been a LONG time since I took the SAT. Could someone clarify what "That's why writing got transferred over to the SAT" means?
8.8.2009 3:33pm
Kenneth Anderson:
Gabriel McCall has correctly identified the not-so-sub text re gender. I suppressed, but guess I will add now, the further remark - I didn't get it down exactly in context, so it's not quite right, which is why I didn't include it above:

... "looking for hard unsociability of males, but with breasts ..." and there was something about Emma Peel as the beginning of this trend (in at least one or two, she published papers in physics), but I might have contributed that in the conversation, as this person is way too young for The Avengers.
8.8.2009 3:35pm
Andrew Myers:

Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school.


As someone who does grad admissions at a top-ten school, I can tell you that where you go for undergrad can affect where you go to graduate school. The reason is letters.

We have trouble comparing an undergrad from a third-tier school with great letters from people we've never heard of to an undergrad from a first-tier school with good but not great letters from people we know and can calibrate. The natural tendency is to take the first-tier student -- much less risky.
8.8.2009 3:36pm
ghh (mail):
Liberal Arts does not produce alumni that can help the endowment.
It produces alumni that say "You want Fries With That?"

Liberal Arts was designed 2 centuries ago to produce well rounded individuals from those that had an independent income and pedants living in poverty.
8.8.2009 3:43pm
Cornellian (mail):
Girls interested in English are a dime a dozen. Girls interested in math and science are much more difficult to find. It's a supply and demand thing.
8.8.2009 3:48pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Liberal Arts does not produce alumni that can help the endowment.
It produces alumni that say "You want Fries With That?"

Liberal Arts was designed 2 centuries ago to produce well rounded individuals from those that had an independent income and pedants living in poverty.



Did you go to a liberal-arts college and get burned?
8.8.2009 3:50pm
yankee (mail):
Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school

I assure you, you will have a much better chance of getting into Wharton or Kennedy or wherever it is you want to go if your undergraduate transcript says "Harvard" than if it says e.g. "Brandeis." Ditto for "Berkeley" vs. "Cal State" or "Amherst" vs. "Muhlenberg."
8.8.2009 3:51pm
JJ799:
This post makes the unfortunate error of confusing Asperger's and "geekiness" (for lack of a better word). Let's stop perpetuating the stereotype that there's some relationship between Asperger's and general characteristics like intelligence, technical skills, and interest in science. People with Asperger's are not any more intelligent or interested in science than anyone else.
8.8.2009 4:02pm
Occasional Lurker:

"Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school."

I think that's wrong, or at least overstated. It depends a lot on what is important in one's life/business/profession.

First, lots of people don't go to grad school at all. In many fields it's not that important. (In law, of course, where you went to law school does matter more.)

Second, undergrad IMHO is more important on the specific dimension of "connections." I daresay that people make more and more lasting friends/social acquaintances in undergrad than in grad or professional school. Among non-lawyers, I'm far more likely to be asked where I went to college than where I went to law school. College is a more broadly shared experience.
8.8.2009 4:07pm
guest890:
What was supposed to be the "shocking" part? They want women who excel at subjects that traditionally have been male-dominated; this could be viewed
1) cynically as an attempt to get a more gender-balanced classroom for its own sake
2) less cynically as an attempt to encourage women to enter these fields in order to provide role models to future generations of women, so the gender balance will work itself out naturally
3) optimistically, interpreting their field of study as a signaling effect--a woman who majors in English and wants to be a teacher *might* be just coasting through, but a woman who majors in physics and wants to be an engineer *probably* really likes physics and engineering. My experience with university admissions suggests that while grades and test scores are good, what the universities are looking for is *passion* for one's chosen field.

Despite my general cynicism, I'm actually going largely with #3 here, although 1 and 2 are probably in people's minds as well.

Oh, and Off Kilter:
Sorry--don't have kids myself and it's been a LONG time since I took the SAT. Could someone clarify what "That's why writing got transferred over to the SAT" means?

In addition to the traditional math and verbal sections, the SAT I test added a writing section a few years ago, requiring students to write an essay in addition to the standard multiple-choice.

I'm not sure exactly what the sentence means in relation to the one before it (adding writing to a test makes it less important?). I'm guessing that it enables universities to scale back the essay requirements on their own applications, relying on a simple SAT score to determine writing competency rather than evaluating student essays themselves.
8.8.2009 4:14pm
David Welker (www):

I assure you, you will have a much better chance of getting into Wharton or Kennedy or wherever it is you want to go if your undergraduate transcript says "Harvard" than if it says e.g. "Brandeis." Ditto for "Berkeley" vs. "Cal State" or "Amherst" vs. "Muhlenberg."


The question is not whether the average student who goes to Berkeley has a much better chance of getting admitted to a prestigious graduate program than a student from one of the California State universities. Of course the average student from Berkeley in fact has a much better chance of admissions than the average student from one of the California state universities. But, that is entirely justified. Because the average student from Berkeley is more qualified than the average student from California State.

Obviously, the average undergraduate student from Harvard is more qualified than the average undergraduate student from Cal State too.

The question is, hypothetically take a student from Harvard and put him or her in a less prestigious undergraduate. In my view, if that student is motivated, they will be able to get into very competitive graduate programs.

I went to UC Irvine undergrad. I was admitted to Harvard Law School. My friend went to UC Irvine undergrad. He was admitted to Carnegie Mellon in computer science/electrical engineering for graduate school. I have a friend who graduate from Kansas State University. He went to Harvard Law School too. I have another friend from UC Irvine. She was admitted to Columbia for graduate school.

The bottom-line. It matters much more what you make of your undergraduate experience and what you achieve than where you go. (I am assuming you don't go somewhere completely lame. You need to go somewhere that is solid.)

Yeah, a lot of undergrads from Harvard or Yale get admitted to Harvard Law School too. But, they are much more qualified than average too. Most of these people would have been admitted to Harvard Law School even if they had gone to undergrad somewhere else. Also, there are those people who get admitted to Harvard College and get out-competed for a slot at Harvard Law School from somebody who graduated from Kansas State... It happens all the time.

It should be noted, of course, that you don't want to go to a completely horrible school. But if you go somewhere solid, your future is what YOU make it.

So the question arises. Should you be the "bitch" of the admissions officers at undergraduate institutions, with their fickle, arbitrary, and every changing admissions criteria? I say no. Do what YOU want to do. Be who YOU want to be. Its your life. Excel at what you want and the future is yours.
8.8.2009 4:14pm
David Welker (www):

Second, undergrad IMHO is more important on the specific dimension of "connections."


You can make connections after you graduate. There is no law that says you can't make friends with people outside the confines of whatever undergraduate institution you attended.
8.8.2009 4:18pm
Alexia:
Girls? Assuming that they're 18 or older, the grammatically correct word is "women."

Flame away, but I'm right.
8.8.2009 4:25pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

You can make connections after you graduate. There is no law that says you can't make friends with people outside the confines of whatever undergraduate institution you attended.



That's true, but don't be so one-sided in your advocacy. I can assure you that I was able to get my foot in the door on a number of occasions just because I had known the people on the other side from college. Connections are not just for friendship.
8.8.2009 4:28pm
BGates:
looking for hard unsociability of males, but with breasts

That sounds suspiciously like my dating criteria.

Don't kids who lack social graces have enough problems without being labeled with something that sounds like "Ass Burger Syndrome"?
8.8.2009 4:32pm
BTB:
My fiancee's best friend is dating a guy who graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Certainly that line wouldn't impress most of the world. He was just accepted to Berkeley for law school. One of my good friends graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a B.A. in English. He is going to Ohio State for a PhD program.

I agree with David Welker. While you can't meet as many "important" people in smaller state schools, you can stand out and professors -- some of whom graduated from Harvard, Yale, etc -- will happily help you make the most of your experience.
8.8.2009 4:33pm
ValentinoRossi:
Believe me, English majors who can write well will likely have excellent careers (and I don't mean in education).
8.8.2009 4:50pm
Kenneth Anderson:
Not flaming. Mostly the girls we're talking about here are 17 or even 16. Juniors, first term seniors applying in high school.
8.8.2009 5:10pm
DG:
It might be politically incorrect to say so, but undergrad degrees in math, science, engineering, and economics are simply more difficult than BA degrees in history, art, English, sociology, poli sci, humanities - you name it.

Engineers and MBAs can get jobs. Art history majors are severely disadvantaged in most job markets. I realize there are lots of lawyers here, and so this may not seem obvious, but law school has always taken the cream of the liberal arts, in contrast to engineering and hard sciences where almost everyone is immediately employable with a BS degree.

My daughter has expressed interest in economics and an MBA. I hope she goes for it.
8.8.2009 5:11pm
DG:
{Believe me, English majors who can write well will likely have excellent careers (and I don't mean in education).}

I took some senior level English (technical writing) classes when I was an undergrad. To the professor's obvious dismay, very few (if any) of the English majors in the class could write. The two non-English majors could obviously write - one engineer, one pre-law. The situation so frustrated the professor that she commented on it, at length, in class.
8.8.2009 5:13pm
Cornellian (mail):
Back in law school I had a friend who was a TA during her third year. She was shocked at the number of first years who seemed to lack even a rudimentary grasp of grammar and punctuation.
8.8.2009 5:21pm
luxurytwist:
Let me add a little flame: The only type of person who could conceivably fail to figure out that college applicants -- as opposed to college freshmen -- are likely under 18 is someone dying to manufacture offense out of thin air just to be obnoxious.

And the correct word is "freshmen", not freshpeople or first-year students. Whine away, but I'm right.
8.8.2009 5:22pm
Off Kilter (mail):
Looking at what medical residents (that is, people who have already made it through medical school and acquired the MD title) tend to produce, writing among the professional class is taking a beating and may well soon become a lost art.
8.8.2009 5:24pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Why should math skills in a girl be any more desirable than those skills in a boy? If a university wants students with math skills then select for that irrespective of who has them. But bear in mind extreme math ability occurs much more frequently in boys than in girls.

That mystery man from the world of statistics, La Griffe du Leon, attacks this issue head on in his The Math Gap Revisited: A Theory of Everyone. Then we have the data from the 1960 Project Talent presented in lucid graphical form here. This very large study of high school students shows quite clearly boys significantly out perform girls in mathematical ability. But note the lower plot which clearly shows that girls out perform boys in English skills.

Lesson learned. It does make sense to select girls with English skills and boys with math skills. Where is the contrary evidence? Let's have something besides hand waving and insults for a change.
8.8.2009 5:26pm
Houston Lawyer:
I learned to write as a new lawyer, taught by partners who had a vested interest in making sure I got it right.

The admissions process to selective schools is an insiders game run by people who would surely benefit from a large number of years outside of academy.
8.8.2009 5:34pm
David Welker (www):

It might be politically incorrect to say so, but undergrad degrees in math, science, engineering, and economics are simply more difficult than BA degrees in history, art, English, sociology, poli sci, humanities - you name it.


This is just nonsense.

I personally find math, science, engineering, and economics to be EASIER than art, English, and humanities. I am seriously challenged when it comes to creativity in the ways that these disciplines value it. I am innovative in a technological sense, but not creative in an artistic sense. Don't ask me to design anything. I would not want to be an architect.

What is easier and what is harder depends on the attributes of the individual. End of story.
8.8.2009 5:54pm
TRE:
Some kinds of education are more easily monetized than others.
8.8.2009 6:04pm
David Welker (www):

Why should math skills in a girl be any more desirable than those skills in a boy? If a university wants students with math skills then select for that irrespective of who has them. But bear in mind extreme math ability occurs much more frequently in boys than in girls.


Lame. Let us not pretend that social effects have nothing whatsoever with what someone is or is not good at.

I definitely think there does exist such a thing as natural talents. And I would not be shocked to find that such talents are distributed differently in a way that is related to gender.

BUT, the average socially aware girl probably does not want to be in the same room as a bunch of socially awkward geeks and nerds all day. Especially when she is the ONLY female.

Now, I say this as a proud geek/nerd. This is just a reality.

One thing I have found is that in engineering and computer science, the ratio of males and females is much more even among immigrants. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that many immigrant communities glorify computer science and engineering in contrast to the typical American attitude.

So is encouragement of more women to go into technical subjects justified? Absolutely. This would be a more competitive country if American culture glorified fields like computer science and engineering a little bit more. This is not going to happen to the extent that stereotypes (which have a grain of truth to them) equating technical skill with being socially awkward continue to perpetuate themselves.
8.8.2009 6:07pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
KA:
You need to go back and ask the obvious follow-up questions -- well, obvious to me, even if no one else is asking:

1. Do Ivy admissions officers have a general preference for applicants who violate gender norms? Do they also prefer boys who do traditionally girly things like play the viola or write for the literary magazine over those who wrestle or play chess or are Future Farmers?

2. Do they prefer girls who do stereotypically male things, even when those things are extremely uncool from an Ivy point of view? I once asked the first female Rhodes Scholar at a southern university about the competition and she said that she thought it helped that her hobbies were "sewing" and "target-shooting with a pistol" -- made her stand out in the crowd. (She was from Texas, though she went to school in another state.) So: would competitive shooting help or hinder a girl applying to the Ivies? How about raising steers or goats for sale at the county Market Animal Show, as many of my students, boys and girls, do? (One of my freshmen sold a couple of gigantic black angus steers last spring and was a bit disconcerted when a substitute teacher told her the following week how delicious one of them was -- it's a small county, but I don't think she'd expected feedback.)
8.8.2009 6:10pm
just me (mail):
Well this is good news for my daughters who are both very math/science oriented. They are also fairly athletic-although I don't see future full ride athletic scholarships in their futures-each plays three sports. Neither is Asperger's like, my 12 year old son has AS, and I actually am not too keen on the "Asperger's like" comment, because AS is a disability that is more than just being socially awkward and really obsessed with stuff.
8.8.2009 6:19pm
Kara:
Maks sense that the unique would stand out to admissions people.
8.8.2009 6:24pm
PeterW (mail) (www):
Oh, plenty of applicants know this already. As a Princeton student, I see many girls who applied to get into the engineering school, then switch into humanities as soon as possible (preferably in time to get out of the required physics class.)

The dean of the engineering school, who has to approve this switch, is aware of this and is predictably displeased, but there's not much he can actually do about it.

Feigning an interest in science is a pretty easy signal to hack, as long as you desultorily do a few extracurriculars in high school. The limitations of your admissions officer's system should be self-evident.
8.8.2009 6:38pm
Careless:

This is just nonsense.

I personally find math, science, engineering, and economics to be EASIER than art, English, and humanities. I am seriously challenged when it comes to creativity in the ways that these disciplines value it. I am innovative in a technological sense, but not creative in an artistic sense. Don't ask me to design anything. I would not want to be an architect.

What is easier and what is harder depends on the attributes of the individual. End of story.

Yes, and we can then look at what's easier and harder for large numbers of people and determine which are easier in general. When we speak of these results, we call them "generalizations"

But if you want numbers, we can look at a table like this. Philosophy students at the top of verbal GRE by more than the #2 major (English) is above the top science major (phys/astro). Engineering, econ, math, bio come in ahead of sociology (again, in verbal reasoning).

In quantitative reasoning, every science/mathematical major comes in ahead of every other type of subject (aside from philosophy majors, the undisputed smartest cookie on their side of the aisle). Agriculture majors stomp English, art, education, anthro, and history majors. The phys/astro majors score 150 points higher on the two sections combined than the highest non-philosophy non-science majors average.

(if you want to count business as being on the English side, they'd be closer than 150, but they don't excel at either portion)
8.8.2009 6:49pm
ValentinoRossi:
DG,
I believe it. That's why I said, "write well."
8.8.2009 7:03pm
David Welker (www):

Yes, and we can then look at what's easier and harder for large numbers of people and determine which are easier in general. When we speak of these results, we call them "generalizations"


Thank you for educating on this new topic of "generalizations." So educated, I want to talk about the concept of "useful generalizations" versus "useless generalizations."

Useful generalization:

N% percentage of the population finds X harder than Y, M% of the population finds Y harder than X. 1-M-N% of the population finds the two subjects about equally difficult.

Useless generalization:

X is harder than Y.


But if you want numbers, we can look at a table like this. Philosophy students at the top of verbal GRE by more than the #2 major (English) is above the top science major (phys/astro). Engineering, econ, math, bio come in ahead of sociology (again, in verbal reasoning).


Verbal reasoning is not equivalent to social intelligence, which I imagine would be one of the most important attributes in order to do sociology well. And I can tell you from experience that many engineering, econ, math, and bio majors are not strong at all in the area of social intelligence, even if they are stronger than the typical sociology major in the different subject of "verbal reasoning."

Furthermore, sociology, in contrast to anthropology, is a heavily quantitative field. There are many bio majors who would find the statistical analysis typical of sociology at a graduate level quite difficult.

A further aside: clumping biology, economics, mathematics, and engineering together is in this context, another useless generalization.

Furthermore, one needs to distinguish between how hard sociology IS and how hard it is made to be at the undergraduate level. A professor could make a sociology class hard or easy. The same goes for engineering, biology, or mathematics. That a professor chooses to make a particular class easy or hard does not imply that that the field is easy or hard. Furthermore, it is very easy to make a class difficult - the most skillful professors are the ones that make the hard subjects seem easy. That is, they are the best communicators. Often the difficulty of a subject is very much related to how well the subject matter is communicated to you.

Finally, the concept of how good the typical sociology major at a particular skill is different that the concept of how hard sociology, as a subject, is or could made to be.

Overall, your particular "generalizations," as you call them, are close to useless. But I don't want to generalize about generalizations, so I wouldn't say that all generalizations are useless, just because the ones you choose are so very pathetic.
8.8.2009 7:15pm
CDR D (mail):
So cool girls are math smart, genetically destined to be hackers, risk takers, and into competitive sports.


Wow. He's describing my daughter.

(BA, Colorado State, and her Masters is from U of Florida).

Oh, and she's a cop.

And cool, too!
8.8.2009 7:24pm
David Welker (www):

Often the difficulty of a subject is very much related to how well the subject matter is communicated to you.


To expand on this topic a bit.

If a higher percentage of the population finds a particular subject hard, is that because the subject IS hard, or is it because the people who are teaching the subject are poor communicators compared to those who teach other subjects?

Furthermore, even if we were to imagine, likely in a counter factual manner, that those who teach the various subjects were equal in their communication abilities, it could be that the field itself isn't communicated very well. For example, in academic economics, the traditional method of communication is often mathematical equations and graphs. Maybe these aren't really the best methods of communication. These methods of communication emphasize certain ideas and de-emphasize others. Perhaps to the detriment of economics as a field. Also, perhaps these are inferior methods of communicating the ideas of economics to people with different learning styles.

The point. Perhaps even the best communicator in the world is going to have a hard time teaching economics given the traditional methods of communication employed by the field.

And by traditional, I certainly do not mean original. Adam Smith did not communicate primarily using graphs and equations.
8.8.2009 7:28pm
Jeff Dege (mail):
Geeks have always been widely read, and often have interests in disciplines far afield from sciences or technology. It's next to impossible to graduate with an engineering degree without taking course in history or literature. And this is is as it should be.

But it's not only easy, but common, to graduate with a degree in English or literature without knowing how to do a partial integration.

Math and science are an essential part of a liberal arts education. This had been recognized as long as we had liberal arts educations. What was the quadrivium? Arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The trivium? Grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

You cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in math and science, just as you cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in literature and the arts.

That we have applicants who think that they should not be thought less of because they demonstrate no interest in them indicates a significant failure on the part of our secondary education system.
8.8.2009 7:39pm
David Welker (www):

You cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in math and science, just as you cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in literature and the arts.


More nonsense.

I take it that an "educated person" is someone you approve of socially, and an "uneducated person" is someone you don't approve of socially.

Because, it certainly is the case that it is possible to obtain knowledge through a process called education that primarily or even exclusively emphasized say, a branch of mathematics or science without art and literature or, in contrast art and literature without mathematics or science.

I should also mention that there is another branch of knowledge that you have neglected entirely. And that is the art of weightlifting. If you don't believe that there are educated people who don't know what they are doing in this field, I would offer any university weight room as exhibit A.

But, apparently knowledge of weightlifting, I assure you, a non-trivial subject, is not on your list of requirements for an "educated person."

May I suggest that this is because the criteria for what knowledge is important for an "educated person" is more of an arbitrary social construct that indicates the sort of education you prefer rather than having anything in particular to do with education.

That is, when you call someone an educated person, it has more to do with whether you subjectively approve of their choices in educational subjects than whether or not they have gone through a rigorous process known as education.

Which bring up an important question.

Why should anyone care what you think? Objectively, if someone has gained a rigorous understanding of a subject through a process called education, we can say they are an educated person or more precisely, a person educated and knowledgeable in subjects X, Y, and Z.
8.8.2009 7:51pm
sobriquet:
Given the political correctness of academia and the admissions world in particular, it's shocking how many admissions officers rely on the crudest of stereotypes. Another obvious example is how many admissions officers will use the (false) perception that Asian-American applicants are boring and passionless grinds to justify rejecting them over less qualified candidates.

I know that the reply is exaggerated and not a literal transcription, but I'm nonetheless struck by the line about how "cool girls are math smart, genetically destined to be hackers, risk takers, and into competitive sports". It seems that many admissions officers are more interested in having what they perceive to be the coolest applicants than the best.
8.8.2009 7:56pm
yankee (mail):
Cornellian has hit the nail on the head. This is all about supply and demand.
8.8.2009 8:03pm
Groupthinker (mail):
This is a useful generalization? What the heck?

"N% percentage of the population finds X harder than Y, M% of the population finds Y harder than X. 1-M-N% of the population finds the two subjects about equally difficult."

Not to put to fine a point on it, but this isn't a [i]generalization[/i] at all, let alone a useful one. The above statement is what's known in most circles as a factual assertion (although it may be true or false).

And going WAAAAY back to the beginning of the thread, an equally puzzling statement that caught my eye:

"Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that where you go for undergrad is less and less important. What matters more is where you go for graduate school."

This might come as a great shock, but (generalization warning!) [i]most people don't go to graduate school[/i]. Even at a school like Harvard, those who go on to graduate (or professional) school are far outnumbered by those who go directly into finance.

So I can't imagine that the statement above is true (assuming that it's not rendered meaningless by the incomplete comparatives), unless we're talking JUST about that small portion of the population that goes to a graduate or professional school and finishes the program; in those rather insular little worlds, yes, where you went to graduate school does tend to eclipse the undergraduate experience. But that's the nature of going into a small little field like law, medicine, or taking refuge in the cramped confines of the Ivory Tower... the people with whom you associate tend to be intensely interested in how your experience compares and contrasts with their own.
8.8.2009 8:04pm
Groupthinker (mail):
Bah... too much time using BBS code. Forgot that HTML uses the pointy brackets.
8.8.2009 8:05pm
David Welker (www):

Girls interested in English are a dime a dozen. Girls interested in math and science are much more difficult to find. It's a supply and demand thing.



Cornellian has hit the nail on the head. This is all about supply and demand.


If you feel that the fickle, arbitrary, and every changing desires of admissions officers constitute the demand in a market, I guess.

Just because nearly anything can be arbitrarily characterized as a market, that does not imply that this is the only, or best, or most insightful way of understanding things.

I think the more interesting question is WHY has what admissions officers look for changed. That is, WHY has there been a shift in the demand curve. After all, the scarcity of women interested in English versus women interested in math and science hasn't changed that much to my knowledge.
8.8.2009 8:11pm
sobriquet:

I think the more interesting question is WHY has what admissions officers look for changed. That is, WHY has there been a shift in the demand curve. After all, the scarcity of women interested in English versus women interested in math and science hasn't changed that much to my knowledge.


I wouldn't be surprised if the Larry Summers incident played a significant role in increasing demand for recruiting and admitting women in the sciences. To be sure there was attention to the issue well beforehand but I think that incident probably helped put the issue on the front-burner.
8.8.2009 8:20pm
David Welker (www):

Not to put to fine a point on it, but this isn't a [i]generalization[/i] at all, let alone a useful one. The above statement is what's known in most circles as a factual assertion (although it may be true or false).


You obviously know nothing about statistics. This sort of fact would have to be established by inferential and not descriptive statistics, since clearly getting data on the entire population would not be feasible.

That is, to get this sort of data, you would first get a sample that you would hope was more rather than less representative, and then you would infer the characteristics of the entire population based on the sample. That is, you would generalize about the population based on the sample.

This is a useful sort of generalizations, in sharp contrast to the crude statement that subject X is harder than subject Y.


This might come as a great shock, but (generalization warning!) [i]most people don't go to graduate school[/i]. Even at a school like Harvard, those who go on to graduate (or professional) school are far outnumbered by those who go directly into finance.


If you want to go into finance, it would be advantageous, even if it not always absolutely required, to have some sort of graduate education.

Furthermore, people who go to Harvard are outliers. Most people are not going to go straight from undergrad to an investment bank like Goldman Sachs.

Further, who is going to be more competitive in the market for finance? Someone who specialized in finance at Harvard Business School, or an economics major from Harvard College. With the exception of a few outliers, the HBS graduates are going to have a large advantage in terms of getting jobs.

In general, it is increasingly important and useful to obtain at least a masters degree in order to compete effectively. This is even true in fields like computer science, where having a masters degree tends to add tens of thousands of dollars onto your salary and make you much more likely to advance. Going farther than that and getting a Ph.D. tends to involve diminishing returns. I would not recommend a Ph.D. for anyone who was not truly and unusually passionate about the field they are studying in.

That said, of course it is also true that there are people who did not even graduate from high school who tend become extremely successful millionaires.

Those are statistical aberrations.

Ending with only a bachelors degree is probably not the wisest course for most people either. Although, it often makes a lot of sense to get some really nice work experience between the bachelors degree and the masters. (Although, in the current economy, high quality work experience is hard to come by, so you might be better off going directly for a masters.)
8.8.2009 8:28pm
MarkField (mail):
In light of some of the discussion in this thread, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at the most recent research on gender differences in math testing.

Here's a recent study comparing math test scores for boys and girls. You can find the original article here.
8.8.2009 8:29pm
David Welker (www):
Thanks MarkField, for your very interesting link.
8.8.2009 8:35pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
MarkField:

La Griffe du Leon debunks Hydre utterly.
8.8.2009 8:49pm
Dave N (mail):
A point no one has made, and one that bears repeating anytime undergraduate admissions comes up, is the concept of transferring from College A to More Prestigious College B (or even more desirable to the student College B).

This is particularly true since most colleges have similar curriculum for their freshmen and sophomores.

My older brother desperately wanted to go to Washington University in St. Louis (my dad's alma mater). His high school transcript was undistinguished (due more to boredom than any other factor). My brother spent 2 years at State U. (where my dad taught and where we got a hefty tuition break) and had a sufficiently high GPA to transfer to Wash.U. after two years.

I had better high school grades and I, too, spent two years taking the basic program at low tuition before transfering to a college that had a specialized program I wanted.

My brother's diploma says "Washington University"--and he used that to get into a Ph.D. program at Ohio State and later a law degree (he is now a patent attorney). It doesn't say "Washington University by Way of State U."

By the same token, the President's undergraduate diploma says "Columbia University" not "Columbia University by way of Occidental College."
8.8.2009 8:58pm
DiversityHire (mail):
Neither the post nor the "males, with breasts…" addendum is shocking to me. I immediately thought the same as Gabriel McCall. The female/male imbalance in higher-ed is pretty well known (and readily apparent to anyone who visits a campus). Universities churn a lot more money through science and engineering, so its important to keep customers in those areas by selecting for students likely to pursue them.
8.8.2009 8:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
David Welker:

"Let us not pretend that social effects have nothing whatsoever with what someone is or is not good at."

More hand-waving, and a strawman. You offer no evidence that "social effects" (a vague concept) affects extreme mathematical ability. It's the extremes of mathematical ability that we are talking about. Moreover the results we see are in accorded with the more dispersed male IQ as shown here.
8.8.2009 9:01pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
MarkField,

I'll add to A. Zarkov's endorsement, as you will see that La Griffe debunked her before that paper was even put in print. I'm surprised it was published, as that should have been embarrassing enough. By the way, here's another debunking of Hyde by a left-liberal who goes by the name of Geoffrey Falk.
8.8.2009 9:07pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov,

Social effects likely do effect ability; I'm referring to that finding by Judith Harris that the only thing that seems to affect life trajectories much is peer group quality. That of course, doesn't mean that social environment is malleable in the way Welker et. al would like, as natural abilities are honed and differentiated precisely because one is allowed to autonomously choose one's peer group. Mathematically able boys are attracted to other boys who share similar interests, say, verbally facile girls meet like-minded girls at the local book club, etc.
8.8.2009 9:16pm
EMG:

You cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in math and science, just as you cannot pretend to be an educated person without a basic grounding in literature and the arts.


I agree but the problem is mainly the fault of poor teaching. Most math teachers in this country are time-serving hacks who have no interest in guiding students to the relevant intuitions, mostly because they have never had those intuitions themselves. With the result that unless only students who have a strong knack for the subject survive the courses - because they teach themselves. A person without the knack for math (or more precisely, for jumping through the hoops in math coursework) would be a fool to keep unnecessarily exposing their GPA to that danger, especially if they have scholarships or plans for grad school.

As for gender, people rise to the level expected of them. I came through school in the '80s and early '90s, and teachers never lost a chance to remind me that math is my weak point. (This was in SoCal, not some rural boondock.) I was 25, staring down the barrel of a graduate statistics requirement, before I realized that I am not just good at math, but extremely good at it. But the only thing that changed was that I was in an environment where people were too busy with their own concerns to reinforce the Math-is-hard-Barbie meme. While believing that I was so miserably poor at math that I was lucky to get into any college at all and that going back for another try at math would only destroy my academic record - and being actively reinforced in that belief by my teachers - I scored 730 on the math section of the (pre-1994) SAT, earned 4s and 5s on APs in calculus and several sciences, and ultimately 780 on the quantitative section of the GRE, despite taking nothing but humanities in four years of college.

That's water under the bridge, but part of the reason my children are being homeschooled is that I don't want their understanding of their own prospects to be warped by some random hack schoolteacher's retrograde worldview.

I think some people must have a pretty sad life, sitting around looking at websites about the supposed inferiority of others. You might as well be studying homeopathy.
8.8.2009 9:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Cato The Elder:

I don't doubt that peer pressure and economics affect career choices. But that's not what's at issue here. Welker would have us believe that even extreme mathematical ability could be made to occur with equal frequency in both sexes. There's simply no evidence for that. What he's trying to do is create an un-falsifiable hypothesis. and advance that as an argument. We could turn the argument around and say socialization is caused by differential abilities.
8.8.2009 9:27pm
EMG:

It's the extremes of mathematical ability that we are talking about.


No we're not. It's what you're talking about, because it's the only remaining shred of evidence that still (for now) confirms your prejudices. But it has no relevance to college admissions and mainstream professional career trajectories, the original topic of this thread.
8.8.2009 9:33pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
EMG,

Structural sexism, huh? Got it. Gotta remember in the future that your womanly intuition can trump reams of meticulously researched studies and theory regarding cognitive sex differences.
8.8.2009 9:37pm
EMG:

structural sexism... your womanly intuition...


QED.
8.8.2009 9:41pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
The sort of girls they are looking for are women. (Ivy League schools, "womyn.")
8.8.2009 9:48pm
DiversityHire (mail):
Most math teachers in this country…because they have never had those intuitions themselves.

In my experience, this is true of teachers across subjects, but particularly true in math because the subject is so abstract, powerful, and mind-altering. There's no chance of having a mathematical experience in a K-12/ undergraduate classroom/lecture-hall. The drill-and-practice methods common to basic math courses are necessary but insufficient for a genuine mathematical experience. Its unfortunate, but understandable that the vast majority of human beings aren't destined for an ineffable mathematical awakening.
8.8.2009 9:56pm
loki13 (mail):
As a short warning-

I finally took the bait and went to "La Griffe's" website.

As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I highly recommend going to it if you feel the need to further judge A. Zarkov (and apparently, Cato's) views. While I am somewhat qualified to go through the numbers, I began to lose interest somewhere between the "human races as dog breeds" rhetoric... or the "using statistics to conclusively prove who won the 2000 election because of the lower cognitive ability of blacks, and its impact on their ability to properly cast a vote" article.

I need a shower.

(As for the relevance of this- now I know what to think whenever I hear of "La Griffe's" dramatic refutation of a reputable scientist who is actually published, cuz, y'know, the man is just keeping the truth from us.)
8.8.2009 9:57pm
anon publisher:
A point no one has made, and one that bears repeating anytime undergraduate admissions comes up, is the concept of transferring from College A to More Prestigious College B (or even more desirable to the student College B).

VA is a state that has an incredible system facilitating transfers from VA community colleges to VA 4 year schools. And ALL the public VA 4 year schools participate, plus some private schools as well (including I believe Georgetown).

As the father of a young woman who just graduated from a VA public school, with solid GPA (4.0), good SATs (over 2100 combined, with a 740 in math), solid courses (6 APs, including a math and 2 science), solid extracurriculars (10 years of piano and 10 years of club soccer in WAGS at the D3, D2 and the last 2 years D1 level), who (at this point) wants to double major in chemistry and econ, she didn't see any more recruiting than her peers. (And she is no resume builder, as she participated for a long time in the things that interested her.)

She did not get into her first choice of school (the only Ivy she applied to, the one that focuses on undergraduates), but she did get into all the VA schools to which she applied.

Because of her interest in econ, she was very tempted by GMU (she is a big fan of Marginal Revolution and Tyler's Ethnic Dining Guide). But she opted for another VA school that has a solid government / public policy / econ area and also a very good chemistry department.

My guess is that if she had applied to more out of state schools, she might have been accepted. But being VA residents, we have so many good public colleges here that unless she was going to get a LOT of scholarship money, why look at those schools? (She did think about Harvey Mudd, Rice, and Rose Hulman, but she ruled out Cal Tech and MIT as those seemed to be too much of a reach.)

In addition to having an outstanding community college system in VA, especially with NOVA, we have many very good 4 year schools (W&M, UVA, GMU, JMU, and Mary Washington come immediately to mind).

How many other states the size of (the Commonwealth of) VA have so many good choices among their state's public colleges and universities?

And as a person who attended one of the bottom ranked 4 year schools in the country (really), then got a JD from a 3rd tier law school, then was accepted at a top 10 business PhD program, I agree that where you go to graduate school is much more important than undergrad.

With all that said, I encouraged, and supported, all of my children to explore the things that interested them, and as they got older to think about the military, different trades and crafts, and running a business, in addition to college.

I know many good, happy, intelligent and honorable people who make their living repairing cars, being plumbers and electricians, and building houses, as well as running different kinds of small businesses. College is only one path among many.

Over the last 15 years of witnessing my children and their friends in high school, I have observed that many high school students seem to select colleges that will make their parents happy/proud.

Kenneth, good luck and best wishes to your daughter.
8.8.2009 9:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
loki13:

"I need a shower" is not an argument. Griffe put up two essays on the sex gap in mathematical ability. Tell us exactly where he goes wrong. Point me to the declarative statement of fact material to the analysis that is incorrect. If you are not prepared to do this, then we cannot take you seriously. All you provide is a drive-by character assassination. That's what people do when they have no argument, which absent a more definitive response from you, I have to conclude.
8.8.2009 10:10pm
theobromophile (www):
What I've learned from this thread:

1. People are still using information about three standard deviations away from the norm, in terms of raw talent, in order to determine whether or not someone would be a good undergraduate engineering student.

2. The Volokh Conspiracy really needs a dating section.
8.8.2009 10:12pm
MarkField (mail):

I'll add to A. Zarkov's endorsement, as you will see that La Griffe debunked her before that paper was even put in print.


Just to supplement loki's point, I learned a long time ago here that Zarkov has, shall we say, thankfully unusual views on IQ, race, and gender.
8.8.2009 10:19pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
EMG:

The case of average ability in mathematics is uninteresting. New discoveries will come from those with high ability, and that's why a university might want find and nurture those with such abilities. If you could get beyond your urge to be nasty and fling insults, you might realize that.

Consider the case of Srinivasa Ramanujan, one of the world's most creative mathematicians. Had G. H. Hardy not discovered him, he would have most likely have remained unknown. Unfortunately he never had enough formal university training to compete in the math world and really couldn't do proofs in a professional manner. Nevertheless mathematicans are still mining his informal discoveries. Example: Ramanujan's lost notebook.

"The discovery of this 'Lost Notebook' caused roughly as much stir in the mathematical world as the discovery of Beethoven’s tenth symphony would cause in the musical world.
Those who love mathematics don't care who does it. Lessor minds concentrate on the trivial.
8.8.2009 10:25pm
EMG:

Those who love mathematics don't care who does it.


Huh. You don't say.
8.8.2009 10:28pm
theobromophile (www):
"I need a shower" is not an argument. Griffe put up two essays on the sex gap in mathematical ability. Tell us exactly where he goes wrong.

I know I'm going to be raked over the coals for this one, but here goes:

The argument against a sex gap in mathematical ability is that there are social factors - confidence, time, mentoring, etc - that affect people, especially those on the top.

The problem is that it's very, very difficult to rule out social factors as a variable. What frustrates - and, rightly, angers - people is that we've yet to get to the point at which women's interest in economics, math, engineering, and medicine has leveled off (thus indicating either that evolution is moving really, really fast, or social factors are still working themselves out), but many people have already declared that this experiment in equality is a failed one.

It is not as if women have thought to have been men's intellectual equals since the dawn of time, but, just now, science is explaining why there is an achievement disparity.

I'll admit my biases: as a girl whose brain skews towards math (and who is one of those outlier females), it's very tough to be rational about this, as the idea that my brain is not set up to do what it does best is unnerving. Furthermore, as the daughter of a man whose father pushed his kids in math (and, well, only in math!)

We accept the idea that parents who speak to their kids a lot end up with kids who are more verbally proficient. It strikes me as odd that we don't believe the same to be true of mathematical ability.
8.8.2009 10:46pm
DiversityHire (mail):
The case of average ability is interesting to me, whether it's math or weight lifting. My sense is that most people overestimate their innate abilities in areas where their performance has exceeded their peer group and underestimate those abilities in areas they have not explored or have failed to excel.

wrt to college admissions and the 2-year transfer option explored above, I think the advantage of spending the first two years @ a large, competitive university is the opportunity to have your assumptions about your abilities challenged. You may find that you've been enjoying your excellence more than the subject itself once you've been shifted a bit to the left on the ability curve.
8.8.2009 10:53pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
theobromophile:

"We accept the idea that parents who speak to their kids a lot end up with kids who are more verbally proficient."

We don't universally accept that, and we have good reasons to doubt it. Parents who are themselves verbally proficient are likely to pass that to their children genetically. Verbally proficient people will talk a lot, and talk to their children a lot. In other words, I think you have the arrow of causality turned around.

We know from studies of identical twins reared apart that children more resemble their biological parents than their adopting parents. See The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker for detailed discussion and evidence.
8.8.2009 11:04pm
Kenneth Anderson:
Let me suggest that David Welker is right in saying that the more interesting question here is not so much whether it is the case or not re female versus male performance in math, etc., but instead, as he says:


I think the more interesting question is WHY has what admissions officers look for changed. That is, WHY has there been a shift in the demand curve. After all, the scarcity of women interested in English versus women interested in math and science hasn't changed that much to my knowledge.


I am assuming, solely for purposes of this post, that my discussant (and no, I'm afraid I can't go back to that well again with further questions) correctly identifies a cultural shift in desirable traits in these admissions, and that this is reasonably widely shared across this community. If you assume that this is true, what, as David Welker says, explains this shift and in what does it consist?

The question really being asked in the post is about sensibility, not sense. And it brought back one other fragment in the conversation - something about not really being interested in girls interested in Jane Austen anymore, or something like that.
8.8.2009 11:06pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
This would be a more competitive country if American culture glorified fields like computer science and engineering a little bit more. This is not going to happen to the extent that stereotypes (which have a grain of truth to them) equating technical skill with being socially awkward continue to perpetuate themselves.

The more damning stereotype is that engineers will find themselves unemployed or underemployed, especially when "guest workers" are imported because of a claimed but non-existent shortage.

People with Asperger's are not any more intelligent or interested in science than anyone else.

I thought being better with stuff and mechanisms, and not getting people, goes very well with science or technology.
8.8.2009 11:16pm
MarkField (mail):
Well said, theobromophile.
8.9.2009 12:04am
The River Temoc (mail):
This would be a more competitive country if American culture glorified fields like computer science and engineering a little bit more.

I'm not so sure. The Asian and European countries that allegedly glorify science and engineering still do a worse job at actually commercializing technology than we do. That is changing, somewhat, but it still takes a lot of creativity and risk-taking to create a company -- it's not about "lookie here at this cool technology," which is the graveyard of many a tech entrepreneur. But that's the attitude that an (allegedly) Asian-style focus on science and engineering engenders.

On a couple of occasions, I've had the chance to witness European and Asians solving math problems. Almost invariably, they do not show their calculations or other work -- they just proceed straight to the answer, and they're usually aghast that picky Americans are trained to show their work. But innovation is all about showing your work. (If Fermat had shown his work, generations of armchair mathematicians would certainly have been spared lots of headaches.) It's the process, not the result, that generates new ideas and insights.

Consequently, I tend to think that the U.S. is in better shape than it's given credit for vis-a-vis countries where science and technology education is far more algorithmic.
8.9.2009 12:57am
D.R.M.:

I think the more interesting question is WHY has what admissions officers look for changed. That is, WHY has there been a shift in the demand curve.


If we assume that instead of demand curves for "boys" and "girls", there are demand curves for "persons with stereotypical boy attributes" and "persons with stereotypical boy attributes", then a shift in demand assumed by the second sentence is unnecessary to explain the difference mentioned in the first. If the supply shifts from a 50:50 ratio of "stereotypical boys" and "stereotypical girls" to, say, 43:57, then admissions officers will concentrate their resources on finding and acquiring the rarer "stereotypical boys" than the plentiful "stereotypical girls".

Given the overall college undergraduate population shifted from 50:50 male/female in the mid-1970s to 43:57 today, and assuming both males and females deviate from stereotypes at similar, relatively low rates, it seems reasonable to assume "stereotypical boys" are in shorter supply. So "stereotypical boys" will be more highly valued by college admissions offices, regardless of their physical sex.
8.9.2009 1:31am
pmorem (mail):
... we've yet to get to the point at which women's interest in economics, math, engineering, and medicine has leveled off (thus indicating either that evolution is moving really, really fast, or social factors are still working themselves out)...

We've also dramatically altered our breeding patterns in the last century. In the short run, that could look like rapid evolution for small population segments.
8.9.2009 3:53am
Larry Fafarman (mail):
A few decades ago, at a time when the job market for new college graduates in general — and liberal arts grads in particular — was poor but the job market for new engineering grads was good, some engineering graduates at a graduation ceremony chanted, "we've got jobs, we've got jobs." And the business school graduates answered by chanting, "working for us, working for us."

The heroic efforts to push females and underrepresented minorities into technical fields is partly the result of the myth that there is a shortage of trained people in those fields. I say let people choose what interests them without any outside pressure.
8.9.2009 3:54am
Eli Rabett (www):
About two weeks ago, Eli was at a talk by Sir Harry Kroto (one of the three guys who won the Nobel Prize for buckyballs). Kroto always includes a bit of video starring Trent Lott (political party is not important to this) where a student asks him how to become a Senator.

Lott's response was stunning. He starts by telling the student to get a good education with the qualification that when he was in high school the required math and science courses were “a waste of time and a waste of space.” For that he gets applause. Think about the implications of the applause.

Kroto has a simple description of what Lott said “What a lot of crap,”
8.9.2009 5:07am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."
----Oscar Wilde
8.9.2009 5:09am
Perseus (mail):
I am assuming, solely for purposes of this post, that my discussant (and no, I'm afraid I can't go back to that well again with further questions) correctly identifies a cultural shift in desirable traits in these admissions, and that this is reasonably widely shared across this community. If you assume that this is true, what, as David Welker says, explains this shift and in what does it consist?

I think that part of the shift may be explained by the drive for gender equality, which hopes for a future in which men and women participate in roughly equal numbers in almost every sphere of life. Note also there's underlying faith in the equality of the sexes with respect to not only mental endowments but also psychological make-up and interests: "So cool girls are math smart, genetically destined to be hackers, risk takers, and into competitive sports." However talented, women who pursue traditionally female fields of study aren't likely to promote the cause of gender equality to nearly the same extent as manly women.
8.9.2009 5:18am
Anatid:
IIRC, males constitute the majority of those with genius-level IQ but also constitute the majority of those suffering from a form of mental retardation?

We're still overgeneralizing here. "Science" can include a lot of things. Women are closing the gap in life sciences very rapidly (I believe the majority of entering med school students are now female), whereas the gap in physical sciences is shrinking far more slowly.

A Zarkov:

We know from studies of identical twins reared apart that children more resemble their biological parents than their adopting parents.


Depends which traits you're measuring.
8.9.2009 5:20am
D.R.M.:
Eli Rabett:

But, of course, Lott is completely correct in his answer to the question. Becoming a successful politician does not require any knowledge of underlying physical reality (science), nor does it require adherence to any form of formal, objective logical reasoning (mathematics). It does, however, require a sufficient education in the humanities that one meets the social expectation of appearing "well-educated".
8.9.2009 7:42am
NorthernDave (mail):
Actually, I think that there are two points one might be missing:

1. The skills list the admin people seem to be looking for reflect the realities of the New Legal World. Most legislation/legal battles fought over the next twenty years are going to be scientifically and mathematically oriented (off the top: a) there is a very concerned element amongst the Eurointelligensia that we have biotech far more capable than laws to govern its outcomes: is your clone your property/a citizen of the state/you? b) laws with regard to the quickly evolving informational world).

2. Many powerful people of the Boomer generation have only daughters due to population dynamics (we all have less children on average) and want them to fill the power vacuum they themselves are leaving (I know one fellow with three daughters who dutifully has had them educated where he chose and placed in postitions of power and authority - aside: I don't believe any of them has reproduced).

These powerful people want the power of their families to continue (only have daughters) and are willing to pay for it.
8.9.2009 8:10am
Kirk Lazarus:
Fascinating discussion but surely there is a legal aspect to this. How can admissions officers have different selection criteria for male and female candidates? isn't this unlawful?
8.9.2009 8:30am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

Lott's response was stunning. He starts by telling the student to get a good education with the qualification that when he was in high school the required math and science courses were “a waste of time and a waste of space.” For that he gets applause. Think about the implications of the applause.


Well, one implication could be that for Lott and his audience, the science and math offered by their high schools was worthless. My math teachers taught math in between coaching football and whatever else; it was a gap filler for them.
8.9.2009 10:19am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
I should add that Lott and I both grew up in small towns in Mississippi.
8.9.2009 10:22am
Toby:

We're still overgeneralizing here. "Science" can include a lot of things. Women are closing the gap in life sciences very rapidly (I believe the majority of entering med school students are now female), whereas the gap in physical sciences is shrinking far more slowly.

So after 3 decades of admissions policies systematically designed to favor women (the 43-57 numbers were true in the '70s - and are closer 1-2 in many competitive state univesities), and systematic advantages in admissions to graduate school throughout that time, "the gap is closing"

Note that thirty years is enough time for those who went through school with those initial numbers to have raised kids who have gone through school themselves. Note that even the most cursory school meeting in competitive grammar and middle schools during those years have features teachers boasting to parents of males that they had adopted "girl centered techniques to teaching math"

In any rational analysis, if now the "gap is beginning to close", that fact is a convincing argument for the gap bein innate.
8.9.2009 10:31am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Also:


EMG:

The case of average ability in mathematics is uninteresting. New discoveries will come from those with high ability, and that's why a university might want find and nurture those with such abilities. If you could get beyond your urge to be nasty and fling insults, you might realize that.


Zarkov, what nastiness did she express and what insult did she fling? I went back and looked and could not find any.

Cato, on the other hand, said this: "Structural sexism, huh? Got it. Gotta remember in the future that your womanly intuition can trump reams of meticulously researched studies and theory regarding cognitive sex differences."

Which is nasty and insulting.

No, she's right. When you talk about the IQ extremes where men outscore women, you are not talking about IQ range of the vast majority of people who are going to end up being engineers and mathematicians. Universities are not confining their admissions to potential Srinivasa Ramanujans. They'd have unsustainably small math departments if they did.

And I'll illustrate her point for you: I only scored 27 (out of 36) on the math portion of the ACT, my lowest score. (Would I have scored higher if my high school had had a better program? Probably, but I definitely am not a math genius.) All of my professional life I have worked with people who had science degrees. With one or two exceptions, it has been me explaining calculations to them, male and female. Some people look at these statistics and think that they mean that if you pick, at random, a man and a woman, the man must have better math skills than the woman does. That simply is not true. It may be true if you pick from the group of people with IQ above 3SD from the mean. It won't be true below, and it won't be true if you're choosing from the pool of college-bound high schoolers.

I wonder if the nastiness and insult flinging was simply a woman daring to disagree with a man explaining how superior men are. I'd hate to think that that is the case. Hopefully somebody can point out something EMG said that I am missing.
8.9.2009 10:48am
Ken Arromdee:
When you talk about the IQ extremes where men outscore women, you are not talking about IQ range of the vast majority of people who are going to end up being engineers and mathematicians.

Outscoring doesn't mean "there are more at the very end and the curves are equal everywhere else all the way down to 100". Along with a preponderance of men at the end, there's a somewhat lesser, but still existing, preponderance of men a little way from the end, etc.
8.9.2009 11:34am
Eli Rabett (www):
DRM and Laura, in their own ways illustrate the root of the problem. Today's civilization is technical, you need to understand the tools you are using and that your existence is based on especially if you are making policy decisions. As Arthur C. Clarke said, the technology of a sufficiently advanced civilization can only be understood as magic. Today our policy makers understand our technology as magic not subject to the rules of reality. They do not comprehend its advantages and limitations. If our teachers are math and science ignorant, why are we happy to continue the charade?

So Eli has a simple suggestion for all the law professors who read this blog. Ask your incoming students what math and science classes they had. After your shock has worn off, suggest to the admissions committee that it is something they should consider next year. If the word goes out that Yale Law values calculus students will respond and you will produce lawyers better able to respond to reality.
8.9.2009 11:44am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
How many lawyers need calculus?

Ken: So are you telling me that of the IQ range of people who are going to end up as engineers, not geniuses like Srinivasa Ramanujan, men significantly outscore women? Such that you would be safe in assuming that a randomly chosen man a higher IQ than a randomly chosen woman?
8.9.2009 12:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Laura(southernxyl):

"Some people look at these statistics and think that they mean that if you pick, at random, a man and a woman, the man must have better math skills than the woman does. That simply is not true."

If math skills were symmetrically distributed about a common mean for both men and women, then your statement would be true. But they're not. Look at the Project Talent data. Math skills are asymmetrically distributed with boys dominating at the high end (the blue shading). Project Talent tested 400,000 high school students in the US, and it's the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever done. We don't have to do any processing because the sample is so large it gives the fine structure of the distribution.

Even if math skills were symmetrically distributed in the general population, the applicants to elite schools would not show symmetry because the low end would be cut off. Then the disparity in variances (male being greater) would produce asymmetry. So your statement is not correct.

"Cato, on the other hand ... Which is nasty and insulting."

Cato the Elder did not direct his comments to me. I am not my Cato's keeper.

"... what nastiness did she express and what insult did she fling?"

She? What makes you think EMG is a "she?" But no matter. EMG accused me of being prejudiced. That's an insult.
8.9.2009 12:26pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Laura(southernxyl):

You misinterpret my reference to Ramanujan. I used him as an example of a super genius who would have benefited from more formal education. He came to all his results independently-- that's why he was so amazing. I did not mean to assert that our universities should be geared only the super geniuses.

I don't think you realize just how good "ordinary" really bright people in math and science are. One of my friends as an undergraduate would buy the textbook for a course, spend a few days reading it, and then ask the professor to test him so he could get credit for the course. Then he would return the book. By the time he was in his third year he as taking graduate courses. While he was very good, he wasn't all that special. He is no Ramanujan.
8.9.2009 12:47pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Your Project Talent Data charts exactly prove my point. Most people fall into the gray area. If you pick a man and a woman at random, chances are that they will fall in the gray area. You then will have NO IDEA whose math scores would be higher. If you go way out into the tail of this population sample, then there is a greater chance that the male has a higher score, but it's still not 100% until you get to the very tip. May I also point out that the data were collected in 1960. At that time a smart boy would have been actively encouraged to pursue higher math, while a girl who wanted to would have been considered a freak in most venues. It would be interesting to see this dataset collected today.

Why did I think EMG is a she? Because she said that her teachers pushed the idea on her that she couldn't do math, although she could, and because when she could, it was because people had stopped pushing the math-class-is-hard-Barbie stuff. Hard to explain all of this if EMG is a male.

As for her "insult": It's a phenomenon that I have long noted IRL and now on the internet, that a woman can say to a man the exact kind of thing that another man might say to him, or to a woman, and the response to her comment is way disproportional. It's puzzled me for years at work to hear the guys' happy banter, and their teasing me, and when I respond in kind I am a dreadful, dreadful person. Quite irritating, actually.

You said "It does make sense to select girls with English skills and boys with math skills." I don't see the horror in suggesting that there is prejudice there - what else would you call it?
8.9.2009 12:56pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
EMG said:

I think some people must have a pretty sad life, sitting around looking at websites about the supposed inferiority of others. You might as well be studying homeopathy.

Laura(southernxyl),

I respect your opinion, so I'm going to elaborate that I was responding to the above. Investigating these differences is part of my chosen field of study, so you can understand why I took offense. But as typical with people who subscribe to EMG's particular worldview, they like to lightly toss ad hominems to impugn the motives of those who study human differences out of simple interest. Also, I should make it clear - I have no respect whatsoever for "critical" or "structural" theories as alternative explanations. They're unfalsifiable and unsatisfactory. In other words, "nyah, she did it first". I have no problems with reasonable disagreement, but I frequently respond to incivility in kind.
8.9.2009 1:10pm
Larry Fafarman (mail):
Kirk Lazarus said,
How can admissions officers have different selection criteria for male and female candidates? isn't this unlawful?

Political correctness is not restrained by questions of lawfulness.

Actually, no solid evidence has been presented here to show that admissions officers practice such discrimination, and if they do practice it, it seems they would try to hide it. The only evidence provided here has been anecdotal — PeterW said (8.8.2009 6:38pm),
Oh, plenty of applicants know this already. As a Princeton student, I see many girls who applied to get into the engineering school, then switch into humanities as soon as possible (preferably in time to get out of the required physics class.)

IMO pushing female students or underrepresented minority students into technical fields or giving them preference in technical fields sends a subtle message to white-male students that they are not wanted in those fields and that they face employment discrimination in those fields if they enter them. Especially bad are all-girl math classes in co-ed schools.
8.9.2009 1:17pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Echoing Larry Fafarman,

It is well known amongst those interested in such things that it is easier to get into MIT as an undergraduate if one is a girl rather than a boy.
8.9.2009 1:22pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Oh, I also don't have much a problem with that. I can think of a few "compelling interests" outside of academic considerations that would spur MIT to ensure a roughly equal sex ratio.
8.9.2009 1:26pm
Ken Arromdee:
Most people fall into the gray area. If you pick a man and a woman at random, chances are that they will fall in the gray area. You then will have NO IDEA whose math scores would be higher.

Uh, what? The gray area's size represents the number of people of both genders with that score; the blue area is the excess number of men with that score. The way you phrased that is meaningless, since it's not possible to say that any individual person is part of the excess.

If what you mean is "if you pick a man and a woman at random, there's no way to tell whose scores are higher", that's wrong. The man's scores are likely to be higher (although this is probabilistic and isn't true every time).
8.9.2009 1:29pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Laura(southernxyl):

"Your Project Talent Data charts exactly prove my point."

Project Talent surveyed high school students from the general population. The applicants to elite universities will come from the upper end of the distribution by a process of self selection. But in any case if we select a boy and a girl from the whole Project Talent Distribution, the probability the boy will have greater maths skills exceeds 1/2. The opposite would be true for English skills.

"At that time [1960] a smart boy would have been actively encouraged to pursue higher math,..."


Project Talent consisted of a battery of aptitude tests, not tests of acquired skills in higher math. I don't think the results today would be much different if we adjusted for the changed demographics in the US since then.

"As for her "insult": It's a phenomenon that I have long noted IRL and now on the internet, that a woman can say to a man the exact kind of thing that another man might say to him, or to a woman, and the response to her comment is way disproportional."


Obviously that doesn't apply to me since I thought EMG was a man.

"You said "It does make sense to select girls with English skills and boys with math skills." I don't see the horror in suggesting that there is prejudice there - what else would you call it?"

There is no prejudice. It's perfectly rational to match education to skills. Do you think it makes sense for the Juilliard School of Music in New York City to test applicants for their musical ability and select them on that basis? Does it make sense for the Air Force to enroll applicants into flight school based on their abilities appropriate for being a pilot? Pilots need good vision, and good reflexes etc. Vision is really important. The top Israeli fighter pilot can see twice as far as the average pilot. If the Air Force turns down myopic applicants are they acting out of prejudice?
8.9.2009 1:31pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Laura(southernxyl):

"It's puzzled me for years at work to hear the guys' happy banter, and their teasing me, and when I respond in kind I am a dreadful, dreadful person. Quite irritating, actually."

Assuming that your "responding in kind" is not somehow different, I'll hazard a guess at to what's going on.

In my experience women tend to hold grudges more frequently and for longer periods of time. To be sure, not every woman, and I know many exceptions including my own daughter. On the other hand, men can get boiling mad, and virtually come to blows in an argument, only to forget the whole thing in a couple of hours. It's amazing. Two guys who were ready to kill each other a 3:00 are out at a bar together at 6:00 as if nothing had happened. Thus men tend to react differently when they hear negative comments from a woman.

BTW I tried to get my daughter interested in math and science virtually from birth. I really wanted her to pursue a technical career, but by the time she was ten, I knew that wasn't going to happen. Believe me I really tried. That's one reason I don't like being accused of prejudice. I'm all for women being mathematicians, but I also have to be a realist.
8.9.2009 2:00pm
D.R.M.:
Eli, how exactly do you plan to take a social class consisting almost entirely of people for whom math and science were unnecessary to their success, and convince its members to require math and science of anyone seeking to join that class?
8.9.2009 2:12pm
Sarcastro's Sock Puppet:
What I've learned from this thread:
* * *
2. The Volokh Conspiracy really needs a dating section.

LoL! Theobromophile wins the thread! Although the cynic might question the potential long-term damage to the human race from encouraging anything that could lead to more breeding among at least some of VC's more troll-like commenters...
8.9.2009 2:35pm
Larry Fafarman (mail):
Laura(southernxyl) and EMG appear to assume that there is discrimination against women in math-intensive fields, but there is no evidence to support that view. A recent report from the National Academies found that there was no gender bias in college faculty hiring in science, engineering, and math. A summary of the report said,
A new report by the U.S. National Academies says that women are getting a fair shake from major research universities in being hired, promoted, and given access to resources — once they can grab onto the academic ladder and start climbing the rungs. That conclusion may surprise those familiar with a stream of recent reports on the topic, including a 2006 academies' study that demanded an end to what it called the "bias and outmoded practices" hindering the progress of women in academic science. The good news, says the report, is that "men and women faculty ... have enjoyed comparable opportunities, and gender does not appear to have been a factor in a number of important career transitions and outcomes."

Also, when I attended high school in the period 1960-63, before the start of the big effort to push females into math and science, I had a female geometry teacher and a female chemistry teacher, so please don't lecture me about a supposed lack of role models for girls.
8.9.2009 2:57pm
zippypinhead:
I had a recent [admittedly anecdotal] experience on the flip-side of this question: One of my sons recently went through the college admission process at some highly-selective liberal arts schools. He was interested in, and has particular strengths in, the sort of liberal arts subjects that have been posited here as fitting the "bell curve for smart girls." His high school guidance counselor predicted that his gender might be an advantage in admissions on a pure supply-and-demand basis. The counselor explained that many of these schools get a lot more female applicants, but desire to maintain a roughly equal M/F ratio in their student body. I initially pooh-poohed this explanation, but in hindsight the guidance counselor appears to have called it right. My son was either admitted or at least wait-listed at schools that outright rejected similarly- or better-credentialed young women in his high school class.

My wife was especially flummoxed by this because of her own very different undergraduate admissions experience a generation ago - when she applied to some nationally-ranked science/engineering universities circa 1980, they seemed to be falling all over themselves to bring in anybody with two X chromosomes. She's not sure how much of the difference is due to changed applicant pool demographics, and how much to the type of program.

Since watching my son go through the college admissions process, I have seen a number of articles and even posts on VC about the alleged problems caused by "too many" females in the higher education pool. There are many reasons why I suspect my parental stress level would be a lot higher if I had teenage daughters, and this is definitely one of them...
8.9.2009 3:31pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

What I've learned from this thread:
* * *
2. The Volokh Conspiracy really needs a dating section.

LoL! Theobromophile wins the thread! Although the cynic might question the potential long-term damage to the human race from encouraging anything that could lead to more breeding among at least some of VC's more troll-like commenters...



Thanks a lot.
8.9.2009 3:40pm
Anatid:

As for her "insult": It's a phenomenon that I have long noted IRL and now on the internet, that a woman can say to a man the exact kind of thing that another man might say to him, or to a woman, and the response to her comment is way disproportional. It's puzzled me for years at work to hear the guys' happy banter, and their teasing me, and when I respond in kind I am a dreadful, dreadful person. Quite irritating, actually.


It's a phenomenon I have long noted IRL and now on the internet, that a woman who uses her gender as a tool or weapon in a mixed-gender discussion is much more likely to receive gender-related responses, if not outright degradation, than a woman who makes her points in a gender-neutral fashion. (Similarly: If you've followed Randy's arguments in threads involving homosexuality, you may have noticed most of them would have been more compelling if he'd left out the "I'm gay and I said so and I must be right" slant to them.) Assuming that your perspective on gender-related matters is somehow superior or more valid because you're a woman in a male majority will, usually, grate on said male majority.

If you want to banter with the guys, then be one of the guys. If they shoot a gender-based crack at you, shoot it right back.


On a more-related side: Can someone help me understand why your role models necessarily need to be your own gender? As a kid, I worshiped Rosalind Franklin and Francis Crick alike. My most influential teachers in school were both male and female. None of them presented their interest or ability in, say, biology or art or history or writing as a function of their gender, and I didn't take it as such. Female students with a scientific inclination were just as inspired by the male biology teacher as male students with a linguistic inclination were inspired by the female language teacher. Can't someone who's good at science just be a role model for kids to pursue science?
8.9.2009 3:52pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Laura asks How many lawyers need calculus? Well admittedly here calculus stands for the ability to reason quantitatively (we can throw a bit of statistics in there)

1. How many lawyers have to deal with quantitative economic issues?

2. How many lawyers have to deal with patent issues?

3. How many lawyers have to deal with product liability,

and so on, all of which have an underlying technical base.
8.9.2009 3:58pm
zippypinhead:
Following up on Eli Rabett's 3:58 pm post, answering the question "how many lawyers need calculus?"

How many lawyers have ever had to prepare, depose and/or cross-examine a technical expert witness?

How many have had to calculate the present value of a damages award?

How many have had to evaluate complex corporate financing contingencies?

How many have had to litigate a securities case?

How many have ever tried to help their own kids puzzle through their derivatives homework?

(Ok, I suspect this last question will get a much smaller positive response, but surely not the null set)
8.9.2009 4:32pm
Connie:
KA: Along with a preponderance of men at the end, there's a somewhat lesser, but still existing, preponderance of men a little way from the end, etc.

Seems to me if there are more men at each tail, there must be more women than men SOMEWHERE along the curve; in fact, how about everywhere else? Of course, that's merely my female math skills at work.
8.9.2009 5:57pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Everyone is stepping around the big issue - the thing that they want more than anything right now is color. Right now, political correctness has gone amok at esp. the most elite schools. The president of one Ivy League school has told whites that they have had their chance, and now it is everyone else's chance.

I wasn't surprised seeing the preferences given Blacks. And, yes, they are fairly substantial at the best schools. But Asians? Maybe not on the West Coast, but I saw this year, time after time, when you had a White female and an Asian female, and the White one had slightly better grades and SATs, the schools accepted the Asian one.

Mind you, this was only at the most elite undergraduate schools, esp. the Ivy League and the top rated liberal arts schools (Williams, Amherst, etc.) Don't know about the lesser rated schools.
8.9.2009 6:37pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
David Welker,

I disagree -- it is indeed true that "degrees in math, science, engineering, and economics are simply more difficult than BA degrees in history, art, English, sociology, poli sci, humanities" -- and this is not primarily because of various aptitudes. It is because of the amount of work expected in each major.

Go to, say, the science library at Harvard on a Saturday night. It will be busy. But you cannot find, say, English majors working anywhere, including in their own rooms, in any significant numbers on a typical Saturday night.

The reason is because clever people in subjective areas like English and Art History can do quite well with relatively modest effort. Indeed, writing of and about literature is something that many people find compatible with heavy drinking. But the hard facts that need to be learned, and projects that need to be accomplished in science majors, just can't be pulled out of one's backside.
8.9.2009 7:15pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Bruce Hayden:

The president of one Ivy League school has told whites that they have had their chance, and now it is everyone else's chance.

Can you tell us which Ivy League university or college? And who does he mean by "whites?" Does this apply just to current and future student applicants or does it include faculty too? Why does he not resign and give his position to a more deserving non-white, or does his rule not apply to administrators?

Finally he could also simply purge whites from his university altogether. Why not just populate the entire Ivy League system with non-whites, and let the whites start all over with their own schools?
8.9.2009 7:23pm
Ken Arromdee:
Seems to me if there are more men at each tail, there must be more women than men SOMEWHERE along the curve; in fact, how about everywhere else? Of course, that's merely my female math skills at work.

It's true that the excess of males at the tail is balanced by an excess of females towards the center, but if people further towards the tail have a greater chance of success in math or science, balancing out the number of people doesn't balance out the number of successes--males remain more likely to succeed.

I would suggest switching from female math skills to regular math skills.
8.9.2009 7:39pm
Anatid:
Bruce:
I invite you to come out to UC Berkeley sometime. 42% Asian and 31% white across undergraduates, and it's worst in math, science, and engineering. Stroll into a lecture hall for a pre-med class, and out of the ~600 heads you see from up there, try to find the ones that don't have black hair.

DWPittelli:
The physics, compsci, and engineering folks will spend hours in the library grinding away on a 10-problem set that takes 10 hours to complete. The English, anthropology, and art history folks don't have killer problem sets - but they do have to read 200-300 pages of material a week. Depends on what you call hard. Also, in my observation (at my school), there's again something of a racial slant to who you'll see in the library on a Saturday night. While physics is a killer major for everyone, a lot of the Asian kids have been pushed into technical fields by their parents, sometimes despite lacking high-end aptitude. A student who is merely good as opposed to excellent might be able to achieve the same results by working 80 hours a week on school instead of 60 hours a week. White parents don't seem to push their kids as far beyond their natural talents (again, this is just anecdotal) but value extracurriculars more, preferring a more well-rounded kid who goes outside from time to time and spends time with friends.
8.9.2009 10:40pm
butwait (www):
As a former Ivy League admissions officer, I am more interested in the question, "What kinds of learning environments are the smart young people looking for?"

David Welker nailed it waaaay upthread:

"So the question arises. Should you be the 'bitch' of the admissions officers at undergraduate institutions, with their fickle, arbitrary, and every changing admissions criteria? I say no. Do what YOU want to do. Be who YOU want to be. Its your life. Excel at what you want and the future is yours."
8.10.2009 9:36am
Dan Weber (www):
I'll admit my biases: as a girl whose brain skews towards math (and who is one of those outlier females), it's very tough to be rational about this, as the idea that my brain is not set up to do what it does best is unnerving. Furthermore, as the daughter of a man whose father pushed his kids in math (and, well, only in math!)

I know there are people who think that girls aren't good at math. But I know a fair number of people (including some women) who subscribe to the idea that some people's brains are more likely to be wired for math. And that boys are more likely than girls to get those brains.

Now, according to this theory, once you have proven that you have a "math brain," your gender doesn't matter.

(As an aside, I was an MIT in the 90's, and the only "anti-nerd" talk I heard was from female classmates. None of them were math majors, and I knew some female math majors.)
8.10.2009 1:31pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Amalie Emmy Noether was one of the great mathematicians of the 20th Century. She was the first to prove the connection symmetry and conservation laws in physics. A very big deal. Hilbert recognized her profound genius and helped get her a teaching position at Göttingen-- at the time the center of world mathematics. I would put her in the top ten in the 20th Century behind Hilbert, Von Neumann, Gödel, Weyl etc. Women can be great mathematicians. It's just that this particular ability happens to occur more frequently in men than in women. So what? Any particular woman need not worry that anything prevents her in particular from being an accomplished mathematician. No one need be imprisoned by the group they belong to. Unfortunately many liberals think this is the case; ignore them-- they are contemptible dolts.
8.10.2009 5:03pm
Jeff Dege (mail):
"Lott's response was stunning. He starts by telling the student to get a good education with the qualification that when he was in high school the required math and science courses were “a waste of time and a waste of space.” For that he gets applause. Think about the implications of the applause."

I can't speak to the applause, but I read a rather dense little book on math I picked up at the library over a ski vacation in 7th grade, and as a result, I found that every math course I took in HS was a waste of time space. Everything I was being taught in class I'd already learned on my own. (The same was true for history, literature, and every other course that I actually had any interest in.)
8.10.2009 9:00pm
Jeff Dege (mail):
"If the word goes out that Yale Law values calculus students will respond and you will produce lawyers better able to respond to reality."

I'd suggest that linear algebra is more relevant to the modern world. We live in a discrete age.
8.10.2009 9:03pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I'd suggest that linear algebra is more relevant to the modern world. We live in a discrete age."

Both linear algebra and calculus are basic tools, and necessary to understand and apply statistics. Lawyers need to know statistics. While linear algebra certainly finds application in discrete mathematics, it's also necessary in the continuous case. For example differential equations. ODEs apply in the continuous domain yet you need linear algebra to understand how to make a nth order DE into n first order equations. I really don't get your comment.
8.11.2009 12:09am
Losantiville:
But on the other hand, female engineering degree candidates have declined from their peak so gender differences remain in the math/science arena.
8.11.2009 2:35pm
Losantiville:
Actually, I don't think writing as a valued skill is ever coming back.

Oddly enough, it will remain only among homeschoolers/Christian schoolers who are going Trivium/Quadrivium in a big way.
8.11.2009 2:39pm
JJ767:
Let's assume that high mathematical abilities are more common among men and high verbal abilities are more common among women (though I'm not sure that's true).

In that case, one would expect a school to prefer men with verbal abilities and women with mathematical abilities -- for the same reason that any unusual-sounding talent or award is a big bonus on a resume. It stands out.
8.11.2009 5:50pm

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