Thursday, November 17, 2016

Larry Summers and the Age of Enlightenment

By A. Larry Lowell
Cambridge Bureau Chief

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Amidst the usual whines from unrepentant Iraq war shills, climate science deniers, and assorted otherwise-unemployable hacks that fill up a surprisingly large portion of the opinion pages of The Washington Post, one recent piece pierced the darkness with a white hot beam directed at those who would excuse bigotry by decrying opposition to it as “political correctness.”

By now even the most meager intelligence would have grasped that that particular term of obloquy was nothing more than a device to ward off entirely justified charges of bigotry, racism, sexism, and other assorted forms of intolerance.  You think we shouldn't call Mexican immigrants assassins and rapists, or shouldn't paint all black neighborhoods as bloodbaths, or avoid boasting about grabbing unwilling women by their “pussies,” to quote our President-elect?  How very PC of you!

The man who was fired from the world's easiest job – President of Harvard University – isn't having any of it:
The fight for academic freedom and for ideological diversity on college campuses should and will go on. But given what opposition to “political correctness” has licensed, it time to retire the term.
More importantly, democracy does not mean electrocracy [What's that? – Ed.]. Winning an election does not entitle one to upend our basic values. The refusal to tolerate blatant racism, bigotry and misogyny are beyond compromise. The first obligation of anyone currently in a leadership position is not to find common ground with our new President-elect now that the ballots have been counted and the election is over. It is instead to once again make it possible for all who live in our country to feel safe. 
The President and Ladies of Harvard College, in happier days
Wow.  Who knew that Larry Summers was so woke, as they say on Mt. Auburn St. these days?  Especially considering his Harvard background.  That institution it will be recalled sheltered in living memory a psychology professor who used obviously faked data to prove that the IQ scores of blacks and other slow learners were 80% determined by their genes.

Even worse, as late as the first decade of this century, one Harvard bigwig was heard to argue that women were genetically less able to excel at math and science than members of the twig-and-berry club.  The ruckus landed on page A1 of The Boston Globe on January 17, 2005.  Apparently said bigwig
sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. [Said bigwig] also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.

Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on [the] talk, saying later that if she hadn't left, “I would've either blacked out or thrown up." Five other participants reached by the Globe, including Denice D. Denton, chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, also said they were deeply offended, while four other attendees said they were not.

[Bigwig] said he was only putting forward hypotheses based on the scholarly work assembled for the conference, not expressing his own judgments in fact, he said, more research needs to be done on these issues. . . . Referencing a well-known concept in economics, he said that if discrimination was the main factor limiting the advancement of women in science and engineering, then a school that does not discriminate would gain an advantage by hiring away the top women who were discriminated against elsewhere. Because that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon, . . “the real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination.". . .

“I believe that it's an important part of what I do to encourage frank scientific discussion," he said.
Frank scientific discussion, to be sure.  If you had the temerity to point out there was in fact no science behind his musings (as the fact pattern he described could equally well or better be explained by pervasive sexism), well, you were just sacrificing frank scientific discussion at the altar of political correctness.

Or so said Harvard Professor Harvey “Homewrecker” Mansfield in the neocon's stroke book, The Weekly Standard: “Political correctness is the leading form of intimidation in all of American education today, and this incident at Harvard is a pure case of it.”

And who was the Harvard big shot saying such ridiculously bigoted sexist rubbish back then?  You know the answer:  Professor Electrocacy himself, Larry Summers.

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