meep (meep) wrote,

Last bit on the Summers stuff:

This bitching has reminded me of those dumbass "You do math well... for a GIRL" prizes I've gotten from time to time. Thank goodness, I didn't get them very often, but it got to be extremely annoying when I did get them. For some reason, they weren't necessary in regular school situations, but once you got to the national competition or grad school level, it was deemed necessary.

Let's face it - I may be in the top 2% with respect to math ability/achievement, but I'm not in the top 0.1% of the total population. Once you get to the very high levels of achievement, in math in particular, it's almost all males. And I think there's nothing wrong with that. Having met lots of super-smart people, I can tell you that no amount of study would have gotten me to the level of these guys. I cannot compete against that group - even if I had the focus and intensity that many of them do, I would not be able to stack up in any sustained way.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I were in the top 0.1% of females with respect to math. But so what? It doesn't make me equivalent to the top 0.1% guys. And it does no one any good pretending that's the case. This reminds me of when the top math students in the DC public schools were invited to a Metro area math competition... and got absolutely slaughtered by us suburban kids. They were way out of their league. You see this in the Olympics, too. There are countries that simply do not have the talent pool for certain sports, and their top athletes in certain sports wouldn't even place in high school competitions in the United States.

Much of this problem is the problem behind affirmative action. It's one thing to make people use objective measures to allow people in, rather than making assumptions based on sex, race, religion, or whatever. However, if the standards are different for different subgroups, don't be surprised that the groups with lower standards don't succeed as well. And it's not just the people excluded under the multiple-standard system that is an affront to fairness, but also it's not fair to the people being let in on lower standards. One could be setting them up for failure. I've seen this too often in kids coming from very thin educational backgrounds -- they were the best in their school, but didn't realize that they were =behind= most of the kids in more priveleged schools. Throwing them into classes with the more-prepared did them no favors, other than to let them know how ill-prepared they had been. It would have been better for many of them to start at a level commensurate to their preparation and =then= go into more rigorous programs.

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